Effort to allow bear hunting in Connecticut defeated in legislature

Effort to allow bear hunting in Connecticut defeated in legislature

Record-Journal


HARTFORD — Senate Democrats Thursday blocked efforts to legalize bear hunting by amending the bill to instead prohibit the import or transport of lions, rhinoceroses, elephants, and lions.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, told reporters the change, which followed more than two-and-a-half hours of debate spread across two days, was warranted in part because the underlying bill to create a bear hunting season didn’t appear to have the votes needed for passage.

The amended bill was then referred to the Judiciary Committee, but Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said the move also effectively killed the legislation all together.

Around the same time, the House Thursday engaged in a 90-minute debate about joining a compact that would effectively utilize the popular vote to determine the presidential election winner, only to pull the bill without a vote.

House Democratic leaders said that bill also didn’t have the votes needed for adoption, but felt it had enough support outside the legislature to warrant debate.

Both sets of action come as observers continue to watch how the current power dynamic will affect legislative business, but lawmakers said Thursday shouldn’t be seen as a sign of struggle.

“Politics are played in every chamber every day of the week,” Fasano, R-North Haven, said. He noted the Senate approved 42 bills on Wednesday. The vast majority were unanimous, with only eight receiving any opposition and none getting support from less than 26 Senators.

The bear bill was the only piece of legislation the Senate took up Thursday, though, and the chamber only approved one bill — a ban on conversion therapy for minors — the week prior.

Duff also said Wednesday’s activity shows the Senate is willing to function in a bipartisan manner to move as much legislation as it can.

“I think that still speaks well for the process, and everybody is settling into and getting used to the 18-18 numbers we have in the Senate,” he said.

The Senate is tied at 18 members from each party after Republicans picked up three seats in November, forcing the two sides to reach a power sharing agreement just before the session started.

House Democrats, meanwhile, hold a slim 79-72 majority, and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said the chamber follows a similar agreement whenever attendance results in a tie.

Still, he said legislators have long understood the dynamic in the building, and the perception that split power will make the process difficult comes from the outside. “The realization is happening more out in the halls and within people’s district than necessarily within this chamber,” he said.

“I think we understood the dynamic when it happened, but I’m getting many questions from the outside — advocates, constituents, liaisons, the like — saying I never thought you’d entertain such a subject. Dynamics change, we can’t unring the bell from the November election.”

Prior to the start of Thursday’s session, he and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, did acknowledge that it can be difficult to run bills expected to run along party-lines without full attendance from their caucus’ members.

They said a string of illnesses, family obligations, and other scheduling conflicts have kept attendance down, something that wasn’t a problem when the Democrats held a larger majority.

Aresimowicz said he expects to run “a few bills that will be some time consumers.” Leaders from chambers said they were also negotiating the budget after adjourning mid afternoon.

The Senate had been considering a bill that would allow the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to create a bear hunting season, something the agency says will help address a surge in the black bear population in Connecticut.

In an effort to garner more support for the bill, Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, offered an amendment to restrict it to Litchfield County, something Fasano said would have led to passage.

Democrats instead offered several amendments that gutted the bill and changed it to ban transport of certain exotic animals. The bill failed at the committee level, and the House has declined to take the issue up in past years.

The national popular vote, meanwhile, would have Connecticut join a compact to move away from the electoral college. The compact currently has 11 states that hold a combined 165 electoral votes.

Should the compact ever reach 270 electoral votes, the amount needed to win the presidential election, the states have agreed to give their votes to the winner of the popular vote. States currently gives all electoral votes to the highest vote-getter in their state.

msavino@record-journal.com 203-317-2266 Twitter: @reporter_savino


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