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ARCHIVED STORY SPRING/SUMMER 2012
MMA bill stalls for fourth year
State legislature fails to take vote before session ends
By Brian Woodman Jr.
For the fourth year, a proposed bill that would sanction Mixed Martial arts in Connecticut state has not passed. After the state legislature adjourned on May 9, staff persons at the state senate confirmed that no vote had been taken on the bill and that it would need to be reintroduced during the next legislative session to be approved.
The proposal, Senate Bill 326, was on the Senate Calendar and passed through three joint committees. State Representative Charles Clemons of the 124th District, Representative Mary Mushinsky of the 85th District, Representative Ezequiel Santiago of the 130th District and Senator Gary LeBeau of the 3rd District co-sponsored the bill this year.
Connecticut is one of four states in which the sport is not sanctioned. New York has not yet legalized the sport while Wyoming and Alaska do not have the necessary sanctioning bodies.
Former State Senator Jonathan Harris of West Hartford proposed a similar bill in 2009 while he still held office. Harris argued the bill would generate revenues for the state and stimulate local businesses by drawing an audience to Connecticut, which was echoed this session in testimony from State Representative Matt Lessser of the 100th District, representatives of the Connecticut Restaurant Association and others. Last year, several legislators proposed a similar bill that died in the legislature’s finance committee after no vote was taken before the legislative session ended. The latest version, which originated in the public safety committee, passed successfully through the finance and general law committees.
Before public safety approved the bill on March 6 by a 21-2 vote, State Representative Sean Williams of the 68th District, State Representative Joe Aresimowicz of the 30th District and State Repre- sentative Matt Ritter of the 1st District testified that
licensing fees, registration and a 5 percent tax on gross sales to MMA events made it beneficial for the state to pass the bill. They and Marc Ratner of Zuffa, LLC, which owns UFC, added that the bill also regulates the sport and promotes safety for participants.
Lori Pelletier, a spokesperson for the Connecticut AFL - CIO opposed the bill at that point, citing unfair labor practices that have caused problems for the union’s Nevada branch. She stated that these practices, such as demeaning slurs toward women and the gay community, rendered MMA owners irresponsible partners.
The bill, which passed finance by a 46-4 vote and general law by 13-1, would make MMA subject to regulation by the Department of Emergecy Service and Public Protection and would exempt it from the state’s current prizefighting statute. The statute allows for professional and amatuer boxing matches and wrestling but effectively renders MMA illegal, according to a 2008 legal opinion from then-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who stated events could not be held in Connecticut without a legislative change.
The department’s commissioner would be prohibited from issuing licenses for MMA events where it is prohibited by local ordiance, however.
The commissioner would be required to appoint inspectors for events and have the ability to grant, deny or revoke licenses for events. The bill requires the department to select properly-licensed doctors and referees for events.
The bill also requires venue operators to report injuries to representatives of the commissioner within four hours of occuring and license applicants to file bonding to ensure tax payment on gross receipts.