Monthly Archives: January 2010

Rell proposes law to ban text messaging while driving

Text messaging while driving may soon be illegal if Gov. M. Jodi Rell has her way. Rell said Saturday she plans to submit legislation that will expand current law that forbids drivers from talking on their cell phones without a hands-free device to include prohibiting sending text messages as well. “Over and over again we see entirely preventable crashes caused by inattentive drivers, often because they are distracted by cell phones, text messages or other modern electronic distractions,” Rell said. Rep. Lawrence G. Miller, R-Stratford, proposed two bills in the past three years banning text messaging while driving, but the Joint Committee on Transportation never moved forward with the proposals. “Texting and cell phone use are a little different so we need to clarify the law,” Miller said. Continue Reading →

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Campaign contribution ban isn’t hurting lobbyists

Lobbyists and legislators debate if a ban on campaign contributions has lessened the influence of lobbyists at the Capitol. One thing is undisputed: It hasn’t hurt their bottom line. The top-ten lobbying firms grossed $17.5 million in 2008, up $3.7 million since the ban passed in 2005. Gaffney Bennett & Associates, the perennial top earner, saw its revenue increase some 14 percent, to $4.5 million. “My firm hasn’t seen any less business,” said Jay F. Malcynsky, managing partner of Gaffney Bennett. Continue Reading →

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Himes willing to accept Senate health bill as a first step

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, said Thursday night he would vote for the Senate health reform bill, even though it lacks key provisions sought by him and other members of the House Democratic majority. “I am willing to vote for the Senate bill, even though I’ve got real problems with it, if the alternative is to do nothing,” Himes said. “I think that we at all cost can’t end this congressional term without health care reform.” Himes, a freshman congressman expecting a tough re-election fight in his Fairfield County district, made his remarks during a taping of WFSB, Channel 3’s “Face the State” for airing Sunday morning at 11. “I’m not religious about what is in it,” he said of the health bill. Continue Reading →

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Griebel enters gubernatorial race

Just as business leader Oz Griebel launched his campaign for governor Thursday, the man he is chasing for the Republican nomination hit the accelerator, an effort to get some distance on a growing field of candidates. Tom Foley, a former ambassador and an independently wealthy businessman, unveiled two biographical commercials that will air throughout February, a media buy that should keep him first among Republicans in the early polls. Oz Griebel
And Griebel also had to contend with the distracting buzz surrounding former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, who has been thinking out loud for the past week about joining the growing pack of Republicans running for governor. Griebel announced his candidacy on the north steps of the State Capitol, mid-way through a snowy day of campaigning that took him to Torrington, Mystic, Hartford and Stamford. Griebel, 60, of Simsbury, the president and chief executive officer of the region’s largest business association, the Metro Hartford Alliance, said he would bring an entrepreneurial spirit to a state that has been bleeding jobs and losing the next generation of workers to other states. Continue Reading →

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State to defer $100 million in pension payments

State employee union officials said Thursday they have agreed to a plan by Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration to delay $100 million in contributions to their pension fund–a move that shrinks the budget deficit projected for this year, but adds to the state’s $15.8 billion in long-term, unfunded pension obligations. “It’s better than cutting spending,” said Dan Livingston, the  chief negotiator for State Employee’s Bargaining Agent Coalition. “We think a temporary increase in revenue would have been better though.”
The coalition’s acquiescence was a formality: Rell had the right to reduce the payment under terms of an agreement reached last year with SEBAC on concessions to save the state $750 million over two years in return for a promise of no layoffs until July 2011. That agreement included a provision allowing the state to defer up to $100 million in pension payments if revenue fell $300 million below expectations. The state now has a projected $513 million deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Continue Reading →

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High-speed rail for Connecticut $40 million closer to reality

Funding for a high-speed train project in Connecticut received a $40 million boost today from the federal government. “This is great news for one of the most important and ambitious public transportation projects we have undertaken in years,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell said. The money will be used to help build a second track through a 10-mile stretch between New Britain and Newington so trains can travel both ways on the route, and transportation officials say the track will relieve congestion on 1-91. Earlier this month, the State Bond Commission chaired by Rell, approved $26 million for the double-track project. The federal funds came from a pool of $8 billion for high-speed trains. An additional $120 million was awarded to nearby high-speed train projects – including $70 million for Massachusetts and $50 million for Vermont. Continue Reading →

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Connecticut to get $40 million for New Haven-Springfield rail line

Connecticut has received a commitment of $40 million in federal stimulus funding to add double tracking to part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line – the first step toward providing high-speed commuter rail service in the corridor. The award, to be annonced in Philadelphia today, is part of $8 billion in federal funds designatd for high speed rail under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The double-tracking work will be done on a 10-mile stretch of rail line between New Britain and Newington. The state Bond Commission approved spending $26 million as Connecticut’s share of the project. Ultimately the state plans to establish regular service between New Haven and Springfield running Monday through Friday at 30-minute intervals during peak periods, with bus service from the Windor Locks station to Bradley International Airport. Continue Reading →

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Oz Griebel jumps in race for governor, but will Chris Shays follow?

