Monday, March 30, 2015

March 2015

Tuesday, March 31 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Mike Merli, Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus):

In tonight’s news, an end-of-life bill is up for debate in Connecticut; Governor Malloy takes action to oppose a new law in Indiana; Governor Cuomo reaches a tentative budget agreement; and water treatment issues are in focus for Suffolk County.

On Monday, the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference delivered 21,000 signatures to the state Judiciary Committee.

The signatures were in opposition to aid-in-dying legislation currently before the committee for an initial vote. The legislation would allow patients with less than six months to live to seek a doctor’s assistance ending their life.

Michael Culhane, executive director of the conference, said though end of life issues are difficult, he believes “pallative care is the way to go.”

In contrast, Tim Appleton, Connecticut manager of Compassion & Choices, believes the state public supports the bill.

A similar bill was defeated in the Public Health Committee in 2013 and 2014. This is the first year it is before the Judiciary Committee, which now has two weeks to act before its deadline.

On Monday, Governor Dannel Malloy signed an Executive Order banning state-funded travel to Indiana, unless the state repeals new law that is being criticized for discriminating against LGBT residents.

Speaking about the new “religious freedom” law, Governor Malloy said, “There is no way to interpret what is happening in Indiana over the last several months as anything other than the desire to establish a legal form of discrimination, period.”

Malloy believes his actions will strengthen the resolve of the NCAA, an institution that has already denounced the new law.

The Governor has in the past successfully pushed for a transgender rights law, and in 2013, celebrated the collapse of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Indiana’s new law, signed by Governor Mike Pence (R), was passed in response to a court decision legalizing gay marriage. The law allows individuals to assert a right to discriminate for religious reasons, even if those reasons are not a central part of their religion.

On Sunday night, Governor Cuomo and members of the state legislature announced a tentative agreement on a 2015-2016 budget.

A press release by the governor’s office describes the agreement as including reforms in ethics, education, and investment.

Governor Cuomo had proposed a $1.1 billion increase in state education aid, hoping to, among other things, change teacher evaluation procedures and tenure requirements. The proposals were met with opposition from teachers unions, school 
administrators and parents, and Republican lawmakers.

North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said he agrees with the Governor’s intent to find new approaches to teacher evaluation. However, he is opposed to Cuomo planning to mix his personal education plan with the state budget. 

Palumbo also criticized the administration’s Common Core curriculum. Cuomo vows to increase accountability in schools, putting students first, and 
rewarding the best teachers.

The Governor also said his ethics reform proposal would enact “the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive rules for disclosure of outside income by public officials.”

Water treatment issues were a top focus for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s 2014 State of the County.

Mr. Bellone said the county has “made more progress in the last year than it had in decades” on septic issues, and has received $383 million in state grants that will be used to expand the Southwest Sewer District, build sewage treatment plants at Calabro Airport in Brookhaven and in Patchogue and perform a costly repair to the outflow pipe at the Bergen Point sewage treatment plant.

The county is also installing a filtration system at the Riverhead sewage treatment plant to reduce the nitrogen discharge into the Peconic Bay.

But many rural areas out east don’t have the population density to make sewers economically feasible, and Mr. Bellone acknowledged that sewers aren’t the solution for those rural communities.

Also, the county has received 17 alternative on-site septic treatment systems from our companies, which are being installed at individual homes as a pilot project to enable the Suffolk County Health Department to test the systems under local conditions.

Monday, March 30 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus and Scott Schere):

In the news tonight, some New Haven residents and police rank and file have both taken to the streets over a police incident caught on video; peace walkers stop in New Haven on their way to an anti-nuclear weapons protest; sea level rise will get a study in Southold Town; and Suffolk County lays out a plan to keep its young people from leaving.

Last week saw several protests and counter-protests as community members objected to a police officer remaining on street duty while he was being investigated by internal affairs for a violent incident in mid-March. The officer, Joshua Smereczynsky (smer-SIN-skee), was shown on video slamming a 15-year-old girl to the ground after she was already in handcuffs. Chief Dean Esserman said the officer said he saw a knife in her bag and feared for his safety. The girl is black, the officer white. She sustained a fractured shoulder and lacerations, and was charged with three offenses.

After protesters got no satisfaction at police headquarters, they went to see Mayor Toni Harp, who directed the police chief to put Smereczynsky on desk duty until the investigation was complete. He was cleared two days later because it was determined he had followed his training, and put back on street patrol. In mid-week, Chief Esserman went to the girl’s house and apologized to her and her family. Both the mayor’s action and the chief’s enraged rank and file officers, who protested on Friday at City Hall, where community members were already protesting the officer’s swift exoneration.

A group of peace walkers from a Buddhist center in western Massachusetts stopped for dinner at the New Haven People’s Center and an overnight stay before heading south to a couple of protests against nuclear weapons and war.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus filed this report:

Brother Tohbee Keyes is a Buddhist monk and one of the walkers. He said nuclear weapons, if used, could destroy all life on the planet, and even if not used, they take money from human needs, and so are still a form of violence.

Now the U.S. is contemplating spending $30 Trillion to modernize its existing weapons

Obama himself said, ‘If you want change, get out in the streets.’ Because when people get out and advocate for a change – and I don’t mean, raise your fist, be angry – but from the goodness of your heart, call out for change, a better world,  a more peaceful world, and if enough people do that, we can make it happen.

The walkers will meet others in New York City on April 26 for a planned massive rally.

Southold Town will be going ahead with a coastal erosion study, two months after town board members were pitched the idea by the town’s Conservation Advisory Council. Town Supervisor Scott Russell said that he’d like to form a group charged with determining the scope and funding sources for a study to help Southold respond to rising sea level and erosion along its shoreline.

Doug Hardy is a member of the Conservation Advisory Council, a volunteer committee that advises the town trustees on waterfront issues. He said, “If you look at your favorite spot on the seashore, imagine it today at spring high tide. That will be low tide in 2100.” He added that New York State is planning for the possibility that sea level will rise 3.5 feet by the end of the century. The issue is regional but town officials also want to come up with their own proposals.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone outlined an ambitious plan to keep young people on Long Island. He said, “We’ve had a two-decade trend of this region and this county losing young people at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country.”

He introduced a plan called “Connect Long Island,” which would focus on five factors that he says are driving young people away: high cost of living, lack of transportation options, lack of quality affordable rental housing, lack of high paying jobs, and the fact that most housing that is affordable isn’t where young people want to live.

