Monthly Archives: October 2011

CL&P head says some areas may stay dark for at least a week

The head of the state’s largest utility said it will dramatically expand the number of crews working to restore power after the weekend’s storm, but he warned it will be at least a week before all customers have electric service again. Connecticut Light & Power Co., which covers about 80 percent of the state’s utility customers, had restored service to 170,000 homes and businesses by  6 p.m., Monday, and still had about 740,000 to go, company president Jeffrey Butler said. Nearly 500 crews were working on Monday in CL&P’s coverage area, but that as more crews from outside Connecticut are brought in, that workforce is set to grow to top 840 on Tuesday, 1,050 on Wednesday and 1,250 on Thursday, Butler said. Though the company warned total restoration of all outages likely would take longer than one week, Butler said CL&P still is working to have power restored to majority of customers within that period. A large part of that challenge, he said, should be resolved by Wednesday, when the company expects to have completed repairs on 13 critical transmission circuits, major transmission lines serving substations that in turn each provide power to thousands of customers, Butler said. Continue Reading →

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Storms cause problems for state’s budget forecast

Though it may not gather the same headlines as power outages and closed roads, you can add the state budget to the list of programs and services disrupted twice in the last two months by Connecticut’s disastrous weather. Specifically, this past weekend’s Nor’easter will mean Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration will now wait until late November or early December to learn how one of its most vital sources of revenue is performing this fiscal year. The Department of Revenue Services announced Monday afternoon that it would extend the deadline for quarterly income tax filings — as well as certain other tax reports — from Oct. 30 to Nov. 15., because of the statewide disruption caused by the unseasonably early snowstorm. Continue Reading →

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From 1,500 feet, blacked-out state looks serene

With much of Connecticut still in the dark following a nor’easter that dumped up to two feet on snow on sections of the state, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy found himself back in an Army National Guard helicopter Monday just two months after taking a similar trip to assess the damage from Tropical Storm Irene. “Flooding is easier to discern,” the governor said following the 58-minute tour that took him from the National Guard base in Windsor Locks across the Farmington Valley, into the Litchfield Hills, and through New Britain and Glastonbury around the southern edge of Hartford County. But the the governor said that what looked peaceful from 1,500 feet on Monday was particularly deceptive. Snow-covered houses might look beautiful from that height, but as overnight freezing conditions rose toward the 40s by late morning, the lingering white caps wouldn’t have been there if many of those houses had heat running throughout the night. “The amount of snow covering roofs is quite extraordinary,” Malloy said. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court will not hear student speech case

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the student speech case in which a high school junior from Burlington was punished for criticizing school administrators in a personal blog posting. “This is the end of the road for this case. There really are no more avenues to pursue to overturn the lower court decisions,” said Frank LoMonte, the director of the Student Press Law Center. Avery Doninger
Education lawyers and student speech activists have said the case would have provided a good opportunity for the high court to set a precedent for what rights students have in off-campus speech. The 1969 Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines has provided guidance for decades to school officials on when they can intervene in students speech, but the advent of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other digital forums have complicated matters. Continue Reading →

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For Congress, Donovan financed by reformers and lobbyists

As a critic of the influence of special-interest money in politics, House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, was nationally honored in 2006 along with Gov. M. Jodi Rell for helping create a system of publicly financed elections in Connecticut. Now, as a candidate for Congress in the 5th District, Donovan is unapologetically raising money from legislators, lobbyists and others with a direct interest in the legislative agenda he can influence as the top leader in the state House. With no public financing for Congress, he says he is doing what every candidate does to raise money: reaching out to his personal and professional network. In his case, that covers a career in community organizing, public unions and politics. “When I first ran for state representative, I worked with people I knew, people from the Little League, people from the neighborhood, to raise money,” Donovan said the other day, standing in the House. Continue Reading →

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Connecticut ranks high in income inequality

Overshadowed by last week’s Congressional Budget Office report on the soaring incomes of America’s wealthy was another federal study measuring income inequality at the state level–and it found Connecticut among seven states where the inequality is higher than in the country as a whole by all three standards applied (.pdf). Based on data from five years of the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau looked at income distribution using three measurements: the Gini index, which ranges from 0.0, when all households have equal shares of income, to 1.0, when one household has all the income and the rest none; the ratio of household income at the 90th percentile to that at the 10th; and the ratio of household income at the 95th percentile to that at the 20th. Only seven states–Connecticut, New York, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and California–and the District of Columbia had income inequality higher than the nation’s by all three measurements. On the other end of the scale, 32 states had inequality levels lower than the country by all three standards. Continue Reading →

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Lembo gets a flu shot for Halloween

Lembo gets a flu shot (Office of the State Comptroller)State Comptroller Kevin Lembo invited the media to join him as he got a flu shot at Suburban Pharmacy in West Hartford Monday, part of an effort to encourage men to get vaccinated and to tout a  new policy allowing state employees to get coverage for flu shots administered at local pharmacies. Lembo encouraged everyone to get flu shots, particularly men, who tend to get vaccinated at lower rates than women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31.8 percent of men aged 18 to 64 got flu shots between August 2010 and May 2011, compared to 37.8 percent of women. “Men need to follow the lead of health-wise women nationwide and get their shots now to stay protected from the flu,” Lembo said in a statement released by his office. “This Halloween, the only thing scary about a flu shot is not getting one.” Continue Reading →

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With power out, experts warn of carbon monoxide risk

