By Gregory B. Hladky
10:05 AM EDT, May 29, 2013
$1.5 billion budget fiasco? Fuhgeddaboudit.
We got more important stuff to legi-ti-mize in our Connecticut General Assembly. Like beer pouches and mattresses and tanning beds and crapped-out-for-profit-school diplomas.
Yep, those are the sorts of things our gold-plated lawmakers have reached consensus on as the 2013 session careens toward its close next month.
(In case you're a little offended at the "gold-plated" terminology for Connecticut's 181 state legislators, consider that we're spending more than $70 million this year on our General Assembly — an increase of nearly 27 percent since 2010. Let the good times roll.)
The Great Beer Pouch Bill cleared the state House last month by an overwhelming majority and state Senate Democrats and Republicans last week joined hands in joyful celebration to unanimously send the legislation to Gov. Dannel Malloy.
It was a high priority for the state's booze industry, whose many lobbyists pointed out that you can already buy wine, fruit juice and laundry detergent in foil pouches. A spokesman for North American Breweries told lawmakers at a legislative hearing that not allowing beer and other "malt-based" booze to be sold in pouches was "discriminatory and just plain unfair."
So it's not just beer we're talking about here. Assuming Malloy doesn't go crazy and veto the bill, you'll also be able to buy your frozen flavored-malt goodies like pina coladas and daiquiris from Parrot Bay and Smirnoff Ice in pouches.
As with any major piece of legislation, there were some objections. The spoil sports over at Connecticut's environmental protection agency don't like the pouches, complaining they aren't recyclable.
Mattresses, however, are recyclable. And you're now going to pay for that when you buy one in Connecticut.
The bill that sailed through both chambers of the General Assembly will require mattress makers to charge retailers a fee that will be passed along to consumers when they get a new mattress and/or box spring. So it's going to add an estimated $8-$12 to the cost, and something like 350,000 mattresses are sold every year in this state.
On the other side of the mattress issue, setting up this new system will save Connecticut cities and towns about $1.3 million a year in disposal costs. Sweet.
Another bed-related controversy has apparently also been disposed of by our intrepid lawmakers. Tanning beds, that is.
A bill banning anyone under age 17 from using those artificial sun devices to fry themselves got passed by the Senate without opposition and looks likely to sail through the House as well.
Tanning salon owners insisted the state doesn't need to regulate this since most already voluntarily require teens under 18 to get their parents' permission to climb into a tanning bed. But California has already passed an under-18 tanning ban, and something like 30 other states are looking at similar regulations.
The trigger for all this concern is melanoma and other sun-related skin cancers. Specialists warn that using tanning beds can increase the risk of melanoma for people under age 35 by 75 percent.
Of course, this bill isn't going to stop crazy tannists from getting too much ultraviolet radiation. As one Connecticut tanning salon owner points out, "Our biggest competitor is the sun."
People who got stiffed when the Butler Business School in Bridgeport or the Sawyer schools in Hamden and Hartford suddenly went belly-up last December aren't worried about getting tans. They're worried about diplomas.
Those for-profit schools shut down without warning and the bastards even forgot to give state higher education officials the required 60-day notice of closure or proof that their current students had completed their courses. The result was that state officials couldn't issue certificates of completion to those folks.
And so state lawmakers got busy and passed — without a single no vote — legislation to allow those certificates to be awarded.
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