LWV Legislative Update

By Conny Galvez and Emma Barhydt

As the legislative session wrapped up in Hartford and campaign season approaches full swing, the League of Women Voters of New Canaan hosted an “End of Session Wrap Up” at the New Canaan Library this past Wednesday, May 29. The event featured speakers such as State Representative Lucy Dathan, State Representative Keith Denning, State Representative Tom O’Dea, and State Senator Ryan Fazio.

The League of Women Voters of New Canaan, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government. Their activities include voter registration drives and candidate forums, like the recent event.

During the discussion, the legislators reflected on the past session and its implications for New Canaan and surrounding towns. State Senator Ryan Fazio remarked, “I think this was a session with positives and negatives as it worked on issues related to zoning and development and housing.” 

Fazio is currently serving his second term and is the Ranking Member of the Planning and Development Committee and the Energy and Technology Committee, he added, “I actually think that this was the first session with positive outcomes.” This session saw the passage of various bills that had previously stalled. 

Fazio highlighted HB-5474, passed on a bipartisan basis, crediting Representative for the 125th district Tom O’Dea, who also serves as the deputy leader of the House, for his significant contribution. “This will make it easier for New Canaan and other towns to receive future moratoriums under 8-30G, the zoning law that enables developments like Weed Street to happen,” Fazio explained.

Fazio emphasized the unintended consequences of the 8-30g affordable housing statute, which he believes disincentivizes towns from creating affordable housing, “if you’re renting out, you know, an in law apartment, or you’re renting out a unit that is affordable, just in terms of the dollars that it costs in rent, it doesn’t count to our affordable housing stock in any of our municipalities, unless it’s deed restricted, or government housing, so we’re not actually capturing in the accounting methods.” Both Fazio and O’Dea have proposed bills to change the calculations to make 8-30g more effective.

Representative for the 42nd State House District, Keith Denning, which encompasses all of Wilton and portions of New Canaan and Ridgefield noted, “I think, actually Connecticut’s in a good place right now, financially. We’re doing well, the revenues are exceeding a little bit of what we thought.”

While there were many successes, there were also areas that left room for improvement. Denning expressed his frustration over environmental issues, saying, “I am disappointed we did not get much done on the environment. I’m not sure how we can move forward on that.” 

This sentiment was echoed by Representative to the 142nd district Lucy Dathan, chair of the Regulation Review Committee and vice chair of the Human Services Committee, who added, “I’ve had a lot of constituents reach out to me saying, ‘Why didn’t the [HB] 5004 get over the finish line?’”

HB-5004, introduced by the Environment Committee, focused on climate change measures and setting state goals for environmental protection. “The bill wasn’t called until the last day of session, and that was a mistake,” Dathan explained, “I’ve been to the Senate … there were a lot of things that had to get over the finish line,and that just ran out of time.” 

“I think we as policymakers need to be judicious and pragmatic about reducing our energy costs, while also protecting our environmental considerations,” Senate Fazio added, ”I think mandating one size fits all is not fair. It’ll also require a 3.5 gigawatt, it would require the building of a massive new offshore wind farm every single year and we’re having trouble doing one every 10 years.”

“Our infrastructure is insufficient, and our inner-city communities would suffer greatly in that transition,”  Representative O’Dea added, “My belief is that we need to transition more slowly and we need a plethora of energy choices.”

“I want us to pave the way and be a leader in a more affordable and cleaner grid. Dealing with all those kinds of side considerations, the practicality, making sure we deploy nuclear, we preserve our hydropower because those are the most reliable and affordable sources,” remarked Fazio.

Besides environmental and housing issues, fiscal matters were also a priority this session. O’Dea noted, “The priority was the fiscal guardrails, which we got extended,” the extension of which was done through a bipartisan effort that helped reduce Connecticut’s debt. Dathan further explained, “We have paid over $8 billion down in our debt, which has saved about 600-plus million in our operating expenses.”

Overall, the session saw many positive outcomes, with ongoing issues to address in future sessions. Representative Denning urged constituents to stay engaged, saying, “Stay on top of your legislators, it works. They listen, they pay attention. If you’re worried about converting too much oil, put in a heat pump for your water heater, take advantage of state and local credits to make your life and your children’s lives better.”

Related Posts