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SUSAN BIGELOW

It’s crunch time for the General Assembly as they hit the final two weeks of the 2019 regular session. As usual, a session that started out with big promises and optimism has descended into a race to see what few things can actually be salvaged before the deadline, and what will have to wait for either a special session or another year.

Tolls

Feeble attendance at an anti-tolls rally over the weekend suggests that Connecticut residents don’t think there’s a lot of hope of stopping tolls on highways, but Democrats are still having a lot of trouble rounding up the votes they need.

The draft plan under discussion right now is far less ambitious than the disastrous “Toll Your Grandmother’s Driveway” map released to the public back in November of last year, and would put up gantries only on I-95, I-91, I-84, and parts of state route 15 (i.e., the Merritt Parkway). The plan would also cut the gas tax a small amount and would have some sort of discounts or subsidies for poorer residents.

The plan is also starting to include goodies, such as a new east side train station in Bridgeport designed to win over lawmakers from that city. Well, it was never going to be pretty.

There may not be enough time to hash out a compromise before the end of the session, so this one might end up in a special session sometime in the summer — or later. I still believe tolls are coming, but it may take a lot longer for them to get here.

Marijuana

It seemed like things might be, uh, rolling with cannabis back in April when legalization passed the Judiciary Committee, but things have been stalled out since. Unsurprisingly, marijuana legalization has turned out to be a very complicated issue with far more to consider than just striking the law from the books.

For instance, many members of the Black and Puerto Rican caucus want criminal records for people who have been arrested for marijuana to be expunged in light of the fact that such arrests have disproportionately affected people of color. Another amendment to the bill would try to redirect some of the revenue from marijuana sales to those communities that have been hardest hit by the war on drugs.

There are also health issues to consider, including concerns about people driving under the influence and long-term effects of marijuana use. There’s also the nuts and bolts issues of setting up a state-regulated marijuana sales system. It’s a lot.

Where does that leave legalization? In limbo, for now. It could come back in a special session, or it might have to wait until next year. In the meantime, Massachusetts is right next door.

Public Option

We haven’t heard much about a proposed public option for health insurance in Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening. Bills that would allow small businesses to buy into the state employee health insurance pool were passed by committee and could eventually come up for a vote.

Opponents are suggesting that this bill could undermine health insurance companies and affect their bottom line. Oh no, won’t someone think of the poor insurance companies? Everyone loves them!

Seriously, if the price of this bill is that the local insurance giants make less money, I’m fine with that. Not everything is about the economy.

Still, it’s not easy to convince Democrats who represent towns with large numbers of insurance workers. The other person whose support is in doubt: Gov. Ned Lamont. The insurance companies have a lot of lobbyists whose job it is to spin a pretty good plan into the work of Satan and present a mediocre half-measure that helps nobody as a real solution, so we’ll probably wind up with either that or jack squat.

The Budget

Every year we hear promises about finishing the budget on time, and it almost never seems to happen. Fingers crossed!

One thing that does worry me is a proposal to punt pension debt to the next generation to save money now. It’s a terrible idea! I bet they do it.

So that’s where we’re at. It looks like the actual session will end with a whimper, leaving us with a summer of special sessions to look forward to. Why bother having deadlines at all?

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.