Expected issues for 2014 Conn. legislative session

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Besides changes to the two-year state budget, the following are some major issues that may be debated during the new session of the Connecticut General Assembly:

— Gun control: Lawmakers may decide to establish a grace period for gun owners who failed to register guns now considered assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in time for a Jan. 1 deadline.

— Mental health: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is proposing to spend $250,000 on a campaign to de-stigmatize mental illness and encourage people to seek treatment. His budget will also fund more mental health services for young adults, including residential and transitional services. A task force has been examining mental health care for young adults, and some of its recommendations could also be considered by lawmakers.

— Police training: Malloy wants to require all police officers to be trained in how to respond to situations involving the mentally ill, focusing on verbal intervention skills needed to de-escalate potentially violent situations.

— Office of Early Childhood: Malloy plans to reintroduce legislation that would formally establish the lead state agency coordinating programs and services for children from birth to age 5. Malloy previously signed an executive order creating the office.

— Jobs: The legislature's majority Democrats and Malloy hope to dedicate more money to the state's STEP-Up program, which offers wage subsidies and training grants to employers who hire unemployed workers.

— Statewide port authority: Lawmakers are expected to consider creating a quasi-public agency to coordinate development of the Bridgeport, New Haven and New London ports. The agency would seek federal and state funds for dredging and infrastructure improvements and for marketing the ports.

— State park funding: The legislature's Program Review and Investigations Committee has recommended lawmakers consider setting aside 25 to 50 percent of the revenue generated by state parks to be appropriated to the parks and forests. Also, the committee recommended creating report cards for each park, highlighting attendance, safety issues, customer satisfaction and planning efforts.

— Taxes: Republican lawmakers have suggested using part of the state's surplus to restore sales tax exemptions on clothing, footwear and nonprescription drugs starting on April 1.

— Victim privacy: A task force recommended lawmakers allow restricted public access to certain crime scene photos, 911 calls and other information from homicides. It's unclear whether the legislature will take up the proposals.

— Juvenile sentencing: State lawmakers may reconsider a bill that would allow juveniles facing long prison sentences to have a chance at parole. A version of last year's bill would have made someone eligible for parole if he or she were sentenced to up to 60 years and served the greater of 12 years or 60 percent of the sentence.

— Right to die: Legislation set aside last year that would allow physicians to prescribe medication to help dying patients end their lives is expected to be up for debate again.

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Sources: Office of Legislative Research, Office of the Governor, House Republicans, and House and Senate Democrats.

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