Monthly Archives: November 2012

New accountability system will rank every public school

Is your child’s school among the best or worst in the state? Parents will be able to see for themselves next week when the Department of Education publishes a statewide ranking of every public school in Connecticut, from the 97 best to the 28 most in need of improvement. On Friday, in a preview of more to come, state education officials released a partial list showing schools in the highest and lowest of five ranking categories. They said they expect to launch a complete set of some 1,200 school-by-school scores sometime next week, which can be found on this website. “Every school has got a school performance index,” Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told reporters in a conference call Friday afternoon. Continue Reading →

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The elusive state budget deficit fluctuates almost daily

Trying to keep track of the state budget deficit? As of Friday it stood at about $239 million or just over 1 percent. Don’t like that figure? Check back next week, or in mid-December, or early next year. It is likely to change several more times — for good or for bad — in the near future. Continue Reading →

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Doctors look to Congress as Medicare fee decrease looms

Washington — Unless Congress acts soon, the New Year will bring plenty of misery for Connecticut’s doctors. On Dec. 31, a temporary measure known as the “doc fix” will expire, resulting in a 30 percent decrease in fees to all doctors who treat patients through Medicare, the government-run health program for the elderly, and active and retired members of the military who are covered under the government’s TRICARE program. “This would basically result in a collapse of our ability to provide care,” said John Foley, a cardiologist in Norwich and president of the Connecticut State Medical Society. Foley said that 37 percent to 40 percent of Connecticut’s doctors would stop treating Medicare and TRICARE patients if their fees are slashed. Continue Reading →

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Rethinking visitation, other policies affecting inmates

Evaristo Pabon just wants to give Luis, his nephew, a hug. But that’s not possible. “I have to see him through a glass,” Pabon explained, after testifying before the Connecticut Sentencing Commission at the state Capitol complex. Luis has been incarcerated since he was 15 for robbery, Pabon said. Evaristo Pabon asked the state’s Sentencing Commission to change policies that would allow him, among other things, to hug his nephew, who has been in prison since he was 15. Continue Reading →

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On-the-job illness in Connecticut declining, but still high

Connecticut workers are getting ill on the job less often than in recent years, but still more frequently than the national average, according to a new state report. The report, called Occupational Disease in Connecticut, 2012, shows that on-the-job illnesses decreased by 12 percent from the year before, continuing a downward trend for the past five years. Still, Nutmeggers overall had a 9.5 percent higher rate of occupational illness compared with the nation as a whole. Connecticut ranks 15th highest out of the 41 states and territories reporting to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Louisiana had the highest rate of illness, while the District of Columbia had the lowest. “The takeaway message is even though things are getting better, this is still a lot of cases and we need to keep concentrating how to improve prevention,” said Tim Morse, professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut Health Center, who wrote the report with Paula Schenck, director of indoor environment and health programs at the health center. Continue Reading →

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Musical chairs answering questions about the governor’s education reforms.

Three. That’s the number of spokespeople the Connecticut Department of Education has had in the last year following the death of the longtime spokesman Tom Murphy, who was well-respected for his exceptional knowledge about education policy in the state. First came Mark Linabury, who was named the interim spokesman and now heads the Bureau of Choice Programs at the department. Then came Jim Polites, a former teacher and previous spokesman for Democratic legislators. On Friday, the education department announced Polites would be moving to Linabury’s department to “direct community affairs.” Continue Reading →

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Pelosi talks up Larson’s new job

Rep. John Larson, D-1st District was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s featured guest at a press conference aimed at tough talk about congressional negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.” In that press conference, Pelosi urged her Republican rival, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to bring up legislation next week that would extend a series of tax cuts for everyone – except the rich – something Boehner isn’t likely to do. Pelosi also announced Larson’s new job as chairman of a task force on election reform. “How we do our politics has much to do with what we do in Congress,” Pelosi said. Larson is leaving the Democratic leadership because he was term-limited in his job as head of the Democratic caucus. Continue Reading →

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Women won 28 percent of General Assembly seats in 2012

A compilation by Rutgers University finds Connecticut ranked in the top 10 in the percentage of women winning state legislative seats in 2012: With women winning 53 of 187 seats, the new General Assembly will be 28.3 percent female. Colorado topped the list at 40 percent. South Carolina was at the bottom with 10 percent. Women won 8 of 36 state Senate seats (22 percent) and 45 of 151 House seats (30 percent) in Connecticut.  The new two-year terms begin Jan. 9, the opening day of the 2013 session. Continue Reading →

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Congress members call storms like Sandy ‘the new normal’

Washington — In the first congressional hearing on Hurricane Sandy Thursday, lawmakers from storm-hit states made appeals for billions of dollars in additional aid and said massive, destructive storms are “the new normal.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., testified at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that “the path towards enlightened protection and preparation” must include infrastructure improvements such as flood gate repairs in Stamford, steps to stop flooding along the Housatonic River, and the establishment of microgrids for electricity and increased use of generators, especially at facilities for the elderly. Some of Sandy’s destruction in Connecticut. “The sweep and depth of destruction in human impact and financial affect was simply staggering,” Blumenthal said. “In Connecticut, disasters like Hurricane Sandy are quickly becoming the new normal.” Continue Reading →

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Pressed from left and right, a governor plunges ahead

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is one of about 30 governors facing budget shortfalls, a cold comfort as he approaches a re-election campaign with the task of explaining why a record $1.5 billion tax increase in 2011 failed to keep Connecticut in the black. The Democratic governor is confronted with a double-barreled political challenge: Still facing Republican criticism over last year’s tax increases, Malloy now has to persuade Democrats to accept deep spending cuts. “I assume they will be unhappy,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, his senior adviser. “The governor is not happy to have to propose them. There is no disagreement. Continue Reading →

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Larson gives up one party post, gains another

Washington — Because there are limits on how long he could stay in the job, on Thursday U.S. Rep. John Larson handed over the gavel he held as head of the Democratic caucus to his successor. But Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has given him another job. She named Larson chairman of a new Democratic task force on campaign finance reform. “It’s a ripe time for this,” Larson said. In leadership elections held Thursday, Democrats re-elected Pelosi by unanimous consent as their House leader. Continue Reading →

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Health insurance exchange won’t negotiate insurance rates to start

Health insurance carriers won’t have to negotiate rates to sell their products in the state’s new virtual coverage “store.”But those running the market — known as the health insurance exchange — will develop a plan for ways to drive down costs and promote affordability, which could include negotiation, members of the exchange’s board determined Thursday.”This is a huge compromise,” said state Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, who had wanted the exchange to have the ability to negotiate rates with insurance carriers from the start.Exchange CEO Kevin Counihan, who had warned that negotiating rates could interfere with the new market’s viability, was more pleased. “I think we’re very comfortable with it,” he said.The board’s vote Thursday followed an at-times contentious process to define the rules that will govern what plans are sold through the exchange’s market.The exchange is essentially a virtual store for selling health insurance. Every state is required by federal health reform to have one, and Connecticut’s is expected to open next fall, selling insurance that will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. Most or all of the plans it sells are expected to be offered by private insurance carriers.Veltri and other consumer advocates had wanted the exchange to be able to be selective about what plans it offers, with the power to negotiate rates with insurance carriers. Continue Reading →

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Former senator and felon: ‘Everywhere you go, the door is closed.’

Former state Sen. Ernie Newton was at the state Capitol complex to let people know just how difficult it is for convicted criminals to live a normal life after leaving jail — a problem he knows about first hand. Ernie Newton testifies
Newton served a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of corruption. His bid to be re-elected to the Senate this year was unsuccessful. Newton was at the Capitol complex to testify on a proposal being considered by the Connecticut Sentencing Committee that attempts to remove the housing and employment barriers that those released from prison face because of their criminal backgrounds. “When a person comes out of prison and he wants to re-engage him or herself in society, they are met with resistance,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Seven weeks after resigning, Meotti leaves college system

Today was Michael Meotti’s last day at the Board of Regents for Higher Education — seven weeks after he announced his intention to resign. Meotti’s resignation was the result of a pay-raise scandal and other events that in mid-October led legislators to question their confidence in the leadership of the 100,000-student system. Board of Regents President Robert A. Kennedy resigned and left immediately. Meotti, who was the vice president of the system, is approximately four months shy of having worked for the state long enough to get a lifelong pension. A spokeswoman for the system said his delay in leaving was so that there would be an easy transition as the new interim president took office. Continue Reading →

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What the budget cuts to vo-tech schools won’t affect

Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said Thursday he is not sure where the $1.2 million mid-year cut to the state’s vocational technical high schools will come from. But he has determined where it will not come from. It will not come from sports programs and the scheduled opening of J.M. Wright Technical High School in Stamford in September 2013, he said. Nor will it come from charging students tuition, as state law forbids such fees. Sports programs were on the chopping block last year when the state faced deficits, but managed to be spared. Continue Reading →

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