Tracking Legislation in Hartford

Connecticut Audubon Society worked on several bills in the state General Assembly in 2012. Details follow.

Bills We Supported
An Act Concerning the State’s Open Space Plan, SB 347
An Act Increasing the Penalty for Poaching. HB 5263
An Act Concerning the Use of Pesticides at Schools. HB 5121

Bills We Oppose
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An Act Modernizing the State’s Telecommunications Laws, SB 447
An Act Modifying the Ban on Pesticide Applications on School Grounds, SB 5155

 

An Act Concerning the State’s Open Space Plan
SB 347

Status: Passed by the Senate and the House
Connecticut Audubon Society Supported This Bill

Bill Purpose
To revise the state’s open space plan by increasing the frequency of revisions to such plan, identifying lands appropriate for preservation as open space that are held by state agencies and water companies, identifying lands of highest priority for conservation and making recommendations for the establishment of a system to accurately keep track of lands preserved as open space.

Text of the Bill
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/TOB/S/2012SB-00347-R00-SB.htm

Why Connecticut Audubon Society supported this bill
The bill requires the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to identify lands that are the highest priorities for open space acquisition, including wildlife habitat and ecological resources, and the general locations of these highest priorities.

The legislation also requires the DEEP to work with other state agencies to identify state-owned lands that are important for conservation but which are not protected open space, and to plan a strategy for preserving them in perpetuity.

The legislation also broadens the number of stakeholders that the DEEP must consult when it works on these projects. Added to the list are municipalities and regional planning agencies, in addition to the Council on Environmental Quality and private nonprofit land conservation organizations such as CAS.

These revisions to Connecticut’s open space acquisition process are among many that we have enumerated over the years in our Connecticut State of the Birds reports. This year’s legislation was drafted by the Council on Environmental Quality and is supported by other conservation organizations as well.

The proposed legislation is important, we believe, because it will help focus the state’s land acquisition program as we move toward the goal of preserving 21 percent of the land in Connecticut by 2023. As things stand now, state officials know how much land has been preserved but they do not have a good idea of what kinds of lands have been preserved — whether it be conservation land, farmland, recreation land, etc.

The proposed legislation also is important because it will require the DEEP to make careful judgments about what kinds of lands should be preserved and to identify in general where those lands are located, so they can be viewed in the larger landscape context that is essential to serious conservation.

In addition, we know that state agencies other than the DEEP own large tracts of land, some of which have habitats that are rare or play an important role in a larger mosaic of habitats. This legislation will require the DEEP to work with its sister agencies to find and evaluate those lands. Because they are already state-owned, it would be a relatively-easy next step to protect them with conservation easements so they remain preserved forever.

An Act Increasing the Penalty for Poaching
HB 5263

Status: Passed by the House and the Senate; signed into law by Governor Malloy on June 6, 2012
Connecticut Audubon Society Supported This Bill

Bill Purpose
To impose a mandatory one-thousand-dollar fine for poaching. [This bill was amended to make the fine not less than $500 and not more than $1,000.]
Text of the Bill
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/TOB/H/2012HB-05263-R01-HB.htm

Why Connecticut Audubon Society Supported this Bill
Illegal hunting of deer has been a problem on Connecticut Audubon Society sanctuaries. Here is an excerpt from the testimony to the Environment Committee of Andy Rzeznikiewicz, the Land Manager at our Center at Pomfret:

“I have personally caught and reported many people poaching on our sanctuary in Pomfret.  In the end, these people get a little slap on the hand, and face virtually no consequences for their actions.  … In late December of 2010, after deer season was finished, I found where an abutter to the sanctuary had been baiting deer on our sanctuary and shooting them from his house. He had shot and killed three deer and injured a fourth that particular day. Judging by what I saw there this wasn’t his first time that year. When the conservation officer approached him at his house he readily admitted guilt. He was only fined $100 and he got his gun back! … Just beyond where he was shooting the deer, we have a public hiking trail. Someone could have been hurt! The poacher asked the conservation officer if it was the women walking her dog five minutes after he shot the deer who reported him. That’s how close we were to a potential injury.”

An Act Modernizing the State’s Telecommunications Laws
SB 447

Status Sections of the bill that would have made cell towers compatible with state parks and forests were deleted; the revised bill did not pass
Connecticut Audubon Society Opposed those sections of the Bill

Bill Purpose
One provision of this bill would allow cell towers to be erected in state parks and forests by declaring them to be compatible with parks and forests.

Text of the Bill
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/TOB/S/2012SB-00447-R00-SB.htm

Why Connecticut Audubon Society Opposed this Provision of the Bill
This would fundamentally change the current state practice of not allowing towers on watershed land, state parks or state forests. Passage of this provision would lead to the construction of communications towers that would seriously damage wildlife habitat by causing forest fragmentation; cell towers are also a hazard to migrating birds.

An Act Modifying the Ban on Pesticide Applications on School Grounds
SB 5155

Status: The bill was killed by Rep. Richard Roy, chair of the Environment Committee
Connecticut Audubon Society Opposed this Bill

Purpose of the Bill
To allow the application of certain pesticides on school grounds, to authorize the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection to adopt regulations regarding such pesticide applications and to provide for a penalty for the violation of laws concerning such pesticide applications.

Why Connecticut Audubon Society Opposed this Bill
The purpose of the current law is to help safeguard Connecticut’s children from exposure to dangerous pesticides used on school lawns, playing fields, etc. The law has a residual conservation benefit in that many of Connecticut’s most common birds – including the American Robin, the official state bird of Connecticut – use lawns and playing fields to search for the insects that make up the bulk of their diet. Rolling back this law would subject Connecticut’s school children to an unnecessary risk, while also threatening many of our state’s birds by killing their food source and exposing them, directly and indirectly, to toxic pesticides.

An Act Concerning the Use of Organic Pesticides on School Property and Authorizing Municipal Regulation of the Use of Pesticides on Residential Property.
HB 5121

Status: This bill did not make it out of the Committee on Planning and Development
Connecticut Audubon Society Supported this Bill

Bill Purpose
To allow the use of organic pesticides on school property and to authorize municipalities to regulate the use of pesticides on residential property.

Text of the Bill
http://cga.ct.gov/2012/TOB/H/2012HB-05121-R00-HB.htm

Why Connecticut Audubon Society Supported this Bill
HB 5121 would allow schools to use organic pesticides and would authorize municipalities to pass local pesticide regulations that are stronger than state regulations. These changes are likely to result is a reduction in the use of harmful pesticides.

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