On the Connecticut ballot this election year is an opportunity to vote for or against a change to the Connecticut Constitution. This opportunity, on the ballot as Constitutional Amendment Ballot Question 2, relates to the role that the Connecticut legislature can play in the sale or transfer of state-owned Connecticut forestland and other state-owned properties. The leadership of CTPA would like members to be aware of this ballot question so that they can make an informed choice when they vote on Tuesday (or sooner, if voting by absentee ballot).
The problem that this initiative seeks to fix is the following – as it stands now, the legislature can decide, through legislation, to give away, swap or sell, or make available for sale, state land, with minimal public input or debate. Often, these conveyance bills are raised at the last minute during a legislative session. When that happens, the legislature no longer needs to follow the usual rules. Bills can pass without a public hearing or any of the other normal checks on legislation. These sorts of conveyance bills are often written in a manner that overrides any previous legislation. This means that, in the flurry of last minute activity, the legislature can choose to overrule previous statements of intention that may even have been put into law when the state took ownership of that land, including, in the case of donated land, intentions expressed by the original donor of that land to the state.
Passage of this ballot measure would not mean that the legislature would no longer have the ability to authorize the sale or swap of state lands. If this ballot measure passes, it would set Constitutional rules as to what the legislature would have to do in order to pass that sort of legislation. As explained on the website Ballotpedia – a “yes” vote on this ballot measure would require that the legislature conduct a public hearing on bills to authorize the transfer, sale, or disposal of state-owned properties to non-state entities and, in addition, in the case of land under the control of the state Department of Agriculture or state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, that this legislation pass by a two-thirds vote.
A “no” vote opposes making these changes to the Constitution.
To pass, the ballot measure needs to get more ‘yes’ votes than ‘no’ votes. A non-vote (i.e., if the ballot is left blank on this measure) does not count against the total either way.
Proponents of this ballot question see it as a way to help protect state parks, state forests and other conserved lands. Additional information on the initiative can be found on the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s web site, as well as on the CT Forest and Park Association web site. Comments on the initiative by Eric Hammerling, CFPA’s Executive Director, can be found in this CT News Junkie article.
This initiative is largely non-partisan in nature. It passed the CT Senate on a 35-0 vote and the CT House 118-32 — four votes more than the three-quarters needed to get it placed on the ballot. Now it is up to the voters to decide.