On May 7th, the legislature concluded the 2014 session, and we are pleased to report 3 of the bills that WLA supported all passed in the last days of the session. This includes:
This bill, as amended, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, and authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to place a conservation restriction on the 575-acre state-owned Savin Farm in Lebanon, CT. The final bill, however, did not mandate the Farm’s protection (the language says ‘may’ protect not ‘shall’ protect), so WLA’s efforts will now to turn to working with the Governor’s office and the Commissioner to exercise the authority granted by the legislature.
This bill also passed unanimously in both chambers, and authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Commissioner of DEEP to place conservation restrictions on agricultural and conservation lands in the custody of the respective departments. The legislation also requires DEEP to create a Public Use and Benefit Land Registry – an online registry that will furnish important information about our state-owned conservation lands.
Both HB 5419 and SB 70 reflected compromise that was needed to get the bills over the line, but still provide an important step forward in efforts to protect our state-held agricultural and conservation lands.
HB 5057 passed this session, providing some important technical and procedural clarifications on PA 490 – an act established in 1963 that has been instrumental in keeping Connecticut’s farmland in farming. PA 490 enables landowners who steward our state’s farm and forest lands to pay taxes on that land at its current use value rather than its highest value, and is widely considered to be one of the most important pieces of land use legislation in Connecticut. The legislation clarifies some gray area that existed in the statute, and will help landowners and assessors implement this important act.
The Bond package includes authorization to fund open space grant and farmland preservation programs at the same level of funding as last year ($10 million in FY14 and FY15, for each program respectively).