Tuesday, February 6, 2018

WPKN Local News

WPKN Local News 
brings you daily local coverage of Connecticut and Long Island news
on WPKN 89.5 fm Bridgeport and streaming on wpkn.org 

Sources include our own reporters:
and CT Mirror, CT NewsJunkie, Westfaironline/Fairfield News, East End Beacon, 
The Suffolk Times, Times Union, Riverhead Local and Newsday.

Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors and producers: 
Trace Alford, Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Liz Becker, Thomas Byrne, Tony Ernst, John Iannuzzi, Hazel Kahan, Alyssa Katz, Lee Yuen Lew, Mike Merli, Kristiana Pastir, Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst, Danniella Tompos and Melinda Tuhus.

To find out about joining our volunteer news team, while working at home, please send an email to: news.director@wpkn.org.

For WPKN Local News daily content
For news reports before February 2015 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

February 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus, Michael Zweig, Ramzi Babouder-Matta, and Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight: potentially damaging cuts could be coming for LIHEAP; supporters attend a hearing in Hartford on the Education Equity for Undocumented Students bill; Governor Malloy voices support for bill that provides financial aid regardless immigration status; N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo proposes voluntary payroll tax to avoid federal tax
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Peter Urban of DC News Junkie reports:
Low-Income families in Connecticut and across the country will find it harder to heat or cool their homes as a result of President Trump’s budget announced on Monday.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, is currently budgeted at 3.4 billion dollars and provides financial assistance to over 110,000 families in Connecticut and over six million families nationwide.  The President wants to cut funding to zero and eliminate the program because of fraud and abuse.

Reaction has been swift and bi-partisan.  Representative Rosa DeLauro called the proposal “perhaps one of the most heartless cuts in the budget” and that “we have a moral obligation to ensure our citizens do not die in their homes because they cannot afford energy.”  Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said in a letter signed by 45 other Senators including Republicans: “Affordable access to home energy is a matter of health and safety.”

The President has argued recently enacted disconnection policies preventing utility companies from shutting off energy supplies during extreme freezing or heat conditions are reason enough for eliminating the program.
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An all-day hearing on Tuesday brought students, education professionals and elected officials out in support of House Bill 213, the Education Equity for Undocumented Students bill. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus attended the press conference at the Legislative Office Building.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus attended the press conference at the Legislative Office Building:
All college students pay into the fund that provides financial aid for higher education, but undocumented students can’t access the funds. This bill would remedy that.

Rep. Gregg Haddad, co-chair of the Higher Education Committee, said he was moved by the testimony of many of the so-called Dreamers.  He added: “This is very frustrating for me as a legislator, to sit through a public hearing and hear unanimous testimony in support of a bill only to face opposition inside the legislature for that same bill. We need to figure out a way to speak to those folks who are reluctant to support this and figure out why they’re unwilling to say so publicly and yet withhold their votes when it comes time to vote on this legislation.”

His committee co-chair, Sen. Beth Bye, suggested the reason opponents won’t go public is that the current process is patently unfair and they don’t want to be seen supporting it.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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 The office of Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy reports in a press release: Both the Governor and and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman have provided written testimony to the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee in support of House Bill 5031, which will allow students receive equal access to financial aid regardless of their immigration status.

In their testimony they wrote, “Let us be clear – many of the students we are talking about are just as American as our own children.  By definition, their parents brought them to our country when they were under the age of 16, but often they came as infants. They don’t speak another language or know another nation. Connecticut is home to them, often indistinguishable from the way individuals born here consider our state home…”

In 2011, Governor Malloy signed legislation ensuring in-state tuition for undocumented students. In previous years, the Governor and Lt. Governor have supported similar efforts to extend financial aid to all students.
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Michael Gormley reports in Newsday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday proposed an optional payroll tax to be paid by employers as a way to shield some higher-earning New Yorkers who also pay high local property taxes from paying more federal income taxes under the new federal tax law passed in December.

The new law provides tax breaks to corporations, the wealthy, and most middle-class families. But to help pay for lost federal revenue, the law also caps the deductibility of state and local tax on federal incomes taxes at $10,000.

Cuomo’s proposal also creates two, state-operated charitable organizations for school districts and local governments. New Yorkers would receive an 85 percent tax credit for their payments as an incentive to join the system, state budget director Robert Mujica said. Overall, Cuomo’s proposal would benefit workers by reducing the amount of income that would be subject to federal income taxes.
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Tuesday February 13, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: offshore drilling proposal draws hundreds at Hartford hearing;
Connecticut lawmakers seek investigation of casino lobbying; Southold Town considering erosion tax district; Long Island’s sanctuary movement builds strength 
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Andrea Sears reports for Connecticut News Service: 
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held a public hearing in Hartford Monday on a proposal to open 90 percent of the U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. 

Hundreds of Connecticut residents attended to speak out against the plan.
The proposal would include Atlantic waters vital to Connecticut’s economy.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore oil leases, has promised to keep the environment protected. However the Connecticut Sierra Club’s Martha Klein said concerns over the risk of spills have generated broad, bipartisan opposition. The process of deciding where to drill also is hazardous to marine life because seismic surveys use underwater explosions to map suspected oil deposits.

Public comment period ends March 9th.
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Mark Pazniokas for the CT Mirror reports:
Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Representatives John Larson and Joe Courtney have asked the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General to investigate the department’s role in blocking the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes from developing a casino in East Windsor. The casino would compete with an MGM gaming resort in Springfield.

Authorization of the East Windsor casino depends on the Interior’s acceptance of an amendment affirming that the casino would not violate an existing deal where the tribes pay 25 percent of slots revenue from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

The Interior Department, after lobbying by MGM, declined to act on the amendment. The senators and congressmen say this violates the department’s “longstanding legal trust responsibilities regarding Native American Tribes.” 

MGM has said they could make more money for the state by opening a casino in Fairfield County.
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Beth Young reports in the East End Beacon that representatives of Southold Town and Suffolk County are skeptical of playing the role of local partner in a $14.6 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to shore up Hashamomuck Cove.

Town Trustees oppose the plan, which Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Engineer Bill Hillman said would involve trucking in 218,000 cubic yards of sand in 7,900 full truckloads, each weighing 80,000 pounds, all rolling on local roads.  

The Town’s share would be $1.53 million for the initial cost, and then $546,000 for each renourishment.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell asked: “What role should the Town have in restoration of private property?”  He plans to meet homeowners soon to discuss forming a special taxing district so property owners would pay for the local share. The taxing district would require a public vote and enabling legislation from the New York State Legislature. 
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Bart Jones at Newsday reports:
A sanctuary movement is gaining strength on Long Island as clergy and lay people pledge to resist federal officials trying to deport immigrants who live here illegally. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island has declared itself a “sanctuary diocese” and is prepared to give shelter in its 129 churches. The Setauket Presbyterian Church is the first house of worship on Long Island to individually designate itself a sanctuary.

Nearly a dozen self-described “rapid response teams” have formed throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. Its members are prepared to rush to the scene of Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions.

Opponents argue that granting sanctuary is itself illegal. Nassau County Civic Association vice president Barrett Psareas says: “They’re harboring criminals, even though it is civil.”

However, Long Island Jobs With Justice’s Richard Koubek says it is not illegal in New York as long as the house of worship notifies authorities it is providing sanctuary.
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Monday, February 12, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Lee Yuen Lew and Gretchen Swanson)

In the news tonight: Four years on, Tesla still hoping for nod to sell cars in Connecticut; One of the Largest U.S. Carbon Emitters Commits to Lower GHG Emissions; Montauk’s downtown businesses should move inland, study says; new Suffolk sheriff won’t change policy honoring ICE detainer requests
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Daniela Altimari reports for the Hartford Courant:
Tesla is making a renewed push to legalize its approach for selling its electric vehicles directly to consumers. The company has tried for three years, but failed to pass similar legislation.

Tesla is framing the proposal as a consumer rights issue, an environmental benefit, and an economic development measure that rewards innovation and could inject millions of dollars into the state’s economy. 

Tesla customers in Connecticut currently have to cross into New York to purchase the vehicles. The company says the state is losing about $5 million annually in sales tax revenue since buyers have the option of paying taxes on their vehicles in New York.Officials in Rhode Island recently granted the company approval, joining Massachusetts and New York.

The Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, which represents the state’s 270 new car dealers, has vigorously opposed the legislation in the past and intends to do so again this year, said Jim Fleming, the group’s president.
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“New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that American Electric Power, one of the largest carbon emitters in the country, has adopted new, long-term targets for lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement's goals. As a result, the New York State Common Retirement Fund has withdrawn the shareholder request it had filed with the company.”
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Vera Chinese at Newsday reports:
A series of studies unveiled Tuesday finds East Hampton Town must face issues, including rising sea levels, traffic congestion and workforce housing shortages, to maintain its status as a prized vacation destination. The studies were designed to boost the business districts in Wainscott, East Hampton, Amagansett, Springs and Montauk.

They recommend moving Montauk businesses farther inland from the beach. Areas prone to flooding include South Emerson Avenue, which features several motels. Steve Kalimnios, who would face relocation of his family-owned oceanfront hotel, suggested the town bring in sand.

The studies also recommend zoning and traffic flow changes; better wastewater treatment; and second-floor apartments in the commercial district. In Springs, the consultants recommend creating a “maritime walking district” linking the Paumanok Path hiking trail with the head of Three Mile Harbor.
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Denise Civiletti and Maria Piedrabuena report for Riverhead Local:
Recently elected Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D-Lake Grove) will not change the county’s policy of honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. 

This means that an undocumented immigrant living in Suffolk who is arrested and eligible for release pending trial would, at the request of ICE, be detained in custody by the Suffolk sheriff until the deportation process begins. But holding someone on an administrative request from ICE is not the same as a warrant, civil rights advocates argue.

Patrick Young, special professor of immigration law at Hofstra University School of Law said: “It’s probable cause that they committed a civil violation [of immigration law] not a criminal violation.”

The question is whether constitutional rights are violated when local law enforcement agencies honor federal immigration officials’ detainer requests without a judicial warrant.
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Friday February 9, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Thomas Byrne, and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: Connecticut, New York join lawsuit seeking Clean Water Rule enforcement; Malloy urges individual healthcare mandate in Connecticut; Cuomo supports itemized deductions of state taxes; Long Island’s call for local hearing on offshore drilling plan goes unanswered 
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Andrea Sears at Public News Service reports:
Connecticut and New York joined eight other states and environmental groups in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce its own Clean Water Rule. \The 2015 rule describes which small streams and wetlands the Clean Water Act protects. Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his intention to repeal or replace the rule, delaying implementation another two years. 

Large farms and real estate developers complain that the rule gives the Federal Government too much authority over large areas of both dry land and water.

National Wildlife Federation president Collin O’Mara countered that the rule allows for broad exemptions for farms, and that enforcement would improve drinking water quality for more than 100 million Americans and help increase fish populations. He added that the current administration should allow the Clean Water Rule to be implemented while the lawsuit works its way through the court system. 
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Christine Stuart at CT News Junkie reports:
In his valedictory State of the State address, Governor Malloy called on lawmakers to pass legislation  that would require all Connecticut residents to purchase health insurance. The governor says health care is a fundamental right in Connecticut. 

President Trump and Congress recently repealed the individual healthcare mandate when it approved changes to the tax code last year. 

According to accompanying legislation, the penalty for not having health insurance in Connecticut would be $500 or two percent of an individual’s Connecticut adjusted gross income, whichever is greater.

If it passed, Connecticut would become the second state to have such a healthcare mandate. The first was Massachusetts. Seven other states and the District of Columbia are also considering individual healthcare mandates. 
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Brendan J. Lyons for the Albany Times-Union reports:
Governor Cuomo’s budget director told a joint legislative panel Thursday that the administration supports a plan to allow New Yorkers to itemize deductions on their state income taxes. 

The plan, known as "decoupling," has received support in the Republican-led state Senate and many view it as a way to mitigate a new federal tax plan that caps itemized deductions of state and local taxes at $10,000. Senate Finance chairwoman Catharine Young, a Livingston County Republican and panel co-chair, said decoupling could save New Yorkers an estimated $1.5 billion. Less clear is whether the plan to overhaul state tax code will be completed by the start of the new fiscal year April 1.

The proposed tax changes also include Cuomo’s pledge to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal plan.
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Denise Civiletti reports for Riverhead Local:
The Secretary of the Interior has not responded to calls from Long Island officials to move the public hearing on federal offshore drilling to a site on Island. The hearing, scheduled for February 15 in Albany, is on the draft plan to open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf for natural gas and oil exploration.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine reiterated his demand to hold the hearing on Long Island, which would bear the brunt of any impact of the offshore drilling plan.

