2020 Legislative Session Preview

Kayleigh Royston, Legislative Liaison

February 5, 2020 - The 2020 regular legislative session kicks off on Wednesday, February 5 and will continue through midnight on Wednesday, May 6. At noon, Governor Lamont presented his ‘State of the State’ outlining budget priorities, legislative goals and any proposed changes to the biennial budget passed last year. His address is available on the CT General Assembly (CGA) website.

During the proceedings, each chamber came to order, and acknowledged the three new members of the House of Representatives.  The Speaker of the House and President Pro-Tempore of the Senate addressed their respective chambers.

In even numbered years, the general assembly is tasked with addressing budgetary issues, those with revenue and financial implications, and bills raised by the committees of the General Assembly. Since individual legislators can not propose bills in even numbered years, they must bring their concepts to the committees of cognizance directly for consideration. Once a bill concept is raised, a public hearing can be scheduled.

All members of the public are welcome to come to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to testify or may submit testimony electronically directly to the committee if not able to testify in person. Public hearing agendas must be posted on the CGA website five days prior to the hearing to adequately notify the public.

This session, the Department of Agriculture has submitted four legislative proposals, each addressing multiple needs on one subject matter area.  In addition to our agency proposals, we will be tracking all bills that may impact Connecticut’s agricultural community and will be commenting as appropriate.

Our proposals are as follows:

  • Food Bill: This proposal would add chicken eggs as an eligible food group through the state-funded CT Farmers’ Market/Senior Nutrition Program. This simple addition will improve access and affordable nutrition in nutritionally at-risk individuals, acknowledge the diversity of products now available at farmers’ markets, and respect to demands by the program users, adding chicken eggs as an eligible product will provide additional options for those within the program. The proposal streamlines the Connecticut Grown marketing efforts and updates other agency statutory references.
  • Aquaculture Bill: The creation of a shellfish bed restoration program would reestablish Connecticut’s important natural shellfish beds. This program would boost Connecticut’s shellfish economy, which is one of the state’s fastest growing agricultural segments.This proposal also intends to update the Connecticut Seafood Council membership to accurately reflect Connecticut’s current aquaculture industry by including indoor aquaculture and kelp producers.
  • Animal Bill: This proposal updates statutory references, allows for temporary Animal Control Officer (ACO) contracting between towns, and would increase Animal Population Control Program (APCP) reimbursement payments to veterinarians for spay/neuter as well as increasing funding limits for the feral cat program. Increasing the payments and funding limits have been recommended by the Animal Population Control Workgroup and should increase access to veterinary care and reduce our feral cat population.
  • Hemp Bill: This bill would update our current statute to bring us into compliance with the recently released USDA interim final rule. We are proposing minimal changes outside of those required by the rule in order to minimize confusion from our growers.

As with any legislative session, there will be many more proposals that we will be watching and submitting testimony on, in an effort to support and increase the viability of agriculture in our state.