Bellone said to solve these problems Suffolk County will need “walkable, transit-oriented downtowns with strong public transportation links” to one another and to universities and public spaces. He also suggested the county institute several north-south bus routes connecting the east-west Long Island Rail Road stops.

 Friday March 27 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Kristiana Pastir):

In the news tonight: Connecticut Whale returns as women's hockey team, Connecticut looks for new ways to fund its parks, New York Senate passes Alix’s Law to close hit-and-run loophole, and state help on Riverhead's CPF debt refinance may not come.
The Connecticut Whale are returning. The fledgling National Women’s Hockey League is resurrecting the name previously used by Hartford's American Hockey League franchise. The team will play at the Chelsea Piers Connecticut rink in Stamford.
The Whale are one of four franchises in the NWHL, competing with the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts and New York Riveters. 
The league will be funded through sponsors and through the NWHL Foundation, an organization that will solicit tax-deductible donations.
Each team will have 18 players who will earn about $15,000 per season and teams operating under a $270,000 salary cap. Roster construction begins when free agents can sign in May, and there will be a draft in June. The 18-game season (nine home games, nine road games) will run from October to March. ---------------

Governor Malloy's $2 million cut in the State Park Budget has caused swift reaction -- and led to a flurry of new proposals to fund the park system in the future.
Connecticut is one of only two states to fund it's parks entirely from the general fund, and park systems are a favorite target of politicians looking to plug gaps in state budget funding.
Freshman Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. has introduced legislation to create a State Park Sustainability Account, to be primarily funded by a $5 voluntary charitable donation included with motor vehicle registration charges. 
Designating the charge as a donation would prevent the funds raised from being used to fund other state budget needs. 
Other proposals to increase park revenues include expanding concessions, increased parking fees ,and increasing small business operations, such as boat rentals, within the state park system. --------------------
The New York state Senate passed legislation Wednesday to hold hit-and-run drivers more accountable.
If signed into law, Alix’s Law – named in memory of 18-year-old Alix Rice who was killed in Erie County by a drunk driver as she skateboarded home – would close a loophole that critics say encourages drivers who are under the influence to flee the scene and sober up. 
Current law requires drivers to report an accident only when they know an accident resulted in an injury or property damage. The new legislation would require they stop and check for damage or injuries. Additionally, anyone found to be driving drunk is presumed to be aware of injuries and property damage.
Alix’s Law was sent to the state Assembly and is expected to be reviewed by the house’s Committee on Transportation.
Reserve funds in the Town of Riverhead Community Preservation Fund are running out and debt service on $70 million borrowed for land acquisition a decade ago may have to be paid from the town's general fund.
A 2 percent real estate transfer tax has traditionally covered the cost of debt service, but slumping real estate sales in the town have caused a shortfall that will make it unable to cover the debt service in 2017, or beyond.
It’s possible to refinance the debt. Supervisor Sean Walter would like to attach refinancing to pending legislation that would extend the transfer tax through 2050. 
But Assemblymen Fred Thiele, author of the transfer tax extension legislation, said the Town should seek assistance through the Environmental Facilities Corporation. 
There is competition for EFC assistance, and Riverhead does not score well due in part to its recent downgraded credit rating. Supervisor Walter countered that extending the transfer tax won’t help Riverhead but contribute to the town's slumping real estate sales.


Thursday, March 26 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Tony Ernst and Scott Harris):
In the news tonight: 
A legislative committee nixes Governor Malloy’s social services budget cuts; 
The Connecticut Energy and Technology Committee approved three dozen bills on energy policy; 
Suffolk County will fund a study on the environmental impacts from heat being discharged into the Sound by the Millstone nuclear plant – 
and Smithtown is the first community in Suffolk to adopt the county planning commission's model geothermal energy code. ------------
The legislature's Human Services Committee has voted to send Governor Malloy's proposed social services budget to the Appropriations Committee without approval.  They are opposed to the cuts in the budget which include:
•Reducing Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women and parents of minor children.
•Reducing Medicaid payment rates for pharmacies.
•Closing to new clients a state-funded program that provides home care for seniors who don't require nursing home.
•Decreasing payments available for funeral and burial costs for the poor from $1,800 to $1,000.
•Raising the amount seniors receiving care through the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders must pay, from 7 percent of the cost of care to 15 percent.
Democrats on the committee said it was important to move the bill forward as part of the budget process despite their disagreements, and some said voting to simply refer it to another committee was a form of protest.
But Republicans were critical of the move, saying members owed it to their constituents to vote on the substance of the bill. -----------------
With a packed audience of lobbyists waiting and watching, the Connecticut legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee approved three dozen bills Tuesday that define the General Assembly’s relatively modest ambitions on energy policy in 2015.
The more significant bills would ban variable electric rates for residential customers, cap the fixed-costs portion of electric bills and authorize state officials to explore expanding the capacity of pipelines that bring natural gas into Connecticut.
But there are no sweeping efforts this year to reshape how the state regulates the $3 billion market for buying and selling electricity, a commodity whose prices remain stubbornly high in the state.
A bill intended to create a larger market for solar energy by allowing customers to buy shares of solar panels installed elsewhere, was downsized to establish a less ambitious three-year pilot program.
Suffolk County will spend almost $80,000 from water quality protection funds to pay for a study of the impacts of Connecticut’s Millstone nuclear power plant on Long Island Sound water temperatures.
The Suffolk Legislature approved the project and County Executive Bellone is expected to sign the bill.
The project, to be undertaken by Stony Brook University scientists, is intended to help predict environmental impacts from heat being discharged into the sound to cool the Millstone nuclear plant’s reactors. 
“Data has determined Long Island Sound’s temperature is rising one degree per decade while ocean temperature is rising one degree per century, according to Legislator Jay Schneiderman. He said “Millstone is the smoking gun.”
Millstone cycles 2 billion gallons of water from the sound daily. 
In 2014 Millstone received approval from the NRC to increase the cooling water intake temperature from 75 to 80 degrees. The plant’s license to use the Sound water expires in September. ------------------------
Newsday reports Smithtown is the first community in Suffolk to adopt the county planning commission's model geothermal code, which sets for the first time, building standards and oversight for those using geothermal energy to heat and cool their homes or commercial buildings.
Commercial developers have been increasingly interested in using the new technology which involves drilling wells and installing pipes that exchange below ground temperatures to heat and cool buildings.
Smithtown Town Building Director William White said the geothermal systems are four times as efficient as traditional fossil fuel systems, and can reduce heat consumption and costs.
Home geothermal systems typically cost around $30,000 but can vary depending on the size of the home and manufacturer.
PSEG Long Island offers rebates of about $3,000 on standard systems, and a federal tax credit can cut cost by another $10,000.
Brookhaven, Huntington and Islip also are working on the development geothermal codes.

