‘Capitol Connection’ – Protecting Our Environment

July 27, 2012

From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos

Here in northwest Connecticut, the environment is an important part of our lives. From the trails of Talcott Mountain to the ski slopes of New Hartford to the Great Mountain Forest of Norfolk, we all enjoy living in such a beautiful part of the state. On a local level, towns make necessary decisions to preserve farmland and wetlands from overdevelopment. In the General Assembly, legislators focus on many of these issues as well.

As State Senator, I have long supported legislation that protects our environment and improves our air and water quality. During this year’s session, I voted in favor of legislation that will reduce levels of phosphorus in our state’s rivers, lakes and streams, modernize the state’s coastal zone management laws to balance environmental concerns with the rights of property owners, and reduce air pollution generated by outdoor wood burning furnaces.

Each year, the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters publishes an annual environmental scorecard ranking senators on how their votes are cast for certain bills. The organization is a bipartisan environmental advocacy group focused on supporting sustainable environmental policies in Connecticut. Working with other environmental groups, the League promotes legislation that affects our state’s air and water quality, wildlife, open space and public health issues. They also seek to educate state legislators about these bills and rank their votes.

While this group serves an important role in our legislative process and I appreciate their recognition of my support for environmental priorities, each piece of legislation should be considered for how it will impact many different factors, including job creation and the economy. Some of the proposals that were tallied in this year’s report were important bills, while others may have gone about accomplishing a goal in an unnecessary manner. I did not support two of these bills because I believed that they placed an unfair mandate on municipalities and families.

One of these pieces of legislation that was included in the scorecard was Senate Bill 92, “An Act Concerning the Disposal and Collection of Unused Medication,” which included two different provisions. The first section would have prohibited health care institutions from disposing unused medication into a wastewater collection or septic system to keep these chemicals out of the water supply. The second section would have required local police stations to make sure the public would have access to a 24-hour anonymous drop-off location for unused pharmaceuticals and also arrange for the transportation of these medications to a biomedical waste treatment facility where they would be incinerated.

While it was well-intentioned, I believe the program could have been structured differently. I simply could not support this mandate on towns that are struggling to make ends meet on their own, and raising taxes in this economy is simply not an option. When it came before the General Law Committee, it was voted down by a tally of 13 to five which showed how little support it received. In the end, the bill never even came up for a vote on the floor of either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

As legislators, we must balance the need to protect our environment while focusing on the state’s top priority – creating jobs and putting Connecticut families back to work. Last fall, the League awarded me an overall legislative score of 100% based on how I voted on proposals affecting the environment. I was honored to receive this recognition and look forward to continuing to vote in favor of smart legislation. If you would like to read more about this year’s scorecard, please visit www.ctlcv.org/scorecard.