Monthly Archives: January 2013

In a blue state, response tepid to minimum wage hike

Organized labor began its push to increase Connecticut’s minimum wage Thursday without any sign that a political establishment solidly controlled by a Democratic governor and legislature is ready to boost an $8.25 wage that last increased three years ago. Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, testified at a public hearing in support of a wage increase blocked by his caucus last year in an awkward, intra-party showdown with the now-departed House speaker, Christopher Donovan. Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney
But Looney made no claim of broader Senate support in the face of an anemic economy, and both the new House speaker, J. Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy are noncommittal. “I am skeptical right now about the timing,” Sharkey said. “I’ll keep an open mind about it. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

A $2.1 billion plan for dramatic UConn enrollment boost

East Hartford — Faced with continuing dips in Connecticut’s college-age population and declines in state funding for higher education, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to infuse $1.8 billion into the University of Connecticut to build the space for dramatic enrollment increases. He also wants the state to spend $286 million over 10 years to pay for the new faculty to accommodate 6,580 new students in science fields — a 30 percent enrollment increase over the next 10 years. The construction costs will largely be paid for by the state, and operating costs nearly split. University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst and legislators listen the Gov. Dannel P. Malloy discuss UConn’s expansion at a press conference Thursday at Pratt and Whitney headquarters in East Hartford. “Make no mistake about it, we are making Connecticut competitive again,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference at Pratt & Whitney when releasing the plan. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Budget battle lines being drawn over power plant tax

The first battle lines of the next state budget may have been drawn Thursday around a tax on Connecticut’s power plants that is set to expire in June. Eleven legislators — including 10 of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s fellow Democrats — called for the electricity generation tax to expire as planned. Backed by officials from several business coalitions, they argued that continuing the tax would drive up electricity rates, send a dangerous message to businesses and threaten the economic future of one southeastern Connecticut community. Meanwhile, the governor, who hasn’t ruled out extending the tax to help close a $1.2 billion deficit in the next budget, repeated his assertion that he doesn’t consider that a tax increase. Sen. Andrea L. Stillman, D-Waterford, vehemently opposes extending the tax on power plants, set to expire in June. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Could Malloy add a little sweetener to a bitter budget?

When governors propose painful budgets, they sometimes mix a little sugar in with the medicine. Gov. M. Jodi Rell sought to end property taxes on motor vehicles to cushion the blow of her 2007 income tax hike. And while Gov. Lowell P. Weicker enraged voters 22 years ago by proposing the income tax, he also tried to cut Connecticut’s ballooning sales tax in half. Neither of these fiscal balms matched the pain the governors caused elsewhere, but their objective was to win public approval — not to balance dollars and cents. So is there a car tax phase-out — or some other bright spot — in the plan Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will deliver to legislators Wednesday? Continue Reading →

Filed under:

A Windy Night in Fairfield County

By: Georgia Lobb

Last night, the wind speeds nearing 40 miles per hour had my house swaying from side to side like it was a hand built log cabin. In the middle of the night, I heard a crash from the bathroom. The vibrations from the wind had caused our (poorly installed) shower rod to wiggle away from its place in-between the walls and fall to the floor. My Twitter feed was blowing up with notices of power outages, scared beach residents, school closings. A friend tweeted: “This wind is horrifying & needs to end… Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Mobile Transportation Applications Mean Less Trouble Commuting? Hopefully.

By: Georgia Lobb

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) just announced a series of mobile applications that are intended to make commuting easier for passengers in Connecticut. They are listed here on DOT’s webpage. These applications, which are accessible via iPhone or Android devices, include maps, traffic advisories, and public transit announcements. CDOT hopes that these apps will alleviate some of the tribulations they endure during their travel experiences in Connecticut. Most of us with a smart phone already have Google Maps installed, which is the first application that CDOT recommends. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Hagel skirts question on submarines

During a long, tough confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel deftly avoided being pinned down on the number of new submarines he thinks the Navy needs, despite prodding by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. At Thursday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Blumenthal asked Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, if he supported the replacement of a dozen Ohio Class nuclear submarines. Electric Boat in Groton won the initial contracts to upgrade those subs. “I strongly believe that the cost will increase … and we will be at severe risk” if a dozen subs are not modernized, Blumenthal said. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Blumenthal snares a chairmanship

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in office for a little over two years, has been given the chairmanship of a new Judiciary Committee panel apparently created just for him. Blumenthal will chair the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action, says Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The new panel is authorized to investigate possible wrongdoing in the federal government and root out waste. “The purpose of this new subcommittee is really to ensure that federal agencies follow and enforce the law — assuring protection of legal rights with effective remedies. Overseeing federal agency rulemaking means working with advocates, activists, and every-day Americans to fulfill the promise of federal protection,” Blumenthal said in a statement. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Through their grief, the people of Newtown speak

Newtown — In a hushed auditorium, harshly lit for television, the families and neighbors of Sandy Hook’s lost children told visiting legislators Monday night to take a stand against gun violence, not always prescribing how.”You are our elected officials,” said Nicole Hockley, who last held the hand of her 6-year-old son, Dylan, as he lay in a small casket. “It is your duty to create and enforce the laws that protect and help us, using common sense, morals and a sense of humanity to guide you.” Scarlett Lewis, mother of 6-year-old Jesse, speaks at Wednesday night’s forum at Newtown High School. (Photos by Mark Pazniokas) By the hundreds, her neighbors rose and embraced her with applause, as did the legislators. So went the routine all night, where residents aching for gun control or better mental health screening had their say, then left to applause.Ardent opponents of gun control spoke later, most offering condolences before politely protesting that no new law would have stopped their children’s killer, Adam Lanza. They also were neighbors, and they, too, left to applause.The bipartisan legislative task force created in response to the shooting deaths of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 filled the wide stage of Newtown High School.”Our job is to listen,” House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, told them at the outset.The hearing was like none at the State Capitol in Hartford. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Hearing showcases great divide in America, and on Senate panel, over guns

