Sen. Witkos Advocates for Bill to Protect Open Space

March 20, 2018



Today Deputy Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Kevin Witkos (R-Canton) testified in support of a proposal to establish a constitutional amendment to protect open space in Connecticut and implement more transparency and oversight regarding the sale of preserved land.

Testifying before the state’s Government Administration & Elections Committee, Senator Witkos explained his support for Senate Joint Resolution 35. This is the third year Sen. Witkos has advocated for a constitutional amendment to better protect state-owned forest land, parks, and wildlife areas.

“I believe we must do more to preserve Connecticut’s environment for generations to come,” said Sen. Witkos. “Connecticut’s scenic beauty is one of the many reasons people live here and visit our state today; but we must be conscious and cautious about protecting this asset if we hope to preserve it over time. A constitutional amendment will ensure that environmental protection always remains a top priority. It will address the need for more transparency and oversight so that the proposed sale of any preserved land is sufficiently weighed and considered by lawmakers and the public.”

The amendment seeks to bring more transparency to the state land conveyance process. Currently, conveyances are often all made in one bill and are not assessed in a public hearing. This process has resulted in controversial land sale proposals, such as the 2012 Haddam Land Swap, and has been long questioned by environmental advocates.

The proposed constitutional amendment backed by Sen. Witkos includes two parts:

  1. The proposed language would first require a public hearing on any proposed sale of state owned land to a person or entity other than another state agency.
  2. The resolution would also require the General Assembly to approve the sale of state-owned land under the control of the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection by a vote of at least two-thirds the total membership of the Senate and House of Representatives

Compared to proposals from previous years, this year’s proposed constitutional amendment clarifies that a two-thirds vote of support from the legislature would be required only for the sale of land that is under the control of the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, thereby ensuring that the state is protecting its forest land, parks, conservation areas and other open space without limiting the ability of agencies such as the Department of Transportation to manage roadways or other property.

If passed by the legislature, voters would still have to approve a constitutional amendment. In order for the question to appear on November’s ballot, the bill must pass both chambers by a three-quarters majority or by a simple majority over two consecutive years.