Public Safety Gets Organized, Readies Itself for Gaming Debate
The public got its first look Tuesday at what a legislative committee with three co-chairmen from two different parties will look like.
The Public Safety and Security Committee held its first organizational meeting Tuesday. It was the first legislative committee to meet and the 20-minute meeting seemed to attract every lobbyist in the building.
The committee will be co-chaired by Sen. Tim Larson, D-East Hartford, Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford Springs, and Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford.
With the state Senate split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, legislative leaders agreed a Republican Senator would co-chair each committee.
Larson joked they will have “throw fingers” to determine which one of the three lawmakers will lead the discussion.
The committee, which included a lot of newly-elected lawmakers, “has always been nonpartisan,” Rep. Linda Orange, D-Colchester, said.
The committee was chaired for 20 years by former Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, who resigned before the start of the 2017 session to take a job with the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The former vice-chair of the committee, former Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, also resigned to go through the Judicial Selection Committee process to become a judge.
One of the biggest issues the committee will tackle this year will likely include legislation related to the siting of a third casino.
On Friday, the two federally recognized tribes that operate casinos in the eastern part of the state, announced they narrowed the location for a new casino to East Windsor and Windsor Locks. The decision angered developer Tony Ravosa, who holds an option on land in East Hartford on the site of the former Showcase Cinema.
Ravosa held a press conference Tuesday morning to criticize the decision by MMCT, the joint business venture between the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribal Nation, to dismiss East Hartford. Ravosa believes the East Hartford location will be the most beneficial for the state and the tribes should share all of the data its collect to select a site to the public and lawmakers.
“With all due respect to Mr. Ravosa, he believes East Hartford is the best site because he has the option on the land, and it would have been good for him personally if East Hartford was selected,” Andrew Doba, a spokesman for MMCT, said. “But he’s not the one who wants to invest hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money. And he doesn’t have all the facts when it comes to picking the ideal location.”
Larson, who represents both East Windsor and East Hartford, said “this is about jobs and revenue to the state of Connecticut.”
The idea behind the third casino is to stop gamblers from heading further north to Springfield, Mass. where MGM Resort International is building a casino it plans to open in 2018.
Larson said once the tribes select a location they will bring that selection back to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to re-negotiate the revenue sharing agreement the tribes have with the state for 25 percent of the slot revenue and then the governor will send it back to the legislature for a vote. There are a numerous things that could go wrong, including another court challenge by MGM—its current federal court challenge is still pending with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals—but Larson remained optimistic it will get accomplished this year.
Verrengia said he didn’t believe any gun related legislation would be raised this year based on the increased number of Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate.
Last year, the committee debated a bill that would give law enforcement officers permission to ask a person to see their permit to carry a firearm, regardless of whether the person was suspected of criminal activity.
The bill passed the committee 16-9, but never got called for a vote in the House.