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Connecticut lawmakers convened in a special session this week. Here’s what you need to know

Votes come in for a motion to divide S.B. 501, which includes an act concerning motor vehicle assessments for property taxation in the Senate. The state senate met in a special session Wednesday June 26, 2024 to consider over half a dozen measures. One of them includes preventing a tax increase that would otherwise take effect this fall by continuing to classify commercial vehicles as motor vehicles.
Ayannah Brown
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Connecticut Public
Votes come in for a motion to divide S.B. 501, which includes an act concerning motor vehicle assessments for property taxation in the Senate. The state senate met in a special session Wednesday June 26, 2024 to consider over half a dozen measures. One of them includes preventing a tax increase that would otherwise take effect this fall by continuing to classify commercial vehicles as motor vehicles.

Connecticut legislators have wrapped up their two-day June special session, with the House passing the Senate-approved bill on Thursday.

The emergency certification bill addresses a variety of issues Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders said required timely attention. A motor vehicle tax issue was what drove the need for a special session. That original bill from the 2024 session needed a correction after not having time to alter a change made in the Senate.

The over 130-page bill proposes altering laws that would make commercial vehicle owners pay higher taxes in certain Connecticut towns. The motor vehicle assessment and property tax billing procedures would take effect October 1, 2024.

“Commercial vehicles would see a significant increase, and we don't want to hurt our small businesses, especially our plumbers and our landscapers,” said Rep. Eleni Kavros Degraw (D-Avon), who co-chairs the Planning and Development Committee.

House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) told reporters Thursday that while it’s difficult to bring in legislators again for special session, issues like the motor vehicle tax, and the other timely items were important to address.

Some of those include:

  • Technical fixes for the motor vehicle mill rate, which varies by municipality and is used to assess property taxes.
  • Preventing construction companies with total responsibility of school projects from bidding on that work.
  • Streamlining work of the State Historic Preservation Office.
Senate Minority Leader Stephen Harding looks on and listens before voting on S.B. 501. The state senate met Wednesday June 26, 2024 to consider over half a dozen measures in a special session.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
Senate Minority Leader Stephen Harding looks on and listens before voting on S.B. 501. The state senate met Wednesday June 26, 2024 to consider over half a dozen measures in a special session.

An unexpected provision that stirred debate

The bill also includes a measure that would allow the South Central Regional Water Authority to bid for the Bridgeport-based water company Aquarion, an issue that wasn’t considered in the regular session.

“To bring us all back into this chamber to vote on new provisions only should be done in emergent circumstances,” said Senate Minority Leader Stephen Harding (R-Brookfield) in debate Wednesday, who was among his party members to voice concern about the provision not going through the formal legislative process.

Harding also noted that the issues should have been voted on individually. Senate Republicans proposed a motion to divide the bill and an amendment to remove the Aquarion measure, which both failed.

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford) voted in favor of the bill, and voiced support for Regional Water Authority (RWA) bid provision .

“It provides the local control, as opposed to some bureaucracy in Hartford dictating how they manage their water companies,” he said outside House chambers. “Before the bid is placed, the RWA will have public hearings on this, and the public will have an opportunity to weigh in.”

Senate Pro Tem Martin Looney speaks to reporters Wednesday June 26, 2024 outside the Senate chambers before lawmakers convened for the first of a two-day special session.
Michayla Savitt
/
Connecticut Public
Senate Pro Tem Martin Looney speaks to reporters Wednesday June 26, 2024 outside the Senate chambers before lawmakers convened for the first of a two-day special session.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) told reporters Wednesday that one reason behind raising this now was concern of “danger of perhaps an outside hedge fund sort of like what happened in the acquisition of United Illuminating, we want to give locally based entities as much of a shot as possible,” he said.

Speaker Ritter said it could also be helpful to drive rates down, and have local accountability.

“Some might argue that a quasi-public agency running water systems might be better than a private one, right?” Ritter said. “It's competition. We'll see what happens.”

The approved bill now heads toward Governor Lamont’s desk for his signature before becoming law. With the governor having final say on special session items, his approval is likely.

This story has been updated.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.
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