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Shirley Republican, has spoken out against the proposal and signed onto a letter to Department Secretary Ryan Zinke asking for reconsideration of the plan. Zeldin held a press conference recently where he implored Zinke to remove New York’s waters from the drilling plan. Zinke has not responded.
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Thursday February 8, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight: Malloy Signs Order To Study 'Vote By Mail'; Suffolk DA announces new Gang Unit; Long Island officials call for local hearing on federal offshore drilling plan; Southold considers funding options for multimillion-dollar erosion control plan
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Christine Stuart of CT NewsJunkie reports:
Governor Malloy has signed an executive order to study vote by mail. In a speech to the General Assembly Wednesday, Malloy announced plans to study whether Connecticut should allow voting by mail. He added he will try again to pass early voting, which the state’s constitution currently does not allow.

During his speech, Malloy said: “Let’s plan ahead. Let’s look at best practices around the nation for increasing voter participation.”

An effort to change Connecticut’s constitution to allow early voting passed the House last year, but failed to get called for a Senate vote.

Luther Weeks of CTVotersCount testified that contrary to the benefits, early voting decreases turnout. He said academic research has shown that early voting, including voting by mail, decreases turnout by three percent.
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Nicole Fuller of Newsday reports:
Suffolk County’s new district attorney, Timothy Sini, announced on Wednesday the formation of a law enforcement team dedicated to the prosecution and eradication of gangs and gang members from the county.

The new Gang Unit, including a team of attorneys and investigators and a new Enhanced Prosecution Bureau at the district attorney’s office, will focus exclusively on prosecuting crimes committed by gang members, including members of MS-13. It will involve collaboration among local, state and federal agencies that will lead to their involvement in investigation, arrest, prosecution, imprisonment and even post-release supervision of gang members

The brutal killing of two Brentwood teens in 2016 has focused a national spotlight on MS-13 violence in Suffolk. Authorities say twenty-five people have been killed on Long Island by members of the gang since 2016.
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Carl MacGowan of Newsday reports:
Long Island officials have asked the federal government to move a hearing on an offshore oil drilling plan from Albany to a site on the Island.

The February 15 meeting on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s proposal to expand drilling to as many as nine sites in the Atlantic Ocean, including two off Long Island, is the only scheduled hearing in New York.

Assemblyman Steven Englebright will co-host a separate state hearing on the drilling plan Wednesday in Smithtown and said the federal hearing should be moved to Long Island. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asking for the meeting to either move to Long Island or have a second one held on the Island.

Governor Cuomo has asked the federal government to remove the New York sites from the list, calling the drilling plan an “unacceptable threat” to the coastline.
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Jean-Paul Salamanca of Newsday reports:
A Long Island town discovers it may be too expensive to fight Mother Nature.

Southold Town property owners and officials met Wednesday to discuss ways to finance the Town’s share of a federal effort to repair storm damage and begin erosion control for Hashamomuck Cove. The shoreline area is 1.5 miles long, has about 70 property owners and is subject to substantial damage during coastal storms.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deputy chief Stephen Couch said the restoration project would cost over 14.5 million dollars in federal aid but that the Town, or other local sponsor, would have to pay about 10 percent of the initial cost and the total cost of upkeep, estimated at about 5 million dollars.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he and other officials were wary of setting precedents for the Town paying for upkeep of private property. Property owners are considering taxing themselves to pay for the project.
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Wednesday February 7, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Alyssa Katz, Michael Zweig, & Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Malloy delivers State of State Address in Connecticut today; calls for “fairness”; 100th day since an Indonesian man took sanctuary in a Meriden church; banning “bump stocks” in Connecticut; Five Long Island Projects Get DEC Funds to Fight Southern Pine Beetle

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In his final State of the State Speech, Governor Dan Malloy made a plea to the legislature to support “common sense” solutions based on “compassion, love and fairness.” Reporting for the Hartford Courant, Christopher Keating said Malloy also used the speech to cite the accomplishments of his administration, from gun control to affordable housing.

The Governor called on the legislature to improve paid sick leave laws, enhance environmental protection, improve access to affordable housing and expand gun control in Connecticut. What was not mentioned in Malloy’s speech: the state’s still-struggling economy, or how to make Connecticut more economically competitive.

The Governor struggles with low public approval ratings,(in fact according to a recent poll* Malloy is less popular than President Trump here in Connecticut). With that said, Malloy used today’s address to make it clear that he will not back down in his last year in office, and he intends to move forward on issues that he has long championed.
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Last Friday marked the 100th day since an Indonesian man took sanctuary in a Meriden church, just before he was scheduled to be deported.  Supporters held a prayer service to make the occasion.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Sujitno Sajuti is a Muslim scholar who’s been in the U.S. for decades and who entered sanctuary in early November in the church – a converted farmhouse – where his wife stays with him. Maureen Muir is a member of the team supporting the elderly couple.

She says of the gathering last week: “And it was really just to get everybody together and recognize that this has been a very long and difficult process for them. You know, the church is better than jail but it’s still a very restrictive environment for them.”

Sajuti is hoping for a stay of deportation, just as another Connecticut immigrant whose case was highly publicized was granted a stay on February 5.  Meanwhile, immigrant husband and father Joel Colindres was deported on January 31 after a hard-fought battle, and another immigrant remains in sanctuary in a New Haven church, where he’s been for the past 70 days.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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CT News Junkie Reports:
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and other legislative members plan to propose a legislation—following Governor Dannel Malloy's proposal—to ban bump stocks and ghost guns.

Bump stocks are after-market products that can be attached to a semiautomatic weapon to make it essentially a fully automatic gun, which is illegal in Connecticut. Ghost guns are partially completed weapons that do not meet the federal definition of a firearm and can be sold to anyone without a background check.

Under Malloy’s proposal, possession, and sale of rate-of-fire enhancements, including bump stocks, binary trigger systems, and trigger cranks will result in a Class D felony. Permit holders who possess rate-of-fire enhancements prior to July 1, 2020, will receive an infraction and be fined $90 for their first offense, and shall be charged with a Class D felony for any subsequent offense.

Massachusetts and New Jersey have enacted laws prohibiting the sale and possession of the devices. A little over a dozen other states are also considering bans on bump stocks.
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Joan Gralla reports in Newsday that five Long Island projects will split a state Department of Environmental Conservation grant that tops $275,000 to thwart the southern pine beetle, which can kill trees in two to four months, officials said on Tuesday.

The beetles, which kill trees by digging into the bark and interrupting the flow of nutrients, first were found in Suffolk County in 2014. The DEC said the insects probably migrated north from the southeast as winters became milder. They do not attack hardwood trees.

The DEC-funded programs will ensure dead pine trees do not become hazards. They will also cut down infested trees and replant native pine trees. The DEC also is thinning pine forests, sometimes through burns, to keep the trees healthy.

The grants will help safeguard the tree canopy in the Central Pine Barrens, which in turn protects the Island’s sole aquifer, rare species, and recreation.
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Tuesday February 6, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Michael Zweig, Trace Alford, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut lawmakers renew carbon tax proposal; Connecticut lawmakers team up on push for casino; Long Island financial advisers say economy is strong despite Dow drop;  New York State Assembly passes Dream Act
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Parker Fiske writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
A group of Connecticut lawmakers are again introducing a carbon tax, but they’re open to ideas about how to implement it.

Last year, they proposed a fee of $15 a ton on carbon pollution that would be levied on coal, oil, natural gas, propane, or any other petroleum products. It would also be levied on electricity generators that use fossil fuels. The bill died in committee after a public hearing.

It’s unclear how far the proposal may get this year, but it’s clear there won’t be any help from the federal government.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to replace the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s climate change regulation, which would have reduced carbon emissions from power plants.
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Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Lawmakers from Bridgeport and New Haven are teaming up to push their colleagues to open up the bidding process for a commercial casino in Bridgeport.

Last year, lawmakers approved a deal that would allow for the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribal Nation to get the required federal approvals to build a casino in East Windsor.That casino was supposed to head off traffic to the new MGM Resorts International casino opening this summer in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The bill being proposed by the Bridgeport and New Haven delegations would establish the first step in a two-step, competitive process that would direct the Commissioners of Consumer Protection and Economic and Community Development to solicit responses to an RFP for a proposed commercial casino gaming facility; evaluate the responses; and select a single, qualified responder for the legislature to consider.

The legislation is expected to be filed tomorrow when the 2018 General Assembly session opens.
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Ken Schacter writing for Newsday Long Island reports:
Yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,175 points. Though it was the biggest point decline on record, the percentage change of 4.6. percent was not near the record decline.

The Newsday Long Island Index of the region’s largest publicly traded companies by revenue fell about 3.6 percent on Monday. That followed a 4.3 percent decline last week. The index is down about 5 percent for the year to date.

Craig Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services LLC, an investment and financial planning firm in Melville, says that investors who are saving for the long term should not abandon equities.He says the stock market should remain strong even though the era of ultra-low interest rates may be coming to a close with rising rates.

Douglas C. Manditch, chairman and chief executive at Empire National Bank, says the “market could be down because a lot of people think the market is a “little overpriced.” He does not see the decline as a “big threat.”
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Brendan Lyons writing for The Albany Times-Union reports:
The New York state Assembly on Monday passed its version of the DREAM Act, providing college financial aid for children of undocumented immigrants.

Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie said "It is fundamentally and economically misguided to deny students who were educated in our state's public school system the tools they need to reach their academic potential and fully contribute to our state's economy."

Students would be eligible for general awards, performance-based awards, or the state's Tuition Assistance Program funds if they have attended an approved in-state high school for two or more years, if they graduated from such a school and applied to an in-state college or university within five years of receiving their high school diploma, if they received a qualified state high school equivalency diploma or were otherwise eligible for in-state tuition at SUNY, CUNY, or community colleges.
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Monday February 5, 2018   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson and Lee Yuen Lew)

In the news tonight: Connecticut congestion pricing could be November hot potato; auditors rip pay to departing CT state employees; 'Poor People's Campaign' prepares nationwide mobilization; Percoco misused outsized influence
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Gregory Hladky reports for the Hartford Courant:
Connecticut’s option for implementing electronic driving taxes (known as tolls) to help fund transportation projects involves a congestion pricing system that charges drivers more during rush hours and less at off-peak times.

The state could bring in as much as $750 million a year in gross revenue  before expenses using congestion pricing, according to Transportation Commissioner James Redeker. That would mean taxing driving on every interstate and limited access state road, including routes 2, 8, 9 and the Merritt Parkway.

Redeker cautioned: “We would be the only state in the nation that tolled that much.”
Connecticut lawmakers have repeatedly rejected the idea of new electronic driving taxes, and the concept is expected to be a political hot potato for legislators hoping to get reelected in November. 
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Eric Bedner reports for the Journal Inquirer that State agencies continue to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush-money payments to former employees to prevent them from initiating litigation or blowing the whistle, according to the annual state auditors report to the General Assembly.

The state auditors determined that certain payments made to departing employees were not in accordance with a settlement agreement entered by the attorney general on behalf of the agency or authorized by the governor.

Noting large payments made to departing state employees, many over $100,000, the report made specific note of payments to former Connecticut Lottery President and CEO Anne Noble. The auditors offered to assist the Legislature in protecting the state’s interest by providing third-party scrutiny.

Last year, state auditors conducted 29 audits of state and quasi-public agencies, making 398 recommendations of which roughly 43 percent have been implemented, according to the report.
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Martha Waggoner reports in Albany Times-Union that the 'Poor People's Campaign,' the renewed version of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign to lift poor people, held its first national mobilization today, with events in 32 states and Washington D.C. 

Poor people, clergy and activists plan to deliver letters to politicians in state Capitol buildings, including Albany, demanding that leaders confront systemic racism evidenced by  voter suppression laws and poverty rates. 

The campaign is planning a "season of direct action and civil disobedience." that begins on May 13 and continues through June 21, the anniversary of the slayings of three civil rights workers in 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  On the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination at a sanitation workers’ strike In Memphis, workers plan to walk off their jobs on February 12 to support higher wages and union rights, while protesters march to City Hall.

Rev. John Mendez of North Carolina said: "I've been waiting almost 50 years for this." 
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Yancy Roy of Newsday reported: When Joseph Percoco called, the Cuomo administration jumped. Cuomo’s former longtime aide is accused of using his influence to reward campaign contributors with lucrative state construction contracts who paid him bribes in return.

