Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

January 26, 2024

Special session shelved: CT will address EV transition in regular session

JAN ELLEN SPIEGEL / CTMIRROR.ORG A Tesla at a charging station in Greenwich.

The General Assembly is giving up on a special legislative session to address how to keep Connecticut committed to a transition to electric vehicles, leaving the issue for consideration in the regular session that opens on Feb. 7.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Thursday he is notifying House members the chamber will not go forward with a special session to pass legislation affirming an eventual ban on new gas-powered vehicles.

“I think there’s been really good negotiations, but you have to get to a final bill and there are still some sticking points,” Ritter said.

Facing rejection by a bipartisan legislative committee in November, Gov. Ned Lamont reluctantly withdrew proposed regulations that would keep Connecticut in compliance with the latest California emissions standards, which call for a phase-out of the sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

The administration and legislative leaders have been working since then on legislation intended to assure lawmakers that Connecticut would hew to the 2025 goal only if EVs had become more affordable and the state had a sufficient charging infrastructure.

Ritter said a potential bill that would have been put to a vote in special session will be the framework for a measure that he expects will be drafted and raised for a public hearing by the legislature’s Transportation Committee during the regular session.

The key elements are the creation of a commission to monitor the state’s readiness for electric vehicles, increased funding for a network of chargers in urban areas, and another vote by the General Assembly in 2027 on whether Connecticut would remain committed to the 2035 goal.

“We’ll try to do it as early as we can in the session,” Ritter said.

Addressing the issue in regular session means a review in committee, plus a public hearing. Bills in special session typically bypass committee review and hearings.

“I think it has to be vetted,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford. “A lot of these issues are generating questions.”

The governor is confident the state will affirm a commitment to zero-emission vehicles, said Julia Bergman, his spokeswoman.

“Gov. Lamont is committed to cleaner air and confident from his conversations with Democratic leadership that the legislature will stand by their commitment to put Connecticut on the path towards a zero-carbon future,” Bergman said.

The Republican minority in the General Assembly led the campaign to kill the proposed regulations, but the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and other elements of the House and Senate Democratic majorities expressed concerns about the impact on their constituents.

Urban lawmakers questioned whether apartment dwellers would have reasonable access to chargers, and the affordability of electric vehicles was a concern that reached into rural and blue-collar districts.

The second vote in 2027 would be intended to make certain what Lamont had insisted was implicit: Connecticut will have an opportunity to step away from the 2035 deadline if market forces — namely EV prices and battery performance — and the availability of charging stations indicate the state is not ready.

While the concerns crossed party lines, the Republicans appeared to be nearly unanimous in their opposition to the 2035 ban, foreshadowing a wedge issue in the 2024 elections for the General Assembly.

At an environmental summit sponsored Tuesday by the League of Conservation Voters, the state’s Democratic governor bemoaned the erosion of bipartisan support for Connecticut following the California clean-air standards, which were developed when Ronald Reagan was governor and endorsed by the administration of Richard Nixon.

“How many Republicans in the room? Raise your hand,” Lamont said. 

One Republican, Sen. Tony Hwang of Fairfield, was in attendance. 

“Well, that’s part of what we got to do,” Lamont said, meaning building bipartisan support. “I mean, at the national level, the Republicans have walked away, I’m afraid. And I usually don’t talk about it in this way.”

The General Assembly voted nearly unanimously to adhere to the evolving California standards, but Republicans say an eventual ban of new vehicle sales of most gas-powered cars was a major policy change that deserved a review by the full legislature.

The California standards would allow the continued sale of plug-in hybrids, which are powered by battery and gas-engines. They would not ban the continued use of gas-powered vehicles, nor their availability on the used-car market.

Bergman said the regulations “provide a level of certainty to manufacturers, which have set their own goals to significantly increase electric vehicle sales.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF