Hugh McQuaid Photo
Rep. Stephen Dargan and Sen. Joan Hartley (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

The Public Safety Committee reached its deadline to raise bills Thursday, but not before raising proposals that could repeal keno, tweak last year’s mixed martial arts law, and regulate noise levels in movie theaters.

The panel had until Feb. 20 to raise concepts for action during this short legislative session and during their Thursday meeting they created a legislative vehicle to undo the legislature’s last-minute 2013 decision to legalize the bingo-style game, keno. At this stage the bills are only concepts without specific language.

That proposal comes in the wake of growing support from legislative leaders to stop implementation of the game. House Speaker Brendan Sharkey signaled Wednesday he wanted to repeal the law and Senate President Donald Williams suggested he was open to discussing the concept. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said keno was not his idea and has left the game’s future up to lawmakers.

Public Safety Co-Chairs Sen. Joan Hartley and Rep. Stephen Dargan were critical Thursday of the process that legalized the game in the first place. The concept never received a public hearing.

“We think it’s important to vet that process out because it seems like nobody’s taking ownership of it,” Dargan said. “… Where’d it come out of thin air? We don’t know who it came from.”

Hartley said keno was only discussed well after the Public Safety Committee’s deadline.

“Had it come earlier we would had the conversation we’re planning to have going forward,” she said.

Neither knew how much money has already been spent by the Connecticut Lottery Corporation on implementing keno.

Anne Noble, president and CEO of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, said Thursday that her organization has spent about $53,000 in developing the game of keno. She said they’ve been largely in a “holding pattern” until they receive the agreement the state needed to ink with the two tribal run casinos.

According to the Office of Policy and Management the revenue sharing agreement has been sent to the tribes and they are waiting for it to be returned by at least one tribe.

Mixed Martial Arts

The committee also raised a bill to take a second look at mixed martial arts. Following several failed proposals, the legislature voted in 2013 to legalize the popular, but violent sport that includes elements of wrestling, boxing, and karate.

However, although he allowed the bill to see a floor vote in the Senate, Williams opposed the sport and ushered the passage of another bill that makes anyone who hires someone to fight in an MMA match liable for the fighter’s health care costs relating to injuries sustained during the match.

Williams said he felt that asking promoters to foot the bill for injuries sustained by participants was “the least we can ask of these folks.”

“This is a sport where the ultimate goal is not about scoring touchdowns or shooting baskets or shooting goals, it’s about whaling away on another person, hitting them and kicking them repeatedly. That is what the sport is about. I think it’s reasonable to assume there will be injuries,” he said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo
Sen. Joan Hartley (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Hartley said the committee’s Vice Chairman Sen. Andres Ayala, D-Bridgeport, asked that the panel raise a bill bringing MMA’s liability policies more in line with liability policies in boxing.

“The mixed martial arts folks are saying that we now have the statute accepted as functionally un-operable because of this part of it and therefore we won’t get any events,” Hartley said.

Noise Levels in Movie Theaters

Although there is no language yet for this proposal, it would place a limit on the maximum decibel levels at the state’s movie theaters.

“I have to tell you, I sit in the theater when I go with my kids and I go like this,” Hartley said, sticking her fingers in her ears.

Consolidation of State Police Dispatch Centers

Dargan and Hartley said they met with Dora B. Schriro, the new commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection, on her agency’s ongoing controversial merger of state police dispatch centers throughout the state. The process was begun under Schriro’s predecessor Reuben Bradford but is essentially on hold as she assesses the issue.

“We’re going to have a conversation,” Hartley said. “First and foremost it’s about public safety. Was the first approach working and do we need to refine this to make sure we’re providing stable public safety.”

No Gun Proposals

The committee does not plan on raising or acting on any proposals related to gun control, the chairs said.

“Nobody was really looking to do any gun-related bill this legislative session,” Dargan said. “And there was a number of them.”

Many of those proposals related to last year’s sweeping gun control law, either re-opening the registration period for now-banned rifles or repealing the law altogether. The committee opted not to take up the topic this year.

“It’s a short session and that’s a long conversation,” Hartley said.