Wednesday, March 25 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):
In the news tonight, a former congressional candidate gets a five-month prison sentence, Adam Lanza’s home is demolished, New York is the second worst state for retirement, and a Suffolk bill aims to stem the sale of stolen goods that fuel the heroin epidemic. 55
Former congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison for her role in a scheme to hide former Gov. John G. Rowland’s involvement in her campaign.
Wilson-Foley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and called herself “naïve” during the sentencing by Judge Janet Bond Arterton.
While prosecutors said Wilson-Foley described the scheme as “a record-keeping violation,” Rowland’s consulting job with a company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband, for which the former governor received $35,000, was actually an attempt to violate election law.
Wilson-Foley’s attorneys argued that she was “kept in the dark” by her husband, who was called the “architect” of the conspiracy but Arterton described Foley as the “captain” of the campaign when she sentenced Foley to five months in prison followed by five months of home confinement. Wilson-Foley will surrender to a U.S. Marshal on July 1. Through her attorneys she requested to be sent to Alderson in West Virginia where Martha Stewart served her five-month sentence.  -----------------------
Newtown officials said Tuesday that he home of the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary school has been demolished. 
The two-acre lot where the 3,100-square-foot house once stood in a leafy, suburban neighborhood will be left as open space under a plan approved by town officials. Several neighbors had asked for the building to be taken down, describing it as a constant reminder of the tragedy. 
The house was torn down Monday.
Adam Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, inside the house on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, then drove to the school where he gunned down 20 children and six adults before committing suicide. First Selectman Pat Llodra said Tuesday that plans call for the land to be leveled this spring and new plantings started.
The property was given to the town in December by a bank that acquired it from the Lanza family.  The house stood vacant since the shooting more than two years ago. ----------------
According to a new study released by, New York is the second worst state to retire in, ranking 49th out of 50.
The list ranked the states by cost of living, crime, health care, taxes and weather.
Newsday reports that New York came in dead last when it came to tax rates and 47th in cost of living.  It also came in 42nd in community well-being, which takes crime into consideration.
Wyoming, Colorado and Utah were named the best states to retire.  Wyoming ranked first in cost of living, while Colorado's weather ranked third.
The best thing going for New York, according to the survey was the weather, which ranked New York at 25th. ----------------
Suffolk County law enforcement and anti-drug advocates said a new bill requiring that pawnshop workers photograph sellers' identifications and products would reduce money from stolen goods that helps fuel Long Island’s heroin epidemic.
The bill, proposed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, is aimed at stopping the sale of stolen items.
Keriann Kelly, major crime bureau chief with the Suffolk district attorney, said there has been a rapid increase in burglaries and home invasions, largely committed by pill and heroin addicts.
The bill, considered at Tuesday night's meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge, goes to legislative committees next month. Supporters said the bill would help stop the funding of the heroin epidemic, while pawnshop owners said it would infringe on a legal business and scare away legitimate sellers.
Under existing law, sellers have to present an identification with a name and address, which does not have to be government issued or require a photograph. The proposed law would require a photograph of a government-issued photo identification and a photograph of the pawned item before a worker would put the images in a police database. ----------------------- 
Tuesday, March 24 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Leslie Stenull, Trace Alford, Melinda Tuhus, and Mike Merli):
In tonight’s news, Connecticut lawmakers consider raising the state’s cigarette tax; New Haven  residents protest a police brutality incident; a controversial shoreline project in Montauk gets  funding; and new MTA fare and toll increases take effect.
As Governor Malloy and state legislators consider raising taxes, some anti-smoking advocates  are pushing for an increase in the state’s cigarette tax.
Currently, the state cigarette tax is $3.40. The American Cancer Society, American Heart  Association, the American Lung Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are  pushing for a raise of $1.50, which would bring the cigarette tax to $4.90. 
They believe the new tax would yield $60 million in revenue each year, while driving tens of thousands of residents away from smoking.
According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the tax increase would compel 
 around 16,000 adults in the state to quit smoking. The network also believes raising the 
cigarette tax would lead another 13,000 teens to either quit or decide against trying cigarettes.
Rep. Jeffrey Berger (D-Waterbury) of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, does not  believe raising cigarette taxes is the answer. He believes there are many smokers in the state  who are older, and simply cannot quit, and are spending money they don’t have on cigarettes. 
While Berger doesn’t agree with the outright tax increase, he has said that he would support a  surcharge on electronic cigarettes to discourage potential smokers. -----------------------------
Dozens of community members surged into the New Haven Police Department headquarters late Monday afternoon to demand accountability about an incident March 15 in which a cop slammed a 15-year-old girl to the sidewalk, while she was handcuffed, and then charged her with several offenses. 
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:
The incident appeared in a video that went viral. Police have said she resisted arrest even while  handcuffed, but many people saw it as another incident of a white officer using excessive force  against an African American youth, in this case a female.
Holly Tucker, who has participated in many such demonstrations, took the lead to organize this  one. 
Tucker: "What sparked my attention -- I have a daughter. This is the first thing that I thought of.  Brought me down to tears, 'cause I couldn't imagine. I can't imagine. And then this coward is still  walking the streets. Why is he still here?"
The crowd demanded that the officer, Joshua Smereczynsky, be at least put on desk duty,  if not removed from the force, while the PD's internal affairs investigation continues. 
Chief Dean Esserman was out of town, and when they couldn't get anyone to speak to them,  the crowd took over Union Avenue at rush hour. Then a lieutenant came out, but all he could  say was that they have to wait for the process to take its course. 
Protesters were angry and said they'd take their complaints directly to Mayor Toni Harp. 
The girl's grandmother, who said the family did not see it as a racial incident, wants all charges dropped. ----------------

