In the Land of Steady Habits allowing things on Sunday is a battle. Just ask the folks who for years have been trying to alter state laws to allow the sale of booze.
But it appears the liquor laws are poised to change this session.
Can hunting deer on Sunday be far behind? Critics think the bill, though opposed by the Environment Committee’s chairmen, has a good chance of passing because it is backed by Dan Esty, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
“Because the commissioner is behind it that gives it a whole different perspective,” said Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, a member of the Environment Committee, which passed the hunting bill in a 20 to 9 vote.
Urban said past DEEP Commissioners have left the lobbying up to the hunters rather than personally involving themselves in the debate.
Sure enough Esty was in the Capitol building this afternoon taking advantage of the House session to chat about DEEP bills with various legislators, including Sunday hunting.
Urban said she does not understand his enthusiasm for the issue.
Esty said Sunday hunting is part of what he calls a “sportsman’s package” that also will expand hunting education opportunities and lower the age to obtain a fishing license from 17 to 16.
Esty said he expects Sunday hunting will be up for a vote tomorrow in the Senate, then head to the House of Representatives.
“It’s important for our department to be responsive to the outdoorsmen of the state,” said Esty, appointed last year by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy.
He said the group plays an important role in conservation.
“We owe a lot to the hunters and anglers of the state,” Esty said.
State Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, a member of the Environment Committee, said he appreciates the support from Esty and DEEP.
“I’m not aware of a time an agency has made these kind of recommendations,” Miner said. “All this stuff goes hand-in-hand. If you look nationally it would be hard to find a state that has done so little than Connecticut to attract people to the outdoors and keep them.”
Environment Committee chairs Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford and Rep. Dick Roy, D-Milford both voted against the Sunday hunting bill.
Asked why, Roy said, “‘Cause I’m a Sunday hiker.”
But he said he will not block the bill from coming up for a vote in the House and not speak against it.
Esty’s response to opponents? “We have to be very careful as a government to tell people what their leisure time activities can be.”
For example, Esty said, he enjoys playing ice hockey. He would not want that right taken away by people who disapprove of the sport.