Percoco is alleged to have conspired with two executives of Syracuse-based COR, and Connecticut-based Competitive Power Ventures, to help them win permits to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley. In building their case, prosecutors have sought to show jurors of Percoco’s outsized influence and bare-knuckled tactics.

Because the trial is ongoing, the governor has refused comment.  State Republican chairman Ed Cox has blasted Democrat Cuomo as “perfectly content” with “these blurred lines.” 

Cox  said: “Mr. Percoco had no business working on any official matters or keeping his state office after he left the state payroll…”
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Friday February 2, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight:  Connecticut comptroller predicts nearly $245 million deficit; Connecticut’s highest court denies education funding appeal; Brookhaven to sue LIRR for not adding rail crossings; Long Island to host public hearing on federal offshore drilling plan
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Christine Stuart at CT NewsJunkie reports:
Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo estimates that the recently adopted state budget is almost $245 million in the red. In his monthly letter to Governor Malloy, Lembo says he believes the deficit is larger than the administration’s estimate because of legal settlements the state will have to pay. He adds that the deficit has also grown over the last month in large part due to reduced revenue available to the General Fund, which is down by about $16 million. 

Lembo writes that “aggressive savings targets included in the adopted General Fund budget will pose serious challenges.”

Legislative leaders from both parties met Wednesday and will meet again next week to discuss ways to close the current deficit.
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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas for The CT Mirror reports:
The state Supreme Court denied a last-ditch effort by a coalition of parents, teachers and local officials to reconsider the court’s recent ruling that state education spending meets constitutional standards. The denial puts an end to a 12-year legal saga and leaves education funding decisions to the governor and Connecticut General Assembly.

The high court ruled 4-to-3 in mid-January that while many school districts struggle to help students overcome poverty, mental health issues, and other non-educational issues, doing so is not a constitutional obligation.

Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, writing for the majority, says: “It is not the function of the courts … to create educational policy or attempt by judicial fiat to eliminate all of the societal deficiencies that continue to frustrate the state’s educational efforts.” 
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Carl MacGowan at Newsday reports:
Brookhaven officials plan to sue Long Island Rail Road, charging that the railroad failed to respond to calls for adding grade crossings in Shirley. Daily traffic tie-ups on William Floyd Parkway and nearby roads prompted officials last year to hold a public meeting where residents called for additional crossings.

Town officials say the hearing obligated the LIRR to consider new crossings. To date, LIRR officials have not complied.

In a statement, LIRR spokesperson Aaron Donovan says the railroad would not consider adding crossings “for safety reasons.”  Donovan adds: “The LIRR opposes the creation of new railroad crossings. In fact, the LIRR is working to eliminate seven crossing in Nassau County.

Town officials worry that the limited north-south access on the Mastic-Shirley peninsula could create a safety hazard if those communities had to evacuate. Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico believes grade crossings should be added at either Madison, Hawthorne or Roberts Streets, all east of the parkway. 
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Riverhead Local’s Denise Civiletti reports: 
State lawmakers will hold a public hearing February 14 in Smithtown on the federal government’s plan to allow offshore natural gas and oil exploration in waters off the coast of New York. The hearing will focus on the impact on water quality, coastal management and fisheries, and the potential for increased oil spills and pollution if such drilling were permitted.

The Department of Interior wants to allow offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. territorial waters, outside a 25-mile coastal buffer. This implements President Trump’s order to broaden US domestic energy exploration. Federal officials say this will move the country from energy independence to energy dominance,

Governors along the East Coast universally oppose the plan which Governor Cuomo, called “yet another federal assault on our environment.”

A federal hearing is also scheduled in Hartford on February 13.
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Thursday February 1, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut customers pan Eversource rate request;
Connecticut lawmakers override Governor Malloy’s Medicare veto; New York educators pan Cuomo’s budget cuts; Suffolk County legislature to vote on sexual harassment resolution.
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Jack Kramer writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
A month after the average Eversource customer saw their monthly bill increase $7, the utility is looking for another rate increase that would start this May.The Public Utilities Regulator Authority (or PURA) is holding a series of four public hearings on the latest rate request across the state.

Yesterday, about 50 New Haven area residents came to the Branford fire station to mostly pan the proposal in front of PURA representatives. There will be more public hearings throughout the state.

Consumers can also submit comments via email. Comments should reference Docket Number 17-10-46. 
-----------------------------------------
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
As promised, the General Assembly on Wednesday voted to override Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of the funding needed to maintain benefits to the Medicare Savings Program. The House voted 131-4 and the Senate voted 30-1 to override the veto.
In his veto message, Malloy called the bill “wishful thinking, double-counting, and pushing problems off into the future.”  The override will only extend the current benefits until July 1.
In 2019, the program will fall short $130 million, if the same level of benefits are funded for more than 100,000 residents. 
-----------------------------------------
Bethany Bump reports for The Albany Times Union: 
New York education leaders urged state lawmakers on Wednesday to increase support to school districts next year.
Governor Cuomo seeks to cap aid in the areas of transportation, building and BOCES, the regional Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says school officials across the state are very concerned about the governor's proposed 3 percent increase in school aid next year
The increase - $338 million - would barely enable districts to maintain services at a time when student needs and mandated costs for employee salaries, health care premiums and teacher retirements are on the rise.
Anytime a district builds a new school or renovates a building, it must gain voter approval and can count on a certain percentage of the cost being reimbursed by the state. Under the governor's proposal, these reimbursements would be capped at a 2 percent increase statewide. 
-----------------------------------------
Rick Brand of Long Island Newsday reports:
 The Suffolk County Legislature will vote next Tuesday on a resolution requiring the County to track and publish sexual harassment complaints involving government officials and employees and disclose the source of settlement funds.

The resolution is one of a series of bills the County has taken to address sexual harassment.  Other bills addressed sexual harassment awareness training and distribution of materials on workers’ rights to new hires.

Said Legislator William Lindsay III, a democrat from Oakdale: “We have to be more proactive dealing with a problem that should not be permitted in our workforce.”

The resolution has bi-partisan support and is expected to pass. Republican legislator Tom Cilmi of Bay Shore said he “thoroughly backs the bill.” A spokesman for the Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, said the Executive also supports the bill. 
======

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

January 2018

Wednesday January 31, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: Democratic congressional delegation skeptical Trump address will translate to action for Connecticut towns; solar Industry Representatives say new solar panel tariff will hurt Connecticut businesses; MacArthur Airport could be tagged a Superfund site; reports of poor conditions for LIRR commuters persist
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Dan Freedman of the CT Post Reports: 
President Trump used his State of the Union Address to call on Congress to generate $1.5 trillion in investment in roads, railways and water lines. Connecticut’s Democratic delegation however, feels the President’s vision of restoring “our nation’s building heritage” is short on specifics. Both Senators Blumenthal and Murphy agreed, expecting states to fork over the lion’s share of infrastructure funding “doesn’t help Connecticut” with its ongoing financial crisis. 

Connecticut House members in attendance looking for olive branches, saw few such offerings from the president. Representative Rosa DeLauro told the Connecticut Post “President Trump spent much of the night talking about how great the economy is doing’’, nothing “could not be farther from the truth.”

Still, a few in the state’s delegation maintain hope. Representative Elizabeth Esty, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said of infrastructure improvements: “There’s a narrow window for threading the needle, but I think it can be done.”
 -----------------------------------
Brian Woodman Jr. reports in CT News Junkie that the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a U.S. trade organization, estimated that the country would lose 23,000 green energy jobs this year as a result of the 30% tariffs on solar panels the Trump administration recently imposed. 

Solar Connecticut Inc. Executive Director Mike Trahan estimates that six out of 10 panels installed in Connecticut come from China.  He said that since the tariffs would raise panel prices, layoffs would follow for installations. Trahan expressed doubt that the U.S. Department of Energy’s new $3 million “American Made Solar Prize” to encourage new manufacturing would compensate for the anticipated job losses. 

According to the SEIA, there are 2,174 jobs in Connecticut related to solar energy, mostly for installation.  The Association estimates that there are more than 53,000 homes in Connecticut with solar power, accounting for 1.19 percent of the electricity in the state. 
-----------------------------------
Emily C. Dooley and Valerie Bauman of Newsday report firefighting foam that was used and stored at MacArthur Airport could have contaminated local drinking water. On Tuesday, State environmental officials listed the Long Island Airport in Ronkonkoma as a possible Superfund site. 

A compound known as perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, appeared in samples taken at a nearby well earlier this month in levels above the federal health advisory threshold. The potential site designation means Islip Town, which owns MacArthur, must investigate site conditions; if the town fails to do so, the DEC will tap state Superfund money.

According to Newsday, the well in question is in Bohemia, about 7,500 feet away from the airport, and is operated as a water supply source by the Suffolk County Water Authority.  
Southwest, American and Frontier airlines fly out of MacArthur Airport, providing commercial service to some 5,000 passengers a day. 
-----------------------------------
An “unwarranted poor experience”. That is how Long Island Rail Road’s official watchdog group describes the average LIRR Commuter’s daily AM rush hour experience. Alfonso Castillo reports in Newsday, that the LIRR Commuter Council said it received reports of unshoveled, slippery platforms and riders getting conflicting information from station signs. 

In response to these findings, the Commuter Council has called for the restoration of the railroad President’s Forum, where president Patrick Nowakowski and other LIRR leaders would “hear firsthand from riders about their concerns” and outline what, if any, plans they have to address them.

The Commuter Council said the problems that impacted a recent snowy Tuesday morning commute in Ronkonkoma were “entirely disproportionate” to the conditions expected from the weather. The council urged the railroad to devote more resources to keeping platforms clear and safe. An LIRR spokesman told Newsday the agency is evaluating the request. 
=======
Tuesday January 30, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: Connecticut House Democrats push for highway tolls;
Blumenthal supports women reproductive rights; East Hampton fishermen question Deepwater Wind plans; Construction debris found littered Brentwood park cleared
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Keith Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe report in The CT Mirror that a dozen Connecticut House Democratic legislators will propose a bill in the upcoming legislative session to establish electronic tolling throughout highways in Connecticut. 

Proponents say the money is necessary to bail out the state’s Special Transportation Fund, which supports transportation construction projects. Growth in gasoline tax receipts has been meager, in part because of improving vehicle efficiency, so proponents argue new revenues are required.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter said the key is protecting toll revenues so they cannot be raided for other purposes. Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said tolls could have the unintended consequence of putting federal funding at risk.

The Malloy administration warned Wall Street credit rating agencies in November that the new state budget short-changes the transportation program. Absent more funding, the program is headed for dramatic contraction over the next five years.
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CT NewsJunkie’s Bhumika Choudhary reports:
A bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks failed to pass the U.S. Senate Monday, and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal vowed to continue opposing such legislation and advocating for women’s reproductive rights.

At a Hartford press conference before the vote, Blumenthal said: “Opposing the bill will enable every woman in America to make decisions for herself without interference from a politician, an insurance bureaucrat, or anyone else.” Both he and Senator Chris Murphy voted against the bill. 

During his floor speech, Blumenthal said the abortion ban would “provide virtually no adequate exception when a woman’s health is at risk and when there are fetal anomalies.”

Connecticut Women’s March organizer Jillian Gilchrest said, “nearly 99 percent of abortions happen before 20 weeks and abortions that happen after are high-risk.”
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Beth Young with East End Beacon reports:
Offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind has still not convinced East Hampton Town Trustees and fishermen that its plans to erect wind turbines off Montauk will not affect their livelihood. The wind company has begun the process of obtaining easements from the town to run roughly 60 miles of cable down a series of back roads and the Long Island Rail Road right of way.

Deepwater Wind consultant and bioelectromagnetics expert Dr. Bill Bailey said marine life would not be exposed to the cable’s electrical or magnetic fields because of the sheathing and burying the cable about six feet under the sea bed. Town trustee Rick Drew expressed disappointment that Dr. Bailey’s presentation didn’t include details about the effect of electromagnetic fields on locally important species.

East Hampton’s surfcasting is world-renowned because fish migrate parallel to the south shore. Deepwater Wind’s cable would bisect the migration lane. 

Drew said, “Hundreds of thousands of fishermen rely on this migration.”
Newsday’s Rachelle Blidner reports:
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Islip Town officials said construction debris found strewn at Roberto Clemente Park has been cleared, and the park may get additional fencing. Tarps and posts intended to protect newly poured concrete at the Brentwood park were found clumped on a sidewalk last week, along with empty containers and broken yellow construction tape. 

The park reopened last summer after county officials discovered 40,000 tons of contaminated debris dumped there in April 2014. 

