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April 2015

Thursday, April 30 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Scott Harris.):

In the news tonight: Committee approves legislation that would inform Connecticut parents about concussion injuries; Federal court monitor says Connecticut's foster children’s needs still unmet; Expansion of gas tank facility in Riverhead put on hold - but opponents still worried; and a novel proposal for helping expand affordable housing on eastern Long Island. 

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On Wednesday, a bill to promote concussion awareness was approved by the Connecticut Legislature's Appropriations Committee. 

The bill requires municipalities and private youth sports organizations to provide information on concussions to parents of all children between ages seven and 19. 

State Representatives Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, and Mitchell Bolinsky, R-Newtown, cosponsored the bill that now awaits a vote in the House.

The bill expands on 2014 legislation that required the State Board of Education to develop a concussion education plan. 

Pippa Bell Ader, founding member of the Parents Concussion Coalition said the new bill is necessary to extend concussion awareness outside the public school system.

Representative Urban said opponents of the bill, such as the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, who call the bill an unfunded mandate, have done so incorrectly. 

Urban said organizations providing information electronically to parents would not incur any costs. A group providing the information in person or by mail would be responsible for printing and mailing costs. 

According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control, traumatic brain injury can lead to long-term problems affecting brain functions that govern memory, learning, coordination, speech and emotions. 
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A federal court monitor reported Wednesday that foster children in Connecticut are still not receiving all the mental health services, child care and housing supports they need, partly because the programs are not available. 

The latest quarterly review of the care the Department of Children and Families provided looked at a sampling of 53 foster children between July and December.  

It found that the children were not being referred for services, partly because the staff had “knowledge that certain services are not readily available.”

When those children were recommended for services, 24 of them did not get help because of wait lists or “provider issues.”

As the DCF keeps more foster children at home with their families or foster families, advocates have complained that the state has not spent enough money to provide them with the supports they require.

Foster children in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury had the highest rates of unmet needs, according to the sample the court monitor reviewed.
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United Riverhead Terminal has notified the town it’s withdrawing its application to construct two new ethanol storage tanks in order to store and distribute gasoline at its Northville site. 

The storage site operates as a pre-existing nonconforming use.

The plan sparked protests from community residents and civic groups.  They argued that the tanker trucks used to transport gasoline would have serious traffic impacts on local roads and pose significant safety risks.

But the company can resubmit the application at a later date and that’s exactly what civic activists worry may happen.

Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Associaiton president Angela DeVito said today she believed Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter “told them to withdraw the application and resubmit it after the election.”

Walter acknowledged he “suggested that they withdraw the application and resubmit it at a later date with a lot more information.” 

But Walter said he did not suggest when this should happen.

At the conclusion of the March 18 town board hearing, it appeared that a majority of the board no longer supported the application. 

The hearing record was kept open for written comment until Wednesday.
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New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele has introduced a new bill that would fund low-interest loans for workforce housing on the East End, paid for through a fee on the construction of new large homes.

If adopted by the state legislature, the five East End towns would hold referenda on the program, called Workforce Opportunity Fund.

The new program would be funded by a $10 per square foot impact fee on residential construction exceeding 3,000 square feet.  

Eligible would-be homeowners could receive no-interest loans of up to $250,000 from the fund toward the purchase of a house, and would receive housing counseling.

Loans that are granted through the program would be repayable when the house is re-sold.

Lack of affordable housing impacts the area in many ways according to Representative Thiele.  These include the difficulty employers and emergency services agencies have hiring and retaining employees. 

Also, longtime residents are forced to leave the area and traffic congestion is exacerbated by the importation of labor from areas with lower housing costs.”

The bill has been referred to the State Assembly Committee on Housing.

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Wednesday, April 29 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editor Tony Ernst.):

In the news tonight:  Connecticut Dems propose to increase taxes on the wealthy and lower the sales tax to balance the next budget; Legislature weighs issues over police body cameras; Lung Association says Fairfield and Suffolk counties have record air pollution; and Islip Town tries advertising to erase airport deficit. 
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Broadening the sales tax base, implementing a 2 percent capital gains tax, and raising the personal income tax on the state’s wealthiest residents:

That's how the Connecticut  legislature’s  Democratic 
majority would balance the two-year, $40 billion spending plan proposed earlier this week by the Appropriations Committee.

The Finance Committee plans to increase the top personal income tax rate on individuals who make $500,000 and married couples who make $1 million a year, from 6.7 percent to 6.99 percent. 

The proposal will also establish a 2 percent tax on all capital gains income for these individuals. 

The proposals will bring in an additional approximate $540 million over the two-year budget period.

The bill would also lower the sales tax rate from 6.35 percent  to 5.35 percent in stages over the two-year period. 
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The General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee gave the thumbs up Tuesday to a bill that increases the amount of training Connecticut police officers receive regarding the use of excessive force, but they removed a section that would have mandated that officers wear body cameras.

Senator Eric Coleman, a Bloomfield Democrat, who worked on the bill with the leadership of the Public Safety Committee, said they excluded the section on body cameras after discussions with law enforcement.

The committee already approved a bill that would create a pilot program for body cameras.  

If the bill mandated the purchase of body cameras it would have had to go through the Appropriations Committee.

But Coleman says he believes body cameras are an important tool for the purposes of accountability of police officers, “as well [as] to vindicate and validate the actions of a police officer.”

The Judiciary Committee, which Coleman chairs, is working to resurrect a bill that would have introduced penalties for police officers who try and stop members of the public from recording their activities on the job.

Democratic Representative Bruce Morris, of Norwalk, who chairs the Black and Latino Caucus, said, “We don’t need a Ferguson, we don’t need a Baltimore here in Connecticut. But without body cameras that potential exists every day.” 
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Newsday reports: 

Suffolk County again had more smog days than any other New York county, though the levels of soot seen during the year declined. 

But a new report released today said Fairfield County, Connecticut, has the worst ozone pollution in the entire Northeast.

For the third report in a row, Suffolk won an "A" on a second measure of particle pollution: there were no 24-hour periods marred by high levels of very fine bits of acids, metals, chemicals, soil and dust produced by car exhaust, coal-powered plants, wood-burning and the like.

The data was contained in the  American Lung Association's 16th annual report for 2011 to 2013. 

Ozone is the main component of smog, and Suffolk has gotten an "F" on this measure. 

The American Lung Association advocates for building on the gains in reducing air pollution achieved in the past few decades by burning less carbon and reducing pollution that blows between states.

On the plus side, Suffolk only had 27 high ozone days, down seven from last year's report, which covered 2010-12, suggesting that cleaner fuel has helped, the report said. The county's high ozone score also reflects the disadvantages of its location, downwind of much of the continental United States.
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The Islip Town Board has authorized up to $50,000 in advertising for its struggling Long Island MacArthur Airport.

According to Newsday, the airport will be promoted this summer at the Nikon Jones Beach Theatre and through the winter at a Westbury venue. 

The Town Board passed a resolution saying the airport "is a focal point of the Town of Islip and the success of the Airport is instrumental in the growth of the economy of the region at large." 

