Leaders Try To Put Grass Seed Debate Behind Them
The bill was a priority for outgoing Senate President Donald Williams, who believes he must stop the modified grass seed before it gets to market. But he failed to communicate that to House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, who had concerns about taking such a drastic step. Sharkey said he was never consulted by Williams about the bill.
Instead of waiting, Sharkey put the issue out of its misery quickly last Thursday when the House voted down the measure by a 103-37 vote.
On Thursday, lobbyists for Scotts Miracle-Gro delivered letters to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Sharkey, Williams, and Republican leaders Lawrence Cafero and John McKinney.
Scotts CEO Jim Hagedorn wanted to clarify some of the statements that were made during last week’s debate on the bill and invited University of Connecticut scientists to join a consortium of turf scientists to help test the grass seed.
“In terms of offering genetically modified seed for commercial sale in Connecticut, I see no scenario under which this would occur before 2017, and only then based on the continued findings from our research,” Hagedorn wrote.
The letter opens the door to the two-year moratorium the Senate Republicans offered as an amendment to the bill last week. But proponents of the ban have expressed the desire for the moratorium to last five years.
In the meantime, lawmakers and lobbyists with interests beyond genetically modified grass are worried about the relationship between Sharkey and Williams because it could impede the flow of business in the final few weeks of the legislative session.
Asked about the relationship Thursday, Williams said, “I’m not going to comment on that.”
Pressed about whether the Senate would take up House bills or if he was concerned about Senate bills that needed to make it through the House, Williams said, “I’m not going to speculate on that either.”
So there’s no tension between you and Sharkey?
“I’m not going to comment on that as well,” Williams said.
Asked the same question, Sharkey said they both recognize there’s important work to do “and that we’re going to move in a positive direction to make that happen.”
“I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be able to get done everything we need to get done this year,” Sharkey said.
On Friday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he’s spoken with both Williams and Sharkey.
“I’ve urged them to communicate more frequently so that mishaps or disagreement don’t take place and cloud the remainder of the session,” Malloy said. “There’s too much important work to be done.”
He said he received a “good response” from both of the leaders.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said at the end of the day, even though he had strong disagreements with both Williams and Sharkey on policies they want to see passed, he thinks they will be able to put aside their differences and “whatever personally upset them with the GMO bill.”
He said this isn’t the first time there’s been disagreements over bills within the same party or between the two chambers.
“I don’t think this is the first time it’s happened,” McKinney said. “And it probably won’t be the last.”
However, he did agree that it was unusual for the House to defeat a bill the Senate had passed less than 24 hours earlier. He agreed with the decision Sharkey made to take action on the bill instead of letting the issue linger.