Wednesday, May 4th marked the last day of the 2016 regular legislative session in Connecticut. It was a difficult year for many in our state, as deep cuts to critical government programs are being implemented across virtually every sector. Over the last few weeks, we've seen the executive and legislative branches clashing repeatedly over budget negotiations in an effort to mitigate a projected $900 million deficit in FY 2017. The final budget agreement will be finalized and voted on this coming Thursday, May 12, when the entire CT General Assembly will return for a special budget session. While we will not know the extent of the cuts and how they will impact Connecticut's health and environment for another week, there were some significant legislative victories this year to celebrate! Victories include:
Passage of first of its kind legislation to protect pollinator's health by restricting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that are toxic to bees and other pollinators. The law also establishes a pollinator health task force to study the decline of pollinators in Connecticut and take steps to promote and develop pollinator-friendly habitat.
Legislation to reduce the amount of unnecessary and wasteful consumer-based packaging used in manufacturing every day consumer goods.
The legislature approved $6 million in virtual net metering credits for municipalities seeking to increase clean solar development in their communities.
New legislation to require greater transparency and oversight during the removal of trees on private property.
There were a number of good environmental bills that unfortunately did not get a vote before the midnight end-of-session deadline. Important legislation that did not pass in 2016 included a bill that would eliminate toxic flame retardants in children's products and household furniture, legislation to reduce pollution from single-use disposable shopping bags, and a resolution to enact a referendum vote on a constitutional amendment to preserve State-owned lands (the resolution passed the Senate and House but unfortunately did not receive the two-thirds vote needed in the House to put the amendment on the ballot for a vote this November).
These losses came as a disappointment to many advocates and members of the public who fought hard for these pro-environment measures in 2016, but the bills also garnered a growing body of bipartisan support that advocates hope to build on in 2017.
CCE would like to extend a special thanks to Rep. James Albis, Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, Rep. Diana Urban, Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Phil Miller, Sen. Bob Duff, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, Rep. Roberta Willis, Rep. Mary Mushinsky, Sen. Clark Chapin, Rep. John Shaban, Rep. Kim Rose, Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, Rep. Russ Morin, Rep. Michael D'Agostino, Rep. Joe Gresko, Sen. Tony Hwang, Rep. Jon Steinberg, Rep. Fred Camillo, Rep. Roland Lemar, Rep. Matt Lesser, Rep. John Hampton, Sen. Joe Markley, and the countless others who worked tirelessly on these critical environmental issues in 2016. We appreciate your efforts and look forward to working with you to continue fighting for Connecticut's environment during next year's CT legislative session!