The airport has been in distress for years with the loss of air carriers: American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are currently the only two companies operating out of MacArthur.

The airport has lost millions in revenue as the number of passengers declines. 

The Town, which owns and operates MacArthur, is itself dealing with an $11.3 million deficit.
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Tuesday, April 28  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford, Leslie Stenull and Francesca Rheannon.):

In the news tonight: Pratt and Whitney under fire for problems with F-35 engines; Former Connecticut Legislature staffer pleads guilty for direct mail kickback scheme; New York taking applications for Marijuana dispensaries but smoking not allowed; and  sentences handed down in immigrant worker exploitation case.
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The future of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet is in doubt.

On Monday federal investigators detailed a number of problems with the engine program for the F-35 fighter jet and urged the Pentagon to be a better watchdog of the program. 

The jet’s engines are made by Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney.

Monday's report, released by the Pentagon's inspector general, identified 61 violations of regulations or defense department policies regarding quality control, worker safety and other issues.

Pratt & Whitney said it has since “worked aggressively to address the DoD IG’s findings and (take) corrective actions,” but denied that engine quality was at issue.

In another recent report, however, the General Accountability Office, did take issue with the engine's performance.

It cited an engine fire last year that temporarily grounded the F-35 fleet.

Pratt & Whitney devised a temporary solution to the problem.  

The GAO also said the cost of making fixes to the F-35 engine and other problems with the Joint Stealth Fighter means the Pentagon’s plans to purchase an increasing number of these airplanes “may not be affordable.”  

The jet is the nation's most expensive weapons program.

The critical reports on the F-35, and its engine, come as Congress weighs the Pentagon’s request for $1.2 billion to buy engines next year, up from $873 million this year.
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Former Connecticut House Republican Chief of Staff, George Gallo, has pleaded guilty in a direct mail kickback scheme.

According to the federal government, Gallo earned $117,000 in commissions from Direct Mail Systems of Clearwater, FL from 2008 to 2013.

Gallo admitted to hiding the commission scheme from his boss at the time, then House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero. 

In 2012 when Cafero confronted Galo about the commissions, Gallo lied, saying he knew Cafero “would end any such arrangement.”

Since 2008, various Connecticut political entities spent nearly $2 million with Direct Mail Systems, according to State Election Enforcement Commission filings.

Gallo learned of Direct Mail Systems when he headed the state Republican Party from 2005 to 2007.

He used his influence to steer business to Direct Mail Systems to support fundraising efforts under the Citizens Election grant program,  which allows small donations and provides matching state funds.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei is recommending a sentence of 15 to 21 months, plus restitution and a fine.

Gallo is scheduled to be sentenced on July 29.
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Yesterday the New York State Department of Health began accepting applications from businesses wishing to operate medical marijuana dispensaries.

Registered operators of medical marijuana dispensaries will be responsible with growing, processing and selling marijuana in nonsmokable forms that can be eaten or used in vapor. 

Each operator will manage up to four dispensaries to provide geographical coverage around the state.

Newsday reports Huntington, Long Island-based KannaLife Sciences Inc. is evaluating the economics of becoming one such operator. The company currently researches plant-based medicines to treat the brain.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the medical marijuana law last July, making New York the 23rd state to approve the drug for medicinal purposes.

Businesses have until May 29 to apply. Initially, the state will award licenses to five businesses and hopes to complete the process by July.
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Newsday reports:
A Long Island man was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in federal prison for exploiting immigrant workers living in the country illegally, at the string of 7-Eleven stores he ran on Long Island and in Virginia.

Farrukh Baig, 59, was sentenced to 87 months by U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Feuerstein in Central Islip.

His wife, Bushra, 51, was sentenced to the three months she had already spent in custody and was released.

According to federal prosecutors, they had mostly undocumented workers work as many as 100 hours a week. 

The couple also cheated the workers out of much of their  pay in a scheme that took in more than $182 million in sales.

Many victims were forced to live in housing owned by the conspirators, and had rent deducted from their pay.

Agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested the couple along with three others in June 2013.

Farrukh Baig pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The Baigs agreed to forfeit $5 million in profit from the scheme, and repay the workers $2.6 million in wages.
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Monday, April 27  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editor Scott Schere.):

A report shows that Connecticut prescription drug costs have spiked in the last three years, a new bill will boost quotas for Long Island fishermen,  Connecticut Republican’s budget proposal restores Social Services at the expense of the State Employee Unions, and a large brush fire is fought in Dix Hills.
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The Hartford Courant reports:
There is a dispute on how to manage the prescription of unregulated drugs produced by controversial compounding pharmacies which are costing Connecticut taxpayers up to $24 million this year in prescription payments on behalf of state employees and retirees.

Under State Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s plan, a prescribing doctor would have to demonstrate "medical necessity" for compounded medications before payment is approved by CVS Caremark, the state's health benefit manager. Any denial could be appealed by the patient.

Lembo said, "everybody's rights are protected, and we're not just blindly throwing money out the door at a time when we can least afford to do so." 

Dan Livingston, an attorney who serves as chief negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition said Lembo's plan creates "too much interference in medical choices between a doctor and patient”.

Livingston said the unions' counter-proposal is for people who have already been receiving coverage for compounded medicines, the prescribing doctor would be required both to certify that it's medically necessary and to notify the patient that the compounded medication hasn't been tested by the FDA and approved as effective and safe.
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Federal legislation proposed by New York Representative Lee Zeldin and Senator Chuck Schumer hopes to correct the current system of regulations for fluke fishing which has created a complicated patchwork of quotas and rules for each state in the region. 

Fishermen have to deal with adhering to standards that limit minimum fish size to either 17-1/2, 18, or nineteen inches in length, depending on the home port of the fishing vessel, and different limits on quantities, either four or five fluke.

The current system results in New York receiving only a tiny fraction of the potential catch: approximately 7.6 percent for the commercial sector and 17 percent in the recreational sector, according to Senator Schumer. 

The “Fluke Fairness Act” would reform the current system that governs fluke regulation by creating a regional approach that updates quotas and standards based on sound geographic, scientific and economic data. 

The fluke fishing season begins in early May.
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Connecticut Republican lawmakers released their budget Friday asking for concessions from labor, while restoring some painful spending cuts to social services proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy. 

The restoration of some of the social service cuts is something the Democrat majority will be able to get behind when they release their own budget next week, but the labor concessions are a deal breaker.

As part of their budget, Republicans call for about $600 million in labor concessions.

Sen. Len Fasano said “We are not asking any state union employee to give up anything more than what was promised several years ago by the governor.”  

The Republican proposal asks the governor to find the $253 million annually in savings his administration was never able to find after it inked a deal with the coalition of state unions four years ago. 

Sal Luciano, head of AFSCME Council 4, which represents the largest segment of the state union workforce, said that if it wasn’t for the agreement four years ago the state would be in far worse shape.