The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a controversial 8.4 million dollar bid to H & L  Construction to install geotextile sandbags along Montauk’s downtown oceanfront. 
The planned 3,100 foot long revetment is an emergency measure under the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, which began in 1960 and is expected to be completed this year.
The sandbags are a response to Hurricane Sandy damage, which was originally expected to generate 20 to 25 million dollars in emergency repair and fortification but has since been scaled back to approximately  $6 million.
Originally, this project’s planned completion date was Memorial Day, but because of weather  delays, access issues and drainage needs, the project’s current expected completion date is in  the fall. 
The water protection group, “Defend H2O” filed suit against the project on March 20 citing  “the inevitable loss of a coveted recreational beach.” 
The group contends the project is at odds with the towns’ Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan,  which prohibits hard erosion control structures on oceanfront beaches.
Town officials take a different view of the project. 
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele said, “The Downtown Montauk Project is essential from both  the perspective of public safety and the local economy.” -------------------
Fare and toll increases went into effect Sunday on New York City’s subway, bus and commuter  rail lines, as well as at toll booths. 
The increases were approved by the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in January. 
Under the MTA’s long-term revenue plan, fare and toll increases will occur every two years.  MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said the MTA has been able to limit increases to  the equivalent of two percent per year. 
The fare for subways and buses rose to $2.75.
Bridges and tunnel tolls also increased. For example, it now costs eight dollars cash, or $5.54 via 
EZ Pass, to cross the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges.
For commuter rail riders, single fare, ten-trip fares and fares for seniors and disabled riders  increased. Prices for weekly and monthly tickets did not. 
Mr. Prendergast said the board chose options with lower increases for the MTA’s most frequent customers. -------------------------------------------------------

-------------------------- Monday, March 23 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser, Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight, Governor Dannel Malloy opposes a bill for a moratorium on new charter schools; Senator Dick Blumenthal speaks out on proposed high-speed rail through Connecticut; Port Jeff officials move to preserve open space; and off-track  betting takes a dive in Brookhaven.   
Last Friday, Governor Dannel Malloy said he would not support a bill that would 
place a 2-year moratorium on new public charter schools in Connecticut. 
The bill, filed earlier in the week by the legislature’s Education Committee, seeks 
to repeal a portion of the general statute governing charter schools.
It would require the state Board of Education to halt the approval of new charter schools after July 1.  
The bill states by that date, the Commissioner of Education will have developed a comprehensive statewide charter school plan and reviewed the charter schools in existence.
But Malloy believes that schools should be opened when they are needed and that the state should honor the commitments it has made to these schools.
Charter school organizations testified against the legislation. They said it wouldn’t be fair to the 3,600 students on wait lists to attend these schools.
However, a handful of Bridgeport parents came out in support of a moratorium because they believe the five charter schools in their city are taking resources  away from their children.
Connecticut's senior U.S. Senator, Richard Blumenthal, says a bill in the House of  Representatives reauthorizing funding for Amtrak willinclude a proposal for high-speed rail that will make no stops in Connecticut. He called that "dead on arrival" in the Senate. 
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
Listen here
Port Jefferson officials have approved plans to turn a wooded, six-acre parcel into a public park to save it from possible development, bringing relief to residents who feared losing one of the village's last pieces of open space. The land is on  Highlands Boulevard in the village's Upper Port section.
Newsday reports that Port Jefferson officials several years ago had rejected a developer’s proposal to swap a parcel he owned in exchange for the village-owned Highlands property, where he planned to build four three-story, 24-unit apartment buildings.
 The proposed master plan for the town recommends designating the Highlands property as open space. But many critics of the plan said the document did not go far enough to ensure the parcel's protection from development.

 The village board voted 4-0 on March 16 to designate the property as parkland. 

Mayor Margot Garant said a public meeting would be held later this year to discuss possible uses for the land.

Suffolk OTB officials have decided not to submit plans for a $65 million video casino to Brookhaven Town planning officials.

Newsday reports that Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corporation President Phil Nolan said in an interview that the state Gaming Commission is the only agency with authority under state law to approve or deny plans to build the casino. OTB officials want to open the parlor, with as many as 1,000 video lottery terminals, early next year on a Long Island Expressway service road east of state Route 112 in  Medford. 
Previously, OTB officials had agreed to submit site plans to the Brookhaven Town Planning Board, though OTB officials said they were not legally required to do so. 
The planning board would have been allowed to suggest alterations in elements such as sewage, signs and parking, but could not stop the project. 
Town Councilman Neil Foley, who represents Medford, disagreed with the decision and  said OTB had not sought any community input.


