House Republicans Hoping for Role During Sports Betting, Toll Discussion

The top two Republicans in the Connecticut House of Representatives enter the 2019 legislative session with far less clout as a result of stinging 2018 election losses.

Before election day, the GOP was within striking distance of taking control of the House, but instead they lost seats across Connecticut, leaving them with fewer than 60 members.

“I think getting people into a room on any issue you can find common ground regardless of your party affiliation and that’s going to be our role this session,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford, the deputy minority leader for House Republicans.

Specifically, the GOP is hoping to have input on marquee issues like regulating the recreational use of marijuana, tolls, and sports betting.

On tolls, Democrats have said they are needed in order to stabilize transportation funding, and to pay for upgrades around the state.

Sen. Martin Looney (D- New Haven), the top member of the Senate, said, “We will need to have tolls because of the reality that our gasoline tax cannot be relied upon to meet our infrastructure needs in the future.”

Rep. Themis Klarides, (R- Derby), the top Republican in the House, recommended cutting off peak service on the new CT Rail line that connects Springfield, Hartford and New Haven, and she recommended cutting similar service on CTFastrak, the busway that connects Hartford to New Britain.

The Department of Transportation has reported record ridership numbers that have exceeded projections for both lines, even citing the need to increase the number of rail cars on CTRail.

Klarides says if certain times see significantly decreased service, those should be cut.

“If people are not on those trains or buses, then they are not being used efficiently and it’s something we need to think about limiting,” Klarides said.

Looney, the top Senate Democrat, said that idea is a non-starter.

“Putting those into the mix doesn’t make any sense at all. We need all of the trains that we have right now.”

Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate support wide-scale toll programs for all vehicles, while Governor-elect Ned Lamont has said he supports tolls only for trucks.

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