Monthly Archives: February 2010

State ethics chairman violates ethics rules by donating to GOP candidates

The chairman of the state’s ethics panel violated state law by donating $250 to Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and two other Republican candidates vying for the legislature in 2008, reports the Office of State Ethics. G. Kenneth Bernhard, chairman of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board and an attorney from Westport, said he was “unaware of the prohibition” and expects “my conduct will be evaluated and handled in the same fashion as everyone else who is subject to the code.”
State laws ban members of the ethics board, and employees of the ethics office, from making campaign contributions to state officials. Bernhard donated $100 to Rell, $100 to Vincent Marino of Orange who lost against Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg and $50 to Nitzy Cohen of Westport who lost to Rep. Joseph S. Mioli. Continue Reading →

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Committee hears testimony on Judicial Branch cuts

The state’s Judicial Branch either is at risk of losing its independence due to crippling budget cuts, or wants to be handled with fiscal kid gloves, depending on who was offering testimony Friday before a state legislative panel. Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget director urged the Judiciary Committee to reject a measure that would restore most of a $7.8 million cut and would restrict the governor’s authority to order emergency reductions. “It puts the Judicial Branch on an enhanced playing field,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Robert L. Genuario said, adding that in tough fiscal times, shielding one group will affect others. “It will follow like the night follows the day that the burden is going to fall more on the Executive Branch.” The two-year budget adopted by the legislature and allowed to become law by Rell last September reduced funding in the “other expenses” line item – an account typically used to pay for service contracts and small equipment purchases – for the Judicial Branch, and for all nearly all executive branch agencies, to 2006-07 levels. Continue Reading →

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Himes quickly distances himself from Rangel

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, moved quickly to distance himself from Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of New York, who was admonished today by the House Ethics Committtee. Himes said he would donate to charity campaign contributions from Rangel, a noted rainmaker for Democrats. “I admire Mr. Rangel for his decades of leadership on civil rights and his service in the armed forces and in Congress,” Himes said. “But as elected officials, we must live up to the highest ethical standards. Given this admonishment by the Ethics Committee and the other allegations pending against him, I have directed my staff to donate to charity the campaign contributions received from Mr. Rangel.” Continue Reading →

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Committee to consider bill to block rate cuts for mentally retarded

A state legislative panel agreed this week to consider a bill that would bar a controversial funding cut for work and social programs for the mentally retarded. The Human Services Committee raised a bill that would block the reduction until after Jan. 1, 2011, when a new group studying program rates is scheduled to report back to the General Assembly. When Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed legislation last fall authorizing the rate study, many service providers and legislators assumed it would forestall any change in payments for now. But the private, nonprofit social service agencies that contract with the Department of Development Services were notified in mid-December that the administration would switch starting Feb. Continue Reading →

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Roraback considering running for attorney general

State Senator Andrew W. Roraback announced today he is exploring a run for attorney general. “I’ve always enjoyed righting wrongs,” he said. “The attorney general is the person you turn to to right an injustice.” State Sen. RorabackA lawyer since 1987 at his family’s law firm in Torrington, Roraback said his 16 years in the legislature where he has never missed a roll call vote gives him both the legal and legislative experience necessary for the job. “I love the job I have now,” he said, but with current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal running for the U.S. Senate he said it’s time for a Republican to take over the office. Continue Reading →

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Extension Of Statute Of Limitations For Child Sex Abuse Gets Public Hearing

State lawmakers will hear testimony on a bill to extend the statute of limitations for civil actions in child sex abuse cases — an effort to allow dozens of victims of Dr. George Reardon to sue even though their case is too old under state law. Last year, a similar bill also had a public hearing but the Judiciary Committee failed to vote on the proposal. Victims currently have 30 years after the offense to file a civil lawsuit. The State’s Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz said she hopes this year the Judiciary Committee will act. “Sometimes it takes victims years to talk about it and then confront their abuser,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Here’s a lineup: Nine would-be governors debate in Stamford

STAMFORD — Ten were invited. Nine showed up. Five Republican and four Democratic contenders for governor came here in the snow this morning to answer one question: “Who will lead Connecticut’s recovery?” The Business Council of Fairfield County heard a broad consensus on the state of government in Hartford: Common adjectives were “broke” and “out of control.” All pledged to be the chief salesman and chief recruiter for new jobs, and all pledged with varying degrees of passion to cut spending. Continue Reading →

