Looney, Williams nix mixed martial arts bill

Despite what one supporter argues is significant support in the General Assembly, a bill legalizing/regulating mixed martial arts in Connecticut faces an uphill battle in the final days of the session due to opposition from two legislative leaders.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven said he and Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn have issues with the concept.

“We aren’t convinced it makes good policy for the state right at this time,” Looney said this afternoon.

An effort to regulate the popular sport in Connecticut failed in 2011. But last month similar legislation passed the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee in a 46 to 4 vote.

And, as the Register Citizen recently reported, the industry has also donated to House Speaker Christopher Donovan’s, D-Meriden Congressional campaign.

The mixed martial arts bill had been pending in the Senate but was recently punted to the General Law Committee. Bouncing bills back and forth between committees is one way for lawmakers to run out the clock on proposals before the session ends at midnight May 9.

Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, has been one of the more vocal supporters of the sport, arguing it will be a boon to the state’s economy and various entertainment venues.

“If it gets to a vote it has broad bipartisan support,” Lesser said.

But, Lesser acknowledged, he is worried about the opposition from Looney and Williams.

“You always want to have leadership in support of anything,” Lesser said. “That’s obviously very important.”

I asked Looney why specifically he opposes mixed martial arts. Is it the violence? Business practices? Union issues?

Some supporters point to testimony from the Connecticut AFL-CIO opposing the bill on the grounds the union has clashed with the mixed martial arts industry in Nevada.

Looney did not wish to go into details but said yes, it’s all of the above.

“The bill is problematic,” he said.

UPDATE: Williams said he decided to oppose the mixed martial arts legislation after listening to advocates talk about safety precautions and then watching some bloody bouts on YouTube.

“After that we were, needless to say, not convinced,” Williams said.

Williams said he was made aware of the AFL-CIO’s concerns after watching the YouTube footage.

Brian Lockhart