Labor leaders have not expressed a desire to reopen the contract and have instead advocated for tax increases on the wealthiest individuals in the state.
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Newsday reports:
Firefighters from 26 departments battled a brush fire that charred roughly 20 acres of woods in Dix Hills and Deer Park on Saturday afternoon.

The blaze started about 1:30 p.m. in the Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve and spread south from Dix Hills to Deer Park, fire officials said. 

About 20 acres were burned before the fire was under control a few hours later, said Deer Park Fire Chief Larry Bradbury.

Firefighters from departments as far as Holtsville and Bethpage drove heavy-duty "stump jumper" vehicles, loaded with chain saws and hoses, through the thickly wooded New York State preserve.

An estimated 200 to 300 firefighters responded.

Bradbury said, the first firefighters to respond found multiple fires burning in the woods. The cause was unclear.

No one was injured and no structures were damaged in the blaze, fire officials said.

The last major brush fire in the 813-acre preserve was about nine years ago, Bradbury said.
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Friday, April 24 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus and Kevin Brewer):

In tonight’s news:

New England Governors meet on energy while protesters say NO to natural gas,  Connecticut's veto power over recognition of native tribes may be un-constitutional, a plan to divert traffic to Cross Sound Ferry and North Fork roads is withdrawn, and Northport Bay is safe again for shellfishing.
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The six New England governors met in Hartford behind closed doors on Thursday to discuss regional cooperation on energy, especially when it comes to increasing the availability of fracked natural gas. 

Protesters were outside to have their say. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

Top energy officials from all six states shared their views before the governors' meeting, at a forum open to the public but with no audience participation. They all promoted an energy policy that includes gas, nuclear and renewables. 

Later, outside, Jen Siskind, the Connecticut staffer for Food & Water Watch, said fracked gas infrastructure will keep the region tied to fossil fuels for decades, and will worsen climate chaos. Instead, she said states should focus on renewables.

Siskind:  “We have the technology right now to be able to do this. We can use shared solar, we can use photo-voltaic arrays, we can use on-shore and off-shore wind.”

She said opponents of the gas build-out are also collaborating across all the New England states.

Meanwhile, a truck left running belched exhaust near the protesters, sporting slogans calling for jobs in any and all kinds of energy projects, sponsored by the statewide laborers' union.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News. 
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Kevin Washburn, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, hinted Wednesday he may have eliminated a provision in new tribal recognition rules that would stymie efforts by several Connecticut tribes to seek federal status.

He was referring to a provision in his proposed regulations that a tribe’s application be subject to the approval of those who have previously opposed their bids.

Connecticut officials including former Attorney General, now U.S. Senator, Blumenthal were instrumental in 2005 in reversing the Bureau's recognition of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of 
Kent and the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation of North Stonington.

The Schaghticoke have a 400 acre reservation and a pending land claim for 2000 acres including land occupied by the private Kent School. 

The Eastern Pequots, the Golden Hill Paugussett Nation of Bridgeport and the Schaghticoke have been denied recognition for years.  

They would be given a second chance by the new rules, but would be stymied by a “third-party veto.”  

But Washburn said Wednesday that the veto provision  “may be unconstitutional and even illegal” 

Connecticut state and local officials are concerned that recognition of those tribes could lead to new land claims and Indian casinos and affect a casino revenue-sharing agreement between the state and the federally recognized Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans.
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Areas of eastern Northport Bay were to be reopened for shell-fishing today at sunrise after being closed Tuesday as a result of the release of raw sewage into Northport Harbor.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said Thursday that water samples tested Wednesday indicated water quality "is suitable for the harvest of shellfish for human consumption".

About 922 acres were closed temporarily after a broken pipe serving the Village of Northport's waste water treatment plant released untreated waste water into the harbor. The village reported that the pipe was repaired by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
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A plan to redirect 3,000 heavy freight trucks per year from Interstate 95 in Connecticut to the North Fork via the Cross Sound Ferry has been dropped fewer than six weeks after Orient residents noticed it and protested the plan.

The plan was contained in a section of the New York 
Metropolitan Transportation Council’s Regional Freight Plan. It would have diverted traffic to Route 25, a 2 lane road through Orient on the north fork.

On Thursday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office announced all references to the Cross Sound Enhancement Project had been removed from the plan.

But the proposal is still outlined in a U.S. Department of Transportation’s freight plan. It is currently stalled, lacking funding to continue.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, Republican of Shirley, is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. 

Zeldin said he would continue to block the proposal on the federal level. 
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Thursday, April 23  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser, Kevin Brewer, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news, Connecticut inmates begin a new reintegration program; Connecticut lawmakers seek to ban plastic bags and microbeads; a Riverhead Town Councilman will not seek re-election; and Southold will hold a public hearing on a new short term rental law.

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The New Haven Register reports:


As part of Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s Second Chance Society, 110 Connecticut inmates are part of a new program at the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution. 


For the new program, a building at Willard-Cybulski was rededicated Tuesday as the Cybulski Community Reintegration Center.


In this program, inmates will finish out their sentences while learning how to fit into the workforce, and will return home to their families better prepared to resume parenting and find a job. 


Each day will provide the inmates with a full schedule of services and activities, including addiction counseling and STRIVE job training.


Malloy said that though crime levels are already dropping, it is important to better prepare inmates to live outside of prison.

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Yesterday, in conjunction with Earth Day, lawmakers held a bi-partisan press conference in Hartford. 


The press conference was called to promote laws seeking to phase out plastic bags and the use of microbeads in cosmetic products.


The plastic bag bill, which was raised in 2009, 2011, and again this year, would impose a 10-cent fee on customers for each plastic bag they are given at a store.


This year’s bill seeks to phase out plastic bags completely, and by October 2019, stores would only be able to sell reusable bags.


So far, the legislation has passed through two committees, and both the Republican and Democratic parties seem hopeful for the bill’s chances this year.


A second bill seeks to ban microbeads in cosmetic products. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles used as abrasive or exfoliating agents in over 100 personal care products. They have been known to end up in waterways.

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In an email late Tuesday night that stunned the Riverhead Republican Committee, Town Councilman George Gabrielsen announced his intention not to seek re-election.


Citing obligations of his family farm operation and new business commitments, Gabrielsen said he was unable to devote the time that the Town Council position requires and the residents expect and deserve.


Some of Councilman Gabrielsen’s accomplishments over the past 5 years include the opening of Veterans Memorial Park (EPCAL), including the creation of an energy park within EPCAL. He has been a voice for the agriculture community and is responsible for creating the Wildlife Management Committee.


The terms of Gabrielsen and fellow incumbent Republican Councilman James Wooten expire this year. Both were seeking their party’s nomination for re-election.


Councilman Wooten said of Gabrielsen, “He is weighing responsibility to the town job with his own business and family responsibilities. He’s out plowing the fields at 9 o’clock at night with the lights on. I respect George for his decision. I fully understand it and wish him well.”

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The Southold Town Board met last night to set a date for a public hearing on a new short-term rental law. This law would prohibit residents from renting their homes for fewer than seven consecutive nights.


