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A pause on tolls, marijuana and more gaming

You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.

The games that get rained out are played another day, and that's what will likely happen to some of the issues that went before the Connecticut General Assembly this year and did not get a vote up or down.

It's common for issues that would dramatically change public policy — the laws permitting same sex marriage and abolishing the death penalty come to mind — to need two or more sessions for legislators and their constituents to absorb the implications. In the session that was gaveled to a close Wednesday night, several proposals that grabbed attention at the start never matured to the point where the Democratic majority brought them to a full vote.

In today's politics, that usually means there is a right and a left — a liberal and a conservative — way to view the issue, either fiscally or as public policy. It takes a middle to pass most laws. And there is always the special interest factor, which lawmakers ignore at their peril. 

These are among the issues that couldn't find consensus but will undoubtedly be back next session or even sooner:

Legalization of marijuana. For two years, The Day has been urging the legislature to authorize a comprehensive study of the effects of legalizing recreational use of marijuana before voting it in or out. Testimony from groups opposed and those in favor showed how strongly the public feels about the issue and gave a glimpse of why. Among the opponents are Latino and black religious leaders who foresee problems in minority communities and those who believe pot is a gateway drug for more potentially dangerous substances, such as opioids.

No study has been commissioned, but some Democrats — who will remain the majority in next year's shorter session — are advocating a bill that would put the issue to a referendum on a constitutional amendment.

That still fails to seek medical, legal, law enforcement and business testimony on whether legalization would do more harm or good. Either a study or a constitutional amendment would at this point put off legalization for at least an extra year, thus taking legal pot sales out of the tax revenue equation for now. Commission the study, legislators.

Tolls: The question of raising revenue through highway tolls will almost certainly come back for deliberation sooner. The likelihood is for a special session this summer.

Gov. Ned Lamont made tolls a staple of his promised fiscal reforms. There is a drumbeat of opposition from drivers who object to this new form of tax on their in-state travel, and their senators and representatives can hear it loud and clear. Neither side disputes the need for highway infrastructure improvement; the debate will continue to be about whether tolls are the way to raise funds.

The Day continues to advocate for pass-through, no-stop tolling like that in use in other states. Millions of drivers from outside Connecticut pass through the state every year, and it is practical, appropriate and simple to collect their fair share for the upkeep of the roads.

Third casino and online sports betting. The question of whether to expand gambling in the state, either through online sports betting or a third casino or both, got tangled up in factors the legislature just could not control. Online sports betting was tabled, earlier in the session, but the amount of money to be made will keep this alive. A last-minute pitch by Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim added to the confusion about the location of a proposed joint tribal casino venture. The Lamont administration and the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans will surely keep talking.

Stay tuned.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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