Rojas appointed co-chair of planning committee

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Jan. 11, 2013
State Rep. Jason Rojas. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

On Jan. 2, state Rep. Jason Rojas (D-9) was appointed chairman of the Planning and Development Committee. Rojas, whose district includes East Hartford and part of Manchester, has been a member of the committee for four years.

"There are 187 legislators and only 27 committees, so being on a committee is a privilege and an honor," Rojas said. Rojas said he believes he received the chairmanship position based on his commitment to the committee and its interests. "Certainly from what the speaker has told me, he knows of my interest in what the committee has interest over. I've been on the committee for four years. The speaker has seen my commitment," Rojas said.

In Connecticut, legislative committees are shared between the state House and Senate, with one chair from each body. Rojas will chair the House side of the Planning and Development Committee, while Steve Cassano (D-4) chairs the Senate side. The Planning and Development Committee oversees urban planning issues, including zoning and the state's various utility districts, such as the Metropolitan District Commission. As chairman, Rojas said he will work to set the agenda for the committee, which sees anywhere from 200 to 400 bills each year. "A good deal of the speaker's policy will go through the committee as well," Rojas said. "We'll be working to make sure we get the speaker's agenda through."

Although Rojas said that the committee deals with many "obscure policy issues," many of them are important to towns and cities. "One of the issues that's been coming back year after year is mandate relief - towns and cities asking for relief from things they're forced to do," Rojas said. Rojas said that another ongoing issue is the use of newspapers for public notices. "Towns and cities feel they should be able to put those legal notices on a website. Newspapers see it as a transparency issue in that the public has a right to know what is going on. It's an ongoing battle," Rojas said.

Of all the bills he handles, Rojas said he believes one of the most important is a recurring environmental bill known as the "buffer bill." "The environmental community wants to set buffers between bodies of water and where development can take place," Rojas said. "It keeps being defeated, but it's an important issue for planning and development. If someone wants to develop in those areas, it can be a hit to the economy," he said.

Rojas said that his goal as chairman is to streamline the ability for towns and cities to provide services together. "What we've been trying to do is remove any obstacles that would stop communities from working together based on regionalism. It's been a long stretch because you need money to get communities to start working on regionalism and we've been in a budget crisis. There hasn't been a lot of movement in that direction," Rojas said. Rojas said that this year, the committee will likely work on creating uniform borders for regional services, such as the Capitol Region Education Council and MDC. "It prevents us from engaging in solid planning and land use," Rojas said.

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