Monthly Archives: January 2012

Malloy’s lukewarm to Donovan’s minimum-wage pitch

The election-year effort by House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, to raise the $8.25 minimum wage and index it to inflation energizes his labor base and creates tension with a less-than-enthusiastic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The push to pass a minimum wage law for the first time since 2008, when Democrats overrode the veto of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell to approve increases that took effect in 2009 and 2010, is good politics for Donovan, less so for Malloy. Donovan is introduced by Lori Pelletier of the AFL-CIO. Donovan is one of three candidates for the Democratic nomination for the open seat in the 5th Congressional District, and previous polling shows the minimum wage is popular with Connecticut voters, especially likely Democratic primary voters. The speaker is unlikely to be distressed by not being in sync with Malloy on the minimum wage: Malloy’s reluctance should give Donovan’s leadership on the issue more cachet. Continue Reading →

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Auditors seek access to confidential tax records when reviewing whistleblower complaints

The legislature’s top watchdog office is seeking access to confidential state tax information to assist in processing whistleblower complaints filed by state employees. Auditors John G. Geragosian and Robert M. Ward also used their first annual report to lawmakers on Tuesday to recommend overhauling how agencies report lost funds, tightening competitive bidding rules and closing a loophole that allows retirees to collect full pensions and state-funded salaries. Geragosian and Ward, who assumed leadership of the legislature’s top watchdog office one year ago, also reported that their agency has cut a backlog in employee whistleblower complaints by more than half since 2009. Section 2-90 of the Connecticut General Statutes, which spells out the general powers and duties of the auditors, grants access to confidential tax information when auditing state agencies. But the auditors wrote that when conducting investigations under the state Whistleblower Act, “the commissioner of revenue services has denied our office access to this same taxpayer information” citing the privacy restrictions that govern tax filings. Continue Reading →

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Anti-poverty advocates look to promote — and protect — new tax credit for working poor

As tax season arrives, advocates for the Connecticut’s new income tax credit for working poor families are trying to keep commercial tax preparers — and revenue-hungry state officials — from getting their hands on it. The Connecticut Association for Human Services, one of the private, nonprofit community’s leading anti-poverty organizations, is coordinating an outreach campaign to steer needy households to free tax preparation services also run by nonprofits. The alternative for families lured by ads promising “free tax returns” at commercial tax preparation firms could be tens or even hundreds of dollars sapped from their state income tax refund. “We want to make sure everybody who’s eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit knows about it, and we want to make sure they get to keep all of it,” Jim Horan, executive director of CAHS, said Monday. Some commercial tax preparation businesses promote “free” returns, but that actually only applies to a standard form. Continue Reading →

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Giuliano says SEEC was ‘bullied’ into dumping him

Sebastian N. Giuliano says that the State Elections Enforcement Commission has compromised its independence by rescinding its selection of him as executive director and general counsel in the face of what he called legislative bullying. “If you cave into political pressure, how do you claim you are an independent, non-partisan watchdog agency if are a watchdog only to the extent the majority in the legislature lets you?” Giuliano said today. But legislators said the commission never should have named anyone so recently active in partisan politics. Giuliano, a recently defeated Republican mayor of Middletown, would have been the first elected official to run the agency. Continue Reading →

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As lawmakers consider STOCK Act, some say it’s not tough enough

Washington — With public approval at an all-time low, Congress is beginning work on a new ethics law aimed at rooting out insider trading. But some say it’s not tough enough, and others say it’s not needed. The Senate began debate on the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK, Act, today, which would bar members of Congress from trading stocks based on nonpublic information obtained on the job. On Monday, the Senate voted 93-2 to move the bill forward, and it’s expected to win approval in both houses of Congress. President Obama has said he will sign it. Continue Reading →

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DCF’s savings gone, future of some reforms uncertain

Budget cuts by the Malloy administration will stall some plans to turn around the Department of Children and Families, an agency under federal court oversight for failing too many abused and neglected children, their budget chief says. “This will delay us from moving forward,” Cindy Butterfield, DCF budget chief, told a group of community providers Monday. DCF received news last week that it will lose $28.4 million this fiscal year. This was largely the money that the agency was able to save by removing fewer children from their families and moving children back home from costly out-of-state facilities and large-group homes. “The problem is we were banking on that money to implement our new plan,” Butterfield said of the intention to use the savings to provide community-based services and help open private facilities for children who otherwise would be sent out-of-state. Continue Reading →

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After years of flat funding, nonprofits could face cuts