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Tinkering with the death penalty: A hot-button issue in an election year

A year after Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed a bill to abolish the death penalty, Republican legislators are proposing legislation intended to speed up executions in Connecticut. One of the bill’s sponsors concedes that passage is unlikely, but the proposal ensures that capital punishment will get a public hearing in the run-up to the 2010 elections for General Assembly. “This is happening in my opinion mainly for political reasons, not that there is anything wrong with political reasons,” said Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. One of the sponsors, Rep. William A. Hamzy, R-Plymouth, said he wants to force a debate over the legislature’s ability to set limits on death-row appeals. “I feel I have an obligation and a responsibility,” Hamzy said. Continue Reading →

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From millionaires to lottery players, everybody’s a revenue target when the state is in the red

Fed up with telemarketing calls? The next one could help Connecticut pay its bills. Looking to buy a used gun?  The state might get in the business of selling weapons seized by the police. And if you’re not paying your fair share of taxes-at least in the state’s view-lots of folks in Hartford are thinking of ways to take care of that, too. There’s no shortage of ideas circulating at the Capitol to help erase the red ink that’s plaguing state finances, as legislators test options never considered before, or revisit ones abandoned long ago, in hopes of striking fiscal gold. Continue Reading →

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Why is primary care slow to get established?

Is the state doing enough to promote a new health plan that promises better care by bypassing insurance companies? Advocates say no, but the commissioner responsible for the program–and some health professionals–argue that the plan puts a heavy administrative burden on physicians without adequate reimbursement. “The word is out. This is a choice program and (physicians) have chosen not to participate. We cannot coax them to join,” said commissioner Michael P. Starkowski of the Department of Social Services. Continue Reading →

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SCSU president announces plans to retire

Southern Connecticut State University President Cheryl J. Norton has requested a sabbatical leave starting in June and will retire next year, she announced today. “After much thought and deliberation, I have come to the decision that for both personal and professional reasons it is time for me to move on,” Norton said in a message released to the campus in New Haven. She said she plans to use the sabbatical to do research on elementary and secondary school reform. Norton, the first woman to head Southern, came to the university in 2004 from Metropolitan State College in Colorado, where she had been provost. “It has been a privilege for me to be president of Southern for almost six years now,” she said in her announcement. Continue Reading →

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Health insurance rate hikes targeted

Thousands of people have died in Connecticut because of their lack of health insurance says a report released today, and a group of state officials say the findings show the need for more scrutiny of rate increases. “Let’s have accountability on these rate increases,” said House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan. Currently the Connecticut Insurance Department regulates the increases, but a bill being discussed during today’s public hearing would give the attorney general and the state’s health care advocate authority to appeal the insurance commissioner’s rate decisions in court. It would also require making public the supporting evidence justifying a price increase and require public hearings to review every increase. Insurance Commissioner Thomas R. Sullivan testified today that he opposes the proposal because “it will lead to a reduction in the number of health insurers” in Connecticut and prices should be based actuarial data, not what someone considers reasonable. Continue Reading →

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As business converges on Capitol, labor resumes push for paid sick days

A renewed effort to make Connecticut the first state to mandate that private employers offer paid sick days is an election-year fault line dividing business and labor, Republicans and Democrats. The Working Families Party chose “business day” at the Capitol Wednesday to resume lobbying to require businesses with at least 50 employees to offer up to five sick days. On a day when business allies flooded the Capitol to meet with lawmakers, Republicans seized on the bill as a symbol of legislative Democrats’ antipathy to business. “It’s not just passing these bills,” said Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield. “But it’s the very fact that they brought up and debated and threatened to pass them that has chased business out of this state.” Continue Reading →

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“Rookie of the Year:” passion and persuasion

Convincing fellow Democrats to send him to the General Assembly was the hard part, Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield says. After that, getting the legislature to vote for the first time to abolish the state’s death penalty seemed easy. “I don’t usually stop when people tell me no,” said the freshman Democrat from New Haven. Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield sends an email before heading into a public hearing
That was the case last month when Holder-Winfield grew frustrated with the state’s failure to fix the system unemployed people must register with to receive benefits. Not happy with the response he received from Gov. M. Jodi Rell or the commissioner of the Department of Labor on the jammed phone lines and backlog of claims, Holder-Winfield turned to his favorite legislative tool-Facebook. Continue Reading →

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