Yearly Archives: 2011

Despite challenges, state can influence 2012 economic outcome

Connecticut’s economy crawled out of the Great Recession at a snail’s pace in 2011, and the New Year isn’t expected to bring much change. But while Connecticut’s economic fate rests largely with global factors, economists say state policymakers’ responses to five crucial challenges could shape whether that recovery accelerates, or grinds to a halt.
Key segments of Connecticut’s economy — including financial services, gaming and defense contracting — face big stumbling blocks in the new year while rising recession fears in Europe could curb foreign appetites for Connecticut exports. Businesses remain wary of adding new jobs while consumers, despite early reports of a sound holiday shopping season, continue to safeguard their limited discretionary dollars. Meanwhile, the threat of significantly reduced federal dollars flowing into Connecticut — both state government and its businesses — looms large. But gloom and doom aren’t everywhere. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Court names Columbia professor to draw congressional districts

The state Supreme Court named a Columbia law professor and political scientist Friday as a special master to supervise the drawing of new congressional districts. Democrats and Republicans concurred on the choice, while sharply disagreeing on what factors should shape the new map. With the appointment of Nathaniel Persily, one of two academics nominated by legislators as a potential special master, the court now must quickly begin the process of defining how the justices should settle what Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers said was “quintessentially a legislative function.” Nathaniel Persily
Over 45 minutes, the seven justices gave no sign of their leanings during oral arguments over the instructions the court should give the special master, focusing instead on the mundane and ministerial:
Is there secure work space for the master? Is there access to public comments and other data gathered by the legislature’s redistricting panel? Continue Reading →

Filed under:

As expected, graduation rates drop drastically

Two reports released Thursday give disappointing figures in two key categories in Connecticut education: the number of students dropping out of high school, and the number of high school graduates who go on to college. And, the reports are accurate — unlike those released for years that were accused of being based on “funny math.” The State Department of Education, using a more reliable accounting system than in the past, reported that 80 percent of students in public high schools are graduating on time. For years, the department reported that figure at more than 90 percent. Translation: 4,000 more students who didn’t actually graduate and weren’t previously counted as dropping out were added to the rolls. “We can and must do better,” Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor wrote in a statement when releasing the new figures. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

A senator’s take on politics, gridlock and Sabbath sex

It’s not the first time he’s been a punch line, or worse. Over nearly 24 years in Washington, Joseph I. Lieberman’s been called everything from the “conscience of the Senate” to an “unprincipled troll.” But on this winter day, two months shy of his 70th birthday, Lieberman is red-faced with laughter, reacting to a female staffer’s deadpan reminder that Mr. Family Values, the guy who used to denounce Hollywood for its sexually explicit fare, is about to begin his last year in the Senate freshly branded by comedian Dennis Miller as, well, oversexed. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
“Who would have guessed it?” Lieberman exulted. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

The cost of Massachusetts casinos to Connecticut

It is widely accepted that the casinos that will soon begin popping up in Massachusetts will cause a major cut in revenue the state receives from its casinos — and now a price tag has been calculated as to how painful it may be.The legislature’s budget office estimates the state may be headed for a $95 million a year cut in funding from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun resorts, a 25 percent reduction. This comes against the backdrop that the state’s executive and legislative fiscal offices had been expecting an increase in revenue from them — from $354.8 million this fiscal year to $388.9 million in four years.This anticipated cut by the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the legislature’s nonpartisan budget office, is expected as most casino patrons who live in Massachusetts and other nearby states will select to attend the closest casino and not travel to Connecticut’s. Nearly one-third and one-fifth of Foxwoods and Sun patrons are from Massachusetts and an additional 5 percent and 3 percent are from Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont, according to the report by the Policy Analysis Center at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth.Connecticut has received 25 percent of receipts from video slot games at its Indian casinos since 1993, when then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. negotiated a compact that ended the state’s legal objections to the use of those games. Though the majority of the state’s share supports the general Fund, a total of $61.8 million will be distributed this fiscal year as grants to 169 cities and towns.Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he wants a “more aggressive” lottery and is eyeing online gambling now that the U.S. Department of Justice has paved the way with a recent ruling.”Obviously, we have to be concerned,” Malloy told the Mirror earlier this year of the looming cut in revenue from the casinos.    Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Prison population headed for an 11-year-low in 2012

After dropping by nearly 4 percent in 2011, Connecticut’s prison population is on pace to dip below 17,000 inmates in early January after hitting an 11-year-low earlier this month, according to the state’s Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division. And former state Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, who has led the division for the past year, said Thursday that the inmate ranks should decline at a similar pace in 2012 as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration looks to close a third prison in two years. The inmate count stood at 17,052 on Thursday, below the 17,412-inmate average recorded during the first week of December, and well below the 17,758-inmate average projected for this month in the administration’s annual forecast last February. More importantly, Lawlor said, the current level all but guarantees that Connecticut’s prison population will open the year on Sunday with its lowest level since the 17,137-inmate mark recorded Jan. 1, 2001. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Big agenda, and a few battles, brewing for energy and environment in 2012

After the bumper 2011 legislative session, you might expect a modest wish list from Connecticut legislators, environmentalists and conservation advocates for 2012. Not happening. Nearly a year after those groups and the Malloy administration began an energy and environmental reform quest that resulted in the new Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, an unprecedented comprehensive energy bill designed to upend energy business as usual, scads of funding for clean water projects, commitments to open space and a host of other initiatives, all parties are back asking for more. And a lot more — legislative and not — have agendas that, while not in conflict, don’t always overlap. “Number one,” said Jamie Howland, Environment Northeast’s director of climate and energy analysis, “Is a sustainable funding stream for oil heat efficiency.” Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Prague’s stroke described as ‘minor’

No one was eager to speculate today if the stroke suffered by Sen. Edith G. Prague, D-Columbia, will end her three-decade career in Hartford as a state representative, a commissioner of aging during the administration of Lowell P. Weicker Jr., and a state senator since 1995.Prague, who turned 86 in November, is the oldest member of the state Senate, where half the 22 members of the Democratic majority are at least 60 years old and four of them are at least 75. Prague always has said she intends to serve as long as she is healthy. Edith G. Prague Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, described the stroke today as “minor.””Our thoughts are with Edith and her family as she recovers from a minor stroke,” Williams said. “I spoke with Edith earlier this week and she was in good spirits and eager to begin her rehabilitation. On behalf of her Senate family, we look forward to her speedy return to the Capitol.”Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman issued a similar statement:”We offer Senator Prague our hopes for her full and quick recovery. We have reached out to the Senator to let her know she is in our thoughts and prayers and are pleased that she is in good spirits as she begins the healing process. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Anthem, Eastern Connecticut hospitals reach contract agreement

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the parent company of Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals announced Thursday that they have renewed their contracts, avoiding the possibility that the hospitals would leave the insurer’s network. The agreement takes effect Jan. 1. Anthem and the hospitals’ parent company, Eastern Connecticut Health Network, did not release contract details, but said in a joint press release that the hospitals would participate in Anthem’s Quality-In-Sights: Hospital Incentive Program, which measures and helps improve health care quality and patient safety. Anthem notified members earlier this month that its contracts with the hospitals were expiring at the end of the year and that if an agreement was not reached, patients who get care at the Manchester and Vernon hospitals would have to pay higher out-of-network rates. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Cafero tells Malloy to butt out of redistricting

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, a co-chairman of the bipartisan Reapportionment Commission, is upset that the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has filed a brief in the congressional redistricting case before the state Supreme Court. “The governor has no existing role to play under the State Constitution,” Cafero said. “This is clearly a political process that is laid out for the legislature and the commission. I think his intervention now smacks of potential undue influence with the Supreme Court. He alone has the authority to name Supreme Court justices and the governor has stated publicly he vehemently opposes the Republican re-districting proposals.” Continue Reading →

Filed under:

New autism program only underscores extreme need

The years of work that went into the Hospital for Special Care’s plan to open an autism center gave officials there a sense of the need for services. But the demand hit home the morning after a local newspaper detailed the New Britain hospital’s plans. “We got a phone call by 9 o’clock from a dad,” said Lynn Ricci, the hospital’s senior vice president for administration. “People are really desperate for some help with this.” It was hard, Ricci said, to not be able to tell the man his child could be seen the next day, but the program isn’t expected to open until later this winter. Continue Reading →

Filed under: ,

Ready for Roberti vs. Greenberg or Roraback in the 5th?

With the legislature punting to the state Supreme Court on drawing new congressional districts, there now is a greater chance that some candidates in the 5th Congressional District could wake up in February to find they no longer are living in the 5th CD. Democrat Dan Roberti of Kent and Republicans Mark Greenberg of Litchfield and Andrew Roraback of Goshen are the candidates who seem best-insulated from all but the most radical of new maps that a court-appointed special master could concoct. How likely is it that redistricting could effectively end someone else’s campaign? Ask Democrats and Republicans, and you’ll get very different answers. Democrats are insisting that a minimalist approach is the way to go. Continue Reading →

Filed under: ,

Governor taking it down a notch this week on public schedule

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is easing back on the public schedule this holiday week, giving his press staff a slight break. His big announcements today: the hiring of a cosultant to study the state’s three deep water ports, plus news of four more state grants to municipalities. His senior adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, is off this week, a sign that the administration is unlikely to roll out any major news. A year ago today, Malloy held a press conference to name his agriculture commissioner as he was prepping to take office on Jan. 5. According to the Norwich Bulletin, Malloy will mark his first year in office at the Norwich Free Academy, taking questions from the Bulletin’s editorial page editor, Ray Hackett, and the public about the past year and his priorities for the coming year. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Court orders redistricting commission back to work

The Connecticut Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Democrats and Republicans on the legislature’s deadlocked redistricting commission to resume negotiations over a congressional map, calling it “quintessentially a legislative function.” At the same time, the justices prepared for a continued legislative deadlock by setting a deadline of Friday for Democrats and Republicans to nominate a special master to oversee the court’s drawing of congressional districts for the first time. The court’s order gave some encouragement to Republicans, who called for a special master to consider major changes to a map that has yielded only Democratic victories since 2008 in all five U.S. House districts. Democrats have proposed a map that makes the minimal changes necessary to equalize population in the five U.S. House Districts, while the GOP has called for changes to the awkwardly drawn 5th Congressional District. “I think the court realized this is not a simple task, and they are going to need the help. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Malloy refers 10 more employees to agency heads in food stamps fraud probe

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration announced today it has forwarded the names of another 10 state employees to agency heads for review in connection with the ongoing food stamps fraud investigation. This brings the total number of state workers still under close review to 44. An additional 29 employees already have been cleared of any wrongdoing. “Since we first announced our investigation, we’ve uncovered dozens of cases where it appears that state employees may have deliberately lied on their federal disaster assistance applications to receive benefits,” Malloy said.  “Everyone is entitled to due process, but if these allegations prove true, it constitutes a serious violation of the public trust. We can and must demand better from public employees.” Continue Reading →

Filed under: