Monk parakeet bill approved by committee
Unanimous decision for parrot protection
KEN DIXON
dixon.connpost@snet.net
Connecticut Post Online

HARTFORD With nary a squawk, the Legislature's Environment Committee Monday unanimously approved a bill that would protect southwestern Connecticut's monk parakeet population from eradication.

The legislation, approved with no debate, next moves to the House of Representatives, as the General Assembly progresses toward its May 3 adjournment date.

Priscilla Feral, the president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals Inc., was optimistic Monday, but cautioned that there is a lot of time left in the session and that the bill could still be jeopardized.

Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, co-chairman of the committee, said the legislation would protect the birds from the type of program used last fall by the United Illuminating Co. to kill 179 birds in 103 nests on utility poles in West Haven, Milford, Stratford and Bridgeport. The measure is included in a larger bill that would prohibit municipalities from euthanizing dogs that had been involved in biting incidents until hearings are held.

In part, the legislation says "no person shall catch or kill or attempt to catch or kill a monk parakeet."

"We're just saying 'don't do it,' " Roy said after the vote. "It's just something we have to do."

Feral said that if the bill becomes law, it could result in the Friends of Animals withdrawing a pending lawsuit against UI that was filed in an attempt to protect the birds, which have found the utility poles attractive to build their stick nests that house multiple generations of the feisty birds.

"We look forward to the Legislature doing the right thing," Feral said.

On the committee's deadline day to submit bills to the House and Senate, more than 30 pieces of legislation were approved, including measures to promote the purchase of cleaner-running cars and to force municipalities to pay for emission-reducing equipment on the statewide fleet of 7,000 school buses.

"We have some of the dirtiest air in the country in Bridgeport and New Haven," Sen. Bill Finch, D-Bridgeport and co-chairman of the committee, said after the vote. "We have a vulnerable population of school children being carted 'round in fume boxes called school buses," Finch said.

About 2,000 vehicles in the school-bus fleet are powered by gasoline or are already retrofitted with emissions controls, Finch said, adding that the easiest installation is a $600 crank-case filter.

Another bill would allow Sunday hunting with bows and arrows on selected private properties in Fairfield County, the Naugatuck River Valley and along the entire Connecticut coast, at the discretion of property owners and the state Department of Environmental Protection. It would extend the hunting season by about 20 days a year. Supporters said it's a deer-management tool, while opponents warned it might be the first step toward a statewide Sunday-hunting rule.

"I think you can be very pro- gun control and very pro-hunting at the same time," Finch said. "The deer need to be brought under control. They're carrying Lyme disease, jumping into cars and they're out control."

Dennis Schain, spokesman for the DEP, said the department understands the concerns some hikers, horseback riders and others may have for Sunday hunting.

"We do believe, however, that some form of Sunday hunting is necessary for game-management purposes, especially to control the size of deer herds in certain parts of the state," Schain said. "We also believe Sunday hunting can be used to achieve this goal without creating a danger to public safety in the outdoors." In other action, the committee:

l approved $5-a-month fines for dog owners who let their licenses lapse.

l approved legislation that would promote the recycling of electronic devices, except leased computers and vehicular GPS systems.

l protect land trusts from encroachment by neighbors.

l protect rivers and streams from being diverted by water companies.

l approved a bill that would phase out the use of the fire retardant called polybrominated diphenyl ethers used in appliances, rugs and household textiles by 2010.