Bills addressing juvenile crime, changing the state’s new recreational marijuana law and making Juneteenth a state holiday were among those advanced Wednesday in the final hours of Connecticut’s 2022 legislative session.
While hundreds of bills were expected to die on the vine, per usual, many of the major bills of the three-month-long session have already cleared the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
The list includes one of the first abortion-related bills to pass in years. It expands the types of abortion providers and attempts to protect Connecticut providers from the reach of other states’ laws which ban most abortions.
Lawmakers also voted along mostly party lines to revise the one-year, $24.2 billion state budget that contains roughly $600 million in tax cuts and increased state spending for a major mental health initiative and social service programs — all thanks the state’s best fiscal figures in decades.
Connecticut is projected to end the fiscal year on June 30 with a $4.8 billion surplus. Revisions to the second year of the two-year budget passed last year include about $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
“We’ve bemoaned our inability to meet these needs for the last 10 to 15 years since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “Now we’re making good on a promise that we regretted not being able to fulfill back then.”
While Republicans supported many of the initiatives that passed this year, including the mental health bills inspired in part by psychological fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve accused the majority Democrats of squandering this unique financial opportunity to make systemic changes to Connecticut’s tax system — as well as spending too much. It’s an accusation that will likely to come up in this year’s legislative and gubernatorial campaigns.
“Connecticut Democrats have overtaxed our families and their immediate reaction is to overspend and grow an unaffordable government, not provide the level of relief Connecticut families are asking for now,” said Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford.
Lawmakers were facing a midnight adjournment deadline. While governors traditionally address a joint session of the General Assembly once the final gavel is struck, Lamont was forgoing an appearance this year.
House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said some legislators were concerned about so many people gathering in the hall of the House of Representatives as the state’s COVID-19 infection numbers have been climbing. He said it’s “maybe a tradition that’s time has come and gone.”
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