Town spokeswoman Caroline Smith said the park remains an active construction site as contractors work to refurbish the pool, upgrade the filtration system, and improve other park sites.

Community activist Nelsena Day said Brentwood residents had asked officials to put a fence around all construction before the park re-opened.
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Monday January 29, 2018    (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: CT General Assembly wants legislators to receive sexual harassment retraining; protestors gather at Bridgeport killing site to condemn Jayson Negron decision; Malloy and Cuomo Say They Will Fight Trump Tax Reform In Court; East End Officials United Against Offshore Oil
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The Connecticut General Assembly is calling for a review of its sexual harassment policy for lawmakers and employees. The bipartisan call for retraining comes despite the one-time nature of the mandate and irrespective of the lawmaker’s term in office

Legislative leaders plan to introduce bills through the Joint Committee on Legislative Management and to hold a public hearing on the current policy for the state Capitol complex. The policy review doesn’t prevent any committee’s ability to consider altering the statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault or for enhancing criminal penalties in certain areas.

The policy was last reviewed and updated following an incident in 2013.

The decision to review the current policy follows Freedom of Information requests for about disciplinary action taken against any members of the General Assembly. There have been no documents to provide and no settlements made.——————————————————————
Supporters of Jayson Negron and his family protested a decision Friday of the state’s attorney not to prosecute a police officer who fatally shot the 15-year-old Bridgeport teen in May 2017. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
After waiting in Waterbury all day for the release of the report, more than 350 people turned out Friday evening at the site of the killing in Bridgeport to condemn the decision and demand the investigation be reopened. 

State’s Attorney Maureen Platt wrote in her decision that Officer James Boulay feared for his life and was therefore justified in shooting Negron after a brief stolen car chase in Bridgeport. Boulay said he fired after Negron put the car in reverse and hit him as he reached into the car to arrest the teen.

Justice for Jayson, a grassroots group that has been working with Negron’s family, called the police investigation a "sham" and said Negron was a victim of excessive force – a common occurrence against black and brown youth. Activists had called for Boulay to be charged with murder. The officer was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, pending the outcome of the report, and now will presumably be back on street duty.  

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
——————————————————————
Christopher Keating reports in the Hartford Courant:
Three Democratic governors called Friday for a multistate lawsuit against recently enacted federal tax code revisions, saying they are unfair to 12 states due to new limits on deductions for state income and property taxes.

Officials argue the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions is too low for affluent, high-tax areas like lower Fairfield County, Westchester County and Long Island; that the limits could hurt these real estate markets. 

Connecticut Governor  Dannel P. Malloy is joined by New York Governor   Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. A federal lawsuit is being prepared that will seek to include other states and could be filed within the next several weeks.

Cuomo told reporters: “This is purely double taxation…there’s a very strong argument that it’s unconstitutional. … The federal government is trying to trample state’s rights… Someone has to say…You can’t do this.’
——————————————————————
Christopher Walsh reports for the East Hampton Star:
Representative Lee Zeldin, state and municipal officials, environmental organizations, and business leaders held a press conference Friday morning at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. They presented a unified front against the Trump administration’s plan to open most federal waters to oil and gas exploration and drilling, including the Atlantic Ocean’s outer continental shelf.

In a statement on Tuesday, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele denounced the Trump administration’s decision. Mr. Thiele lent support to Gov. Cuomo’s request to the federal government to exempt New York State from the offshore drilling plan.

Thiele said that, barring action by the secretary of the interior, New York’s congressional delegation should enact legislation to remove the state from the initiative. Also, Thiele said “both our environment and our economy depend on clean oceans, bays, wetlands, and beaches.” 

He called on all Long Island residents to work in solidarity to defeat the Trump administration proposal.
========
Friday January 26, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Mike Merli, and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Connecticut lawmakers to override Malloy’s Medicare Savings Program veto; speakers, advocates want New Haven civilian police review board; Long Island school district on state fiscal-stress list considers staff, program cuts; New York Governor’s order lets pharmacists give flu shots to kids
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Speakers at a packed meeting at Yale Law School Thursday night called on the city of New Haven to create a civilian police review board, five years after a charter change called for it. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:

Two law students who have been researching the issue spoke alongside Emma Jones, whose son was killed by an East Haven police officer in 1997 and who has been working on the issue ever since. Their proposal would create an all-civilian review board with subpoena power to independently investigate complaints of police abuse, even as the police department’s own internal review process would continue. 

Jones said the time has come: “And I hope that every person here is going to take up the responsibility of doing something to make a change. And I think part of that change may come when we have a legitimate institution that will begin to hold police officers accountable.”

She asked people to contact their alders to ask for their support before the 2018 budget is approved, since the review board would need a source of funding.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Lawmakers will return to the state Capitol on Wednesday, January 31st to override Governor Dannel Malloy’s veto of funding for the Medicare Savings Program.

In his veto message, Malloy called the bill “wishful thinking, double-counting, and pushing problems off into the future.” Representative Cathy Abercrombie, a Meriden Democrat, told a group of consumer advocates Wednesday that the General Assembly has the votes to override the governor’s veto.

The House voted 130-3 and the Senate voted 32-1 on January 8th. Abercrombie told advocates that they have to be honest about this.

The override will only extend the current benefit levels until July 1st.
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The Albany Times-Union’s Brendan Lyons reports:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order Thursday that will allow children between the ages of 2 and 18 to receive flu shots from pharmacists. Regulations that limit pharmacists from administering flu shots to children under 18 are suspended.

But the Governor’s office says children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years should have their primary care provider give the vaccination.

The governor’s decision was prompted by a devastating flu season with more than 25,000 cases documented across the state.

More than 1,750 residents have been hospitalized with flu symptoms this week, the highest weekly outbreak since reporting began in 2004.
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Newsday’s John Hildebrand reports: 
Eastport-South Manor school district is among four on Long Island recently identified by the state comptroller as fiscally stressed, and school officials warn of possible staff and program cuts.

Superintendent Patrick Brimstein said the district must look at possible layoffs and other economies to balance its 2018-19 school year budget after having drawn down its cash reserves at an unsustainable rate in recent years. The current budget is nearly $93 million.
District officials want to keep within the state’s 2-percent baseline cap on property-tax increases and should reach a final decision by February 14. 

The comptroller rated Eastport-South Manor as having “moderate” stress — the second most serious category of financial pressure used in the annual rating system. The other Long Island districts — North Bellmore, Long Beach and Wyandanch — are classified in the less acute category of “susceptible to fiscal stress.”

Last year, 18 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties were deemed financially strained.
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Thursday January 25, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: Connecticut consumers still unhappy with new medical transportation contractor; Discovery Museum looks to former Bridgeport Mayor to serve as Executive Director; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs executive order for net neutrality; and on Long Island, a former Shinnecock Tribal Member continues to fight for his right to fish
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Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
“Outrage” was a word used repeatedly yesterday by a group of consumers who thought they were going to get an update on the progress of the state’s new medical transportation contractor. Veyo, the new contractor, started on January 1st and got off to a rocky start with some of the nearly 800,000 Medicaid recipients who rely on the contractor to get them to their doctors’ appointments and back home again.

Twenty-four days into the contract with Connecticut, the service is still not working properly. According to consumers and advocates there are still long wait times on the phone for patients trying to schedule rides, patients not getting to their medical appointments, or they are not getting picked up afterward.

That’s why the group of consumers were upset when they learned a Veyo representative would not be in attendance to answer their questions at Wednesday’s meeting at the Legislative Office Building.

The Department of Social Services had excused the company from attending after they initially appeared on the agenda.
 --------------------------------------------------------
Former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has hit the ground running in his new capacity as Executive Director of the Discovery.

WPKN News recently visited Finch at the museum located on Park Avenue. One of the recurring themes of our conversation focused on igniting creativity in Bridgeport’s youth through the exploration of science. 

Executive Director Finch believes the Discovery Museums mission is even more important given the current climate in Washington.

Bill Finch served as mayor of Bridgeport from 2007 until 2015. Most recently, Finch
led the New York State Thruway Authority at the behest of Governor Andrew Cuomo. 
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Rick Karlin writing for The Albany Times-Union reports:
Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order intended to strengthen net neutrality in New York by prohibiting state government contracts with internet companies that do not honor the rules that were unraveled last month by the Federal Communications Commission (or FCC).

The FCC voided rules that had prevented internet service providers from changing the speed of their delivery of content based on pricing and other factors.

Cuomo’s order said the free exchange of information through what many view as an essential service – the internet – prompted the need for immediate intervention. Cuomo’s order said the FCC’s decision to reverse its Obama-era rules was done to “satisfy corporate interests that are not aligned with those of New Yorkers.”
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Greg Wehner of the Southampton Press reports:
After a hearing last week, the case of David Taobi Silva, is heading to trial. Silva, a former Shinnecock Indian Nation leader was ticketed by State Department of Environmental Conservation agents last April for taking undersize eels and fishing without a license. Silva says his indigenous rights allow him to fish in what he considers tribal waters.

According to court documents, Mr. Silva caught 247 undersized eels in a creek bordering the Shinnecock Reservation. Mr. Silva argues that tribal members are exempt from the state’s fishing laws and regulations since fishing rights remained with the tribe when the land was taken.  

Mr. Silva is expected back in Southampton Town Justice Court on March 19, when a trial date is expected to be set.

(This updates the story we ran on Tuesday, January 22nd.) 
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Wednesday January 24, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus and to volunteers Alyssa Katz, Thomas Byrne and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: Hartford marcher’s sign celebrates Ahed Tamimi; bike sharing in Hartford coming soon; NYS bill to impose scrutiny on PSEG rate increases; North Fork Locals March Again 
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One sign at last weekend’s women’s march in Hartford, CT, highlighted the actions of a young Palestinian woman, whose family has been leading a non-violent campaign against the Israeli occupation for a decade.  

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Sarah Forman of Hamden held a sign that listed three courageous women and read, in part, “Ahed Tamimi, Live Like Her.” 

Tamimi is a Palestinian teenager who was arrested in her West Bank village for slapping an Israeli soldier after her 15-year-old cousin was critically wounded by the Israeli Defence Forces. 

“We don’t know if she’ll get out, or when she’ll get out. Her whole family has been arrested. She’s a very brave young woman, so I just wanted to give her a shout out and say this is one of my heroes because women are in the lead in so many places in the world, but we don’t care enough about it.”

An Israeli court recently ruled that Ahed and her mother, who was arrested for uploading a video of the incident that went viral, will stay in prison until their trial at an unspecified date. Ahed is one of 300 Palestinian children currently held in Israeli jails.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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Matthew Ormseth reports for the Hartford Courant:
Coming to Hartford this spring will be a bike-share program with an app that lets a rider find a GPS-tracked bike, unlock it and pay $1 per half hour of ride time. 

LimeBike, a California startup, is rolling out a pilot program with 300 bikes in Hartford starting in late March or early April. Unlike programs in New York City that anchor shared bikes at docking stations, LimeBike follows a free-standing model: cyclists can ride one of the company’s lime-green bikes, drop it wherever they disembark, and the bike is ready for its next rider.

LimeBike has also stated that to cater to New England, the company will disable its service when it snows until the weather clears.

Hartford officials will be holding a series of meetings with LimeBike representatives in coming months. The meetings will be open to the public. 
-----------------------------------------------------
Denise Civiletti of Riverhead Local reports:
 New York State politicians have introduced a bill to require PSEG-LI, the electric power company on Long Island, to consider the financial impact on customers when rate changes are proposed.

Current guidelines “do not consider the economic impact of rate increases on rate payers or the Long Island region,” said State Sentaor Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele. In 2015, a three-year rate increase was approved that raised rates by 7.3% and increased revenues by $287 million.  

It was the largest increase in the power company’s history and the politicians are concerned that the utility may raise rates again to offset revenue loss due to conservation efforts by rate payers.  “Long Islanders are successfully working hard to reduce energy consumption.  They should get the financial benefit of the efforts to conserve and not be punished with higher rates,” said Assemblyman Thiele.

