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Municipalities outline legislative proposals

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities released its legislative priorities for the 2022 session on Tuesday.

In a news release, the conference, which is a nonpartisan organization of municipal leaders from 168 towns and cities in the state, put forth proposals on nine issues that members “believe merit action over the next 100 days by the Governor and General Assembly.”

Education

The CCM is asking legislators to fund air filtration improvements and HVAC repairs for schools through state bonds. It also asks the state to fund in full the state Special Education Excess Cost Grant to better “regional school districts’ ability to address the rising cost of special education.” The group is also pushing for more funding for social and emotional learning, “including early intervention and youth employment initiatives.”

Energy and environment

Municipalities are looking for a “process to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of broadband services to better meet underserved and unserved areas across the state.” The group also proposed eliminating the Virtual Net Metering Credit Cap — net metering is when utility customers are paid for unused electricity they sent back to the electric grid. Eligible customers include municipalities, state agencies and agricultural entities with renewable energy-generating systems such as solar or wind projects.

“Such change should include the requirement that electric distribution companies allow ‘unassigned’ VNM credits to be applied to future bills on a month-to-month basis,” the release reads.

Labor

Among a long list of proposals, the conference said it seeks a way to “allow for towns and cities to more efficiently allocate resources.” For example: “Allow municipalities to repeal or amend any municipal charter provision that prohibits or limits a municipality from sharing services with other towns or cities provided each participating municipality’s legislative body approves a resolution with the specific charter provision they are repealing or amending,” the release reads.

Land use

One of several land use proposals put forth by the conference includes focusing on transit-oriented development. To achieve this, the group has suggested that within a half-mile of a municipality’s primary transit station, “parking requirements not to exceed one parking spot for studio and one bedroom and two parking spots for two bedroom or more dwelling units, mixed-use developments with at least four dwelling units, mixed-use developments with at least four live work units, or multi-family housing with at least four dwelling units at a minimum density of fifteen units per acre.”

Municipal law

One of the conference’s municipal law policy positions is to support a constitutional amendment allowing for no-excuse absentee voting. Following a legislative session with a number of voting reforms, the General Assembly failed to meet the threshold of votes for a constitutional amendment.

“As a result, the next sitting legislature (convening in 2023) would need to adopt a similar resolution to place it on the following ballot without needing 75% of the General Assembly approval,” the release notes.

Taxes and finance

The conference suggested a way to diversify revenue sources and “reduce the current over-reliance on a regressive property tax system” by “providing incentives for municipalities to expand shared and regional services” and providing “taxpayer relief by allowing for a phase-in of the current property tax revaluations and provide a local option to delay property tax revaluation for one year.”

Public safety

A couple of the conference’s public safety proposals involved police body and dashboard cameras, for one, “clarifying which police vehicles need to employ dash cameras.” The group said “there remains uncertainty” whether police vehicles such as ATVs or bikes, or nonpolice vehicles, like animal control vehicles, require dash cameras.

In addition, the conference encouraged the state to offer more funding “for the acquisition of police body and vehicle cameras, in particular allowing the funding to be used for data storage.” The group also is encouraging the state to create a central deposit for such camera data.

Transportation and infrastructure

Though it did not become law last year, the Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, a plan supported by Gov. Ned Lamont that ultimately was not passed by the state legislature in last year’s regular session, still has supporters, including the conference. 

Originally in the state budget, TCI was removed following backlash, mostly from Republicans, because starting in 2023 the program is projected to drive up gas prices by about 5 cents per gallon. The measure is meant to reduce the state’s carbon emissions by capping carbon pollution from transportation. Money generated from gas suppliers buying carbon credits would go to certain Connecticut communities affected by pollution, as well as more environmentally friendly transportation initiatives.

The conference stated Tuesday that supporting the TCI would “provide sustainable funding to maintain and improve state and local transportation infrastructure.”

Public health

The conference addressed the opioid crisis in its proposals. Members are calling for the state to “better allocate funding and resources towards substance abuse prevention and recovery.”

The group also asked that the state provide greater clarity regarding a bill legalizing recreational cannabis passed last year. Towns would like to know “what programs can be funded through the municipal tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales” and are asking that more state funds “be designated toward local substance abuse prevention and response efforts.”

s.spinella@theday.com

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