A growing trend of homes being rented out for a night or two to drunken partiers has caused an outcry from area residents.  While the new law would take effect too late to impact rentals already booked for this summer, the law could be in place by the fall.


Council members are seeking the public’s input on whether to set the minimum rental term at seven or 14 days, and are also seeking clarity on possible penalties for violations of the new law.  Town officials view the lower seven-day limit as a starting point to determine if the lower limit solves the problem.


The public hearing will be held on June 2.




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Wednesday, April 22, 2015  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):

In the news tonight, the state police contract is approved, Melinda Tuhus reports on an earth day project in New Haven, the East Hampton airport restrictions prompt a lawsuit and Common Core math tests begin.
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The General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee approved a three-year contract between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and the Connecticut State Police union that increases troopers’ wages nine percent by 2018 and ends longevity pay for new recruits.


The union’s concession means no trooper hired after July 1 will be entitled to longevity pay without a record of wartime service.


Sandra Fae Brown of the Office of Policy and Management’s labor relations group said phasing out longevity pay could eventually reap $1.3 million per year in savings.


Troopers will receive a 3 percent wage increase in July followed by a 2 percent increase in 2016.  There will be 1 percent increase in January 2017 and a 2 percent increase in July, followed by a final 1 percent increase in January 2018.


Representative Paul Formica of East Lyme said he appreciated spreading out the raises, but wondered if the state’s ballooning budget deficit could sustain a contract that increases in cost $4.5 million the first year, $9.1 million the second year, and $14.5 million the third year.


The Connecticut State Police Union said the agreement was approved by 99 percent of union voters.

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In honor of Earth Day today, a New Haven group organized artists to render beautiful banners depicting what scientists call the 9 Planetary Boundaries.  They were exhibited on a fence downtown yesterday. 

WPKN's Melina Tuhus reports.

“Humans are approaching nine thresholds which, if crossed, could generate unacceptable environmental change for humanity, according to the colorful brochure members of the New Haven-Leon (lay-OWN) Sister City Project handed passersby on the edge of the Green. Of the nine, the New Haven area is at risk of exceeding several, including climate change, air pollution, land use change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution and excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the air and water.
“Chris Schweitzer helped organize the project, in which schools from K-8 all the way to Yale University as well as a few community groups made the banners. He described the banner focusing on land use change, which depicts an actual power plant in New Haven that's been abandoned on one side and a child working in a community garden on the other.
“And there's a bunch of abandoned, degraded land there that's not being used. And it'd be a great way to convert it into a local farm or gardens that'd be great for local food, to restore habitat and to create space for communities to come together. And one of the boundaries is, we've been abusing lands, and the hopeful thing is a lot more people and organizations are working on reclaiming that land.
The banners will be displayed at several Earth Day-related events over the next week.”
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A group of aviation advocates known as Friends of the East Hampton Airport filed a federal lawsuit against East Hampton Town Tuesday over the town’s approval last week of new restrictions aimed at curbing noise at the town’s airport.

The lawsuit alleges that the restrictions violate the 1990 Airport Noise and Capacity Act, which regulates noisy aircraft, and claims that the town doesn’t have the right to enact noise restrictions based on assurances they made to the federal government decades ago that it would not restrict access to the airport until 2021.


The town had previously received relief from the courts allowing them to restrict airport access as of January 1 of this year.


Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesperson for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport said the group was forced to sue the town after trying to convince the town to follow its obligations under federal aviation law.



Peter Kirsch of Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell LLP, the town’s consultant, said the Airport Noise and Capacity Act no longer applies to the airport and that the town waited for its federal contractual obligations to expire before enacting the restrictions.
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School districts began three days of math testing today after thousands of students sat out New York's statewide English assessments last week.


New York's 700 districts are required to give the Common Core-aligned tests to students in grades three through eight from Wednesday through Friday. 


The scores don't count toward student grades, but are factored into teacher and school rankings.


The tests face criticism from parents who say students are tested too much and teachers who say they stifle creativity and aren't a fair reflection of their teaching skills.


Newsday reports that an activist group that has been tallying opt-out numbers from last week's English tests says 185,000 students refused to take the tests, based on reports from 73 percent of districts.

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Tuesday, April 21 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Leslie Stenull, and Mike Merli.):              

In tonight’s news, a Connecticut lawmaker fails to amend a casino expansion bill; a new labor report shows job growth in Connecticut; North Carolina Ku Klux Klan active on Long Island; and Riverhead Water District begins its annual system-wide flushing.

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Yesterday, Rep. Bill Aman (R-South Windsor) failed to pass an amendment to the casino expansion bill in the Connecticut state legislature.


The amendment sought to reduce the number of casinos from three to one; restrict financial assistance to the two tribes operating the casino; require greater involvement from a municipality; and force a town to hold a referendum before agreeing to host a casino.


Aman is concerned that municipalities will not have a seat at the negotiating table with the state and the two tribes.


Currently, the bill requires the legislative body of a town to vote on whether or not to welcome a casino, but, Aman notes, “it doesn’t necessarily say what they’re voting on.” His amendment sought to require a memorandum of understanding between the tribes and the town.


Though the amendment failed on a tie-vote, it did receive bi-partisan support.


Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan tribe, and Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, thanked the committee for their vote, as the bill moves forward.

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On Monday, Connecticut’s Department of Labor released new labor data for the month of March. According to the report, the state gained an estimated 4,000 non-farm jobs during the month. The jobless rate remained unchanged at 6.4 percent.


Overall, Connecticut has recovered 77.9 percent of the 119,000 jobs lost during the recession of March 2008 to February 2010. 


The private sector has outperformed the government sector, recovering 88.9 percent of jobs lost during that time. 


Andy Condon, research director at the Department of Labor, said that job growth at this point in the recovery seems to be coming from a broader base of the state’s industries.


Eight of the state’s ten industry sectors made gains.


The report showed initial unemployment claims for first-time filers increased by 1.1 percent, 5.5 percent lower than first time claims filed a year ago.


The state’s average private-sector work week, unchanged from a year ago, was 33.6 hours while the average wage increase of 3.2 percent outpaced inflation.  

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The Southampton Press reports:


In Hampton Bays, white-supremacist literature has been distributed over the last year by a local member of the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan.


Douglas Munker of Hampton Bays says he was wrongfully arrested for distributing a handbill In March. 


WPKN News spoke with Bob Zellner, a long-time civil rights worker active both on Long Island and in North Carolina, where he works with the NAACP's Moral Mondays Movement.


We asked why Long Islanders should be concerned about the Klan.


Zellner: 


"There's an uptick of Klan activity around the country

documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Morris Dees and others have discovered a pattern of lynchings around the country, not only in the South.


We recently had a lynching in Bladenburg NC on the anniversary of the lynching of Emmett Till, to the day!


A young black man was hanged, Lyndon Lacey.


It's very difficult to get any coverage, but it is being 

investigated now by the Justice Department as a hate crime.

There's a resurgence of lynchings now that are made to appear to be suicides.


