Yearly Archives: 2013

Rowland asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear union layoffs case

Former Gov. John G. Rowland has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal of a lower court ruling that found his administration illegally used layoffs in 2003 to punish state employee unions.But counsel for the unions and state employees said Monday he’s skeptical that the nation’s highest court will hear the case, especially since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has agreed to negotiate with workers to settle the matter.A coalition of 13 state employee unions sued to challenge 2,800 layoffs Rowland ordered in December 2002 in response to a growing state budget deficit. The Republican governor, they charged, specifically targeted bargaining units to punish them for supporting Democrat William E. Curry Jr. in that year’s gubernatorial contest.Both sides have agreed that the Rowland administration followed all appropriate seniority rules when the layoffs were enforced. But they also agreed that the job cuts weren’t based on any analysis of the state’s workforce needs.“The question is not whether these facts are true … but whether, like the allegations concerning subjective motive, they are legally relevant,” Hartford attorney Daniel J. Klau, who represents Rowland and former Rowland budget chief Marc S. Ryan, wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court.Klau argued in his brief that a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit erred last May when it concluded that Rowland’s layoffs were improper because they targeted unionized workers. The job cuts were made in accordance with procedures outlined in labor contracts, and allegations about the governor’s motives are irrelevant, counsel wrote.But Stamford attorney David S. Golub, who represents the unions and state workers, said Monday that there’s really nothing for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear right now.Since the federal appeals court ruled — sending the case back to U.S. District Court in Hartford to determine damages — the Malloy administration has indicated it will negotiate with the unions and workers to find a remedy. Both sides are expected to begin talks in 2014.The lawsuit is a civil rights action aimed at Rowland and Marc Ryan in both their official capacity, and as individuals. Continue Reading →

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5 changes in CT health care to watch in 2014

Doug Gerard Rockwell

The federal health law has gotten most of the attention in recent months, but even before it came along, the country’s health care system was undergoing significant shifts. Here are some big changes in health care you’re likely to notice in 2014.1. You might get more nagging from your doctor’s office.For years, policymakers have talked about problems in the way health care is paid for, which rewards doctors and other providers for doing more procedures or seeing more patients, not for keeping them healthy and out of the hospital. Now the health care “payers” — that is, insurance companies and big government programs like Medicare and Medicaid — are working on changing that, a shift referred to as moving from paying for volume to paying for value.Exactly how the new payment arrangements will work is still evolving, but it’s expected that doctors will increasingly be judged, and compensated, based in part on how well they perform on measures such as making sure their patients get appropriate screenings and preventive care, and making sure patients’ chronic conditions are well managed. That places a greater emphasis on taking a more active role in patients’ health and coordinating their care.What does that mean for patients? Continue Reading →

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McKinney, Malloy continue yearlong battle over Connecticut’s debt

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and one of his chief GOP rivals, Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, are ending 2013 as they began it — battling over Connecticut’s hefty credit card debt. The Fairfield lawmaker has been citing a new report that undercuts one of the governor’s chief defenses: that overall debt is less than when he took office three years ago. “As I stand before you today, we have less bonded debt,” Malloy told Capitol reporters on Sept. 27. The context was simple. Continue Reading →

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Malloy taps veteran HR officer to support CT’s watchdog agencies

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy named a veteran state human relations officer as the new head of support services for Connecticut’s watchdog agencies, replacing an administrator whose two-year tenure was marked by conflict.Shelby J. Brown of East Hartford will begin her new assignment as executive administrator at the Office of Government Accountability in an acting capacity Jan. 10. The General Assembly will consider her appointment in the 2014 session, which convenes Feb. 5.Brown replaces David L. Guay, who clashed with the state’s watchdog agencies over their ability to supervise and evaluate his performance.“The offices within OGA carry important functions of state government that are crucial to ensuring transparency, efficiency and fairness,” Malloy said.  “… I congratulate Shelby on this appointment and am confident in her ability to work collaboratively with each component of the agency.”According to state law, the governor may appoint an executive administrator only from a pool of finalists prepared by the Governmental Accountability Commission. That nine-member panel comprises one representative from each of the nine watchdog agencies within the Office of Governmental Accountability.According to a source close to the process, the commission listed Brown as its first choice on a prioritized list of five finalists sent to the governor.“I think Shelby will be a terrific executive administrator, and I look forward to working with her,” said Anthony J. Castagno, chairman of the State Elections Enforcement and Governmental Accountability commissions.Brown possesses “very strong leadership capabilities and a real understanding of the position and what it takes to interact with nine agencies and the commission,” Castagno said.The SEEC chairman added that the office was fortunate to have a very strong pool of finalists for the executive administrator’s job. Continue Reading →

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Democrats: CT minimum wage hike will lift thousands from poverty

