State Rep. Harry Arora: Budget, Zoning, Marijuana, Gambling, Seat belts – overview of 2021 legislation

Posted on June 21, 2021

Dear friends and neighbors,

The regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly adjourned last week. The legislative session comprised of committee work from January to April and Assembly sessions in May and June. The house convened 27 days over the session. In each session, we debated bills which were advanced by committee. Some of these debates were long and intense, going past 1 AM in the morning.  In all, the assembly passed over 300 bills and resolutions. Below is the summary of the key bills passed by your legislature.

1. Budget bill for next biennium (Jul 2021 – Jun 2023): This legislation approved the state’s financing and spending for the next two years. While there were no tax increases in this bill, the legislature did separately pass a highway usage tax on truckers and postponed the sunset of the corporate surcharge. The initial proposals for additional taxes on capital gains, consumption and gasoline were dropped. Total spending from general fund is budgeted at 21 BN for next year. The challenge with our budget is that nearly 40% of our budget or $ 7.8 BN goes towards current/past pension/healthcare benefits or debt service. This budget did not try to address that structural issue. HERE is the overview form the Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) and you can click HERE to read the full text.

2. Statewide zoning: As many of you may remember there was a proposal for broad state take-over of zoning and a new statewide property tax. That bill met with broad opposition. This zoning bill is a diluted and somewhat acceptable version of that bill. This Act mandates that accessory dwelling units (in-law suites) and specific parking restrictions be part of every town’s zoning. However it allows towns to opt out of these rules if 2/3rd of their local town bodies (RTM) vote to do so. This law requires every town to submit their affordable housing plan to the state by June 1, 2022 and follow several other guidelines. Summary from Office of Legislative Resources (OLR), Full text of the law

3.Legalization of recreational use of Marijuana for adults: Marijuana was decriminalized in CT in 2011 and allowed for medicinal use in 2012. This bill legalizes the recreational use of marijuana by individuals over 21. The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) will issue licenses to grow and sell marijuana in the state of CT. Fifty percent of all licenses will be allocated to “social equity participants” – individuals from areas harmed by the war on drugs. A new “Social Equity Council” with 15 members will be formed and will decide by Sep 2021 the exact definition of Social Equity Participants. The DCP will have a lottery to allocate the licenses to social equity participants and general participants. The total number of licenses will be decided by the council. Town zoning boards will have ability to disallow marijuana retail in their towns. If you would like your town to not have a marijuana retail please reach out to your zoning officials. Here is the OLR Summary

4.Legalization of sports betting and online casino/lottery: This bill generally authorizes the tribes and Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CLC) to operate online sports wagering, casino games, keno and lottery games. Once implemented, the state will collect tax revenue of over $25 MM a year. Most of these games will ultimately be offered through other partners (Mashantucket Pequot Tribe has an arrangement with DraftKings). OLR SummaryFull text

5. Transportation Safety: Transportation bills were passed to make several changes to improve road safety. Two important changes in law –  back seat passengers are now required to wear seat belts, not wearing a seat belt in the back seat is a secondary offense and carries a fine; fines for distracted driving (texting while driving) are being increased. OLR Summary

HERE is a description of twelve other important bills which were debated and passed.

Representing you in the state house has been an honor. Legislating requires reading and analyzing bills, listening to differing view points, building consensus, exercising judgment and exerting leadership. I thank you for this opportunity. I have invested hundreds of hours working on these bills. If there is any bill which you would like to know more about or how we voted on it, please email me.

Harry Arora
State Representative