OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1061

AN ACT CONCERNING THE FISCAL SUSTAINABILITY OF STATE PARKS.

SUMMARY:

This bill increases registration fees by $5 for motorcycles and passenger motor vehicles, except electric vehicles, and directs that the $5 increase is a charitable donation to the state parks sustainability account, which the bill establishes. A person may elect to opt out of paying the donation.

The bill creates the state parks sustainability account as a perpetual fund and prohibits the state from (1) depositing, transferring, or crediting to any other fund the revenue the bill requires to be placed in the state parks sustainability account or (2) enacting a law authorizing such a deposit, transfer, or credit. It is unclear whether this provision is enforceable on future legislatures (see BACKGROUND).

The bill also requires anyone who has a contract with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) for the operation of a food service facility or vending machine or stand in a state park to report annually by December 1 to DORS the revenue generated under the contract. DORS must submit the reports to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner, who must compile certain information about the generated revenue, including if any is paid to the state.

Under the bill, the DEEP commissioner must develop a request for information (RFI) on operating concessions, providing services, and offering recreational amenities at state parks and provide the Environment Committee by November 1, 2015 a written evaluation of the responses.

Additionally, the bill requires the DEEP commissioner to:

1. increase fees for renting state park property for special events of limited duration (e.g., weddings and receptions);

2. expand the Adopt a Park program to accept charitable donations, which must be deposited in the state parks sustainability account, and

3. charge and collect parking fees on a daily basis at shoreline parks throughout September.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015, except for provisions relating to state park concessions ( 6 & 7) and shoreline parking fees ( 10), which are effective upon passage.

1 - 4 – MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEES

Increased Fee for State Park Charitable Donation

The bill increases registration fees by $5 for motorcycles and passenger motor vehicles, except electric motor vehicles. The $5 fee is a charitable donation to the state parks sustainability account, which the bill establishes (see below). A person may elect not to pay the $5 donation (i.e., opt out).

Table 1 shows the applicable registration fees under current law and the bill.

TABLE 1: Registration Fees

 

Current Law

Under the Bill

Passenger motor vehicle, biennial registration for a person under age 65

$80

$85

Passenger motor vehicle, annual registration for a person age 65 and over

$40

$45

Passenger motor vehicle, biennial registration for a person age 65 and over

$80

$85

Motorcycle, biennial registration

$42

$47

Motorcycle with side car or box used for commercial purposes, biennial registration

$60

$65

Registration Application and Renewal Forms

The bill requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to include on registration application and renewal forms information explaining that $5 of the registration fee is a charitable donation to the state parks sustainability account. The forms must include a box a person may check to opt out of making the donation.

5 – STATE PARKS SUSTAINABILITY ACCOUNT

Account Established

The bill establishes a state parks sustainability account as a separate, non-lapsing account in the General Fund.

The account deposits must include the (1) $5 donations from passenger motor vehicle and motorcycle registrations and (2) “Adopt a Park” financial donations, as described below. The bill requires the DMV commissioner and the DEEP commissioner, respectively, to make the deposits. The account may also include money received from public and private sources, including the federal government.

Under the bill, DEEP must use the account for:

1. maintaining, operating, and improving state parks under the custody, care, or control of the DEEP commissioner and

2. reimbursing DMV, by July 1 annually, the costs to update registration application and renewal forms and collect donations from registration fees, up to $100,000 per fiscal year.

Perpetual Fund

The bill provides that the account is a perpetual fund, which may be used solely for the above purposes. The bill prohibits the state from:

1. depositing, transferring, or crediting to any other fund the revenue the bill requires to be placed in the state parks sustainability account or

2. enacting a law authorizing such a deposit, transfer, or credit.

It is unclear whether this provision is enforceable on future legislators (see BACKGROUND).

6 – STATE PARK CONCESSION REVENUE REPORTS

The bill requires anyone who has a contract with DORS for the operation of a food service facility or vending machine or stand in a state park to report annually by December 1 to DORS the revenue generated under the contract.

By January 1 annually, DORS must compile the reports and give them to the DEEP commissioner. By January 30 annually, the commissioner must compile the:

1. number of food service facilities and vending machines and stands in state parks and the location of the respective parks;

2. amount of revenue generated by the facilities, machines, and stands;

3. contractual agreement or statute that (a) requires a portion of the revenue be paid to the state or (b) prohibits or limits such a payment;

4. amount of revenue paid to the state in the calendar year; and

5. how the state used the revenue, if the commissioner knows.

7 – STATE PARK CONCESSION REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner, by July 31, 2015, to develop a request for information (RFI) on operating concessions, providing services, and offering recreational amenities at state parks. He must forward (1) the RFI to the administrative services commissioner by August 15, 2015 for posting on the state's contracting portal and (2) a copy of the RFI to any private vendor he knows of that provides such concessions, services, and amenities.

By November 1, 2015, the DEEP commissioner must forward to the Environment Committee a (1) copy of the responses the RFI generated and (2) written evaluation of the responses, including any recommendation for offering concessions, services, and amenities at state parks that are not already offered as of the bill's effective date.

8 – SPECIAL EVENT USER FEES AT STATE PARKS

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner, by July 31, 2015, to establish new, increased fees for renting state park property for special events of limited duration (e.g., weddings and receptions). The new fees must (1) be at least 135% of the fees charged as of July 1, 2015 and (2) vary by the number of people attending the event, with higher fees for events with a greater number of attendees.

By law, such fees must be deposited into the “maintenance, repair, and improvement account” in the General Fund, unless the commissioner specifically agrees otherwise (CGS 23-15b). Account funds are used to make improvements to state parks.

9 – ADOPT A PARK PROGRAM

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner, by July 31, 2015, to amend its “Adopt a Park” program to recognize those who financially sponsor a park through charitable contributions of at least $2,500. The donations must be deposited in the state parks sustainability account, which the bill establishes.

The commissioner must recognize a sponsor by putting up a placard at the adopted park that shows the person's, organization's, or corporation's name and level of sponsorship. He may establish multiple tiers for sponsorship.

10 – SHORELINE PARK PARKING FEES IN SEPTEMBER

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner to charge and collect parking fees on a daily basis at shoreline parks throughout September.

Currently, DEEP charges a daily parking fee at shoreline parks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, plus on weekends before Memorial Day beginning the third Saturday in April and the first weekend after Labor Day in September.

BACKGROUND

Legislative Entrenchment

Legislative entrenchment refers to one legislature restricting a future legislature's ability to enact legislation. For example, CGS 2-35 previously prohibited appropriations bills from containing general legislation (this provision has since been repealed). In Patterson v. Dempsey, 152 Conn. 431 (1965), the Connecticut Supreme Court held that this provision of CGS 2-35 was unenforceable, writing that, “to hold otherwise would be to hold that one General Assembly could effectively control the enactment of legislation by a subsequent General Assembly. This obviously is not true, except where vested rights, protected by the constitution, have accrued under the earlier act. ”

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

27

Nay

1

(03/20/2015)