With much of the state without power, hospitals are warning people to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Many of the ways people try to keep warm without electricity–furnaces, stoves and fireplaces–produce carbon monoxide. The Connecticut Poison Control Center has received 50 calls asking about carbon monoxide in the past two days, and Hartford Hospital has seen a spike in poison control cases. Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste. Symptoms of exposure can include flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting, and unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, loss of muscle control, and dizziness. Continue Reading →

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What Washington can learn from real job creators

Across the country and here in Connecticut, millions recognized women in business in October. Connecticut businesses owned by women soared in the past decade. Since the late 1990s, growth in Connecticut businesses owned by women far outpaced their national counterparts in overall revenues and number of employees. During my statewide CT Job Creators: Women in Business Tour, I met with more than 60 women-owned small businesses and held a series of roundtable discussions with some of the women responsible for employing more than 92,000 workers in our state. From Enfield to Milford and everywhere in between, small business owners across the state shared with me their very real fears about the direction of our country and the state of our economy. Continue Reading →

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Backers say charter schools could help state reach integration goals

With the state falling well short of complying with a court order to desegregate schools in Hartford, lawyers and advocates are urging inclusion of charter schools in the effort. “These schools have an untapped potential to expand diversity,” said Philip Tegeler, one of the original lawyers who filed the Sheff vs. O’Neill desegregation suit and is now with the Sheff Movement. “Why shouldn’t charter schools be part of the solution?” To comply with the state Supreme Court order to reduce the inequities caused by racial isolation in Hartford’s schools, the state needs to have 41 percent of minority students attending integrated schools by next October, or provide 80 percent of the Hartford students that apply to attend non-traditional public schools the opportunity to do so. Continue Reading →

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At the Capitol, keeping score can be expensive

If the Boston Red Sox have relied on a manual scoreboard on their famous left field wall for nearly 80 years, does the state House of Representatives really need new electronic boards to tally votes at a cost of $800,000 in tough fiscal times? Sen. Andrew W. Roraback of Goshen asked the question Friday, shortly after he and a fellow Republican, Rep. Sean J. Williams of Watertown tried unsuccessfully to block the release of bonding for new technology for the Hall of the House. “In my neck of the woods you can get a pretty nice house for $800,000,” Roraback, said during the State Bond Commission meeting. Roraback, who recently became a candidate for Congress, noted after the meeting that while the House boards, located on the eastern and western walls, have malfunctioned on occasion in recent years, lawmakers ordered more than $1.6 billion in tax and fee hikes at the state and municipal levels combined. “There was a legislature long before there were electronic voting boards,” he said, adding that an occasional malfunction “is a product of the rhythm of the General Assembly” and not a crisis. Continue Reading →

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Analysts: $80M in concession savings would have come anyway

The legislature’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has identified more than $80 million in projected savings ascribed by the Malloy Administration to the union concession deal that don’t actually depend on the contract changes ratified in late August. In its first analysis of the concession deal since ratification, the Office of Fiscal Analysis also raised questions about whether the $241 million biennial savings from the Health Enhancement Program projected by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget office can be fully achieved. The nonpartisan analysts didn’t question the administration’s ability to achieve savings in connection with drug patents and negotiated rates for medical and dental care. But they also noted that these savings had nothing to do with the concession deal with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition. That package–which also reduces costs through a two-year wage freeze, new restrictions on benefits,  a wave of new retirements, an employee wellness program, and budget cuts to be identified by labor-management efficiency panels–projects savings of $1.5 million this fiscal year and $12 million in 2012-13 tied to pharmaceuticals coming off patent. Continue Reading →

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Live, from the state Capitol, it’s bipartisanship!

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tried to keep the good vibrations going for another day Thursday as he signed a bipartisan $626 million jobs-growth bill on live television with legislative Democrats and Republicans arrayed behind him. Absent from the ceremony was the other, partisan piece of business conducted during the previous day’s special session on jobs: a $291 million subsidy to construct and launch a new genetics facility for Jackson Laboratory at UConn Health Center. A bill signed on live television. “I want to be careful of people’s feelings,” Malloy said, noting that the Jackson Lab deal passed without a Republican vote in the Senate and with minimal GOP support in the House. It will be signed at another time. Continue Reading →

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Governor wins limited approval to expand public-private partnerships

The consensus jobs bill signed into law Thursday gives the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy the ability he sought to expand public-private partnerships on some types of state construction projects, a provision state employee unions fought to eliminate. As a compromise, the final bill includes labor protections that unions sought in the measure enacted in special session Wednesday, then signed a day later with great fanfare. These include prevailing wage guarantees and oversight by legislative panels and  the State Contracting Standards Board. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, the governor and unions professed Thursday to be pleased with the public-private partnership language, which officials say is necessary in an era of diminishing federal dollars to leverage private capital. Malloy said the modified language both addressed concerns of labor and leaves the state positioned to launch important capital projects. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court hears arguments on Bridgeport School takeover

In a case that could pave the way for state education officials to replace local school boards in other low-performing districts as they did in Bridgeport, justices on the Connecticut Supreme Court were told Thursday there is no standard the state follows when determining whether to intervene in a troubled district or leave it alone. “I assume that Bridgeport is not the only school in the state that is failing,” said Justice Peter T. Zarella. “Is it just everybody’s at risk and it’s an arbitrary decision?” State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor leaving the Supreme Court
Mark F. Kohler, an assistant attorney general defending the State Board of Education’s decision, acknowledged there is no standard except that the district fail to meet federal testing benchmarks for two consecutive years. That would mean 34 districts are currently eligible for state intervention, which is about 20 percent of districts in the state. Continue Reading →

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