The police very quickly determine them to be suicides, therefore there are no culprits, no investigation, and it's happening all over the country.


These klansmen in Long Island are related to a very 

violent Klan in North Carolina - and when they say they're simply taking up for the white race, they mean they want to institute another reign of terror using violence."

---------------------------

The Riverhead Water District will begin system-wide flushing on Sunday, April 19. 


The flushing is expected to last approximately three weeks with a targeted end date of May 10. 


Mark Conklin, the water district superintendent, warned that customers may experience water discoloration. Customers should check water color before laundering clothes to avoid damage.


Discoloration can be solved by letting taps run a few minutes before use. If discoloration is still present after one attempt, wait a while and let the water run again.


Superintendent Conklin said the flushing will be done at night to minimize inconvenience.


Flushing is an annual, spring routine that eliminates loose sediment in the system.  


Customers are encouraged to flush their home pipes also as part of general maintenance. 


Customers with questions should contact the Riverhead Water District.


==========================

 Monday, April 20 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Scott Schere and Jay Kemeny.):

Governor Malloy nominates a state education chief, Residents pack Brookhaven Town Hall to debate the Medford casino proposal,  Riverhead faces a parking crisis, and revered Connecticut musician James Velvet dies.

-------------------------

The Hartford Courant reports:

Dianna Wentzell, a 25-year veteran of Connecticut's public school system, was nominated by Governor Malloy Friday as Connecticut’s new education commissioner.

A former classroom teacher, Wentzell is the chief academic officer for the state education department. She has served as an assistant superintendent and deputy chief academic officer in Hartford public schools and also worked in South Windsor schools.

At a press conference, Ms. Wentzell said  “Connecticut is home to incredible students, great teachers and fantastic schools. However, we have much more work to do to ensure that all students are afforded the opportunity and advantages of high expectations and a high-quality education."

Malloy critic Jonathan Pelto, a former state legislator, slammed Wentzell's nomination on his blog, noting her role in implementing the state's new standardized testing that is aligned with the controversial Common Core State Standards.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said that Wentzell "believes that all Connecticut students deserve an excellent education — without exception."

Wentzell must now appear before the legislature's nominations committee and be confirmed by a legislative vote.
-------------------------

Newsday reports:

Hundreds of supporters and opponents of a proposed video-lottery casino in Medford packed Brookhaven Town Hall last week in the first meeting since town officials stated they cannot block the controversial project.

Town officials recently released a letter from an attorney that said state law exempts the casino from town zoning laws. Brookhaven had sought the opinion in response to casino opponents who had asked them to stop the project.

Supporters outnumbered opponents at the town board meeting. It was the largest crowd since OTB announced plans late last year to build a gaming parlor with up to 1,000 video lottery terminals.

Several dozen supporters, including union members and hotel, taxi and bus service operators told the town board the casino would boost the local economy, while offering gamblers an alternative to betting parlors in Queens and Connecticut as well as generating hundreds of jobs.

Opponents said Brookhaven officials should use town zoning laws to halt construction of the casino and Medford civic leaders have sued Suffolk OTB to block the project.

On Saturday afternoon about 100 residents and civic group members protested and held signs on the side of Route 112 in Medford denouncing the casino plans.
-------------------------


Finding a parking spot in downtown Riverhead has become increasingly difficult as more stores, restaurants and apartments have opened up on Main Street, according to local business owners and residents.

Bobby Hartmann, a downtown resident and a member of the Riverhead Business Improvement District board of directors said, “Parking downtown between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. is almost impossible.”

Most of downtown Riverhead lies within the town’s parking district, which spans from Main Street just west of Griffin Avenue east past Ostrander Avenue.

Officials have attempted to alleviate the issue with timed parking spots and limiting parking in certain areas to between one and three hours.

Town Supervisor Sean Walter says metered parking is another option. But Councilman John Dunleavy thinks that parking garages are the only long-term solution.

Supervisor Walter disagrees saying, “If you look at towns like Patchogue and Port Jefferson, they function quite well without parking garages.” He believes a parking garage is inconsistent with the town’s aesthetic, stating, “We’re a rural town.”

-------------------------

The New Haven Register reports:

Musicians and music fans all over Greater New Haven are in mourning after the death Friday of James Velvet, a revered longtime member of the area music community and co-host for the past 28 years of WPLR radio’s long-running “The Local Bands Show.”

Born James Wimsatt, Velvet died Friday afternoon in a New York City hospital at age 65.

A huge supporter of the local music scene, he was able to introduce over 1400 local bands on his radio show.  Rick Allison, Velvet’s longtime radio co-host, said in a Facebook post, “James was a true soul, sure that the right notes and the right words could change the world for the better.”

Dozens of locals who knew Velvet or were just touched by his music, spent much of the day pouring their hearts out in online discussions of the gaping hole his loss leaves in the local scene.

Drummer Tom Smith said, “James supported musicians by letting them sense that he valued them, both as people and artists.” 

There will be a celebration of James’ life in the coming weeks.
=========================

Friday, April 17  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):


In tonight’s news, new rare tick-borne virus found in Connecticut; educators meet in Hartford to discuss school improvements; new airport regulations seek to curb noise in East Hampton; and Long Island firefighters express concern over the condition of the Pine Barrens.
------------------------

Researchers at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven have confirmed that a potentially deadly tick-borne virus has entered the state.

Scientists at the station positively identified traces of the virus in ticks from North Branford and Bridgeport during a recent survey. The number of ticks infected with Powassan was low, just two to three percent.
Spread by blacklegged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, the Powassan virus can even be more dangerous than Lyme disease and can cause serious nervous system disruptions, encephalitis, and meningitis.

In documented cases, about 10 to 15 percent of those who contract the virus will die from it 
Although the virus has a low occurrence rate, experts say the state should expect to see its first human cases soon.

A symposium on tick-borne illnesses will take place April 21 at 6:30PM at the Westport Library. Speakers will include Dr. Kirby Stafford III, chief entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
------------------------

Yesterday, educators from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania joined a Hartford principal to discuss “turnaround schools” during a forum before the Connecticut state legislature’s Education Committee.

The forum was organized by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, and highlighted some successful cases of turning around struggling schools in the northeast.

The coalition added that Connecticut’s turnaround results through the Commissioner’s Network have been mixed, and will require help from lawmakers to improve outcomes.

The Commissioner’s Network was created in 2012 to improve the state’s lowest-performing schools through high-level interventions, resources, and additional funding. 

The program currently serves 16 schools that have volunteered to participate. 

However, according to the coalition, more than half of those schools do not fall within the state’s lowest performing categories.
------------------------

The East Hampton Town Board approved three new airport restrictions Thursday night that will take effect before Memorial Day.

Newsday reports that East Hampton officials must still defend the rules in court. 

Friends of East Hampton Airport, a group of helicopter pilots and other aviation interests, filed two legal actions in January seeking to block the town's actions.