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The top Democrats in state government joined labor leaders Monday to highlight the minimum wage hike that takes effect this week, calling it a major step to help lift thousands of Connecticut households out of poverty.And Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also pledged his support for a proposal circulating among some Democrats in Congress to raise the national minimum wage — in several stages — to $10 per hour.Connecticut’s minimum wage of $8.25 per hour, which already tops the federal threshold wage by $1, will jump by 45 cents Wednesday to $8.70, in accordance with a statute enacted by the General Assembly seven months ago. That measure also calls for the state’s minimum wage to grow to $9 per hour Jan. 1, 2015.“As the clock strikes 12 in this state, many people … will actually lift themselves out of poverty,” Malloy said during a midday rally in the Capitol’s Old Appropriations Room.The governor said 70,000 to 90,000 workers, of a total workforce of 1.7 million, earn the minimum wage.The current hourly rate of $8.25 represents $17,160 per year for an individual working 40 hours per week. Those annual earnings fall $1,200 below the federal poverty level for a family of three.The 45-cents-per-hour minimum wage increase represents an extra $18 per week. “That could put some extra food on people’s tables,” said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. Continue Reading →

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Foley uses Iraq in fundraising appeal to vets

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Republican Tom Foley is using his civilian service as President George W. Bush’s director of private-sector development in Iraq as a hook for a fundraising letter to veterans, one of the end-of-year flurry of solicitations from politicians, including one from a U.S. senator not facing re-election until 2016.The goal is to pump the numbers by midnight on New Year’s Eve. In the political world, the ball dropping in Times Square signals much more than the dawn of a new year: It’s the end of a campaign finance quarter.“Veterans are people of action,” Foley writes in a post script at the end of his appeal to vets. “Do not delay your decision. Take action today and help me with a contribution. Any amount will be a help.”For Foley and other contenders for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, the end-of-year finance report that will become public next month is a way to demonstrate their early appeal to the GOP base. Continue Reading →

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Funding cap slows CT vo-tech schools’ growth

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The state’s 16 vocational-technical high schools could enroll many more students and open its vacant classrooms if the district had the money.“It’s a reality we don’t have enough seats,” said Nivea L. Torres, the interim superintendent of the 10,800-student district funded almost entirely by the state.More than 6,000 students applied for the 3,000 available seats this past fall, which left hundreds of students across the state on waiting lists.Torres said several shops remain empty this school year only because she doesn’t have the money.“Unfortunately that’s not something in the means of our operating budget,” she told legislators on the Education, Higher Education, Labor committees last week. “There is capacity, but it takes more staff and money.”While enrollment at the schools has remained steady over the last few years, the district that is almost entirely funded by the state has struggled to keep its teaching, maintenance and security staffing positions filled. The district reports it has 41 full-time jobs unfilled this school year, eight of which are teaching positions. State funding to cover the district’s operating expenses has remained largely level over the last several years.The state’s Technical High School System began coming before legislators annually after a trio of events: news came out that students were learning on outdated equipment; there were reports that safety violations existed on most of the school buses that transport district students; and a district school had to close. This led to the passage of a new state law requiring an annual “assessment of the adequacy of resources” for the district.That 2010 law also calls for more detailed information on the vo-tech district’s in an effort to enhance legislative oversight. Continue Reading →

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Veteran HR officer tapped as head of CT’s watchdog agencies

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy named a veteran state human relations officer as the new head of support services for Connecticut’s watchdog agencies, replacing an administrator whose two-year tenure was marked by conflict.Shelby J. Brown of East Hartford is to begin her new assignment as executive administrator at the Office of Government Accountability in an acting capacity Jan. 10. The General Assembly will consider her appointment in the 2014 session, which convenes Feb. 5.Brown replaces David L. Guay, who clashed with the state’s watchdog agencies over their ability to supervise and evaluate his performance.“The offices within OGA carry important functions of state government that are crucial to ensuring transparency, efficiency and fairness,” Malloy said.  “… I congratulate Shelby on this appointment and am confident in her ability to work collaboratively with each component of the agency.”According to state law, the governor may appoint an executive administrator only from a pool of finalists prepared by the Governmental Accountability Commission. That nine-member panel comprises one representative from each of the nine watchdog agencies within the Office of Governmental Accountability.According to a source close to the process, the commission listed Brown as its first choice on a prioritized list of five finalists sent to the governor.“I think Shelby will be a terrific executive administrator, and I look forward to working with her,” said Anthony J. Castagno, chairman of the State Elections Enforcement and Governmental Accountability commissions.Brown possesses “very strong leadership capabilities and a real understanding of the position and what it takes to interact with nine agencies and the commission,” Castagno said. Continue Reading →

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A year of grappling with the impossible

It was a where-were-you-when-you-heard-about-it? event. I stood in the small newsroom of WNPR, staring up at a TV with a half-dozen others. A producer sat at her computer, scanning the initial reports coming in from other news outlets. “CBS radio says 26 are dead,” she said in a flat tone, while a reporter standing behind her thrust out her right arm, hand raised in a stop-the-traffic pose.  “No!” she said, shaking her head, “that’s impossible.”   And so 2012 ended in a fog of funerals and memorials and a presidential visit and people looking to our leaders to lead us out of what should have been impossible. Appropriately, 2013 ends with a final report on the shootings — the 7,000-page report was issued Friday afternoon. In his cover letter, public safety Commissioner Reuben F. Bradford says, “The investigation of this incident is unparalleled in the one hundred and ten year history of the Connecticut State Police.”    Earlier this month, Mirror reporters looked at what has happened this year in the wake of the shootings — the changes we’ve made to our mental health system; what we’ve done to improve school security; how our legislature has responded, at least initially; and how Newtown has become a national symbol and meeting point for national gun control groups. Continue Reading →

