The Connecticut State Legislature is once again hard at work, considering bills that will be put up for a vote later in the session. Those bills that have been discussed, voted on and approved, first by the legislators and then by the Governor, will become law. So, it is always worthwhile paying attention to what it is the Legislature, also known as the General Assembly, it up to.
There are several tree related bills that may be of interest to arborists. Since there are too many to simply list here, and since it is not yet clear which of these bills will advance beyond the very earliest stages, I will not go into each one of them.
Before getting going, it should be pointed out, there are many, many steps along the way to a bill becoming a law. The CGA site has a very good diagram illustrating the process. This is worth keeping handy if there are any bills you wish to follow.
To start, I will mention two bills specifically that both are up for a public hearing before the Environment Committee on this Wednesday, February 8th. The first bill is HB-6123 “TREE REMOVAL ALONG LIMITED ACCESS HIGHWAYS” and the second is HB-6356 “PUBLIC NOTICE OF TREE REMOVAL ON MUNICIPAL PROPERTY”.
Please note that there are links included to the text of each of these bills. The first sets rules on the DOT before than can remove trees alongside of a limited access highway; the second extends some of the responsibilities of the tree wardens to trees and shrubs on “municipal properties” and not just “any public way and ground”. (Just for the record, I am not sure if I know the distinction either).
If anyone is interested in knowing more about these bills or attending the public hearing, details are on the Environment Committee page. Details regarding committee membership and how to contact the committee as well as how to submit testimony without attending the hearing is also given. If you feel strongly about a bill, don’t forget to also contact your personal State Senator or Representative (the main CT General Assembly page will help you with that – www.cga.ct.gov.)
OK – what about all of the rest of the legislation. Just to make one comment – I have found the search feature on the main CGA page to be fairly useless for finding bills by subject. I would skip that.
Instead, as most (but not all) bills relating to trees, tree care and/or arborists come through the Environment Committee, I would suggest going to their page directly, then clicking on the Bill Record Book. Once there, you will get a whole list of bills on a variety of topics – from “taking mushrooms at State Parks” to “the state’s industrial hemp industry”. There is a variety.
You can search for specific words by using ‘control-f’. Or, you can take a few minutes to scroll through the list.
If you scroll, you might notice a couple things. There are some bills that start with the letters “SB” – that stands for Senate Bill, and just means that a Senator has introduced it. Similarly, HB means House Bill.
Some of the bills start with either PSB or PHB. The P stands for proposed. If you look at most of the proposed bills, you will find there is nothing more to them than a general statement of purpose. These are what are known as placeholder bills. They may or may not be filled in with more detail later. Right now, they are just holding open the opportunity for a full bill to introduced.
Bills that have made it to being called either an HB or an SB will have meaningful language associated with them. Some of the bills may have an R in front of them (as in RHB or RSB) – this stands for ‘raised’ bill. This means that the committee has chosen to re-write the bill – the important thing is that these bills also have meaningful language attached to them.
The next step in the process is a public hearing. If it fails to get a public hearing, the bill dies. A bill may get a public hearing and still die – perhaps due to the public hearing. Or, a bill might get significantly rewritten following a public hearing.
The public hearing is the only time that the public as a whole gets a chance to provide feedback as a whole. Feedback as a private citizen is always possible and is sometimes needed to help push a bill on into law.
Certain tree-related bills that might be of interest to arborists and others may not be on the Environment Committee web page. For instance, two Proposed House Bills (PHB-5655 and PHB-6443) are on the Judiciary Committee page. These both relate to the property owners responsibility should a tree or limb fall across the property boundary. Others, such as those related to the utilities, would be expected to be first seen on the Energy and Technology Committee page. (I am not currently aware of any tree-related bills that are being handled by this committee.)
Yes, this is all complicated. Members of the CTPA board will attempt to keep up with these activities as they evolve and will weigh in if it is appropriate to do so. CTPA is helped in this effort through our involvement with the Connecticut Environmental Council. CT EC actively represents the interests of its members at the Connecticut General Assembly.