The bill would mandate public hearings and provide more tools to reject rate increases.
--------------------------------------------
Kelly Zegers reports in the Suffolk Times that North Fork locals again this year took to the streets in Port Jefferson and Sag Harbor, and joined an estimated 200,000 people marching in New York City to carry forward last year’s Women’s Marches that followed President Trump’s inauguration.
Ali Tuthill of Greenport was one of them, with her husband and her three children.  Last year, Ms.Tuthill and her daughter Henley, now 6, marched in support of women’s rights. Since then, she said, as other issues have risen there are additional reasons to march again this year. 
“It was important for us to not only show solidarity but to show our children how important it is to take action when you are at odds with the philosophy and/or decision making of our elected officials. It is the heart and soul of democracy.” 
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Tuesday January 23, 2018 ( Thanks to WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus and volunteers Trace Alford, Danniella Tompos and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: most Connecticut lawmakers opposed bill that reopened government;
rally supports longtime Connecticut resident facing deportation; New York Comptroller announces major energy supplier to assess climate change risk; Shinnecock fights for right to fish Southampton watersTrace Alford, Danniella Tompos, Melinda Tuhus, and Michael Zweig.
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Ana Radelat reports in The Connecticut Mirror that most Connecticut lawmakers on Monday voted against the short-term spending bill that will reopen the government.  Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said: “Senator Blumenthal and I came to the conclusion that another (continuing resolution) is bad for Connecticut.”

Representatives Jim Himes, Rosa DeLauro, and Elizabeth Esty also voted “no” when the U.S. House took up the measure. Representatives John Larson and Joe Courtney were the only Connecticut lawmakers who voted for the bill.

Connecticut Democrats who opposed the bill said it failed to fund key programs, such as grants for community health centers or to fight opioid addiction, and failed to provide additional funding to help last year’s hurricane and forest fire victims, including the hundreds of Puerto Ricans who have moved to Connecticut. 

They also voted no because Republicans failed to consider legislation that would protect young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”
--------------------------------------------
Another long-time Connecticut resident is facing deportation at the end of the month, and the community came out to support him at a rally Sunday afternoon in a Danbury church. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Joel Colindres is a 33-year-old carpenter who fled his native Guatemala to escape death threats and – due to previous attorneys’ mishandling his case – is still waiting for an asylum hearing.

After elected officials and faith leaders spoke, Colindres and his U.S.-born wife, Samatha, spoke about the faith that sustains them as they fight to keep their family together. They live in New Fairfield and have two young children. He has a new attorney who is pursuing several options toward getting her client permanent status.

After an outdoor blessing, Colindres explained his situation: “We need some more time for this process to go through, because how can they say you have to leave when there is still paperwork under their eyes. They need to give an answer on the paperwork before they say, you should go.”

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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The Office of the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest electric power holding companies, will produce a climate change risk assessment that includes an analysis of the Paris Agreement’s goals.

The shareholder proposal DiNapoli filed on behalf of the state Common Retirement Fund’s requested that Duke Energy analyze how the Paris Agreement's goal of restricting global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will impact their business. Under the agreement, Duke Energy will produce its assessment in the first quarter of 2018.

DiNapoli recently reached similar agreements with ExxonMobil and PPL Corporation.
--------------------------------------------
27 East’s Greg Wehner reports:
A former Shinnecock Indian Nation leader is fighting for his indigenous right to fish in disputed tribal waters without being harassed by State Department of Environmental Conservation.

David Taobi Silva filed a civil rights violation with Suffolk County Minority Affairs while disputing a ticket he received from DEC agents for being in possession of juvenile eels. 

Juvenile eels are highly valued in Asian markets, and can fetch more than $1,000 per pound, according to the DEC website. State officials worry that the high price could result in depletion of the state’s juvenile eel fisheries.

Silva insists that as the original owners of the land, Shinnecock Indian Nation members should have the legal right to continue hunting and fishing on land formerly owned by the tribe.
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Monday January 22, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst and Lee Yuan Lew)

In the news tonight: Thousands Take To Women's March in Hartford; construction workers applaud tolls; Southold Stares Down Rising Seas; Suffolk County accepts wastewater-pipe project bid
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Hartford Courant’s Rebecca Lurye reports:
Thousands of people rallied in Bushnell Park for the second annual Women’s March on Saturday, raising awareness for LGBT rights; DACA; equal pay; paid family leave; racial equality; religious freedom; honesty among politicians; stronger environmental protections; sexual assault; and sexual misconduct.

Representative Robyn Porter of New Haven received applause and cheers for declaring it’s time for a largely white movement to take up issues affecting black women’s lives, like maternal and infant mortality, police brutality, mass incarceration, unemployment and drugs.

Over and over, speakers and marchers said they’re determined to win — to elect more women to office, get more women to the polls, to fight.  Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman said: “We knew 2017 was going to be a tough year and it sure was. We stood up and fought…we’re here today still standing, still fighting…We are relentless…fighting for justice. And eventually, we’re going to win that battle.” 
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Christine Stuart reports for CT News Junkie:
At a Connecticut Construction Industries Association forum a majority of Democratic candidates and one unaffiliated candidate for governor endorsed the idea of installing electronic tolls (driving taxes) on Connecticut’s highways. 

Connecticut’s special transportation fund will begin with a deficit in 2019 if the state fails to take preventative action. Traditional forms of revenue deposited into the Special Transportation Fund are the gas tax and the gross receipts tax. 

The General Assembly was unable to find enough votes to approve electronic driving taxes last year.  Attempts to create a bureaucratic structure to approve it without legislative approval were also scrapped.
It’s unclear if the legislature has enough support to get it passed before voters decide on a constitutional lockbox in November.

The lockbox would prevent lawmakers from raiding revenue earmarked for the Special Transportation Fund. Driving tax proponents had hoped to get a lockbox in place before moving forward with the idea, but that didn’t happen.
----------------------------------------
Rick Band of Newsday reports:
In March, crews are set to start work that will include tunneling deep under Long Island’s Great South Bay and putting in new outfall pipes.

The new pipes will replace a deteriorating pipe that carries millions of gallons of treated wastewater from the Southwest Sewer District. It then connects to an existing ocean outfall pipe — made of different materials that have exhibited no problems — that will take the treated wastewater 3.4 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The project, which is expected to take three years to complete, will span 14,000 feet to the Bergen Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in West Babylon. 

The winning bid, put forward by OHL-Posillico-SELI Overseas, came in nearly $20 million under the $207 million county lawmakers had appropriated for the project. 
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Beth Young reports for East End Beacon:
Grayson, the major winter storm that struck Long Island on Jan. 4. has opened up a new debate on the Southold Town Board over the town’s cost-sharing participation in an Army Corps of Engineers project. The storm breached County Road 48 in five places, severely damaging homes already precariously close to Long Island Sound. 

Southold Town Trustees have implored Southold Town to take “a thoughtful approach to coastal resiliency not presently written into our code….” Trustees Mike Domino and John Bredemeyer advocated for new coastal policies including “town-wide coastal retreat,” “comprehensive limitations on coastal erosion structures” and commitments to “a second or third or fourth rebuild.” 

The Town Trustees are responsible for granting wetland permits and overseeing access to waterways throughout town.
Unclear is what part of the share county, state or federal government—and the Town--would assume.

 “It’s not just the cost,” said Southold Town Supervisor Russell. “There is an underlying philosophical issue of whether the town should be in the business of restoring and protecting private property. It isn’t all about protecting Route 48.”

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Friday January 19, 2018 (Thanks to Trace Alford and other WPKN volunteers)

In the news tonight: Connecticut has fifth-lowest rate of gun deaths in U.S.; Fairfield restaurant to pay back wages, fines for fair labor standards penalties; solar company makes surprise offer to buy EPCAL site; Cuomo urges all New Yorkers to get flu shot
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Mark Pazniokas of CT Mirror reports: 
Connecticut has the nation’s fifth-lowest rate of firearm fatalities, according to a study released Wednesday by the Violence Policy Center. 

The gun control advocacy group studied gun death rates from 2009 – after the U.S. Supreme Court established a Second Amendment right to keep firearms in the home for self-defense – through 2016. In that time, the number of gun deaths in Connecticut fell by 2.2 percent while the rate nationally jumped by 17 percent. 

Governor Malloy said, “…we pride ourselves on being a national model for sensible gun policy because we know that commonsense measures…save lives.”

Just over 20 percent of households in Connecticut have firearms, compared to 14 percent in Massachusetts, which had the nation’s lowest rate of guns death, according to the study. New York, Hawaii and Rhode Island also had the lowest rates of firearm fatalities.  Alaska had the highest rate of gun deaths; more than half of all households have firearms. 
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Tara O'Neill of Connecticut Post reports: 
The Department of Labor has ordered a Fairfield restaurant and its owner to pay nearly $245,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to eight employees as part of a settlement.

Vinny’s of Fairfield, Inc., which does business as Vinny’s Ale House, and owner Ernst Buggisch failed to pay required overtime to employees when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, according to the department.

In the settlement, the company agreed to pay eight employees $244,930, plus $2,992 in penalties for violations of the overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

An investigation showed that the employer paid employees overtime at straight time rates, in cash, instead of time-and-a-half as the law requires.
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Riverhead Local’s Denise Civiletti reports:
The Riverhead Town Board had scheduled a public hearing Wednesday evening on the proposed sale of land in the Calverton Enterprise Park to Luminati Aerospace and a developer partner. Instead the Board heard an unsolicited offer to purchase the land from sPower, the largest private owner of solar power systems in the United States, and the operator of a solar farm in Calverton. 

Attorneys for the Salt Lake City, Utah company said they are prepared to offer more than the $40 million purchase price under consideration. They would not seek tax abatements or exemptions and would require minimal town services. 

sPower was sold to investors last year for approximately $1.6 billion. Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the town cannot entertain any other proposals because it has an agreement of sale with a company owned by Luminati Aerospace and a Canadian developer.

The town board was scheduled to hold a public hearing on Luminati’s proposal, but postponed it after learning of a change in the company’s makeup.
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Albany Times-Union’s Rick Karlin reports: 
With cases of the flu up 54 percent in the last week and more than 1,000 New Yorkers being hospitalized with the illness, Governor Cuomo urges anyone who hasn’t yet received the flu shot to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

This year’s variation of the flu is particularly virulent and widespread. Thus far in the flu season, New York State has had more than 17,000 laboratory-confirmed cases reported and more than 5,000 people hospitalized. 

In addition to calling on all New Yorkers to get vaccinated, Cuomo directed the Department of Health to work with healthcare associations and hospitals on fighting the flu.
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Thursday January 18, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: In Connecticut: landmark education ruling overturned; legislators alerted to hospital appeals; In New York: no State consensus on ‘New York’s plastic bag problem’ and law enforcement cracks down on ATVs on Long Island
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Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The Connecticut state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Connecticut’s education system is imperfect, but not unconstitutional.

The decision may signal the end of 12 years of litigation over whether the state has been providing enough funding for its poorest school districts. The justices overturned Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukwasher’s ruling.

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding which brought the case against then-Governor M. Jodi Rell and worked for years to get it to trial, was deeply disappointed with the decision.

James Finley, chief consultant for the group, said, “CCJEF believes a case of this landmark magnitude should not be left dangling on such a close vote but requires instead the kind of clarity for the future of the State’s educational system that only a new trial and a definitive majority can establish.”
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Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director sent legislative leaders a letter yesterday to let them know most of the state’s hospitals are appealing the rate changes. The hospitals claim the 32 percent increase for inpatient services and 6 percent for outpatient services “failed to correct the fundamental deficiencies” in the underlying rate methodology.

The rate increases are on top of over $1.5 billion in annual rates paid to hospitals include more than $823 million in inpatient fees and $731 million in outpatient charges.

At an event in Manchester yesterday, Malloy said he didn’t know how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would handle the latest development.
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Denise Civiletti reports for Riverhead Local:
The Plastic Bag Task Force created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last March to develop a statewide plan and legislation for “New York’s plastic bag problem” failed to reach a consensus. 

No single approach is advocated in the 24-page report,disappointing Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, who said: “It is the long-held position of the environmental community that a successful solution must include a fee component on all single-use bags. Improving recycling will not achieve this effect.”

Merchants have opposed plastic bag bans but support the NYC law allowing them to keep the five-cent fee. Cuomo blocked the “deeply flawed” law and its “$100 million bonus to private companies [that] is beyond the absurd.”  

The law, adopted by Suffolk County in 2016, took effect on Jan.1.  It requires retail stores to collect the five-cent fee that they then keep. Southold, East Hampton, Southampton and Patchogue are among those enacting the ban. Stores failing to comply with the county law face a $500 fine per occurrence.
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Beth Young writing for East End Beacon reports:
For 15 years, a game of cat-and-mouse has been played between illegal All-Terrain-Vehicle Drivers and law enforcement in the Central Pine Barrens of Long Island. 

“ATVs tear up trails, scare hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers,” said Suffolk County Park Ranger Arthur Pendzick.  In addition, he said: “High tension power lines are beginning to lean because of erosion caused by dirt bikes and quads.”

