Johanna Somers | The Day Connecticut 

Hartford – Two similar bills that would create a Connecticut Port Authority are moving through the legislature with the goal of developing Connecticut’s niche exports and finding more import opportunities for the state.

The authority would be tasked with increasing cargo movements, marketing the ports and coordinating capital funding. Connecticut’s deepwater ports – New London, Bridgeport and New Haven – currently bring in less than 2 million tons of cargo and export less than 1 million tons annually.

“We are never going to compete with the New Yorks and New Jerseys,” said state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington. “Those are enormous and historic (ports). We are talking about improving our market standing by getting people out there who can hustle and let people know there might be some more economic ports in Connecticut.”

One of the bills, House Bill 5575, will be called to a vote Tuesday in the Commerce Committee, while the other, House Bill 5289, has already passed the Transportation Committee and is headed to the floor of the House of Representatives.

The Transportation Committee bill is nearly identical to a bill passed by the state Senate last year but never voted on in the House. Maynard said the bill should pass in the Senate again and that the speaker of the House, Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, supports it.

The governor’s budget office doesn’t support either of the bills as written but would like to continue discussing the issue with legislators. A spokesman for the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development said the department looks forward to working on this issue, but more planning and analysis are needed.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Peter Yazbak, said, “The governor is committed to finding an approach that puts an appropriate structure in place – one that allows us to market and coordinate activity among our ports and that helps them reach their full economic potential.” {….}