HARTFORD — State Rep. Christopher Davis attended the ceremonial signing by Gov. Dannel Malloy of two bills, H.B. 6557, An Act Concerning Liability for the Recreational Use of Land and H.B. 6156 An Act Concerning Farmers’ Markets.
H.B 6557 creates political subdivisions of the state and special districts as owners of land entitled to immunity under the Recreational Land Use Act—which offers the same protection to individuals, corporations, nonprofits, and private utilities.
The legislation (P.A. 11-211) focuses on passive reaction areas, such as hiking trails. Recreation facilities such as basketball courts and swimming pools—things that require maintenance—are not included.
“This bill will help increase the availability of open space in Connecticut for use by residents interested in outdoor activities,” Davis said. “Previously it was risky for municipalities to keep their land open to the public and, in many cases, the cost of insurance, lawsuits and settlements made it too expensive to keep the land open. This bill is a win for everyone.”
The new law changes the law created by the 1996 State Supreme Court ruling in Conway v. Wilton. In that case Amy Jeane Conway sued the town of Wilton for injuries she sustained during a high school tennis tournament on the Wilton High School tennis courts. The Supreme Court eventually held that municipalities and their employees were not “owners” under the Recreational Land Use Act and as a result were not entitled to immunity from liability for injuries sustained on land they make available to the public for recreational purposes. More recently, MDC officials, facing a similar lawsuit, threatened to padlock its various properties used by thousands of people throughout Connecticut. Municipal leaders, fearing similar lawsuits, considered making the same move.
H.B. 6156 makes a farmers’ market permit or license to operate a food service establishment at a Department of Agriculture-certified farmers’ market portable from health district to health district under specified conditions. The bill came about because farmers’ market participants were finding it difficult to participate in multiple farmers’ markets in various towns because they were required to obtain a separate permit for each market.
“The previous law really discouraged participation in farmer’s markets,” said Davis. “Hopefully this will get people more involved, increase participation and make our farmers’ markets better than ever.”