Although legal to purchase, ATVs are prohibited by law on public lands in Long Island.  ATVs are usually not registered or insured.  Mr. Pendzick leads a multi-agency ATV Task Force which patrols the 100,000 acre region twice a month and must observe ATV drivers in the act in order to issue a citation.  “Ninety percent of suspects flee when they encounter law enforcement,” he said, “those who don’t, simply face fines and impounding of their ATVs.”

The public can assist the Task Force by calling 1-877-BARRE to report illegal ATV activity in the Pine Barrens.
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Wednesday January 17th, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Michael Zweig and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: calls for an override to Governor Malloy’s Medicare veto; Connecticut’s fiscal growth slows as competitiveness diminishes; Connecticut joins New York in net-neutrality effort; Cuomo delivers a $168 billion state budget proposal
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Ken Dixon reports for CTPost: 
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) has called on fellow lawmakers to override Gov. Dan Malloy’s veto of a bill aimed at restoring income thresholds for more than 100,000 participants in the Medicare Savings Program, calling it “unsurprising, but unfortunate."

Malloy’s veto message, issued in the face of overwhelming votes, came as the state got word that tax revenue has failed to meet projections by $260 million, adding to the estimated $220 million shortfall in the state budget. 

Prior to Malloy’s veto on Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), noted that the decreasing revenue picture will hasten the need for legislative leaders to agree on further budget compromises, including a plan to fund the Medicare Savings Program when the next fiscal year begins on July 1. 
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Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie reports:
Connecticut’s economy dropped from 8th most competitive all the way down to 43rd in 2016, and now a group of business execs have made it their mission to navigate out of the state’s fiscal mess. 

The 14-member emergency task force, formally called the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, is expected to deliver their recommendations to the legislature by March 1. 

Because the Beacon Hill Institute rankings paint a gloomy picture for the state, the task force will focus on only the most important structural problems, beginning with the unfunded state and teacher retiree pension systems, followed by issues related to “fragmented” public services and the exodus of high net individuals.

The task force will look at review the state’s aging and bankrupt transportation system and encourage millennials’ return to Connecticut cities.
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Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post reports on Tuesday, Connecticut joined a multi-state effort to appeal the FCC’s recent rejection of so-called net-neutrality rules.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has said the failure of Congress to assure consumer access to the Internet exacerbates the need for he and other attorneys general to act. 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading the efforts of 20 states and the District of Columbia calling the Commission’s recent action "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”  A petition has been filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Last month, the FCC board’s five-members repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order, which had prohibited the blocking of content, as well as so-called throttling practices of internet service providers, to retain open access for consumers, a move Attorney General Jepsen says must be “overturned” because it lets providers discriminate against content, and even charge higher rates to content providers and consumers.
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Matthew Hamilton and Rick Karlin report in the Albany Times-Union that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has delivered a $168 billion state budget proposal. 

One budget highlight would allow businesses to assume their employees' income taxes as a payroll tax to counter recent federal tax changes that cap state and local tax deductions for individuals at $10,000.  Payroll taxes remain fully deductible.  Another proposal would allow people to make deductible "charitable donations" to their local school districts in lieu of school property taxes. 

Cuomo stressed that the plans are complicated, and it's not even clear if they are workable.
Budgeted spending on state agencies remains basically flat while school aid and Medicaid spending increase. No layoffs are planned; savings would come via attrition. 

Cuomo also wants to raise $1 billion in new revenue through such things as a tax on opioid prescription drugs and broadening the existing Internet sales tax. 
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And finally, this weekend Women will march in Hartford and New York City to celebrate women and the women’s rights movement. 

The 2018 Women's March on New York City will be held on Saturday, with a 1 PM start at 72nd and Central Park West. The Women's March on Hartford will step off on Saturday as well, starting at Corning Fountain, 21 Capitol Ave.  More information is at womensmarchalliance.org  
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Tuesday January 16, 2018  (Our thanks to tonight’s volunteers Trace Alford, Danniella Tompos, and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport school board wants event security, not the bill; opioid distributors sued by New Haven ask for dismissal; Hofstra receives federal grant to study beachgrass survival; Islip Town wants to lease 1,500 more acres for shellfishing
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Linda Conner Lambeck at the Connecticut Post reports: 
Bridgeport school board members are exploring ways to stop footing the bill for police coverage of district sporting events. Members would like the city to cover those. Police officers supplement school security guards already assigned to those events.

The board cut school police officers from its budget two years ago to save $500,000. The district’s school resource officers come from a federal grant awarded jointly to the police department and school system.The school district still gets billed for police coverage at after-school events, primarily for athletics, adding up to $100,000 annually.

At the suggestion of the district calling for police on an as-need basis, school police and security supervisor Sergeant Angelo Collazo warned that the response time would depend on what else is happening in the city.

The full board will review the matter at its January 22 meeting. 
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Jack Kramer at CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Earlier this month, three pharmaceutical opioid distributors asked the Superior Court to dismiss the City of New Haven’s lawsuit accusing the companies of indirectly shipping “suspicious” quantities of opioids into the city.

New Haven sued the three distributors and a handful of opioid manufacturers in October, accusing them of working to deceive doctors and patients about the addictive risks of opioids and their appropriateness for chronic pain management. The lawsuit seeks compensation for “exorbitant” costs for social services and increased expenditures for additional first responders.

New Haven’s lawsuit is similar to litigation filed in August against those drug makers by 17 other communities, including Bridgeport, Fairfield, Milford, North Haven, Newtown and Shelton. 

In its motion to dismiss, lawyers for the three distributors state: “Alleged injuries are too indirect, remote, and derivative as they relate to the distributors’ alleged conduct.” 
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Stefanie Dazio reports in Newsday that Hofstra University professor Javier Izquierdo has received a $476,000 federal grant from the National Science Foundation to identify and study the microorganisms that help — or impede — beachgrass survival in the dunes along Long Island’s South Shore.

The beachgrass anchors the fragile ecosystems found on the dunes, which act as the first line of defense for South Shore communities during major weather events like superstorm Sandy. 

The grant funds stipends for students’ summer research through 2020. Izquierdo said the goal is to determine if certain microbes can be introduced to support struggling beachgrass plants. If that’s the case, their research could save municipalities millions of dollars in dune replenishment costs.

The team is currently working with several municipalities, including Oyster Bay and Babylon towns, Fire Island and Long Beach. They plan to share their findings and also do educational outreach. 
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Valerie Bauman reports in Newsday that Islip Town officials are seeking state approval to vastly expand shellfishing revival efforts in the Great South Bay. The town currently leases 125 acres of town-owned underwater land to shellfish farmers, and wants to expand that program by more than 1,500 acres.

Islip’s bay-bottom initiative was launched in 2012 to help bring back the region’s shellfish industry, support local farmers, and improve water quality in the bay. The town says it has a waiting list of about 120 shellfish farmers interested in leasing parcels. The town charges $750 per acre, per year. 

The state Department of Environmental Conservation needs to give final approval. 

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Monday January 15, 2018  (Thanks to volunteer news editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson, Lee Yuen Lew and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

On tonight’s news: Sandy Hook report released; Dan Drew, Liz Linehan End Campaign;
Keith Ellison addresses Democratic activists in New Haven; New York Lawmakers Urged to Confront Corruption
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For the Harford Courant, David Altimari and David Owens report:
A Connecticut State Police after-action report concluded many people, including civilians, had access to Sandy Hook Elementary School in the hours following the 2012 shooting, and this led to contamination of the crime scene.

The report noted: “Other individuals, uninvolved CSP command staff, members of outside agencies, and dignitaries were allowed into the school over the next several days, disrupting processing of the scene by detectives, potentially risking scene integrity, and unnecessarily exposing personnel to the disturbing scene.”

Also critiqued were improperly worn bulletproof vests, how victims’ families were notified of their child’s death, and how the crime scene was handled. The report also highlighted what the police did well, including the establishment of a family liaison program with individual troopers assigned to assist each victim’s family.

Questions were raised about why the report took five years, an unusually long time, to be released but these were largely left unanswered.
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According to Christine Stuart reporting for Connecticut News Junkie:
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew and his running mate, Cheshire state Representative Liz Linehan, ended their campaign for governor and lieutenant governor. They cited fundraising difficulties.

One of the first candidates to announce last year, Drew struggled from the start.  Last September, he was criticized for sending letters to the homes of town employees. The state Election Enforcement Commission is investigating that matter. The Middletown Common Council approved an investigation into a gender discrimination complaint and he recently lost his seat on the local Democratic Town Committee.

In the past quarter, Drew raised over $91,000 and received over $37,000 in individual donations, but most of that money has already been spent.

Drew and Linehan said in a statement: “Ultimately it became very difficult to raise the required funds to qualify for public financing.”
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Keith Ellison, a representative from Minnesota and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, spoke in New Haven on Saturday to a packed room of activists eager to change the party’s trajectory.
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WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
Congressmember Keith Ellison said the party’s focus on just winning elections and not winning the argument about how to concretely improve people’s lives led to disaster. “Do you know we have lost over 1,000 seats across the country in terms of state legislative seats, governorships and things like that? How did we get here? The answer in just a few words is, we’ve failed to do community organizing and grassroots engagement.”

He said under new leadership the party is doing that grassroots work in connection with lots of other groups that may or may not identify with the party, such as labor unions and Indivisible groups around the country.

Ellison was and is a big supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. He noted that in 2016 the Clinton wing of the party had put its “thumb on the scale” in the primaries to get an unfair advantage at the convention, but said since then the two wings have worked together to create a unity document and level the playing field.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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From Andrea Sears reporting for the Public News Service:
Government watchdogs have repeatedly dubbed New York as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. As more New York state elected officials face federal charges, good-government watchdog groups are urging the governor and lawmakers to institute reforms.

At least six former New York public officials are scheduled for trial or retrial in the first six months of this year. At least 33 New York legislators have left office for corruption-related issues in the past 18 years.

Priscilla Grim, communications and marketing manager for Citizens Union, says lawmakers in Albany have done little to stop public corruptions. Grim’s group and others have launched a Restore Public Trust campaign, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to adopt a package of reforms. Grim says: "We're really looking for basic accountability, we're looking for transparency, we're looking for strict pay-to-play restrictions on state vendors.”
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Friday January 12, 2018 (Thanks to volunteer news editors John Iannuzi, Trace Alford, Michael Zweig and Anthony Ernst)

On tonight’s news: Connecticut sees Reduction in Incarceration Rates for Women; transgender woman claims harassment at Suffolk jail in lawsuit; 17 with suspected MS-13 ties indicted on Long Island; Brookhaven planners OK scaled-down solar project in Mastic
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Newsday reports:
A transgender woman has filed a federal lawsuit against Suffolk County seeking at least $1 million. The woman claims she was harassed, molested and denied hormone medication while detained in the County Correctional Facility.

Alyssa Giordano filed the lawsuit Wednesday alleging she was housed in a male unit of the jail, despite an order from a Suffolk County judge that she be housed with women. In the lawsuit she claims she was “subjected to weeks of mistreatment by the Correctional Facility and its staff.”

The suit alleges that Suffolk County has a policy, pattern or custom “to treat transgender inmates differently” from non-transgendered inmates, and “to disregard the gender of transgender individuals when making housing placement decisions.” David Shanies, Giordano’s attorney, says “Suffolk County has a shameful history in its treatment of transgender inmates and a change is needed.” 

The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages and an injunction to force county officials to “implement policies and procedures necessary to protect the constitutional rights of transgender inmates.” Suffolk officials could not be reached for comment. 
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Newsday reports that what started as an ordinary drug-trafficking investigation developed into a probe that delivered “another heavy blow” to MS-13’s infrastructure, authorities said Thursday. 

They cited the arrest of the gang’s East Coast leader, a $1 million heroin seizure and the foiling of murder plots involving a Long Island clique of the syndicate. Law enforcement officials also charged another defendant in the July machete slaying of Roosevelt teenager Angel Soler.  All those arraigned pleaded not guilty.

Law enforcement officials said the gang’s two local cliques operated in towns including Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, Uniondale, Glen Cove, Greenport and Central Islip.The eight defendants who appeared for arraignment ranged in age from 17 to 29, and all but one had Long Island ties.

The Nassau Police Department and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force also took part in the probe with Nassau County’s District Attorney. 
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The Brookhaven Planning Board on Monday approved a scaled-down solar project for land in Mastic. The approval gives the go-ahead for development of 40 acres within the 100-acre parcel on Moriches-Middle Island Road to begin.

