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State tourism, tolls and marijuana take focus for Democratic House leaders

HARTFORD — Could Connecticut once again be a stop for cruises? And how are the bills on marijuana and tolls taking shape? House Democratic leadership held a media roundtable of sorts ahead of a brief session in the chamber and bills designed to boost revenue for Connecticut became the focus of conversation, including tourism.

Joined by Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Caroline Simmons, House Democratic leaders floated an idea about the possibility of once again making Connecticut a port for cruises along the east coast. “We’re going to reach out to the cruise lines to find out what it would take,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz.

It was part of a larger conversation about boosting state tourism marketing efforts. “There’s a lot of things that would bring people to this state for day trips and otherwise, why aren’t we taking advantage of that.”

Two big revenue generating bills also recently passed committee hurdles. Marijuana and tolls. On the topic of pot, Democratic leaders say they want to limit the chemical THC, but they welcome a regulated industry. “It’s not a question of whether we like it or not. Whether we want it or not. It’s here. It’s going to continue to be here and it’s here in an unregulated way,” Aresimowicz.

Republican leaders say these two issues are just big revenue generators to avoid making tough spending cuts. House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said, “They want to give you tolls. They want to legalize marijuana. They want to find revenue and take money out of your pocket any way they can and with marijuana it is a serious public health issue.”

On the topics of tolls, the House Speaker criticized communities for passing no toll resolutions before the the actual final proposal is ready. “I think it’s absurd that municipalities are passing resolutions on something they don’t know what it is. It’s just moronic to be quite honest,” said Aresimowicz.

Republicans are opposed to tolls. Their alternative is ‘Prioritize Progress’, it relies on what they call responsible borrowing. “We believe in controlled and responsible bonding. Prioritize Progress fits within the bonding cap,” Minority Leader Klarides.

And speaking of bonding, Gov. Ned Lamont just announced his first Bond Commission meeting as Governor for next Tuesday with a lean agenda that fits within his debt diet.

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