Friday, March 20 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Kevin Brewer, Paul Atkin and Tony Ernst):
In tonight’s news, Connecticut’s state parks may need to limit services this season due to budget cuts, Long Island Parents and Teachers oppose education reforms at a Wednesday meeting, A State Committee in Connecticut  passes a  bill for a pilot program testing police body cameras, and PSEG Long Island says Southhold will be one of the first towns where they will be upgrading the electrical grid. ------------------------------------------
The New Haven Register reports that the Connecticut State Parks system is facing $2 million in budget cuts ordered by Governor Malloy and park visitors could see a clear difference in service levels , according to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection chairman Rob Klee.
Klee said there is some flexibility in which park services will be affected.  Some scenarios being considered include reduced hiring levels, closing bathrooms at some parks or not providing trash collection.
Also under consideration is shortened daily hours or seasons during which the parks are open, Klee stated that if amenities and hours are cut at one park , a nearby park may remain in full operation.  State environmental groups are concerned that popular shoreline parks would not be impacted as seriously as other, inland parks.
Officials from the non-profit Connecticut Forest and Park Association point out that the DEEP has a full time staff of just 70 to run 107 state parks, and that for every $1 spent on park operations, $38 in economic activity comes back to the state , activity that would be lost if the parks aren't maintained at their present levels. -----------------------
Newsday reports: 
Hundreds of parents, teachers and students flooded a Bohemia elementary school Wednesday night, voicing their opposition to education reforms under consideration in Albany -- and for those already in place.
They said students are being manipulated for political gain and both they and their teachers are held to unfair standards.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to push through a number of changes tied to state funding. He said Long Island's teacher-evaluation systems favor educators and that he wants outsiders to complete the ratings moving forward.
He also wants to increase to 50 percent the portion of a teacher's evaluation tied to student performance.
Parents who were at the meeting said students are being over-tested and that it's time to reconsider.
Beth Dimino, a science teacher and the president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association said: "Parents have the right to refuse to allow their children to be abused by the three-through-eighth-grade, high-stakes tests"
Dimino, recently told her superintendent that she refuses to administer the exams.
Four previous anti-testing events have been held on Long Island, and at least three more are planned, in East Quogue on Monday, in Port Washington on Tuesday and in West Islip on March 30. -------------- 
The Hartford Courant reports that a key legislative committee voted Thursday to advance a bill calling for a pilot program testing body cameras on police officers.
The public safety committee voted 20-3 to send the bill to the full legislature. The program would seek three volunteer communities, one a town with a population less than 30,000, one a medium-size municipality and the third larger city. The state would pay for the equipment.
Eight Connecticut communities already use body cameras, and others are considering them.
Rep. Frank Nicastro, of Bristol, favors the bill and said there is often a dispute about exactly what happened in a clash between a police officer and an individual. The cameras could provide more information about actions taken by police and individuals.
Rep. Joseph Verrengia, of West Hartford, voted against the bill, saying he was concerned about which officers might be chosen for the pilot program. He asked whether a 12-year veteran with no complaints would be picked, or perhaps a younger officer with numerous complaints from the public.
All of the legislators agreed to move the bill forward to the Senate floor. ----------------  
PSEG Long Island has selected Southold to be one of the first towns to receive system upgrades as the company starts a $729 million project to repair and safeguard the region’s electric grid from extreme weather.
The project, which involves installing new and more durable poles and replacing switching equipment, is scheduled to begin on April 6.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding the multi-million dollar system upgrade in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which severely damaged PSEG’s transmission and distribution system.
PSEG Long Island CEO David Daly said in a statement this week, “the utility is committed to improving their transmission and distribution system and he added, “The funding provided to the Long Island Power Authority by FEMA allows us to implement significant grid reinforcements that will make the system more resilient to future storms.” -------------------
Thursday, March 19(Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Harris and Kevin Brewer): 
In the news tonight: A toxic chemical spill aboard a Navy submarine based in Groton sent sailors and a firefighter to the hospital; the Connecticut legislature has approved a bill that could bring highway tolls back to the state; the proposed expansion of a Riverhead fuel storage facility drew opposition at a local hearing last night; Greenport Deputy Mayor George Hubbard, Jr., handily won the town’s mayoral election Wednesday --- and Congressman Lee Zeldin opposes a plan that would allow tractor trailer trucks to take the Orient to New London ferry and use local Long Island roadways. ------------------
A small amount of potassium hydroxide spilled Wednesday during routine maintenance on the USS Annapolis at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.
According to a statement released by a Navy public affairs officer, approximately one gallon of potassium hydroxide was spilled in the auxiliary machinery room aboard the Annapolis at Pier 33 at the sub base during maintenance to the ship’s atmosphere control equipment.
No injuries were reported, but eight sailors and one fireman were exposed to the potassium hydroxide at the scene and underwent chemical decontamination.  They were subsequently sent to a local medical facility for observation as a precautionary measure. The small spill was contained within the submarine.
According to The Day newspaper, all eight sailors and the firefighter were treated for respiratory and skin exposure and were released after treatment at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London.  --------------- 
The Connecticut State legislature approved a bill on Wednesday that keeps alive the possibility of highway tolls returning to the state.
State Democrats say re-introducing highway tolls is not a " done deal," and is simply one aspect of an ongoing conversation about addressing the state's transportation needs.  
Minority Republicans on the Committee unanimously oppose highway tolls, saying they force congestion onto local roads, and are an unfair burden on state residents and businesses.  
Republicans also point out that $1.4 billion in state fuel tax monies have been diverted to non-transportation needs over the last decade.  Committee Democrats say that increasing auto fuel economy means lower tax receipts and challenged Republicans to come up with an alternative plan.
Governor Malloy is expected to appoint a panel of experts to develop a long term plan for investment in state transportation. --------------- 
The proposed expansion of the United Riverhead Terminal fuel storage facility in Northville was the subject of a public hearing before the Riverhead Town Board last night, after a 3-month delay.
The terminal owners plan to build two new 19,000-gallon tanks to store ethanol to be blended with gasoline, and convert two tanks currently used for heating oil to gasoline storage. The gasoline, mixture would be transported by tanker trucks to local gas stations.
However, a standing-room-only crowd of Riverhead residents complained about the impacts of additional trucks on the town’s already congested roadways and repeated prior requests for a full traffic study and an environmental impact statement.
After the 3-hour hearing, a majority of the town board reversed its position and now appears ready to reject United Riverhead Terminal’s special permit application. -----------------
Greenport Deputy Mayor George Hubbard, Jr., handily won Greenport’s mayoral election yesterday by a more than 3-to-1 margin against village shop owner Zuleyha Lillis. Businessman Doug Roberts and Greenport High School teacher and coach Jack Martilotta won two trustee seats, unseating incumbent Dave Murray, a builder, and beating out former utilities director William Swiskey. ---------------------
Congressman Lee Zeldin wrote to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council Wednesday requesting that the Cross Sound Enhancement Project, be removed from a regional freight transportation plan that has been in effect since 2010.
The obscure provision would allow tractor trailers to take the Orient to New London ferry and use Long Island roads. The expansion of truck capacity on ferry services would increase tractor trailer traffic on local roadways by an estimated 3,000 trucks annually.
Zeldin believes that the project poses a “serious safety issue” to Riverhead and Southold residents“ and said he would work hard to prevent it. ----------------------

