Votes on Marijuana, Carbon Caps, Head to Overtime in Special Session

While this year’s legislative session came to a close on Wednesday night with the bipartisan passage of the state budget, lawmakers will be back in Hartford shortly for a special session to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana, along with other Democratic legislative priorities. 

The Senate passed a bill on recreational marijuana before the close of session early Tuesday morning, but will be forced to vote again in special session, after Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, declined to call the bill for a vote in the House on Wednesday, after Republican leaders would not agree to limit debate on the legislation to allow time for a vote before the end of session at midnight.

“For them to just suggest that we should shut up and sit in the corner is not appropriate for the legislative body,” said House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford. “It’s one-party rule in the state of Connecticut. It’s the height of arrogance to say to somehow ‘this is your fault that we’re not gonna choke down their legislation before we even get to go through it before we give our input.’”

Still, Ritter expressed confidence that the bill legalizing marijuana would pass in the special session, saying that the Republicans were simply delaying the inevitable. 

“We will be voting in the next week on that bill,” he said. “We will be getting that bill passed.”

State legislators will also need to pass the “budget implementer,” which executes new programs and services funded in the budget.

But some legislators, and Gov. Ned Lamont, have expressed the hope that the session can be used to revive the Transportation Climate Initiative, a multistate program that puts a price on carbon pollution from motor vehicles to incentivize lowering greenhouse gas emissions. 

Lamont signed onto the regional climate plan in 2020, but was unable to find the votes for the necessary legislative approval this session in the face of Republican charges that the proposal amounts to a regressive tax on gasoline.

Lamont now says that the special session could provide an opportunity to revive the bill. 

“When you have a little more time, maybe it’s an opportunity to take a second look at some bills that didn’t get the attention they deserved during the regular session,” Lamont said. “I’d put TCI right in that list. If the legislature doesn’t want to take it up, that’s their call, but I’m pushing.” 

State Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, suggested that the votes are there for passage.

“I’m not ready to give up entirely on TCI,” said State Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester. “When TCI got moved off the table, a lot of us thought there was too much support to let that happen, so we’re trying to mobilize some of those folks to go back into TCI. My leadership has said they are not opposed to TCI at all, so it’s about getting people mobilized to go back into it because I think the votes are there.” 

Republicans in the legislature, who were united in their opposition to the proposal, were more skeptical, with Candelora promising that his party will continue to hold the line in the special session. 

“The implementer bill is often used as a vehicle to slip in things you couldn’t pass in the regular session,” said State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme. “If something like TCI appeared in the implementer bill, that would be lengthy debate. But anything is possible in the chamber.”

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