Washington — Two starkly different visions of the role of guns in American society — and the size of the divide in Congress over gun control — were on display at a Senate hearing Wednesday. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., promoted the reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons and high capacity clips and universal background checks of gun purchasers. “We can have reasonable limitations on a Second Amendment right in terms of the type of weapon (allowed) and background checks on those people who own them,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.,
But Republican members of the committee agreed with witnesses who support gun rights, including National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, who said no new laws are needed, only the better enforcement of those already on the books. “The deaths in Newtown should not be used to put forward every gun control measure that’s been floating around for years,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. The murder of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown was cited by gun control supporters, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the victim of a mass shooter, as the reason for the new activism. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Connecticut’s cities: Hubs for dumping waste?

A little more than a decade ago, the state took on the “Sooty Six,” Connecticut’s dirtiest power plants, and passed legislation that eventually reduced emissions by 86 percent. At the time, it was called “a fantastic victory for public health in Connecticut.” But critics say it has not helped inner-city Latinos and others who are seeing increasing incidents of asthma and other illnesses. In Hartford, activist Carmen Cordero points to the exhaust from the smokestack of the trash-to-energy plant operated by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) in the city’s South Meadows. A member of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, she says, “They say they are turning trash into energy, but not only are they burning our trash; they are burning everyone else’s trash and we’re inhaling it.”
 
Continue to CtLatinonews.com to read entire story. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Nonprofits rally to be spared from further state budget cuts

Hundreds of workers, administrators and clients from Connecticut’s private, nonprofit social service agencies rallied Wednesday outside the Capitol, urging officials to restore budget cuts and preserve services for poor and disabled residents. And while Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told the crowd of more than 700 that he would propose using state borrowing to help cover capital costs for agencies, advocates — while grateful — were more concerned about regular state funding to operate their programs.
Hundreds of social services providers rallied Wednesday against possible state cuts. The $20 million assistance program Malloy proposed “is the first downpayment,” Sheila Amdur, acting executive director of the Connecticut Community Providers Association, told the crowd. “But we have a crumbling human service infrastructure that has only received one-half of 1 percent COLA (cost of living adjustment) in the last five years.” Steady drizzle and chilly conditions didn’t keep social service advocates away from the rally, as supporters donned yellow T-shirts that read “protect the safety net,” and chanted “SOS, Save our Safety Net.” Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Part 3: Cold Weather Commute & Damage Control

By: Georgia Lobb

Photo courtesy Fairfield Patch

In a battle to keep operating costs down, keep transit running on time, and to keep customers happy, public transportation employees have their hands full this winter. If you’ve waited for a train, bus, airplane, or subway recently you know it’s not a mystery that cold weather has a direct relationship with the way public transportation works. Severe weather has it’s consequences- and this winter commuters have seen that play out in the form of delays caused by mechanical issues, electrical snafus, and damaged infrastructure such as cracked train tracks. Arthur L Handman of the Greater Hartford Transit District in Hartford, CT explains that “over the past five years or so years, the meteorological and public transit communities have made a concerted effort to document the intuitive thesis that there are real direct and indirect relationships between weather and the operations, maintenance and utilization of public transit systems of all types.”

Cities with public transportation have all recognized the fact that severe weather will inevitably affect the way their transit will function this season. But what are they doing to remedy that? Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Moffett says fearful Democrats ‘running for the hills’ on gun control

Toby Moffett, the former Connecticut congressman who now is a Washington lobbyist in favor of gun control, takes a pessmistic view of the push for gun restrictions after the murders of 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, a part of which he represented in the U.S. House. He sees “the look of defeat” on the face of Sen. Diane Feinstein, a proponent, and hears “the sound of Democrats running for the hills.” “Even in an institution where retreat from short-lived outrage and determination to change things is manifest, this evolving surrender — just weeks after the massacre of small children — is stunning,” Moffett writes in Huffington Post. “One day it’s the liberal chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee introducing an already-watered-down bill that seeks only to strengthen background checks. The next it’s our earnest Vice President in Richmond for a ‘pro-gun-control’event where he, too, never mentions assault weapons. Continue Reading →

Filed under:

Lawmakers’ reluctance to continue spending cuts widens hole in next state budget

While legislators slashed spending last month to balance current finances, their reluctance to embrace those cuts long-term means the shortfall in the next state budget has grown yet again, according to a new report from nonpartisan analysts. The legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis projects that spending will outstrip revenues by $1.2 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1, based on current trends, and the fiscal hole in 2014-15 now exceeds $1.3 billion. That’s up modestly from the shortfall projections of $1.14 billion for next year and $1 billion for 2014-15 that OFA released in mid-November. The $1.2 billion gap, which is 6 percent of the current operating budget, also is roughly one-third the size of the historic, $3.7 billion annual shortfall that Malloy inherited upon taking office two years ago. “OFA’s projections for FY 14 reaffirm the challenge we face in the coming biennium,” Malloy’s budget chief, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, said Tuesday. Continue Reading →

Filed under: