State Rep. Lonnie Reed thought she would get some privacy when she went to the ladies’ room during a session of the General Assembly. Instead, she ran into Tracey Scalzi — and got an earful about a pending roll-your-own tobacco bill.
Scalzi, who’s 49, owns cigarette shops in Norwalk and Orange. She’s not a registered lobbyist, according to the Connecticut Office of State Ethics. Scalzi still managed to deliver an unmistakable message to Reed and to Reed’s colleagues. She went in and out of the ladies room off the House of Representatives chamber over a period of hours during the final three days of the session urging legislators not to enact a law to tax and license smoke shops.
Rep. Reed (D-Branford) said Scalzi presented herself to her in the ladies room as a “single mom just trying to make a living.” Reed said Scalzi used “a hard-to-get booklet complete with legislators’ photos and contact information which she uses to call legislators at home.”
“She ignored the lobbyist ropes that restrict their access and chased us down, even in the ladies room on one of the last days of the session,” Reed recalled in an interview. Once inside, Scalzi “planted herself to grab the unsuspecting. ” It’s a fairly large, airy bathroom, with a sofa, two chairs, and a coffee table. There is no other restroom for House members to use during the session on that floor.
The roll-your-own (RYO) bill, which came out of the legislature’s finance committee, is now at the center of an unfolding corruption scandal at the state Capitol. The bill would impose licensing fees and taxes at roll-your-own (RYO) cigarette stores. As it stands now, customers do not pay a tax on RYO cigarettes, and owners do not have to be licensed.