Meriden — If all goes according to plan, the glassed-in attachment to The Arc of Meriden-Wallingford’s building will soon be filled with fish, worms and vegetables. Executive Director Pamela Fields envisions the future aquaponics set up — made from donated equipment and built by community volunteers — as an employment opportunity for the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who The Arc serves. But having the ability to grow produce and raise fish for eating at The Arc’s group homes, day programs and café is also aimed at another major need on Fields’ mind: saving money. Pamela Fields at the future site of The Arc of Meriden-Wallingford’s aquaponics program
The agency has already frozen staff wages at just over $11 an hour, making it hard to keep the most talented, while increased health insurance costs have cut in to workers’ pay. Increased gas prices have meant that trips for clients, which once included museums across the state, are now largely limited to Meriden. Continue Reading →

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Malloy in Washington to promote his record

During a whirlwind two-day visit to Washington, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been asked by two very different groups to talk about his brief record in the governor’s office. Although he was inaugurated only last year, Malloy was asked by Governing magazine to be its keynote speaker Tuesday for its “Outlook in the States & Localities Conference.” Malloy, a Democrat, said he created 9,000 new jobs in Connecticut, and in his words, “talked about righting the ship.” During a Q & A, Malloy said he is concerned about the possibility of a new round of base closings and the fierce partisanship in Washington. “A lot of these folks, when you get them away from Washington and from a microphone, they are reasonable,” Malloy said of Capitol Hill lawmakers. Continue Reading →

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College tuition and legislators

State legislators have played little to no role in what tuition will be at the state’s public colleges, a reality that could change as President Obama steps up the pressure on colleges to stop raising tuition. During the first Higher Education Committee meeting this year, state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, asked how the state plans to react to Obama’s intention to tie federal funding to affordable tuition rates. “This is incredibly important,” she said. Rep. Roberta Willis, the co-chairwoman of the committee, said the committee will be considering the future of the General Assembly’s role in setting tuition this session. “We can have the discussion of how we may want to accomplish that, whether it’s actual legislation or simply bringing the schools before us for an informational hearing for them to explain the changes in tuition,” said Willis, D-Salisbury. Continue Reading →

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In East Haven, mixed reaction to top cop retirement

East Haven — At a news conference Monday morning at town hall, Mayor Joseph Maturo announced that Chief of Police Leonard Gallo — named in an ongoing federal investigation of discriminatory policing — would retire at the end of the week. East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo
“His decision to retire at this time is a selfless act, designed to assist in the healing process,” Maturo said briefly, before stepping back into his office and shutting the door behind him. East Haven has made national and international news in the past week as the result of a federal probe into allegations of racial profiling and harassment of the town’s Latino residents. Four police officers were arrested as a result of the investigation. As dozens of members of the media crowded a hall outside the mayor’s office, some 50 feet away, residents waiting in line to see the city clerk had mixed reactions to the most recent uproar in their town. Continue Reading →

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The governor as rainmaker for a friendly PAC

As a publicly financed candidate for governor in 2010, Dannel P. Malloy could accept no contributions of more than $100 and was barred from accepting donations from lobbyists or business owners doing business with the state. But Malloy is free to help raise money from those sources in his roles as finance chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which can accept unlimited donations, or as the headliner at an upcoming event for a supporter’s political action committee, Prosperity for Connecticut. Malloy said Monday he sees no inconsistency. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy
“Let’s be very clear. I do and will support political candidates, candidate committees, political action organizations as long as they are progressive in nature,” Malloy said. Continue Reading →

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Retiring foe of gaming addiction warns against online gambling

The retiring chief of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling used one of his final appearances before the legislature to press Monday for several new safeguards to accompany any new online gaming program. Executive Director Marvin Steinberg and his successor, Mary A. Drexler, also praised Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for recommending that a portion of any revenue from new gaming initiatives be dedicated to fight gambling addiction. “The green light is on,” Steinberg told the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee during an information meeting, referring to growing speculation that new gaming proposals could be raised during the 2012 legislative session, which starts Wednesday, Feb. 8. “And with that comes an enormous responsibility.” Continue Reading →

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Malloy gets final approval for Jackson Lab investment

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy secured Connecticut’s investment in a major genetic research initiative Monday — but not before one more partisan debate. The State Bond Commission voted 8-2 to release $291 million, which will pay to build a new 173,000-square-foot research center for The Jackson Laboratory on the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington. The funds also will provide equipment and furniture for the facility, and will subsidize roughly one-third of operating costs for the next decade. Financed over years, the $291 million investment will cost the state another $153 million in interest charges, according to a projection from nonpartisan legislative analysts. Roraback and Malloy debate theJackson Lab deal one more time. Continue Reading →

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Microgrids offer potential for greater energy reliability

Easy to miss in the flurry around the Two Storms Panel report earlier this month was an idea called microgrids. A jargony techno-term, a microgrid is a small electric grid with its own generation source. It normally operates linked to the main electric grid, but when that suffers widespread interruptions, as Connecticut’s did during Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm, a microgrid can automatically isolate itself and keep running. “All the pieces have been tried that we need to put together,” said Dan Esty, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “Just not at the scale we’re talking about.” Continue Reading →

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