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Statewide Ballot Questions to Ask Residents About Transportation and the Sale of State Land

Lake Woods Ashford, CT

On November 6 voters will consider two proposed amendments to the Connecticut Constitution.

One proposed amendment, H.J.R. 100, deals with transportation funding. The other, S.J.R. 35, deals with state property transfers.

Ballot Question #1

Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to ensure (1) that all moneys contained in the Special Transportation Fund be used solely for transportation purposes, including the payment of debts of the state incurred for transportation purposes, and (2) that sources of funds deposited in the Special Transportation Fund be deposited in said fund so long as such sources are authorized
by statute to be collected or received by the state?

What does this mean?

If this amendment is approved, it would impose constitutional protections on state transportation funding. These protections, commonly referred to as the “transportation lockbox,” are currently established only in the Connecticut General Statutes.

The law would direct a number of revenue sources to the fund, such as state fuel taxes, most transportation-related fees and motor vehicle-related fines, and a portion of state sales and use taxes.

Ballot Question #2

Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to require (1) a public hearing and the enactment of legislation limited in subject matter to the transfer, sale or disposition of state-owned or state-controlled real property or interests in real property in order for the General Assembly to require a state agency to sell, transfer or dispose of any real property or interest in real property that is under the custody or control of the agency, and (2) if such property is under the custody or control of the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, that such enactment of legislation be passed by a two-thirds vote of the total membership of each house of the General Assembly?

What does this mean?

If this amendment is approved, it would limit the General Assembly’s ability to pass legislation that requires a state agency to transfer (sell or otherwise, convey) any state real property (land or buildings) or property interest to non-state entities.

A legislative committee must first hold a public hearing to allow for public comment on the property transfer and the legislation must address only the property under consideration.

In addition, for property that belongs to the state Department of Agriculture or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the legislation must pass by at least two-thirds of the
membership of the state House of Representatives and of the state Senate.

Annually, state parks and forests attract 9 million visitors, generate over $1 billion in revenues, and support over 9,000 jobs.

Overwhelming bipartisan support placed this constitutional amendment on the ballot, which says the public should always have a say before public lands are sold, swapped, or given away by the CT Legislature.

NBC 30 reported Eric Hammerling with the group Protect CT Public Lands, said he likes the autumn much more than the spring not just for going through the state’s parks, but for the role of government.

“I will often say to folks at this time of year this is a great time of year for public lands because the General Assembly is not in session.”

One example cited by Hammerling of a surprise public land transfer was the state giving the Hartford Regional Market to the Capitol Region Development Authority.

Hammerling says the question is not about the eventual use, which he says could be up for debate, but says the priority is really on the process and level of transparency that leads to a piece of land being transferred.

Sen. Kevin Witkos (R – Canton) co-sponsored the measure and told NBC Connecticut in statement, “A constitutional amendment will ensure that environmental protection always remains a top priority. It will address the need for more transparency and oversight so that the proposed sale of any preserved land is always sufficiently weighed and considered by lawmakers and the public.”

You can read the full NBC 30 report here.

For additional insight into these questions visit a recent NPR story here and another one provided by the Courant.

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