Monthly Archives: September 2011

Union pushes for power to set teacher standards

The state’s largest teachers union is urging state legislators to remove the authority to set certification and ethical standards for teachers from the State Department of Education and have an autonomous panel led by educators determine those requirements for themselves. “You’ll find teachers are harder on other teachers than anyone else will ever be because they know the job,” said Mary Loftus Levine, the executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, calling this a top agenda item of hers. “This will elevate the profession.” The question of how standards should be set is under review now by the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee, which will hold a public hearing in November on the topic and make some final recommendations in December. “There are many, many educators in the state who would be effected by any kind of change,” Carrie Vibert, director PRI committee staff, told the committee this week when releasing a preliminary report on the issue. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Unions chastise Malloy for allowing October longevity pay for managers

Bargaining units representing more than 6,400 unionized state employees chastised Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this afternoon for allowing non-union managers and executives to receive longevity bonuses in October under a new capping system while unionized staff will forfeit some or all of theirs. CSEA-SEIU Local 2001, called for Malloy to apply the same standard to all workers, arguing that to do otherwise would “violate the spirit” of the $1.6 billion concession deal ratified in mid-August. But the governor’s senior policy advisor responded that the unions are wrong in their assertion and the longevity pay issue has been “mischaracterized.” “‘Shared sacrifice’ should mean that state managers are treated the same as the unionized workforce,” Bob Rinker, Executive Director of CSEA-SEIU Local 2001, formerly the Connecticut State Employees Association, wrote in a statement. “The members of our unions just agreed to concessions believing that that the budget would not be balanced on their backs alone. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

A big investment and a little luck bring a $1.1 billion genetics lab

A leading genetics laboratory based in Maine committed today to establishing a $1.1 billion research institute at the UConn Health Center, a deal that provides an unexpectedly rapid return on Connecticut’s new bioscience initiative — and on a state official’s subscription to a Downeast weekly paper. The lure for Jackson Laboratory of Bar Harbor, Maine to select Connecticut over other suitors for its genomic medicine project was the Bioscience Connecticut initiative that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy rushed through the General Assembly last spring. “Jackson Lab’s desire to build a new facility was brought to my attention in late June,” Malloy said today, joined by company officials, top Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and UConn’s leadership. “I’ve been focused on it ever since.” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announcing the new genetics lab. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

On the fuzzy front lines, what is ‘business friendly?’

It’s been a fuzzy concept, this promise by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to create a business-friendly government. Daniel C. Esty, the commissioner of energy and environmental protection, is about to give it some definition with a shot at settling a long-running pollution case. In a case involving groundwater pollution around the site in Milford where BIC once manufactured pens and razors, Esty has delayed court action against the company while he personally attempts to negotiate a settlement. Daniel C. Esty
For the second time in a month, the former Yale academic’s ability to publicly explain his approach to resolving competing interests in public life is likely to be tested. The last time, in a test of his dual role overseeing energy policy and utility regulation, he stumbled. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Markley calls for investigation into DSS post-Irene benefits

Sen. Joe Markley, the ranking Republican on the Human Services Committee, has asked state auditors to investigate claims of fraud involving benefits distributed by the state Department of Social Services this month to make up for losses incurred in Tropical Storm Irene. In a letter to the auditors, Markley questioned how eligibility for the benefits was determined and wrote that DSS Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby “admitted that there was potential fraud at play in this distribution.” In a statement, Markley also pointed to news reports that the program was poorly handled, and said that while many people are “legitimately in need,” it appears from reports that “many others” took advantage of the situation. “It’s an embarrassment to the state and a terrible sign for our human services system, at just the worst moment, with resources strained and needs severe,” the Southington Republican said. “In tough times, it’s especially important that we deliver help efficiently.” Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Elections watchdog loses its director to retirement

The executive director of the State Elections Enforcement Commission for the past two years, Albert P. Lenge, retired Friday. Lenge, who is part of a wave of retirements across state government sparked by imminent changes in benefits ordered through the union concession agreement, had served in state government for 28 years. “Al Lenge has done an outstanding job, his dedication and commitment to the electoral process has resulted in Connecticut being recognized as a national leader,” Commission Chairman Stephen Cashman, said Friday. “Connecticut residents should be proud of the work he has done on their behalf.” Lenge, 61, took over the commission’s top administrative post in October 2009 following the retirement of longtime executive director Jeffrey Garfield. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Perry is cliché king in GOP presidential field

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney may be close in polls when it comes to the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, but the Texas governor has no challenger when it comes to trotting out clichés in debates, Eric Ostermeier says at Smart Politics. In three September primaries–one in California and two in Florida–Perry racked up 33 clichés, more than all the other contenders combined, said Ostermeier, a research associate at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and author of the often-quirky Smart Politics blog. In the CNN-Tea Party debate in Florida, Perry used the phrase “at the end of the day” three times in a single answer. Other phrases tallied in the cliché watch included “the bottom line is,” “as a matter of fact,” “the fact of the matter,” “the fact is,” “we know for a fact,” “let me just say,” and “let’s cut to the chase.” Continue Reading →

Filed under:

