HARTFORD, CT — It took about two hours Tuesday for the House to debate a ban on fracking waste and less than 15 minutes for members to approve a bill to increase the penalties for hate crimes.
The House voted 141-6 to ban fracking waste from Connecticut. There was already a moratorium on fracking waste until July 2018, but a ban should eliminate any uncertainty about where Connecticut stands on the issue.
An estimated 13 Connecticut municipalities have already adopted their own local ordinances, but Rep. Mike DeMicco, D-Farmington, said this legislation would help bring uniformity and take away any financial incentive a municipality may have in these cash-strapped times to make a few extra bucks by accepting toxic waste.
Fracking waste is the byproduct of drilling for natural gas. The legislation doesn’t address fracking in Connecticut, but DeMicco said that’s because there’s no reason for anyone to want to frack in Connecticut due to the lack of natural gas.
“There’s so little natural gas under the ground in Connecticut that it wouldn’t be a practical thing,” DeMicco said.
Rep. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven Republican, said he doesn’t understand why they are debating a bill for a problem that doesn’t exist and there’s no plans for it to happen.
“I just have questions why we create laws for situations that don’t exist,” Ferraro said, adding that “it just seems like we’re creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.”
The bill now heads to the state Senate.
One of the last bills on the House’s agenda Tuesday would increase the penalties for certain hate crimes.
The amended bill passed 146-0, even though there was initially some tension over the legislation, which some Republicans felt was being tied to closely with the election of President Donald Trump. There was also a dust up between the parties over the bill when Democrats didn’t invite them to a press conference to announce the introduction of the legislation.
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said there has been a recent increase in hate crimes in Connecticut.
From a swastika painted on a building in Danbury to threats to Jewish Community Centers in Woodbridge, West Hartford, and Stamford, Tong said the increased penalties are appropriate.
The bill would toughen penalties for threats to, or desecration of, houses of worship and other religious facilities.
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, said the Republicans were supportive of the legislation and its intent. She said they worked with Senate President Martin Looney, who has been the driving force behind the legislation, to make the necessary changes to win the support of Republicans.
“Unfortunately we have stories of real facts and situations that have taken place throughout the state of Connecticut,” Rebimbas said. “I think this is certainly responsive to that.”
The bill now moves to the state Senate.