The new regulations include a mandatory nighttime curfew, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., an extended curfew on noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., a ban on all helicopters on weekends during the summer season, and a limit on operations by noisy aircraft of one trip per week during the summer season. 

The board believes these restrictions will address 73 percent of the complaints about noisy aircraft at the airport.
------------------------

Firefighters in the Flanders district, who traditionally are the prime responders to brush fires in Long Island's Pine Barrens, are growing increasingly frustrated over the current condition of the woods there, which they say makes it difficult — and dangerous — to respond to and contain wildfires.

That frustration came to a boiling point during a fire in the Flanders woodlands Saturday that led to three brush-fire trucks being damaged.  

And now, as reported by CBS Radio, one of the most destructive pests that have already ravaged forests in New Jersey is threatening Long Island.

The buzz of chainsaws and “timber” calls in the pine forest signal the launch of a war. The target is the southern pine beetle which made its first ever appearance in New York State last fall in Long Island parks.

“We have identified 1,000-plus acres and 100 locations,” the DEC’s Rob Marsh said.

And it’s not just any 1,000 acres—it’s acres of infested trees in the core of Long Island’s 52,000-acre Pine Barrens, pitch pines needed to protect Long Island’s purest drinking water supply.

“This is an absolute disaster. This forest has been here for 12,000 years. We have fought off overdevelopment and it’s a little, bitty beetle that’s threatening to bring it down,” Dick Amper with the Long Island Pine Barrens Society said.

On Friday, DEC crews fanned out in Hampton Bays, cutting down 14 acres of pine trees. The infestation could also spread to private property, with another 50,000 acres of adjacent woodland at risk.
=========================

Thursday, April 16  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Nadine Dumser, and Mike Merli.):


In tonight’s news, Connecticut lawmakers consider legalizing keno; low-wage workers rally in Hartford; the Riverhead Board of Education unanimously approves their operating budget; and Long Island submariners honor fallen veterans on New Suffolk Beach.

---------------------

On Wednesday, there was a Connecticut state legislative hearing on a renewed proposal to legalize keno.


According to the bill raised by the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, as well as proceed projections from the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes could earn about as much as the state from keno next fiscal year.


However, the Mohegan tribe has expressed concern that if keno is legalized, it could pave the way for a dramatic shift in state policy, and the launch of online gaming.


Keno would be offered in convenience stores, restaurants and bars. The game tends to build a player base over time, and attract more affluent gamblers than lottery tickets.


Lottery officials have said offering keno is crucial to competing with diverse gambling options in neighboring states.

-------------------------

Yesterday, the day on which Americans file their income taxes, low-wage workers and labor activists participated in a nationwide job walk-out for higher pay.


The campaign, known as Fight for 15, is focused on the demand for $15-an-hour wages. In Connecticut, 1,000 workers, union members, advocates and lawmakers gathered at the Capitol in Hartford to support legislation that would impose fees on large corporations that don’t pay their employees $15 an hour.


The legislation seeks to charge corporations such as Wal-Mart $1 per hour for each employee paid $15 an hour or less.


The fiscal note estimates that about 146,710 of the 743,328 employees who work for companies with at least 500 employees in Connecticut would be covered under the bill. 

-------------------------

At a meeting in Riverhead on Tuesday night, Allyson Matwey of Wading River asked how the Board of Education felt about Common Core tests. 


Matwey expressed concern that the environment in the classroom would diminish as teachers realized that 50 percent of their evaluations would be based on students’ test scores.


"I applaud the 26 percent we had to refuse today," Matwey remarked. "We’re going to have the highest refusal rates across Long Island….That’s the message we need to send to the state." 


Nancy Carney, Superintendent of the Riverhead Central School District, said, "I also take an oath, as does the board, that we will abide by the regulations of the commissioner of education, and one of those regulations is that we administer state assessments every year."


"I do not believe teachers or students should be judged effective on an assessment. State assessments are valid for us as a district to look at how our students are doing compared to other students around the state."


She added that the district respects a parent’s right to opt out of the testing.


Regarding the school budget, the Board of Education unanimously approved a $125,909,672 operating budget with no objections. 

-------------------------

United States submarine veterans from the Long Island Base gathered last Sunday in New Suffolk on the North Fork, site of the nation’s first submarine base.  They came together to honor members of the submarine service who lost their lives in the line of duty.


In 2000, the group placed a monument to their fellow veterans at New Suffolk Beach, where each year a ship's bell is rung once for every sub that did not return to its base.


During World War II, 20% of submariners lost their lives in service, the highest rate of all the armed forces.  Submariners serving today deploy aboard nuclear-powered subs that never need refueling, completing missions they can't discuss.


After the ceremony for their fallen veterans, the submariners held a celebratory luncheon at the Soundview Inn in Greenport.


==============================


Wednesday April 15, 2015  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):


In the news tonight, New York state drafts new rules for dumping, thousands of students opt out of controversial state tests, domestic workers rally at the state Capitol and Melinda Tuhus reports that Mexican protestors joined a group opposing police violence in New Haven.

-------------------------

Newsday reports that state environmental authorities are drafting rules they hope could halt illegal dumping like prosecutors allege occurred at a Brentwood park and three other locations in Suffolk County.


State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, in an April 7 letter to state Assemblyman Steven Englebright, said the new rules would increase regulatory control over construction and demolition debris - the type of material dumped at the four sites.


The revisions will include a requirement that the debris be tracked from the point of origin, and provide greater oversight of the movement and disposal of waste in the state.


Englebright, head of the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, said the proposed regulations would have made dumping more difficult at the four Suffolk County sites: Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a 1-acre private property in Central Islip, a six-home development for veterans in Islandia and a protected wetlands area in Deer Park.


Six men and four companies were indicted in December in connection with the dumping. 


It is expected that the review will be completed in a few months after which draft regulations will be available for public comment.

-------------------------

Thousands of Long Island elementary and middle school students -- in record numbers in some districts -- refused to take the state's English Language Arts exam Tuesday, the first of three days the test is being given in public schools statewide.


About 16,000 students in grades 3 through 8, in 21 school districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties opted out, according to responses to a Newsday survey of more than half of the Island's 124 districts. 


The exam continues Wednesday and Thursday.


The number exceeds the level of refusals on last spring's exam, when nearly 9,500 students in 67 districts opted out.


The opt-out movement has been fueled by strong criticism of the ELA and math exams, which are more rigorous since being based on national Common Core academic standards.


Controversy over the state's teacher evaluation system, in which students' test performance is tied to educators' job evaluations, has also driven the opt-out movement.


Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch counseled parents against pulling their children from the test because if less than 95 percent of students participate, a school could lose significant federal funding.

-------------------------

They care for children and the elderly and are trusted to clean homes, but domestic workers are not protected by Connecticut labor laws.


Natalicia Tracy, executive director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center, hopes that’s about to change.


The legislature is currently debating a bill that would afford these workers basic rights.

It would require them to be paid minimum wage, get paid for all the hours they work and protect them from discrimination and harassment.