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Part of Newtown report zeroes in on the mystery that was Adam Lanza

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The Connecticut state police released thousands of pages worth of reports Friday afternoon from their investigation into the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting in Newtown that claimed 26 lives.The state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which includes the state police division, posted more than 840 pdf files of written reports, 22 additional files of photographs and dozens of audio and video attachments, along with a cover letter from Commissioner Reuben Bradford, on the department’s website.The report comes just over one year after Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza, 20, who earlier had killed his 52-year-old mother, Nancy, took his own life with a 10mm-Glock, one of two handguns and a semiautomatic rifle he carried into the school with nearly 20 pounds of ammunition.The new report includes hundreds of photographs from the two crime scenes. There are pictures of elementary school classrooms decorated with children’s artwork and words like “Hopes and dreams” in big cut-out letters on the walls, and a charity “hat drive” box. There are also pictures of bullet holes in classroom windows, guns, bullets and the shattered glass door where Lanza shot his way into the school.Friday’s postings cover a wide array of subjects.One report details the contents of the Lanza home. Continue Reading →

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CT state college system discloses merit pay hikes

Manchester Community College

The state’s merged public college system released details Friday on merit pay increases, which averaged 2 percent for each of 278 officials and administrators.The raises, which were awarded Friday but are retroactive to early September, are in addition to the 3 percent cost-of-living increase the Board of Regents for Higher Education granted these non-union employees in July.This marks the first raise for most non-union employees in the regents’ system since the 2010-11 fiscal year. Most employees — both union and non-union —  throughout state government also are receiving pay hikes for the first time in two years. Nearly all workers forfeited raises in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years in accordance with a major concessions deal negotiated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and related legislation enacted by the General Assembly.Friday’s release also completes a reversal by leadership of the regents’ system, which originally had denied a request from The Mirror for information on the merit raises.System President Gregory Gray said earlier this month that he remained convinced that the raises needed to be disclosed.”I am still not clear if we are legally obliged to do this or not,” he said. “However, as I continue further discussions with our Board of Regents, one of the things I wanted to do in my era of being president is restore trust and total integrity in the system, and that means total transparency. Therefore, we decided based on that very important thing, weighing the privacy issue versus the paramount issue of transparency,” to disclose the information.Two leaders of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee and an open government group comprising news media executives — The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information — had criticized the system’s initial reluctance to disclose the raises.(See the new salaries of the 278 managers and administrators from the regents’ system listed below.)The system, which includes the four state universities, 12 community colleges and the online Charter Oak State College, serves about 92,000 students.The University of Connecticut provided The Mirror with information on merit raises for its administrators earlier this month.  Continue Reading →

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Thank You, from The Connecticut Mirror

Dear Friends, Thank you.Thank you to every individual, business, organization and foundation that sees the value in what our staff produces every day of the year.Thank you for your continuing support of The Connecticut Mirror, which now has the largest Capitol bureau in Hartford and is the only state news organization with a dedicated reporter in Washington, D.C.Thank you for turning to us for in-depth reporting on public policy issues that directly affect you and that will define Connecticut’s future. We continue to highlight these unique aspects of our operation because it’s why we’re different than any other media organization in the state.As we close our fourth year and welcome what is already shaping up to be an eventful 2014, please consider supporting The Connecticut Mirror with a tax-deductible donation. Please remember that we are a nonprofit news organization, and that your support means we can continue to deliver award-winning public policy journalism.In terms of individual donations, we offer different levels with different rewards — those of you who receive our daily briefing know we are fond of saying 3.5 million people rely on us, and we rely on you. This is why we would like to reward you for your support. Your donation will allow us to continue our mission as we enter our fifth year. Continue Reading →

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When getting Medicaid now means repaying the state later

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This story has been updated. To read the new part, click here. Thousands of Connecticut residents will become eligible for Medicaid Jan. 1, and for some, the coverage will come with an often-overlooked trade-off: When they die, the state could dock their estates to repay the medical costs it covered. So-called “recovery” of the assets of Medicaid recipients applies to only some people in Connecticut’s program. Continue Reading →

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SUBMIT: “2014: Looking Ahead – Your View”

Are you a lawmaker with a strong opinion on policy in the coming year? An advocacy group sensing strong trends in health, education or a social issue facing Connecticut? An academic whose research may shed light on some aspect of life in Connecticut next year?  Or are you a Connecticut resident and want to tell lawmakers and other policymakers what you expect from them in 2014? What are the most important issues for you, your family, your business? Continue Reading →

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