Train safety, gun checks, Medicare premiums among issues affecting Connecticut

Congress delays deadline for train-safety system

Congress voted to delay, by as much as five years, the deadline for the nation’s railroads to implement Positive Train Control, a technology that monitors trains and automatically slows or stops them if they are going too fast or are in danger of a collision. Congress had mandated that all railroads implement the technology by Dec. 31 or face fines, but few, including Amtrak and Metro-North, said they could meet that deadline on some or all of their lines. Saying they probably would have to stop service on non-compliant lines beginning New Year’s Day if the deadline were not pushed back, the railroads were pleased with Congress’s action. But several lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, said five years is too long to wait for railroads to implement PTC.

Washington logoBlumenthal, Murphy introduce bill to close gun-check ‘loophole’

Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy this week fulfilled a promise to introduce a bill aimed at closing a “loophole” in federal gun laws that allows a gun sale to proceed if an FBI background check is not completed in 72 hours. The senators say this flaw in the background check law allowed Dylann Roof to purchase the gun he used in a deadly attack at a black church in Charleston, S.C., in June.

CT achievement gap shrinks on national test, U.S. says

There was good news and bad news for Connecticut students in a report card on the nation’s 4th and 8th graders released this week by the research arm of the U.S Department of Education. It showed Connecticut’s achievement gap between minority students and their classmates in math and reading shrinking, but much of the change was caused by lower scores among high-achieving students, and the state still has some of the largest gaps in the United States.

New budget helps defense firms, spares Medicare premium hike

Relying largely on the votes of Democrats, including all members of the Connecticut congressional delegation, Congress was able to pass a two-year budget that boosted defense spending, a boon to the state’s defense contractors, who will benefit from new military programs and the expansion of existing ones. The budget also helps some Medicare beneficiaries because it spares them from a sharp increase in Part B premiums. The Medicare provision also saves the state government millions of dollars in increased costs that it would have had to pay to cover low-income, disabled Medicare beneficiaries.

Whether Pratt has won a big engine contract is a military secret

Pratt & Whitney could be a big winner, or a big loser, in the Pentagon’s decision to award a multi-billion-dollar contract to Northrop Grumman to manufacture the nation’s next-generation warplane, the Long-Range Strike Bomber. The Air Force says information about subcontractors, including the engine maker, must be kept secret for national security reasons.

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