Wednesday, March 18 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):
In the news tonight, Gabby Giffords supports Connecticut gun legislation, Ex. Gov. Rowland sentenced, NY lawmakers propose water infrastructure funding and the Southold supervisor announces bid for a fourth term. -----------
Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a January 2011 assassination attempt, limped to the podium of a Capitol meeting room Tuesday and spoke in support of legislation that would require people under temporary restraining orders -- most of them men -- to surrender their firearms.
From 2000 to 2013, 200 people -- more than 85 percent women -- were killed in violent incidents involving intimate partners in Connecticut, 79 with firearms, according to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The Connecticut Post reports that Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, predicted the bill will pass with bipartisan support over the objections of gun-rights activists who claim a 1999 law is sufficient to provide safety for those trapped in domestic violence.
Gun-safety advocates, including Gov. Dannel Malloy, pushed for the legislation, which would remove guns from those under restraining orders on a temporary basis. -------------
John Rowland, Connecticut's ex-governor turned radio commentator, was sentenced Wednesday for his role in a scheme to hide his work on a political campaign.
U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton imposed a sentence  of 30 months to Rowland, who previously served 10 months for corruption that occurred while he was governor.
Prosecutors had asked for 37-46 months, according to the Hartford Courant.
Exactly a decade ago, on March 18, 2005, Rowland stood in a crowded courtroom and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for taking $107,000 in gifts and services from businessmen who won hundreds of millions of dollars in contract and tax breaks from his administration.
Today he was sentenced for seven crimes – five of them felonies – for a conspiracy to break federal clean election laws by concealing his role as a paid adviser to Republicans campaigning in 2010 and 2012 for his old 5th District Congressional seat.
Rowland was released from prison after his first sentence and was earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from a political appointment in his hometown of Waterbury and from his political radio talk show when he began consulting and hid the payments. -------------------
There are promising signs that lawmakers in Albany appear ready to make a down payment on more than $30 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure needs. Advocates say in some places, treatment facilities are so old they are crumbling and few places have greater need for improvement than Long Island.
Budget proposals are now pending that would address long overdue water quality needs in the state and provide funds to fix some treatment facilities that date back to the 1950s. 
The Senate has proposed 500-million dollars in clean water infrastructure grants for communities, while the Assembly has proposed 250-million.
Carl LoBue with the Nature Conservancy on Long Island says the measures would be a wise down payment on water quality needs since communities are on the hook for around 36-billion dollars just to maintain the aging infrastructure. The proposed budget is expected to be finalized on April first.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who has served as Southold’s leader since 2006, announced Tuesday that he will seek re-election this year.
Mr. Russell, long a popular Republican supervisor, took home 76 percent of the vote when he last ran against attorney Bob Meguin (MEH-GWIN) in 2011 for his third term in office. ----------------
This year, Southold Town employee and former journalist Damon Rallis is seeking the Democratic nomination to unseat Mr. Russell.
Mr. Rallis is a plans examiner in the building department who had formerly served as a code enforcement officer, and served as the managing editor of the Traveler-Watchman newspaper. --------------------------------------  

Tuesday, March 17(Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere, Trace Alford, and Mike Merli):

In tonight’s news, New Haven’s first black mayor passes, leaving an accomplished legacy; a public hearing on Wednesday will explore end of life issues; a Southampton forum on Thursday will teach home preservation; and an overlooked provision could increase truck traffic on Long Island roads.

John C. Daniels, New Haven’s first black mayor, passed away on Saturday at the age of 78. Daniels had served two terms as the city’s mayor.

Instituting a new community policing program was one of his many accomplishments as mayor. The program led to a significant drop in crime in New Haven, and played a large role in eliminating the “beat down posse” policing in the city, through the end of the nineties.

Daniels also implemented a needle exchange program that continues to save lives today. New Haven’s program even served as a model for New York City, when Mayor Dinkins adopted the program after a Yale study showed it was saving the lives of people living with AIDS.

Toni Harp became the first female mayor of New Haven in 2013. Thinking about the legacy of John C. Daniels, Harp explained, “Had he not had the courage to run for mayor when he did, I certainly would likely not be mayor today.”

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning on a proposed bill that would allow doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives. In the last two years, similar legislation died in the Public Health Committee.
Proponents of the bill are hoping modifications to last year’s proposal, a change of venue, and national awareness of the issue will help get a bill passed.

A representative for Compassion & Choices, said this year’s bill requires terminally ill, mentally competent patients to ask their attending physicians for a prescription to help end their lives not once, but twice. It also requires a 15-day waiting period between those requests. Both of the requests require an affidavit that must be witnessed by two people. Those two people can’t be an heir, relative, an employee of the medical facility, or the doctor.

Stephen Glassman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said there are “smart safeguards” in the legislation.
This year’s bill was drafted with the help of the Connecticut Bar Association and has the support of House Speaker Brendan Sharkey.
This Thursday, March 19, The Peconic Land Trust, Rogers Memorial Library and Southampton Historical Museum will host a special forum on home preservation. The forum will address the growing number of historical Southampton houses destroyed to make way for larger modern ones.

Mary Cirillo, a forum organizer and Peconic Land Trust Director of Conservation Planning, said the goal of the forum is to educate homeowners about municipal and preservation group incentives available to keep historical homes intact. The forum also aims to provide information on home and land restoration.  

Forum participants will include representatives from the Land Trust and landmark preservation organizations, town leaders and landowners whose properties have recently undergone restoration.

The forum, titled “Save Your House: Historic Preservation Options,” will be held Thursday at Rogers Mansion, located at 17 Meeting House Lane in Southampton Village from 3 to 5 PM. The forum is open to the public. 

A regional freight transportation plan in effect for the past five years has a provision that calls for the “enhancement” of ferry services out of Orient that would boost truck traffic on local Long Island roads by an estimated 3,000 more trucks each year.

The obscure provision in the planning document by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, addresses the movement of freight throughout the NYC metro region through 2030. It went unnoticed until earlier this month, when an Orient resident discovered it in the plan’s 2015 update documents.

The Cross Sound Enhancement Project is aimed at expanding truck capacity on the Orient-New London ferry line so that tractor trailers between the NYC metro region and New England could use the ferry and Long Island roads.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone sent a letter of opposition to the NYMTC staff member coordinating public review of the plan. He said in the letter he will vote against the plan unless the ferry project is removed.

Monday March 16 (thanks to WPKN Volunteers Kristiana Pastir and Scott Schere):

In the news tonight: Stamford rail station project is stuck in negotiations with the state, Senate Republicans pitch urban agenda; A fire destroys a historic church in Southold; and Peconic Green Growth eyes East Marion for pilot septic project.


The Connecticut Department of Transportation and Stamford city officials have been negotiating for months about the estimated $500 million plan to replace the downtown train station parking lot.

The DOT maintains that state-owned land is not subject to local zoning approval while the mayor’s administration argues that the city must have input.

The state legislature will tackle a bill introduced by the governor last month that critics say would strip towns and cities of their local planning and zoning decision-making authority in areas surrounding rail and bus stations.

According to the DOT, the need to broker an agreement with the city has delayed the state's effort to finalize its contract with the team of developers, led by John McClutchy of JHM Group. Once an agreement is signed, the three-year clock to finish construction starts.

The contract also would establish the timeline in which McClutchy must complete the station's surrounding mixed-use development. The plan calls for 600,000 square feet of commercial office space, retail shops, housing and a hotel.

Senate Republicans introduced a plan to foster economic growth and development in Connecticut’s urban areas. At a news conference Thursday, Senate Republican leader Len Fasano said the plan includes small business loan programs and even some of Democratic Governor Malloy’s criminal justice reforms. 
While they disagree with some of the specifics, Republicans said they agree with Malloy’s proposal to reclassify drug offenses, send fewer offenders to jail and eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent drug convictions.
As part of the plan, Republicans want to take $3 to $5 million from the Small Business Express Program, which gives out small loans to businesses, to focus on start-ups in urban areas.

