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Posted 3/12/12

Capitol Smorgasbord


Leg-hold Trap
Snaps Pencil

Photo by Steve Kotchko

Last week we detailed some legislative oddities under consideration at the State Capitol including a school yard ban on simulated guns, and genetically altered plants.  The legislative smorgasbord continues—this week some news about a radioactive goat, marijuana, and leg-hold animal traps

Anti-nuclear power activists brought “Katie the Goat” back to graze on the State Capitol lawn on what they called her “farewell tour”.  Katie appeared at the Capitol in 2006 to highlight what the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone (the nuclear power plant) claimed were lab results showing she produced contaminated milk.  The goat has lived in Waterford and Redding, two towns the group say are in the wind patterns of Millstone and New York’s Indian Point nuclear power station respectively.

Nancy Burton, spokesman for the coalition, said Katie is dying from “nuclear fallout” and her milk contains “excessive” levels of strontium-90.  “Katie’s message is for the whole world to hear:  that radiation from nuclear power plants is deadly,” said Burton.

The goat’s farewell tour had the White House on the itinerary this past weekend—though it’s not likely Katie will be able to graze inside the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Burton has written to First Lady Michelle Obama about the radiation concerns.  By the way, nuclear power officials say any strontium-90 in the goat’s milk probably came from nuclear weapons testing by the Soviet Union and China, not Millstone

Another animal-related concern was voiced in a press conference about leg-hold traps used by trappers to snare small mammals.  Animal rights groups and their supporters in the legislature including State Rep. Diana Urban (D-North Stonington) want to ban leg-hold traps in various locations to protect children.

Urban’s bill would bar placing leg-hold traps within 1,500 feet of schools, daycare centers, parks, playgrounds, and public roads.  “What parents need to know is that when they are hiking with children in designated open space areas these types of traps could be hidden in the underbrush—and it is not just an animal that could get caught,” said State Rep. Kim Fawcett (D-Fairfield).

Trappers and the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) oppose the leg-hold trap restrictions and disagree on the danger to kids.

Herb Sobanski of the Connecticut Trappers Association said leg-hold traps must be placed underwater and trapping season runs in the late fall and winter—months kids are not going to be playing in or near rivers and streams.  He said kids are in more danger from a rabid raccoon bite than being snared in a leg-hold trap.

DEEP’s Deputy Commissioner Susan Frechette, in testimony for a legislative hearing, opposed the leg-hold trap ban saying the trap remains an “effective tool for reducing human-wildlife conflict.” She said the trap is needed to counter foxes, raccoons, and beavers that can pose problems in well-populated areas.  She added:  “Foothold traps are also the only practical live capture device for coyotes, a species that is abundant and increasingly the source of citizen complaints (about) killing wildlife and pets, and displaying bold behavior toward humans.”

Marijuana was at issue in two separate legislative hearings last week.  Supporters of using pot for medical purposes are making another try at getting a bill through the legislature.  A bill passed the House and Senate in 2007, but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Jodi Rell. 

This year’s version tries to allay the fears of some lawmakers that medical marijuana will turn into something akin to the California experience where critics claims the “medical” component is a joke—and pot dispensaries are serving people who don’t really have health issues.

The 2012 Connecticut bill includes a rule that pharmacists would dole out medical marijuana to patients with a certificate from a doctor.  Still, the Connecticut State Medical Society, representing doctors, opposes the bill, claiming there is not enough data demonstrating how effective marijuana can be for medical purposes.

Many people who have used pot for medical reasons testified in favor of the bill, hoping it can ease the legal fears many patients cope with as they try to improve their disease-fighting strength with pot.

It’s a tough issue as evidenced by two high-profile lawmakers, both Republicans, who carry the flag on opposite sides of the bill.  Somers Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, whose husband’s unsuccessful battle against bone cancer was eased by smoking marijuana, said she hopes the 2012 legislature has “the courage to pass this bill.”  Meanwhile, her fellow Republican, Wilton Sen. Toni Boucher remains staunchly opposed to the bill.  Boucher calls pot “a dangerous drug” and approving its use for medical purposes sends “a powerfully negative message” to teenagers.

In a separate hearing last Friday, lawmakers took testimony on a bill from Rep. Arthur O’Neill (R-Southbury) that would permit towns to collect money from the so-called controlled substance tax after a drug dealer is busted.

Right now, all revenues from the tax go into the state kitty.  O’Neill says his measure would allow cities and towns to share in the take, and that might encourage local police to strategize for more drug arrests in their communities.

Follow Steve Kotchko on Twitter for news and insider tidbits on politics and government@CRN_News