The pine barrens expansion law, vetoed by Governor Cuomo last month, would have preserved the Mastic property and another 1,000 acres around the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant. 

MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, called the board’s decision “appalling.” The civic association is suing to block the solar array, saying it failed to comply with a new Brookhaven Town code.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine, had been negotiating with Cuomo’s office to work out an offer to preserve the 100-acre parcel and give the developer alternative space on the town landfill to build its project. Romaine said his staff was meeting Thursday with Cuomo’s staff in Manhattan to continue talks. 
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Thursday January 11, 2918 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Thomas Byrne, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s Republican candidates for governor engage in second debate; Connecticut sees enrollment gains in its health insurance exchange; New Suffolk School Board to decide district’s fate this month; and Peconic Bay Power Squadron to offer boating safety course next month
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Yesterday, nine Republican gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut tried to separate themselves from the pack during the party’s second debate. The issue of electability and what it means to be a Republican in Connecticut took center stage.

The participating candidates included Fairfield attorney Peter Lumaj; former Trumbull Mayor Tim Herbst; Senator Toni Boucher (from Wilton); Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton; Representative Prasad Srinivasan (from Glastonbury); Stamford’s chief financial officer Mike Handler; Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti; Westport tech consultant Steve Obsitnik; and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.

In order to participate, candidates had to have raised more than $75,000. Several of the candidates on stage have already surpassed the $250,000 threshold to qualify for public financing.
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Three months after President Donald Trump declared the death of the Affordable Care Act, United States Representative Joe Courtney was on the House floor pointing to enrollment gains in Connecticut’s health insurance exchange as evidence the Affordable Care Act is stable and growing.

Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, enrolled 114,135 individuals in private health insurance plans during the latest open enrollment period – nearly 3,000 more than a year ago. Courtney said the increase occurred despite serious headwinds from the Trump administration, which had shortened the enrollment period and reduced advertising.

The lawmaker pointed to a report in The Hill, which found that insurers who decided to stick with the Affordable Care Act after a tumultuous 2017 are likely to have a relatively profitable year thanks in part to higher-than-expected enrollment.
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The Suffolk Times reports:
The existence of a school district on Long Island is in doubt as the school board deals with dwindling school population and increasing costs.

The New Suffolk school district, located on the North Fork of Long Island, has just 15 students in grades K – 6, and has five full-time staff members, two classroom teachers, two teaching assistants, and another teacher who was dismissed in 2015 but was recently awarded reinstatement with back pay costing the district over 300,000 dollars.

The school district has three choices, according to school board president, Mr. Tony Dill: keep the school open with three full-time teachers, keep it open with two full-time teachers, or send the students to neighboring schools districts such as Mattituck-Cutchogue or Southold.  Should the 111-year old school remain open, residents should expect significant tax increases, staffing cuts, and a restructuring of curriculum.  “They’re all bad choices,” said Mr. Dill.

The school board makes its decision on January 31.
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Riverhead Local reports:
Next month a four-session Coast Guard-approved boating course is being offered by Peconic Bay Power Squadron, which is Eastern Long Island’s local unit of the United States Power Squadrons. Called “America’s Boating Course,” it will be held on four Tuesdays in February at Southampton Senior Center, located at 25 Ponquogue Avenue in Hampton Bays.

America’s Boating Course is approved by New York State for compliance with the state boater education law. The law requires all operators of mechanically propelled vessels in New York Waters born on or after May 1st, 1996 to have a boating safety certificate.

Material presented will cover boating law, safety equipment, safe boating practices, navigation, boating emergencies, personal watercraft, charts, GPS, trailering and much more.

Students must be at least 10 years of age on or before Feb. 27th to register for the class.
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Wednesday January 10, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker)

In the news tonight: hike in fees and reduction in service could be a reality for Metro North Commuters; Council members to Bridgeport Mayor, “pay up”; sudden loss of legal status spells high anxiety for thousands of L.I. families; and, New York lawmakers stick to the script ahead of session  
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Connecticut Post reports: 
Metro-North commuters are facing a 10 percent fare hike this year and reduced service to cover ongoing shortfalls in transportation funding from the General Assembly. 

Bus fares would increase 25 cents, weekday off-peak rail service would be reduced on the Shore Line East, Danbury, Waterbury and New Canaan branch lines, and weekend service on those lines would be eliminated. Transit districts would see a 5 percent reduction in funding. 

Jim Gildea, president of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, said: “These increases and service reductions fall squarely on our state legislators and all commuters need to rise up and remember this on Election Day. Commuters will not forget.” 

DOT did not respond to questions about whether officials would cancel the proposed rate hikes if the General Assembly authorized sufficient funding. After holding public hearings, DOT currently decides whether to raise fares. 
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Should Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim pay the city back for his use of a taxpayer-funded police detective while campaigning for governor? Several City Council Members say yes. 

Freshman Councilwoman Maria Zambrano Viggiano, co-chair of the budget committee, said it would be a gesture of good faith to residents. While many Council members are considered “Ganim Supporters” the consensus seems to be taxpayer-funded police should not be with the mayor during those times he is campaigning for higher office. 

The Connecticut Post reports Councilman Peter Spain emailed a proposed resolution to the council requiring Ganim not only fully reimburse the city for campaign-related expenses, but also provide monthly reports on the use of police drivers “reflecting location, event and hours.” 

The budget committee met on Monday, nearly a week after Ganim and his driver, Bridgeport Detective Ramon Garcia, were stopped by a state trooper in Southington for speeding. 
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Riverhead Local reports: 
Termination of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation will affect 16,200 of Long Island’s El Salvadoran immigrants. 

Signed into law 27 years ago by Republican President George H.W. Bush and approved for El Salvador in 2001, this was intended as a temporary solution without possibility of permanent residency or citizenship. TPS is scheduled to end by Jan. 9, 2019. 
Immigrants and their advocates argue that the earthquake conditions of 2001 have been replaced by the existential realities of poverty, lack of infrastructure and gang violence affecting the country today. Carlos Reyes who came to the US 24 years ago asks: “[But] how can I go back to El Salvador? I don’t know how to function in a country that is dominated by violence and gangs.” 

Now, immigrant advocates say, is the time for Salvadorans to take advantage of the “orderly transition” provided by the 18-month delay to either leave the country or reach out to immigration experts for immigration remedies. 

A meeting of the National TPS Alliance will take place on Friday, at 7 p.m. at 238 Horton Avenue in Riverhead to talk about TPS.
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Lawmakers in New York have no plans on “rocking the boat” this legislative session. 
Facing a $4 billion-plus deficit and re-election campaigns, elected officials in the capital are sticking to familiar scripts this year. 

Albany Times-Union reports Assembly Democrats on Monday focused on social issues such as gun control and protecting immigrants, as well as fixing the New York City subway system. 

The next day Senate Republicans rolled out their priorities which include protecting existing tax breaks for homeowners and wage earners including a middle-class income tax cut that takes effect this year. An estimated 4.4 million wage earners could save about $250 each this year, with that amount rising to $750 when fully phased in by 2025. 

This cut is separate from the federal tax cut that Congress passed in December.
For their part, New York State Democratic lawmakers called for the criminal justice reforms as well as tougher gun control measures such as a complete ban on bump stocks that can convert some rifles into automatic weapons.
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Tuesday January 9, 2018  (Thanks to volunteer editors Trace Alford and Danniella Tompos)

On tonight’s news: Connecticut tax receipts are up; Legislature reverses cuts to Medicare; Malloy nominates first gay Supreme Court chief justice; loss of Salvadorans would have negative impact on Long Island; and, the search for a Suffolk Police commissioner 
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The Connecticut Post reports:
Connecticut collected $900 million in personal income taxes in December and January. The amount was unexpected and could be a sign the state’s economy may be improving.  
Governor Dannel Malloy calls the news “very promising” for the state but warned that the General Assembly must resolve a more than $200 million deficit in the current two-year budget.

The collected taxes include normal estimated payments, one-time payments based on repatriation of foreign profits and accelerated payments that would normally have been received later in January or in April.

If the one-time revenues are used to rebuild the state’s rainy-day fund the governor says his administration will have given Connecticut residents and businesses the fiscal responsibility they have been demanding. 
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The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Monday to reverse health care program cuts affecting as many as 113,000 seniors and the disabled. The House of Representatives voted 130-3 to adopt the measure late Monday morning, and the Senate passed it 32-1 early in the afternoon.

But Governor Malloy — who has pledged to veto the measure — and others insist that the means used to restore $54 million to the Medicare Savings Program worsened the already deficit-plagued state budget.

Legislative leaders of both parties spoke about the need to take care of people who need the most help. Several legislators said they had been inundated in recent weeks with phone calls and emails 
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CT Mirror reports: 
Justice Andrew J. McDonald was named Monday by Governor Malloy as his choice for chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.  McDonald became Connecticut’s first openly gay justice when he joined the court five years ago.

McDonald was a legal advisor to Malloy when he was Stamford’s Mayor. He would be the first openly gay chief justice in any state. The appointment must be confirmed by the legislature. 
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Newsday reports:
Thousands of Long Island residents from El Salvador must either leave, seek lawful residency or fall into illegal status after the Trump administration terminated their Temporary Protective Status (or TPS) Monday.

Patrick Young, program director at the Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead and Brentwood, said previous administrations had considered “the conditions of chaotic violence in El Salvador” when they extended TPS.

Young said El Salvador “has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world and you are now going to be deporting people who have lived in this country without any criminal background … to a country where their lives will be in grave danger.” 

Young and other advocates are also concerned about the impact of the decision on Long Island’s economy and the fate of U.S. citizen children of affected families. If Salvadorans stay past the deadline, Young said: “Many will go from being productive taxpaying homeowners to standing in street corners waiting for whatever job they can get in landscaping …Their children will now fall into the care of the government, instead of the care of their parents.” 
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Suffolk County has received resumes from more than 100 candidates for the job of commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, the 11th largest department in the nation.
A seven-member committee has begun the process of winnowing down the unexpectedly large number of contenders for the $171,000-a-year job overseeing a department with a $521 million budget and 3,400 employees.

About 50 of the resumes fit county criteria calling for candidates possessing “a high level of leadership, analytic and communication ability while demonstrating the highest level of integrity, vision and skill.” More than half the resumes appear to have been generated from recruiting firms looking to place clients.

The committee hopes to winnow the number of candidates to 25 within the next few weeks and then discuss with County Executive Bellone how many to interview. Bellone will also meet with groups interested in police issues to get their input
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Monday January 8, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Lee Yuen Lew, Gretchen Swanson, and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport Police to launch body, dash cams; lawmakers aren’t moved by Malloy veto threat; Court overturns New York medical marijuana companies’ bid to block new operators; LIRR riders brace for new round of Penn Station renovation
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According to Connecticut Post: 
By the end of January, at least 33 members of the Bridgeport Police Department will be patrolling the city with body cameras and dashboard cameras, Police Chief Armando Perez said Saturday.

Volunteers on the police force will participate in a 90-day pilot program, set to launch by the end of this month, to field-evaluate three possible vendors for body and dashboard cameras. One vendor is Taser, which carries Axon body cameras.

Perez did not estimate the total expected cost to implement the program, but said the department would be reimbursed by the state. He said: “We’re trying to mirror New Haven PD and the state.” New Haven uses Taser and rolled out its body cameras in November.

After the pilot program, Perez said, every Bridgeport Police car would be issued a dashboard camera and body cameras issued to all patrol officers, sergeants and specialized non-undercover units.
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CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Governor Malloy told legislative leaders he would veto their proposal to increase benefits for the Medicare Savings Program.

The bill details how lawmakers would find $54 million in spending cuts and savings to restore the program to its previous levels until July 1, 2018. That includes taking $19.3 million in savings from the teacher’s retirement account.

Malloy said he has already delayed changes to the program through executive action. He called the bill “posturing at best and bad budgeting at worst, and if it comes to my desk in its current form, I will veto it.”  However, both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders seem undeterred by the veto threat. 

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said lawmakers will convene today to pass the bill. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat, said there’s a “unified bipartisan consensus” for preserving the Medicare Savings Program. 
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Albany Times-Union reports: New York State's Medical Cannabis Industry Association suffered a setback late last month. A state Supreme Court justice dismissed its lawsuit to block health officials from doubling the number of companies permitted to grow and distribute medical marijuana.

A contention that the law enabling medical marijuana production in New York restricts the number of companies to five was rejected. The lawsuit argued that expanding the number of companies harms the fledgling industry and its patients who rely on medical marijuana for pain relief from debilitating conditions.

