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From tolls to pot; new details shaping marquee bills

HARTFORD — From possibly jeopardizing millions in gaming revenue, to putting a limit on the addictive chemical in pot. Those are just some of the new nuggets we discovered at the Capitol Wednesday as House Democratic leaders spelled out specifics of how some important bills are taking shape.

Let’s start with legal pot. “I believe there should be THC limits for recreational marijuana,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz. THC is the addictive chemical. Leadership also reminding citizens that’s its legal in most neighboring states. “The only other option is to fortify the Connecticut border and stop every car that comes in here,” said Majority Leader Matt Ritter.

We also learned the Majority Leader doesn’t want access to pot on every street corner. “At least for me, I would let any town have zoning regulations and say we don’t want it.”

Gaming came up. No one seems to know the status of Gov. Lamont’s negotiations on a new compact with the tribes ahead of sports betting. “We’re not familiar with where his is with the tribes,” said House Deputy Republican Leader Vin Candelora. Majority Leader Ritter said, “To the parties who are talking. There is a sense of urgency. Or we’ll just have to act and then, you know what, people go to court. Good luck.”

Lawmakers in Rhode Island just approved mobile sports betting. “If folks want to do that type of gaming  they’ll drive over the border and sit in a rest area or a restaurant and do what they need to do. We’d rather have them stay here in Connecticut,” said Speaker Aresimowicz.

On tolls they gave a promise to lockbox toll revenue for road upgrades only. “So according to federal law it has to go there,” said the Speaker. Democratic leadership warns that pending federal legislation on infrastructure improvements could make tolls contingent on getting federal dollars. “Connecticut may be left with the choice of saying goodbye to federal money,” said Ritter.

Republicans say there are no toll votes in their caucus. “I don’t see Republicans getting on board with a toll every 6 miles,” explained Candelora.

And finally paid family medical leave. There’s talk about re-defining what “family” means. But the number 1 issue for the Majority Leader is the long term financial viability of the program. “The single most important thing we do. It has to be solvent,” said Ritter.

Even Republicans who support the concept are skeptical of the approach. “On top of increases to sales tax, on top of tolls and now we’re gonna hit them with a paid family medical leave tax? That’s where the issue lies,” explained Candelora.

The marijuana bills will likely get a public hearing next week, and as far as the tribes, House Democratic Leadership was asked if theres any possibility of a vote on a sports betting bill before a new compact is negotiated. That could jeopardize 250-million. Nobody definitively ruled it out.

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