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A constitutional amendment barring the disposal of state-owned land without a public hearing and legislative approval fell short Wednesday of the margin necessary to be placed on the November ballot.

The Senate passed the measure on a vote of 31 to 5, but the House approval was 85 to 62, short of the three-fourths, or 114-vote, majority necessary to be placed on the ballot. The measure now must also be approved by the next General Assembly to be placed before the voters.

Several House members said the amendment, which would require a two-thirds vote by the legislature to convey land, was overly restrictive. 

“I think this goes too far,” said Rep. Richard A. Smith, R-New Fairfield.

Smith said the protection was unnecessary for some routine land transfers approved annually, such as surplus highway rights of way that are deeded to municipalities.

“Sometimes we’re talking about a little swath of property,” Smith said. “I’m not sure why we would need a constitutional amendment to go through that process.”

The constitutional amendment was proposed by Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, as a means to thwart land transactions that now can be conducted with little oversight, often by a line added to a land conveyance bill in the waning hours of every annual legislative session.

Witkos said the process has a degree of transparency when a proposed land sale is subject to a public hearing before the Government Administration and Elections Committee.

“What’s not OK is when somebody sneaks it into the conveyance bill after the GAE has already had its hearing,” Witkos said.

The measure was backed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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