Do you care about public transportation in Connecticut? Or about state park land?
If so, you’ll want to pay close attention to this year’s election ballot, and not just to the parts about who’s running for governor or attorney general.
During the most recent monthly meeting of the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team (DWSMT), local democracy advocate and New Haven Votes founder Aaron Goode offered a primer on the state’s upcoming mid-term elections in Connecticut.
He singled out for discussion two proposed state constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot in November that will change how the state handles transportation infrastructure funding and how it sells, transfers or disposes of public land.
“I like our management team to be ahead of the curve in our civic wokeness,” he said with a smile.
Up first, he said, are the primaries.
On Aug. 14, Connecticut Democrats and Republicans will be able to vote among their respective parties’ nominees for four contested state constitutional offices: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and treasurer. Republicans will also be able to pick between two comptroller candidates. The Democratic comptroller candidate is running unopposed within his party. Both parties’ secretary of the state candidates are running unopposed within their respective parties. (You can find Independent 2018 campaign stories here.)
Goode reminded his fellow team members that Connecticut has closed primaries. That means that, on Aug. 14, Republicans will be able to pick among only Republican Party candidates, and Democrats between Democratic Party candidates.
Although Connecticut allows for same-day voter registration during general elections, it does not allow for same-day registration for primaries. To participate in the primary, eligible voters must register five days before Aug. 14 if they are registering online or by mail. Or they can register by noon on Aug. 13 if they do so in person at City Hall.
Goode also noted that 17-year-olds are allowed to vote in the primaries if they will turn 18 by the general election day, which is on Nov. 6.
Come Nov. 6, Goode continued, Connecticut voters will not vote just on the various nominees for state and federal office. They’ll vote also on two proposed state constitutional amendments.
“These are both significant,” he said. “Otherwise they would not have made it all the way to the referendum stage of the amendment process.”
The first amendment proposed to establish a “transportation revenue lockbox.”
“The transportation lockbox really affects all of us,” Goode said, “because it has to do with the funding of infrastructure projects, making it harder for the state to redirect money out of the special transportation fund. Whether or not it passes will have a substantial impact on the political debate about whether or not to introduce electronic tolling.”
The transportation lockbox amendment would reserve all money in the state’s $1.5 billion Special Transportation Fund (STF) to be used solely for transportation purposes, including paying down transportation infrastructure debt.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has said that declining gas tax revenues, declining oil prices, rising debt service payments, and continued diversions of funds from the STF all portend deficits in the transportation fund in the next five years if new sources for transportation revenue are not found. On Tuesday, Malloy ordered state agencies to develop a $10 million study of electronic tolling on highways for out-of-state drivers. Some critics suggest that lockboxes single out certain matters important to more influential constituencies (leaving unprotected, say, government aid to the poor) instead of having all issues decided by elected legislatures that are supposed to make tough choices.
The second state constitutional amendment would cover how the state transfers, sells or disposes of state-owned properties, such as state parks, forests, and conserved lands.
The amendment would require the General Assembly to hold a public hearing every time it wishes to dispose of state-owned property. It would also require a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly if the property being disposed of is under the control of the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
“This amendment is very important to environmental groups,” Goode said, and arises from a controversial 2012 land deal, which ultimately fell through, known as the Haddam Land swap.
“I don’t care how you vote on either of these two amendments,” Goode said, “but I would recommend that you read up on them so that you can make your own informed judgment.”