The decision appears to allow five additional state-approved companies to help grow operations and retail dispensaries, provided Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Justice Department does not follow last week’s memo calling marijuana a “dangerous drug” with action against states with legalized marijuana.

The plaintiffs are contemplating next steps.
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Newsday reports: 
Long Island Rail Road riders, who last summer weathered service disruptions due to major repairs at Penn Station, are bracing for a new round of renovation work that starts today and will last four months. Amtrak is reconstructing as many as three tracks at Penn Station that normally serve LIRR riders.

The LIRR has altered schedules to accommodate the work, diverting eight rush-hour trains that usually terminate or originate at Penn Station, to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn or Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens.

Amtrak said the new project would have far less impact on riders compared to the “summer of hell,” as dubbed by Governor Cuomo. But worries persist among riders and their advocates who note that this installment of the Penn repairs comes when fewer riders are on vacation and winter weather issues already stress the system. 

The project will have less construction hours, less track work and less trains out of service, but there will no replacement buses or ferries or fare reductions.
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Friday January 5, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: half of Connecticut hospitals face Medicare penalty; new education standards for Connecticut’s expelled students; new Long Island Railroad service for South Fork to start in 2019; and, a closer look at Cuomo’s 2018 policy plan
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Connecticut Post reports:
Fifteen of Connecticut’s 31 hospitals will lose part of their Medicare payments in 2018 as a penalty for having relatively high rates of patients who acquired preventable injuries and infections while hospitalized.

Bridgeport Hospital, the Norwalk Hospital Association and Yale New Haven Hospital are among the penalized facilities that will lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements this fiscal year. The fines are part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program.

Some hospitals in the past have claimed the ratings program unfairly disadvantages certain hospitals if they treat certain populations or are teaching hospitals.

Connecticut Hospital Association senior vice president for clinical affairs Dr. Mary Cooper says: “Connecticut hospitals have always been dedicated to providing excellent quality care to patients.” She recognizes “there is still work to be done.”
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The CT Mirror and Connecticut Post reports:
The state Board of Education unanimously approved new standards Wednesday that require school districts give expelled students more than just homework.  Districts are now required to provide students with access to programming comparable to a regular classroom setting during their expulsion. School districts must also address the issues that led to expulsion.

The state board expects enrollment in an education program run by the district or other provider will be necessary. Current state law requires an alternative educational opportunity, but does not stipulate quality.

Of the nearly 750 students expelled last school year, nearly half received only homework assignments; almost a quarter went into an alternative education setting; and 14 percent received tutoring. Nearly one in 10 received no education during expulsion.
The average expulsion lasted 115 days.

Some superintendents and school boards lobbied against standards they consider too costly and restrictive. But no one testified against the proposed standards.
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As reported by Newsday, a new commuter train shuttling workers across the South Fork will be operational by spring 2019.  The service was announced Wednesday by Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

Two additional morning and afternoon Long Island railroad trains would run between Speonk and Montauk starting as early as the fall.

A growing “trade parade” of carpenters, landscapers and other workers traverse the single east–west highway during the morning and evening commutes.  Workers at schools hospitals and town offices report long commute times that the new service is designed to fix. Schneiderman said riders would pay very little for fares.

East Hampton and Southampton towns, perhaps with the help of state funds, would provide bus transportation from the train stations to work locations.
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Albany Times-Union reports:
As New Yorkers digest the headlines from this week’s State of the State Address delivered by Governor Cuomo, additional details from his agenda for 2018 have come forth.

On Wednesday the lead story following the Governor’s address had to do with ending cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. A closer review of Cuomo’s policy book for the new year suggests he wants to eliminate statutes of limitation for all sexually related criminal offenses committed against someone younger than 18. This was to happen in 2017 under the Child Victims Act, but Albany came up short.

Other items that in the policy manual that did not make it into Wednesday’s State of the State include reducing solitary confinement by 1,200 beds, cracking down on passing a stopped school bus, and extending the state’s autonomous vehicle testing program, which was approved last year. Currently, the program is set to expire later this year.
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Thursday January 4, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne, Ramzi Babouder-Matta, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: three Connecticut towns seek help after being shortchanged in the state budget; top school officials in Connecticut say there is no room for education cuts; polar plunge benefits Riverhead-based charity; and the SNAP system is back online following yesterday’s outage. 
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
When the Connecticut State General Assembly passed the new two-year budget in October and then tried to fix it in November, they failed to modify language that shortchanged Bridgeport, Hamden, and Torrington with respect to reimbursements for local car taxes.
Yesterday, the mayors of those three communities wrote a letter to the Office of Policy and Management (or OPM) explaining their predicament, which resulted from property revaluations that happened or were imposed after 2015 when the state first implemented its new supplemental car tax payment structure.

Based on the October agreement, there was $5 million allocated to offset the $10.59 million impact on the three communities, but OPM announced in November that it would not spend that money as part of “budgetary holdbacks.”

The three towns are hoping to meet with the Office of Policy and Management to discuss the distribution of the $5 million in the short-term and continue the discussion when the General Assembly reconvenes in February. 
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The Connecticut Mirror reports:
After being asked by Governor Malloy’s budget office to cut state education spending, Connecticut’s top school officials decided reductions are not possible. The education officials said they concluded that cuts would place the state in danger of violating federal laws, including those governing the education of students with disabilities. They added that state aid to local districts has already been cut enough.

In the bipartisan budget the legislature approved, it reduced education aid to middle- and high-income districts and shielded the 33 poorest districts from cuts.They also promised to follow a new formula that would increase education spending over the next nine years and direct it predominantly to the poorest districts.

In a letter to all state agency leaders, the governors’ budget office indicated big cuts will be necessary. The governor will release his budget recommendations on February 7th for the General Assembly to consider. 
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Newsday reports:
Colin Mather, owner of The Seafood Shop in Wainscott, has hosted the community’s New Year’s Day polar bear plunge into the Atlantic Ocean for 19 years. 

The event benefits charity annually, and this year Mather dedicated the plunge to Jean Lanier, a longtime customer of his who passed away this past July at 71. The proceeds went toward L’Arche Long Island, founded by Lanier. L’Arche is an international organization started in France that creates communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live together as peers. 

In December 2016, the L’Arche Long Island home opened Riverhead.
Kathleen Colon, administration manager and home life leader of L’Arche Long Island said of the organization: “We eat and live amongst each other. It’s just about making their world bigger.”

L’Arche Long Island was a passion Jean shared with wife Judith, who also contributed her time to the organization and was in attendance at the plunge Monday. 
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
People using food stamps were unable to make purchases for a short time on Wednesday after a system outage occurred that affected several states including New York.  

The cause of the outage is unknown and was limited to one company that helps the government process transactions made through the electronic debit card system for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Program or SNAP.  

The system was back online after about an hour, according to Anthony Farmer, a spokesperson for the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.  
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Wednesday January 3, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Danniella Tompos and Tony Ernst)

In the news tonight: nearly 8 years after being released from Prison, Bridgeport Mayor announces bid for Governor; debt from 2009 finally retired in Connecticut; Cuomo wants to end cash bail on lesser crimes; rush hour delays this morning leave LI commuters in the cold once again
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An ex-convict who mounted a political comeback with his 2015 election as mayor of Bridgeport filed paperwork officially today to run for governor.

Joe Ganim was convicted of 16 federal corruption charges in 2003 and sentenced to nine years in prison. Prosecutors said he steered city contracts to his associates in exchange for more than a half million dollars worth of bribes, kickbacks and other personal benefits.

Surrounded by media and staff as he turned in the documents at the State Elections Enforcement Commission office in Hartford this morning. Ganim admitted “I am far from a perfect candidate: “I’m someone who has made mistakes in my life.” With that said, the Democrat mayor believes his successes in reviving Bridgeport, including attracting economic development and balancing the budget, would prepare him well for the governor’s job.

Ganim concluded: “When you get past the headlines and you get to the body of the story, I think it’s about my experience of leading the state’s largest city.” 
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CT News Junkie reports: 
Connecticut has finally paid off $950 million Dollars in Economic Recovery Notes it borrowed back in 2009, under then Governor Jodi Rell to close the budget deficit.

Approved by the Democrat-controlled House and Senate at the time, the move ultimately saddled Democratic Governor Dan Malloy’s administration with the responsibility of paying off the debt. The state ended up paying a total of $1.09 billion, which included $923.8 million of principal and $166.3 million in interest. 
Malloy said: “Completing payment on the Economic Recovery Notes closes a regrettable chapter in Connecticut’s financial history.”

The bonds were refinanced twice, once in 2013 and again the following year, lowering the interest costs from $170.1 million to $166.3 million and extending the repayment period by nearly two years. 
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Newsday reports:
New York Governor Cuomo has proposed to end cash bail for people arrested on misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges as part of a package of criminal justice measures, he announced as part of his State of the State address Wednesday afternoon. Cuomo also proposes to require faster disclosure of evidence favorable to the defendant and of witnesses’ criminal records. 

The Governor would also ban the seizing of assets of defendants - unless an arrest is made - as well as easing the re-entry of convicted people from prison to communities. Several of the proposals have been proposed previously by Democrats in the Legislature, but have been opposed by the Senate’s Republican majority. 
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Newsday reports: 
Long Island Rail Road commuters waiting in the bitter cold this morning were met with delays, cancellations, and diversions following an announcement at 6 AM of damage to the third rail in one of Amtrak’s East River tunnels. Frustrated riders at the Ronkonkoma LIRR station spent over an hour waiting for trains, crammed into a packed waiting room, until finally boarding extremely overcrowded rail cars. 

Newsday pointed out that just three days into the new year has brought three days of delays on the railroad. On Tuesday, service on the Port Washington Branch was suspended for several hours because of a broken rail at Plandome, and there were delays on Babylon Branch that began Monday, New Year’s Day, which spilled over to Tuesday.

Additional travel problems are possible next week when the railroad makes several schedule changes to accommodate Amtrak work at Penn Station. 
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Tuesday January 2, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford)

In the news tonight: Husky B extended until February 28; Connecticut teacher pension changes costs state $20 million; Long Islanders get wage boost and more paid family care leave; Riverhead swears in first woman town supervisor
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CT NewsJunkie reports: 
The nearly 17,000 children in Connecticut with Husky B health insurance will have coverage through February thanks to a small amount of federal funding. 

The state’s Department of Social Services announced last week that it could extend coverage until February 28. It has previously announced the program would end January 31 due to lack of federal funding. Last month, Congress approved appropriations for an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program – HUSKY B in Connecticut. 

The Department of Social Services strongly encourages parents to schedule preventative medical appointments for their children and refill medication for chronic conditions. It’s unclear if or when Congress will reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
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The CT Mirror reports: 
According to Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier, shifting teacher pension contributions from state to employee responsibility will cost Connecticut just over $20 million. Teachers will contribute nearly $60 million more toward their pensions over the next two years while the state will reduce its payments by a matching amount. 

By teachers contributing more, however, the state owes larger pensions. That results in the state owing an extra $20.4 million, according to Connecticut’s actuarial consultants.
Nappier wrote in a memo: “Any increase in the unfunded liability…is a step in the wrong direction.”

Connecticut already has more than $70 billion in long-term, unfunded liabilities, including about $50 billion related to retirement benefits. 
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Riverhead Local reports: 
The minimum wage on Long Island for most workers, including farm workers, non-fast food service workers, and hospitality workers, increased to $11 per hour on January 1.
The minimum hourly rate for overtime — over 40 hours per week — rose to $16.50. 

Employers of tipped workers in the food service industry can claim a credit of up to $3.50 per hour but must pay the tipped worker no less than $7.50 per hour. Workers in the fast food industry will now be paid a minimum of $11.75 per hour, with an overtime rate of $17.63 for hours in excess of 40 per week. 

Also effective January 1 is a paid family leave policy that will allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a child or a sick spouse, domestic partner, parent, stepparent, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild. 
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Riverhead Local reports: 
Democrat Laura Jens-Smith was sworn in yesterday as the Town of Riverhead’s Town Supervisor. She is the first woman to hold the office in the town’s 226-year history. Jens-Smith also takes office as a minority party member on a board that has been all Republican since 2010. Councilwomen Jodi Giglio and Catherine Kent were also sworn in during the ceremony. 

The newly constituted town board marks the first time in town history that the Riverhead Town Board will have a female majority. In fact, Giglio, Jens-Smith and Kent are only the seventh, eighth and ninth women ever serve on the Riverhead Town Board. In brief remarks, Jens-Smith called for unity, cooperation and perseverance. 
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