Wednesday is the “Opening Day” of the joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2018 legislative session and, State Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr. has ready a set of environmental and health bills he says are essential to preserving Connecticut in the age of Trump.
Kennedy, co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, gave the broad outlines of his environmental and health priorities in a 50-minute radio interview on WNHH FM’s “Legal Eagle” program.
Kennedy, Jr. represents the 12th State Senate District, which includes Branford, Guilford, North Branford, Madison, Durham, and Killingworth. Kennedy first won election to the Senate in December 2014. He decided against running for governor this year; it is likely he will seek reelection to his Senate seat in 2018. He has not yet announced his plans.
“It is no surprise to your listeners that government finance and budget issues will be the key issues that really will dominate the next session. We know that the state of Connecticut is in trouble financially and that we passed the budget a number of months late.”
He said working together is essential in the upcoming session. It can be done, he observed, noting that over 90 percent of bills passed last year were bi-bipartisan in nature. He said his environment committee approaches issues in a collaborative way and it was time to do the same with the budget.
On Board for Tolls
He is in favor of tolls for Connecticut’s state roads since the state now has none. He supports congestion tolls, a system that charges drivers more during peak hours and less during off-peak hours. Kennedy said that state could obtain between $800 and $900 million a year in toll revenue. “Every state along the way from here to Washington, D.C., has them. We are talking about electronic tolls. You don’t slow down. It is done electronically. A lot of states are addressing their crumbling infrastructure that they drive on this way. ” Connecticut, he said, needs to do so, too.
There is a caveat, he said: Connecticut can no longer tells its residents that money is going toward a specific need and then divert it in the wee hours of the legislative session.
“We have a track record,” he said, “of promising funds will be used for health or education or other issues.” But, he added, “the lock box has never been locked” and what has happened in the past is that these funds wind up in the general fund.
He said he will support a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot to prevent funds from being diverted. “If you are going to impose tolls, that money goes into a lock box that stays locked,” he said. ” A constitutional amendment is needed, he added.
Sea Level Rise by 2050
Kennedy said he will focus his energy on environmental and public health issues especially since the Trump administration has detached from prior environmental and health commitments. He called Scott Pruitt, the federal Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “the most anti-environmental administrator we have ever had.
“I am shocked and horrified by the changes going on at the EPA in Washington. These are people in the coal industry, and they are making the rules. The fox is guarding the hen house. The hard-fought protections for clean air and water are being watered down, no pun intended,” he said.
He noted that a lot “of the money we get flows through the federal government. We have 120 miles of seashore in Connecticut where people swim and fish in those waters. My goal now is to try to hold the line until we get to the end of this administration in Washington, D.C.”
He said a major issue facing Connecticut’s environment is the key issues is the issue of climate change. He said Rob Klee, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP),“recently came out with the startling news that the sea level of Long Island Sound will rise between 18 and 20 inches by the year 2050.”
Kennedy said that was a consensus based on the best information available, putting it into a model and making projections. “That has a huge impact for people, on everyone listening to the show. It has a huge impact on coastal communities, for a city like New Haven or in my district of towns located along the coast. What are the implications for sea level rise on infrastructure, for those who live near the water? We need to think seriously about how we plan for that eventuality.”
Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to listen to the full episode of WNHH FM’s “Legal Eagle” with Ted Kennedy Jr.