Republicans also pitched a two- or three-year pilot program that would provide investors and developers a tax credit for converting existing vacant buildings.

They want to revive the Job Expansion Tax Credit program that expired in 2014. The program allowed Connecticut businesses to get tax credits of $500 per month for each new full-time job created. 

These suggestions, and others, are part of a 13-page talking points document that Republicans will use as a basis of negotiations with Democrats.

Newsday reports that a fire destroyed Southold’s First Universalist Church late Saturday night, despite firefighters’ efforts to save the unoccupied 19th century building. Police said there were no injuries.

Fire Chief Peggy Killian said the fire broke out at 11:35 p.m. March 14 and was "fully involved" when firefighters arrived.

She said it took only about 15 minutes for the fire to spread throughout the one-story wood-frame structure. Officials declared the blaze under control around 4:30 a.m. Sunday. Several fire departments assisted Southold firefighters.

Killian said the cause of the fire was undetermined and still under investigation. Police said it’s not believed to be suspicious.

Reverend Jeffrey Gamblee said the church was established in 1837 and the building was constructed in 1860.

The pastor said the church has about 40 members and has no plans yet for where the congregation will worship on a regular basis in the future.

Glynis Berry of Peconic Green Growth proposed a clustered denitrification septic system for up to 450 homes around Marion Lake at the East Marion Community Association meeting Saturday morning.

She pointed to studies that showed much of Southold Town’s waterway nitrogen impairment is from onsite septic systems.

Berry said the most effective way to tackle the problem is placing clustered systems in densely populated areas near the water, and she is focusing on East Marion because the community has been receptive to her ideas in the past.

She said the clustered system, among the least expensive she’s looked into, would cost about $27,000 per household.

Berry said that, with loans available to finance the project, homeowners could pay about $500 per year for the upgrade, which could be reduced further, either by grant money or if Southold Town instituted a wastewater taxing district.

Berry said Suffolk County is looking into instituting a similar type of taxing district.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said, “We’ll put a couple of us together and scope something.”

Friday, March 13: (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin, Kevin Brewer and Tony Ernst):

In tonight’s news, Connecticut legislators are considering  a bill that would include electronic cigarettes in the state’s smoking ban, Dozens speak, hundreds meet at East End helicopter noise meeting, United Technologies’is considering sale of Sikorsky Helicopter division,  and an East End rain garden and native plant rebate program is now open to everyone.

A bill that would add electronic cigarettes to Connecticut's smoking ban  has been introduced in the legislature to close a loophole in current rules.

State law currently defines “smoking” as “the lighting or carrying of a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe or similar device.” It ignores vapors from e-cigarettes which are inhaled by users  In “vaping”  there is no flame.

The  State Medical Society is one of the groups urging lawmakers to make the change, but several former tobacco smokers  have strongly urged committee members to reject the change to permit continued use.

The American Vaping Association also opposed the proposed ban. The New Jersey-based nonprofit advocates for small and mid-sized businesses in the vaping industry.

But others maintained that vaping is dangerous and e-cigarettes should be treated similarly to tobacco cigarettes.

Nancy Alderman, president of North Haven-based advocacy nonprofit Environment and Human Health stated “The public should not be forced to breathe the vapors from e-cigarette users. The vapors are turning out to be harmful, as formaldehyde is both a chemical sensitizer and a carcinogen,”

The bill was introduced by State Representative Jay Case.

Newsday reports: 
About 200 people met and 80 spoke at a hearing called by the East Hampton Town Board in Wainscott Thursday, to discuss a proposal to curb helicopter flights to the East Hampton airport.

There were about 4200 helicopter flights logged at East Hampton Airport last year, a 47 percent increase from 2013.

Town Board members are proposing rules at the town-owned airport that include a summer weekend ban on helicopters, nighttime curfews and a one-trip-per-week limit on some aircraft in the summer.  Officials said they want the regulations in place by Memorial Day.

Dozens of residents urged Town officials to pass the rules they said would reduce summertime noise from part-time residents and visitors flying between New York City and the Hamptons.

Others said restricting helicopter traffic over the East End would cause the wealthy to abandon the Hamptons and take their money to Nantucket or Block Island.

Aviation industry members in January filed two legal actions to block the regulations.

Southampton officials and Montauk representatives said they fear the rules would divert air traffic to Westhampton, the Southampton Village helipad, and the small Montauk Airport.

East Hampton officials have commissioned a study to estimate how many flights may be diverted. The results are pending.

The CT Post reports that United Technologies Corporation is considering ownership changes for it's Shelton based Sikorsky Aircraft division.  These changes could include sale of Sikorsky to another manufacturer.

Citing lower profitability  and uncertainty of future military sales for Sikorsky, CEO Greg Hayes  sees flat sales growth for the firm in the immediate future.  Production of new model helicopters for the US Marines is not expected until after 2020.

Senator Richard Blumenthal said he is bullish on the future of the Stratford plant, adding there is plenty of work in production of other type helicopters.  Defense industry analysts agreed , saying Sikorsky is a solid business and while having limited growth potential thru the end of the decade, there is no danger the Stratford plant will close.

The rain garden and native plant rebate program of the Peconic Estuary Program, begun last year in areas of Southold, Greenport and Flanders, is now open to everyone in the Peconic Estuary watershed on the East End.

The watershed includes the bays and waterways adjacent to the towns of Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island, Southold, Riverhead and Brookhaven.

The program gives out a total of $150,000 to homeowners who install native plantings, rain gardens and rain barrels, with a maximum rebate of $500 per person.

Most homeowners who live south of Route 25 on the North Fork and north of Route 27 on the South Fork are eligible.

A series of public information sessions on the rebates is scheduled at libraries, beginning this Saturday at the Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport at 3 p.m. Future sessions will be at Riverhead, Cutchogue and Sag Harbor.

More information on the Peconic Estuary Program is on line at

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Scott Harris):

In the news tonight: gun owners object to a proposed Connecticut bill that would take firearms away from persons under domestic violence temporary restraining orders; a painting that has caused controversy in Trumbull was defaced Wednesday night; Spirit Pharmaceuticals is opening a factory in Islip Town, that will create nearly 150 local jobs -- and Suffolk looks at code changes to protect groundwater.

Members of the National Rifle Association and the Connecticut Citizens Defense League attended a public hearing Wednesday, before the State Judiciary Committee.  

