As state officials use the waning days of the legislative session to flesh out the new budget, they’ve spent countless hours discussing weighty issues, from agency consolidations to social program standards. And then there are matters like cow chip Bingo.

“Even though these may sound comical to some people, they’re in the bill because they are important to some people,” Rep. Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, co-chairwoman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, said of the less-than-momentous decisions before the legislature. “If you are the person who bought a ticket in a cow chip raffle, you want to know how it’s being played.”

Several of these low profile issues were on their way to being resolved Tuesday when the House of Representatives adopted the first of what will likely be a half-dozen or more omnibus measures to implement the new $40.11 biennial budget.

For example, mixed among more controversial issues such as cost-sharing with towns and prisoner release policies were a few changes fans of Bingo might care about.

Starting in July, the maximum prize most organizations with a permit to operate a Bingo game can award is $100. But if the Senate adopts the compromise budget implementation bill approved in the House on Tuesday that doubles to $200.

State officials also found time to decide that senior citizen centers and parent-teacher organizations can run Bingo games without permits, if they keep the top prizes under $50.

But Bingo isn’t the only game on legislators’ minds right now. Tea cup raffles have their own problems.

Organizations using numbered tickets that contestants place in a container–it doesn’t have to be a tea cup–next to their prize of choice are supposed to get their official ticket sheets from the state Division of Revenue Services. But the new budget dissolves that division.

Lawmakers decided organizers can acquire the tickets from non-official sources, as long as each one has two sections–one to deposit into the “tea cup” and one for the contestant to keep–each with the same number and with a place for contestants to write their name, address and phone number.

And when it comes to the game where contestants try to guess which spot in a marked off field accommodating cattle will answer the call of nature, lawmakers decided organizers no longer must submit a plot plan outlining the area being used to get a game permit from the state.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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