Oz Griebel launched his campaign for governor today, but the buzz belonged to former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays. After a charity roast Wednesday night in Greenwich, Shays  sounded like he was ready to become a candidate: “I feel that I have a voice that can make a contribution, win or lose,” Shays told the Greenwich Time. In Hartford, Griebel announced his candidacy on the north steps of the State Capitol, mid-way through a snowy day of campaigning that would take him to Torrington, Mystic, Hartford and Stamford. Griebel, 60, of Simsbury, the president and chief executive officer of the region’s largest business association, the Metro Hartford Alliance, said he would bring an entrepreneurial spirit to a state that has been bleeding jobs and losing the next generation of workers to other states. “We’ll think big. Continue Reading →

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digest

State of the Union edition. Two essentials: A transcript, from the New York Times, and a link from CBS to what probably will be the longest-remembered moment of the night, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s judicially-tempered reprise of “You lie!”  
Healthcare: Sam Stein at The Huffington Post notes that much of Obama’s address was aimed at Democratic lawmakers in the chamber, urging them to “solve some problems, not run for the hills,” and particularly pressing passage of health care reform. Yes, says Sarah Kliff on The Gaggle at Newsweek, but he “did not explain how, exactly.” On Politico, Carrie Budoff Brown and Meredith Shiner say Obama offered Democrats “words of encouragement but little else.” Continue Reading →

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Poll says residents want public financing law fixed

Want to handicap the odds of saving the state’s voluntary system of publicly financing campaigns? The Senate majority leader is optimistic about the legislature revising the law, which was found unconstitutional last summer. The Senate minority leader is betting against it. “I think we are coming close to the point where it is too late,” said Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield. Common Cause bolstered its efforts to save the public financing of campaigns in Connecticut with a poll Wednesday that shows support for the reforms passed in 2005 after the resignation of Gov. John G. Rowland. Continue Reading →

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Foley would not take a salary as governor

Tom Foley knows how to cut at least $150,000 in state spending: He pledges to forgo a salary if elected governor. Foley, an independently wealthy businessman who is the early frontrunner for the Republican nomination, makes the pledge in “A Plan Forward for Connecticut” posted Wednesday night on his campaign web site. As for as how he would close the rest of a projected $3 billion state budget shortfall that the next governor will face in 2011, well, call that a work in progress. Foley also announced he is airing his first television commercials since switching races from U.S. Senate to governor. In 30- and 60-second versions, Foley strikes the same tone as his plan, offering broad goals and principles, not specific policies. Continue Reading →

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Advocate says charter school changes needed to win federal funds

Connecticut’s restrictions on charter schools could jeopardize its chances of winning millions in federal stimulus money, an outspoken school reform advocate told state officials Wednesday. Unless the state removes barriers to the growth of charters, “we are not going to be competitive” in the federal school reform competition known as Race to the Top, Alex Johnston said after meeting with members of  a State Board of Education committee. But Johnston, head of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), got a chilly reception from teacher unions and other members of the education establishment when he called for a radical change in the way Connecticut pays for charter schools. The ConnCAN proposal has little chance of winning approval, but the state board is expected to consider a more modest boost to charter school funding next month as it tries to put itself in a more favorable position in Race to the Top. Unlike several other states, Connecticut has yet to make the kind of legislative and policy changes that could strengthen its standing in the race, Johnston said. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers on affordable housing: ‘There’s no money’

Young workers are leaving Connecticut at alarming rates, in part because of the lack of affordable housing. But House Majority Leader Denise W. Merrill and the chairman of the state’s Planning and Development Committee Brendan J. Sharkey said Wednesday the state can and should do only so much to address the problem. “There’s no money. And there’s not going to be any money,” Sharkey told a group of elected officials, builders, employers, developers and city planners. Because of the state’s dire financial situation, Sharkey quickly dismissed any of the proposals circulating the room that would cost the state money. Continue Reading →

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Common Cause uses new poll to rally support for public financing of campaigns

Common Cause today bolstered its efforts to save the public financing of campaigns in Connecticut with a poll showing support for the reforms passed in 2005 after the resignation of Gov. John G. Rowland. The group is trying to nudge legislators to cure legal defects in the law that could kill the Citizens Election Program just as candidates for statewide office otherwise would be receiving their first grants. “Nearly 8 in 10 respondents indicated their support for public financing of elections. This is a message that the governor and legislators can’t ignore,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause Connecticut. A telephone survey by Zogby International found that 79 percent of residents favor the program and 58 percent support Gov. M. Jodi Rell and legislators making changes necessary to abide by an adverse court ruling. Continue Reading →

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Forum on 2010 budget views grim landscape

Connecticut needs a half-billion-dollar answer to its fiscal woes – and state Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman (left) told a crowded room on Tuesday there are only so many options. “People really don’t want to hear it, but the fact is we’re going to have to cut spending. We’re maybe going to do some more borrowing and we’re probably going to have to look at structural revenue increases,” Wyman said. Nancy Wyman at budget forum
There is a $513 million shortfall in the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30- Wyman, the governor’s office and state legislators agree on that. But with the start of the legislative session just a week away, there is no consensus on what to do about it. Continue Reading →

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