They voiced opposition to Governor Dannel Malloy's proposed legislation that would remove a gun within 24 hours from a person under a temporary restraining order in a domestic violence dispute.

At present, it takes up to two weeks to conduct a hearing before a judge to consider removal of a gun of persons under a domestic dispute restraining order.  Proponents of the Governor's bill say their goal is to protect domestic violence victims during the critical time immediately after a restraining order is initiated.

Opponents of the bill say the bill denies gun owners their Constitutional due process rights.

Bill supporters counter that due process is ensured as complainants would be giving sworn statements and face criminal charges for false allegations.

A painting that has caused discord among Trumbull residents over freedom of speech and religion was defaced Wednesday evening.

The act was carried out while the Library Board discussed the painting, which features the images of women including Mother Teresa, a vocal anti-abortion activist, standing alongside Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

According to the Connecticut Post an unidentified woman defaced the artwork, which is displayed opposite the Trumbull Library entrance, just after more than two-dozen people attended a public comment session where the majority of speakers opposed exhibiting the painting.  

The "Great Minds" collection, by artist Robin Morris, has been on display since October, but it wasn't until Catholic officials discovered the painting last month that the controversy erupted and a copyright complaint was filed against Trumbull in late February.

Citing the absence of an agreement between the library and Richard Resnick, owner of the artwork, that would indemnify the town for any complaints or damage to the collection, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst ordered the "Women United" painting removed. But the painting was put back on display after the owner submitted an agreement that held the town harmless if a copyright lawsuit was filed.    

As police search for the person responsible for defacing the painting, discussions are ongoing to broaden the indemnity agreement.

Spirit Pharmaceuticals, makers of generic over the counter drugs, is opening a factory in Islip Town, part of a plan that would create nearly 150 local jobs.

The $15 million expansion plan will construct a 75,000 square foot production facility near Long Island’s Macarthur Airport.  The project will consolidate the firms Centereach office and warehouse.

Newsday reports that Spirit will receive near $2 million in tax breaks over 10 years in exchange for creating 147 jobs, a marked increase from the 12 people currently employed locally by the firm.

The company had previously considered moving production from India to two other states, before it decided to move into Islip's foreign trade zone.

Spirit joins a dozen other drug makers that have spent $400 million on expansion in Long Island in recent years, which have created 2,000 new jobs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is helping Suffolk County evaluate the health impacts of proposed changes to the county’s septic code.

Increasing nitrogen levels in bays and drinking water wells is linked to nitrogen in urine that passes through septic systems.

The county is considering three possible changes that could impact owners of more than 350,000 cesspools in Suffolk County, including requiring all homeowners to upgrade their cesspools to current standards, or install new, expensive onsite treatment systems.

Currently, upgrades to existing homes are only required when homeowners increase the number of bedrooms.

EPA representatives discussed their assessment at a Riverhead forum on March 4th that was attended by planners, environmental advocates and government officials.

Wednesday,  March 11 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Francesca Rheannon):

In tonight's news: Connecticut lawmakers regulate student loans;  hazards in your washing machine; toxic chemicals in utility poles; and Congressman Lee Zeldin weighs in on Iran. 

At a press conference Tuesday, Connecticut lawmakers said they repeatedly heard on the 
campaign trail this fall about the college affordability issue and how it’s affecting families.

Olivia Alsip, a senior at the University of Hartford, said her four years have been fraught with economic hardships. 

She was able to obtain scholarships to cover about half her tuition; but with no family support, she was compelled to take out federal students loans and will graduate in May with an estimated debt of $35,000. 

The Higher Education Committee and Banking Committees have crafted a bill to for greater 
oversight. It also would create a student loan
ombudsman to assist students in resolving 
issues and filing complaints. 

Currently, federal student loan debt cannot be refinanced. Democratic Representative 

Roberta Willis of Salisbury touted legislation that would allow the Connecticut Higher Education Student Loan Authority or CHESLA to refinance eligible loans. 

Senate Democrats introduced similar legislation, which would apply regardless of whether the loan was originally made by CHESLA.  

To remedy the soaring costs and debt levels that students face, the Senate is proposing legislation that would cap administrative spending at the University of Connecticut and the Board of Regents, which oversees the 4 state universities and 12 community colleges. 
------------------- reports: According to Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, detergent pods 

are a public health hazard. Those plastic packets that you toss into your washing machine 

have been linked to accidental poison deaths.  

Blumenthal will cosponsor the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act. The bill would set 

safety standards for detergent pods, including childproof packaging, “proper” warning 

labels, and less appealing colors. 

Recent research found that laundry detergent packets have come to pose a serious risk to 

young children, with just under 1,000 children poisoned each month. Children younger than 

3 years old accounted for 73 percent of the cases. 

East Hampton Patch reports: 

Senator Chuck Schumer is calling on the EPA to investigate the use of a toxic chemical found in utility poles. The chemical, pentachlorophenol, is used as a pesticide and disinfectant on utility poles throughout Long Island. 

PSEG has been installing the chemically treated utility poles throughout the Town of East Hampton as well as the Town of North Hempstead. 

In December, a private firm conducted a study on the groundwater when the chemical was found in the soil around newly installed utility poles in East Hampton. 

The study showed the chemical levels measured far exceeded the State Department of Conservation standards. The EPA has noted public health concerns related to the chemical when ingested or inhaled, like neurological, respiratory, kidney and immune system concerns. 

On Tuesday, Schumer said that because the penta treated telephone and electrical poles can be found in populated areas like yards, parks, outside schools and around local businesses, it is critical that the EPA quickly conduct a safety review of penta related to 
human health risks and risks to soil and groundwater. 

He also urged that PSEG suspend the use of this chemical in utility poles until the EPA investigation proves this chemical appropriate for use in these poles. Localities throughout Long Island have voiced concern about the use of this chemical and the potential for it to leach into the ground water. 

First District New York Congressman Lee Zeldin, who represents eastern Long Island, sent out a lengthy statement after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last week, saying “a bad deal with Iran is worse than no deal at all.”

He said everything possible must be done to stop Iran from ever having nuclear capabilities and charged that country with not acting in good faith. 

Reacting to Netanyahu's speech, President Barack Obama said the U.S. and other world powers have offered Tehran “an extraordinarily reasonable” nuclear deal after efforts during the past week to move the negotiations forward and shore up support among Arab and European allies.  

Mr. Obama said in a televised interview that there is an “urgency” to reaching a framework agreement this month, after nearly two years of negotiations where the deadline has been extended twice.