House GOP boosts federal heating fund

WASHINGTON–House Republicans released a spending proposal Thursday that would provide about $3.4 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program–a significant cut from the current funding level, but probably enough to cover the Connecticut heat aid program approved by three legislative committees this week. The House GOP plan, which has yet to win committee approval, would provide $3.39 billion for LIHEAP for fiscal year 2012, a $1.3 billion reduction from this year’s appropriation. But that’s $822 million more than President Barack Obama requested from Congress for the program. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee has approved a plan that includes $3.6 billion for LIHEAP. Lawmakers still have to reconcile the competing House and Senate versions. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Audit: DSS gave benefits to dead people

The state Department of Social Services continued to pay cash benefits to clients after they died and failed to adequately review client eligibility for another cash assistance program, according to a report by state auditors released Thursday. The audit covered the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years and included 21 recommendations, 12 of which were made in the previous audit of the department, released in 2009. The auditors also found that the department did not properly handle federal funds that should have gone to residents receiving assistance or back to the federal government, had accounts receivable that were up to 28 years old, failed to claim insurance benefits to cover funeral costs of people who received public assistance, and paid for health care coverage of people who failed to pay their premiums.
As they did in the 2009 report, the auditors raised concerns about the department’s ability to monitor its operations. DSS has only one auditor in its internal audit unit, down from 10 in the late 1990s. The unit does not monitor the department’s checking account, through which $4.9 billion in expenditures were processed in the 2009 fiscal year, and does not audit the department’s administrative functions, the report said. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Thousands of non-union workers to receive longevity bonuses

While most veteran unionized employees are forfeiting their longevity pay as part of the labor concession deal, thousands of non-union workers, including several top officials in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration, will share millions of dollars in seniority bonuses next month. The Department of Administrative Services declined Thursday to release a preliminary list of staff slated to receive longevity payments next month. Department spokesman Jeffrey Beckham said it still was being adjusted to reflect resignations, retirements and layoffs over the past six months. But longevity pay is issued twice yearly and 3,599 non-union staff received such bonuses, worth about $7 million in April. Malloy’s budget chief argued that a new longevity cap imposed on non-union employees earlier this year will save more money over the next 30 years. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Congress averts another crisis, and lurches toward the next

WASHINGTON–Lawmakers will limp back to Washington next week, bruised by another barely-averted government shutdown crisis and battered by sinking public approval ratings. But while many lawmakers agree that the latest fiscal fight was “embarrassing,” as one senator put it, it’s not clear this Congress can find any other way of doing business. The most recent showdown was essentially over a tiny sliver of money–a $1.6 billion cut to the $1 trillion-plus federal budget. But that was enough to spark a standoff that threatened to deprive disaster victims of desperately needed federal assistance, including food and shelter for people devastated by Tropical Storm Irene. “It doesn’t bode very well for serious policy-making,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Malloy approval ratings remain low

Only 36 percent of state voters approve of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s job performance, a new poll says, and 52 percent would vote for his 2010 Republican rival, Tom Foley, if they had it to do over again. The Malloy approval ratings reported by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic company, were even lower than the 41 percent found by the Quinnipiac Poll earlier this month. Voters say they approve of Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s job performance by a 52 percent to 34 percent margin. Outgoing Sen. Joseph Lieberman gets a 39 percent approval rating, with 48 percent disapproving. PPP surveyed 592 Connecticut voters through an automated telephone poll from September 22nd to 25th. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Malloy to announce major collaboration with genetics firm Friday

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and officials from the genetics research firm Jackson Laboratory will announce a “major collaboration” in bioscience Friday morning, according to Malloy’s office. On Wednesday, former UConn President Philip E. Austin, who serves as the university’s interim vice president for health affairs, said that a “major scientific group” will be relocating to Connecticut, likely creating hundreds of jobs. He said the move was related to Bioscience Connecticut, an $864 million plan to expand and renovate the UConn Health Center, with a goal of making the region a leader in bioscience. The Jackson Laboratory has more than 1,400 employees in California and Maine. It conducts genetic research on mice with the goal of discovering how to prevent, treat and cure human disease. Continue Reading →

Filed under: ,

Community Health Network selected for Medicaid ASO

The Department of Social Services has selected Community Health Network of Connecticut Inc. to negotiate a contract to administer Medicaid and the state’s other public health care programs, which serve nearly 600,000 people. The Wallingford-based nonprofit currently serves as one of three managed care companies that administer the HUSKY program for mostly low-income children and their parents. The announcement followed a competitive bidding process. DSS anticipates that the first-year contract will cost between $70 million and $73 million. Beginning in January, the state will overhaul the way its public health care programs are run. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

The Chrises set to be at same hearing next week, on opposite sides of dais

Connecticut’s U.S. Senate election isn’t for another year or so, but two of the candidates for that seat will have a chance to face off next week. Well, sort of. Ex-Rep. Chris Shays will once again be testifying before Congress on Tuesday about the findings of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which Shays co-chaired. The former 4th District GOP congressman-who plans to announce his Senate bid in October-will be appearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Current U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who announced his Senate bid in January, sits on that panel. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , ,