Monthly Archives: April 2011

A conservative’s war cry

Jack Fowler of Milford, the publisher of the National Review, is urging Republicans in the state Senate to stall next week’s expected budget vote by preparing a boatload of amendments (minimum of 200), demanding a roll call vote on each, and, for good measure, refusing to waive the reading. That means requiring the clerk to read aloud each amendment before it is debated. At the Capitol, this is akin to taking hostages. Refusing to waive the reading violates the unwritten rules and customs in Hartford. One reason it is not employed by the minority, it likely would provoke an effort by the majority to limit debate, another step allowed by the rules, but forbidden by custom. Continue Reading →

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Online voting is risky and expensive

Online voting is an appealing option to speed voting for military and overseas voters. Yet it is actually “Democracy Theater”, providing an expensive, risky illusion of supporting our troops. Technologists warn of the unsolved technical challenges, while experience shows that the risks are tangible and pervasive. There are safer, less expensive solutions available. This year, the Government Administration and Elections Committee held hearings on a bill for online voting for military voters. Continue Reading →

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As budget vote nears, revenue estimates are mixed blessing

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy got some good fiscal news late Friday that may complicate his budget and labor negotiations: The current-year surplus is growing by $300 million, and the revenue estimates for the next fiscal year are up by $282 million. The improving revenue numbers give Malloy more flexibility in balancing the budget for fiscal 2012, but they also are bound to ease the pressure on state employees to meet the governor’s demand for $1 billion in concessions and other labor savings. With Malloy pressing for a budget vote early next week, the new revenue numbers also may cause problems in the legislature, where some lawmakers have been complaining about some of Malloy’s proposed tax increases, especially a 3-cent-a-gallon hike in gasoline taxes. The governor anticipated the complications of a rosier fiscal outlook earlier this week, when he warned that any bump in projected revenues should be used to retire debt, not to restore spending cuts or reduce tax hikes. “I want to be the guy who keeps sounding the alarm about falling back on the behaviors that got us here,” Malloy told The Mirror on Tuesday, when many legislators were anticipated that revenue estimates for 2012 would jump by at least $200 million. Continue Reading →

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A whodunit at the state Capitol

Oh, the state Capitol loves its mysteries. Try this one: Who wrote a provision in the newly revised budget that shifts control over the public financing of campaigns from the non-partisan State Elections Enforcement Commission to a partisan elected official, the secretary of the state? Not us, says the governor’s staff. Or us, says the secretary of the state’s office. Or us, say the leaders of the House and Senate, the committee that approved the budget, and the panel responsible for elections law. Continue Reading →

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Funding approved for busway project, despite cost concerns

The State Bond Commission approved spending $89.7 million to construct the long-planned Hartford-to-New Britain busway, despite bipartisan complaints that it should be reconsidered by the General Assembly because of cost increases. “It’s ridiculous. I don’t think it’s a good project and it sucks the air out of so many other worthy transportation projects,” said Sen. Eileen Dailey, D-Westbrook and co-chairwoman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. Sen. Andrew Roraback: $952 an inch
“I’m not convinced this is the wisest use of scarce transportation resources,” said Sen. Andrew W. Roraback, R-Goshen and ranking member on the finance committee. Dailey, Roraback and Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, voted against the project, which was approved 7-3. Continue Reading →

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Pushing for a budget vote, Malloy expands hiring freeze

Amid signs that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget deal with the legislature is starting to wobble over objections by House Democrats, his administration took another step today to convey a sense of urgency by broadening a previously announced hiring freeze to cover all positions. One of the key parties to the budget agreement announced last week, House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, hedged Thursday on his way to a meeting with Malloy over whether he had made a hard commitment to vote the budget by Tuesday. “That was before the caucus,” Donovan said, referring to a House Democratic caucus over the budget Wednesday night. “There were some things unresolved. We have to work those things out.” Continue Reading →

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Ads urging parents to keep children in Hartford schools anger Sheff lawyer

Hartford educators say an ad campaign discouraging parents from sending their children to suburban schools reflects success of the city’s education reforms, but a lawyer for plaintiffs in the Sheff vs. O’Neill desegregation case says it threatens to undermine a court-ordered plan to reduce the racial isolation of city students. Hartford Public School officials launched the campaign with television, radio and print advertisements urging parents not to gamble on a lottery for seats in suburban or regional magnet schools that are key elements of the desegregation effort. Instead, the ads advise families to choose among several career-oriented high schools and various restructured elementary and middle schools that are part of the city school system’s school reform program. The ads drew the ire of Martha Stone, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the long-running Sheff vs. Continue Reading →

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Refilled DSS eligibility positions exempt from hiring freeze

The expanded hiring freeze announced Friday does not affect the recent approval of hires to fill vacant eligibility positions at the state Department of Social Services. In a memo to agency heads Friday, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said that previously approved refill authorization for most vacant positions had been rescinded. But Barnes said that some positions had been exempted, including the DSS positions and those involving direct care at state institutions. In February, DSS received approval to hire 21 workers to handle applications for programs the agency administers. It also got approval to hire 26 retired workers on a temporary basis to process food stamp applications, following a warning from federal officials that the state could face financial sanctions if it did not process food stamp applications faster and reduce the number of errors. Continue Reading →

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Patient opinions to be linked to hospital pay

How was your hospital stay? Patient opinions are soon going to play a role in how Medicare pays hospitals, reports Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News. Linking hospital reimbursement levels to patient satisfaction is part of the federal health reform law, and the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is working out the details now. Consumer advocates argue that tying patient satisfaction to payment will lead to better care, but hospital officials warn that opinions don’t necessarily reflect care quality, Rau writes. Some of the variation in patient satisfaction is regional, and some suggest that cultural factors play a role. Continue Reading →

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Democrats joining GOP on anonymous donor bandwagon

After seeing Democratic candidates battered in 2010 by Republican groups that raised money from anonymous donors, supporters of President Barack Obama are forming similar organizations in preparation for his 2012 re-election bid, Jeanne Cummings reports at Politico. The move reflects a reversal of Obama’s past rejection of outside money and criticism of anonymous donations made legal last year by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Cummings says. “While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and co-founder of the new organizations, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action. Continue Reading →

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Esty op-ed on long-held idea prompts fresh GOP indignation

“Pain at the Pump? We Need More.” Now, that’s a provocative headline for a New York Times opinion piece calling for a carbon tax, especially when one of the authors is Daniel C. Esty, the man advising Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on energy policy. And provoke it did. House Republicans used the article to assert Thursday that Esty had outlined “a Malloy administration proposal that would send gasoline and energy prices skyrocketing.” Continue Reading →

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Proposal for new preschool agency off the table for this year

In the face of a move toward agency consolidation, Sen. Beth Bye has dropped her efforts to to create a new department to manage early education and daycare programs, and instead hopes to consolidate them all under the State Department of Education. “They’re not into starting a new agency, I get that,” Bye said Thursday. “But I think we staked out a place and case for better organization” of the state’s programs.
Bye has shifted her aim to moving the programs that serve about 70,400 young children a year, now managed by four different state agencies, into the SDE. She said she envisions having some of the programs transferred this year, followed by a study of how to move the rest. “I’m feeling good about this,” she said. Continue Reading →

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In Hartford, Jesse Jackson ties ‘birthers’ to assault on civil rights

The “birther” movement that prompted President Barack Obama to release his long-form birth certificate yesterday is part of a broader attack on civil rights, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told minority legislators in Hartford today. Jackson slipped into the Legislative Office Building for an unpublicized, closed-door meeting with the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, urging them to be aware of what he described as a burgeoning state’s rights campaign. “As we travel the country, we are meeting with state legislators because we see a pattern, an attempt to roll back the gains for workers’ rights, civil rights, women’s rights and social justice,” Jackson told The Mirror. “The states’ rights movement is in full blossom.” Jackson, who was in Hartford to speak to a minority-business group tonight, asked to address the state legislators, said Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, the chairman of the caucus. Continue Reading →

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Judge orders four nursing homes closed

A Superior Court judge has ordered the closure of four financially-troubled nursing homes that together have 472 beds and employ 575 people. Judge Jerry Wagner’s ruling Thursday follows a recommendation from the state-appointed receiver in charge of the homes that they be closed because of financial problems. Wagner ordered the receiver, Phyllis A. Belmonte, to arrange for the “orderly transfer of residents.” The four homes–University Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Haven, Bishops Corner Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in West Hartford, Soundview Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in West Haven and Rocky Hill Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation–had a net loss of almost $6.5 million in 2009, Belmonte wrote in a motion filed in court last month. The homes, which were previously owned by the troubled Haven Health Care chain and more recently managed by Genesis Eldercare Network Services, went into receivership in January. Attorneys for the property owner and the unions representing workers at the facilities had urged Wagner to provide more time to secure a buyer for the homes. Continue Reading →

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Blumenthal joins the ranks of self-funded candidates

Sen. Richard Blumenthal has joined the ranks of self-funded candidates–those who use their own money for all or a substantial portion of their campaign treasury–albeit unintentionally, according to his latest campaign finance report. Blumenthal lent his 2010 Senate campaign slightly more than $2.5 million, of some $8 million spent. He was forced to reclassify most of that as a contribution, however, by a federal law that requires repayment of candidate loans within 20 days of the election. Only $250,000 is exempt from the law, and is still on the campaign’s books as a debt. “Quite honestly, there were efforts to raise money during that [20-day] period but it wasn’t enough to pay the loan off,” said Michael Cacace, Blumenthal’s campaign chairman in the 2010 contest. Continue Reading →

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