At a rally on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday, Tracy said domestic workers are especially vulnerable to harassment because they often work alone in the home of the person who employs them.


Tracy is hoping to make Connecticut the fifth state to give these protections to domestic workers. A similar law went into effect in Massachusetts on April 1. New York, Hawaii, and California already have similar laws.


There are currently 42,000 domestic workers in Connecticut, according to U.S. Census data.


New Haven Mayor Toni Harp signed a resolution Monday encouraging passage of the legislation.

-------------------------

Tuesday marked the 18th anniversary of the day Malik Jones, an unarmed young African American, was shot and killed in New Haven by a white East Haven police officer. while sitting in his car (The officer, Robert Flodquist, claimed he felt his life was threatened by Jones's "weapon" -- his car. He was cleared of wrongdoing.) Jones' mother, Emma, has commemorated that day every year with her supporters; this year the turnout was boosted by another group opposing police violence. 


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:


Several family members of some of the 43 Mexican college students who were disappeared after a violent confrontation last September are touring the U.S. to bring attention to the incident and to ask the U.S. to cut off the millions of dollars it gives Mexico in military aid until the case is resolved. The families believe their children are still alive. 


Protester: (Spanish, followed by English) And we are here to tell you and to tell all of the world that we will not rest until we find them.


Emma Jones pointed out that the frequency of black men shot by police has raised awareness of the issue.


Protester:  We now have a higher level of consciousness than I think most of us had 18 years ago. This struggle is not a struggle for short-time sprinters. It is a struggle for long-time runners. 


=========================



Tuesday April 14, 2015   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Leslie Stenull.):


In the news tonight: 

Keno considered again, a fracas about high interest loans, test refusals as state exams begin in New York, and more help for eastern long island's water-ways.
---------------------

Connecticut lottery officials have said in recent years that Keno offered at the state’s bars and restaurants could play an important role in the long-term health of the state’s lottery system. 


On Wednesday, Connecticut’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will host a public hearing to discuss the future of the lottery-style electronic game.


The hearing comes amid concern from lottery officials that Foxwood Resorts Casino and the Mohegan Sun want to open new gambling facilities in the state. 


Although designed to counter growing competition from casinos operating in neighboring states, lottery officials claim that an expansion of Connecticut’s casino industry could weaken the lottery system.


The legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projected two years ago that Keno would generate about $27 million annually for the state’s coffers. 


Also two years ago, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature passed a bill that would have allowed Keno in the state’s bars and restaurants. The bill was scrapped heading into the 2014 state elections, due to potential voter opposition.


Out-of-state dark money groups have targeted Connecticut's attempt to curb high interest rate loans offered by two Oklahoma–based, tribal-owned companies.


A conservative group that is not required to disclose its donors launched a media  campaign against Governor Malloy and the state Banking Department for action it’s taken against the lenders.


The Institute for Liberty says it sent 100,000 pieces of direct mail to Connecticut voters last week, saying “Governor Malloy, Don’t take away my healthcare.”  


But what does Malloy have to do with the healthcare of a tribe from Oklahoma?


Last year, Connecticut’s Banking Department took enforcement against native-owned companies from Oklahoma after receiving complaints about high interest loans.


The lenders were charging interest rates as high as 448 percent on loans up to $15,000.  


Connecticut has a 12 percent cap on such loans.


The Banking Department imposed fines totaling $ 1.5 million dollars on Great Plains Lending and Clear Creek Lending and the head of the Otoe-Missouria tribe from Oklahoma. They filed an injunction to prevent them from doing business in the state.


The lenders lawyers argued they shouldn’t have to follow Connecticut’s laws since they are the extension of a sovereign nation.


After the lenders withdrew their complaint, a Superior Court Judge decided the enforcement order and penalty should stand.  

---------------------

Newsday reports:

In New York, standardized testing, starting with the English Language Arts exam, begins today. 

The issue of whether to put students in grades three to eight through days of standardized testing has pitted some determined parents and the teacher unions against Governor Cuomo and his administration, particularly as the results became a significant part of teacher evaluations. 


Test-refusal organizer, a parent of elementary school children, Jeanette Deutermann, says: "The numbers so far that we are getting in are really promising" for those opting out. She said parents like her were incensed that the budget negotiated by the governor and legislature sought to increase tests' role in gauging teachers' work.


Deutermann said: "When you make testing the focus of the entire year for our youngest learners, there is no choice but for teachers to focus all of their energy on test preparation.”


Education Department officials were pushing forward, saying an objective measure is needed for all students.


They also said that if not corrected, a district's failure to meet the federal requirement of 95 percent participation on standardized tests could result in penalties including partial loss of federal Title I aid, used for academic remediation.

---------------------

Environmental consultant Rachel Gruzen has been hired by East End towns and villages as the Inter-municipal Agreement Coordinator of the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee.


Ms. Gruzen will be coordinating efforts between the towns and villages working to protect the waters of the Peconic Estuary, the waterways connected to Peconic Bay between the north and south forks of Long Island.  


The position was established by the Suffolk County Legislature last year to help the towns and villages surrounding the Estuary to coordinate efforts to protect the bays, in conjunction with the federal Peconic Estuary Program.


Ms. Gruzen, started her career with The Nature Conservancy,  protecting critical lands within the Estuary. 


One of her first goals is to create a Geographic Information Systems clearinghouse to provide nitrogen-loading modeling in the Peconic Bay.


Ms. Gruzen and  Alison Branco, administrator of  the Peconic Estuary Program, will  create an inventory of where towns, villages and the county stand on water quality issues.

=============

Monday, April 13 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Scott Schere and Paul Atkin): 


In tonight’s news,  Chief Justice Rogers is confirmed for another 8 years in Connecticut, Congressman Zeldin meets with Long Island farmers to hear their 

concerns, Suffolk County’s comptroller speaks out against PSEG rate hikes, and Melinda Tuhus reports from a Yale University protest that led to 19 arrests.
-------------------------

Members of the Judiciary Committee gave Chief Justice Chase Rogers a thumbs up Saturday morning after roughly six hours of public testimony both for and against the state’s top judge.  


The committee overwhelmingly approved Governor Malloy’s renomination of Rogers for a second eight-year term. She was appointed to the position by former Governor Rell. 


Rogers said at her confirmation hearing Friday that she has been successful in promoting transparency, access to justice, and diversity in the Connecticut court system.


But a public hearing on the confirmation showed there are some who think the family court system is broken and that Rogers has missed her chance to fix it.


Opposition came from parents and grandparents who recounted stories of estrangement, financial ruin, threats of jail time for nonpayment of guardian ad 

litem fees, conflicts of interest, and a host of other problems stemming from the family court system. 

Public hearing testimony in favor of Rogers’ nomination came from the offices of the public defender, the chief state’s attorney, the Connecticut Bar Association and several universities.

------------

Long Island’s newest Congressman,  Lee Zeldin, has asked  local farmers to identify Federal regulations they find troublesome. 


During a meeting  Saturday hosted by the Long Island Farm Bureau , Mr. Zeldin  said he’s counting on members of the local agriculture community to bring him up to speed on their concerns so that he’ll be able to properly advocate for them.


One of the requests was for an  easing of the red tape associated with the H-2A program, which is the current visa system to hire workers on a seasonal basis.


As for other concerns, farmers said smaller operations like theirs should be exempt from certain regulations they believe are designed for larger farms located across the country.


While they aren’t against food safety regulations, they said they’re concerned that unfunded mandates will push local food-crop growers out of business and force them to start growing non-food crops instead.


“It’s just more paperwork. We’re being bogged down by paperwork, ” was the consensus of farmers who attended the meeting.


In addition to identifying what’s wrong with current legislation, Mr. Zeldin asked farmers to work together to develop ideas that that will help their businesses.

-----------

Suffolk Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. says he opposes PSEG Long Island's $440 million rate hike proposal and has asked the state Public Service Commission to allow him to intervene as an official party in the pending rate case.


Kennedy took the position in a three-page letter to the commission dated Friday and said he is ready to hire an outside lawyer to fight the rate hike.


Mr. Kennedy said that the county paid $23.9 million in electric bills last year and the utility's plan for a 4-percent rate hike annually over the next three years is too much for the county and its taxpayers to bear.


In an interview late Friday, Kennedy said, "We have 3 million residents on Long Island ... trying to survive with less and these guys are hosing everyone because they can."


PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir, in a statement, said "We welcome the opportunity to continue to have constructive, open dialogue regarding our request."

Weir said the rate hike was "modest" and would allow the utility to continue to improve services.
-------------------

Yale undergraduates with Fossil Free Yale sat in Thursday outside the President's office in a bid to get the university to reconsider its decision not to divest 

fossil fuel stocks from its $24 billion endowment portfolio. At the end of the day, 19 of them were arrested for refusing to leave the building. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:
  
The students have worked on the issue for the past two years and said they needed to increase the pressure on the administration after being ignored when they went through proper channels with their request. Freshman Phoebe Chatfield read Fossil 
Free Yale's statement, which read, in part:

We are here because the fossil fuel industry depends on its ability to keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, just as our survival depends on our ability to stop them, and right now, they are winning. 


We are here today that the Yale Corporation publicly commit to reconsider fossil fuel divestment and explain why the conversation on divestment must be reopened.


President Peter Salovey listened to the statement and advised the students to use the same channels that have so far been closed to them or have produced no results.


The 19 students received $92 fines and face possible disciplinary action from Yale. 


The students emerged from the building to the welcome cheers of over a hundred fellow students.


They said they will continue to escalate the pressure on Yale to divest. Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


------------------------------- 


Friday April 10, 2015 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Tony Ernst.):

In the news tonight: Connecticut considers first-time bill to fine large employers paying less than $15 an hour, a new program for Connecticut women veterans would be unfunded, LIRR service jammed up after panhandler jumped off a train, and Long Island’s Shinnecock Indian Nation elects seven trustees.

--------------------

The Connecticut State Labor Commission and unions are backing a bill introduced in Hartford Thursday that would fine large employers paying employees less than $15 per hour.

Large firms employing more than 500 people would be fined $1 per hour for every hour worked by an employee making less than $15 per hour. Approximately 140,000 people in Connecticut would be covered by the bill, and the fines imposed could generate up to $300 million per year in state revenues in the future.

Supporters of the plan point out that underpaid employees are forced to rely on state programs for health insurance and childcare, with Senator Ed Gomes of Bridgeport adding that "people earning minimum wage can't even afford a decent apartment."

Opponents of the legislation, who call the plan a tax on business, say it will lead to reduced hours for some employees, fewer jobs available overall, and ultimately to some businesses moving out of Connecticut.
--------------------

The Connecticut State Senate unanimously approved a bill to aid the state’s 16,000 female veterans. But in a year of tight finances, the outreach program, which seeks to inform veterans about State and Federal aid available to them, will be unfunded and carried out with existing budget resources.

Senator Martin Looney points out that "female veterans struggle with issues ranging from unemployment and homelessness to mental health, just as male veterans do." A 2010 study found post-traumatic stress disorder, hypertension and depression as the top three diagnoses for women veterans. The troop drawdowns after long overseas wars are expected to swell the numbers of returning female veterans. According to Jackie Evonsion of the American Legion, many returning female veterans are unaware they are eligible for many of the same benefits as male veterans.
--------------------

Newsday reports: a panhandler broke his ankle Thursday afternoon when he jumped off an LIRR train as it was leaving Penn Station, which led to major delays for rush-hour commuters.

Eduardo Dellaviginia jumped onto the tracks at about 3:18 p.m. after realizing that his train was moving, said LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena. Power to the rails was shut down and rescuers were dispatched to the tunnel.

While rescuers worked, service between Jamaica and Penn stations was suspended in both directions for more than two hours. The LIRR said more than 15 eastbound trains were canceled. Limited eastbound service resumed around 5 p.m., and delays of up to 55 minutes had been reduced to half an hour or less by 7 p.m.

Dellaviginia was taken to Bellevue Hospital.
--------------------

Newsday reports: Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation elected Bryan Polite, a first-time member, as Chairman of its council of trustees along with six other members on Tuesday.

Newly elected were Terrel Terry, and the Rev. Michael Smith of the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church.

Daniel Collins Sr, and Nichol Dennis-Banks, who became the first woman trustee in 2013, were re-elected.

Lucille Bosley and Eugene Cuffee, who ran unopposed, were named sunksqua and sachem-- elder council members with trustee voting power and ceremonial roles.

The tribe is working to open a newly constructed child day care center.

Federal funding will allow beach-erosion repairs following damage from superstorm Sandy and a federal grant of $220,000 will fund housing projects.

===========================

Thursday, April 9   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Nadine Dumser, and Mike Merli.):

In tonight’s news, Connecticut state senators block the closing of a satellite community college campus; nursing home workers in Connecticut plan to strike later this month; Southampton’s ban on plastic bags takes effect on Earth Day; and Riverhead Town Police engage in a driving awareness campaign.
--------------------

The State Senate unanimously voted to stop the planned closure of a community college satellite campus yesterday. 


Senator Dante Bartolomeo (D-Meriden) introduced the amendment to save the Meriden campus of Middlesex Community College. Bartolomeo doesn’t blame college officials for the plan to close the campus: she blames Gregory Gray, president of the Board of Regents, which oversees the four state universities and twelve community colleges.


Board of Regents spokesman Michael Kozlowski said the decision to save almost $500,000 by closing the Meriden campus was made by the college administrators. The college was asked to find $800,000 in cuts.


Yesterday’s unanimous voice vote delivered a message to the Board of Regents that it must consult with the legislature before making big budget decisions, such as closing a college campus.


A total of 3,014 students are enrolled at Middlesex Community College, and 647 students attend classes at the Meriden campus.

--------------------

Workers at 27 nursing homes have voted to go on strike April 24. The nursing homes are owned by Paradigm Healthcare, Genesis HealthCare, and iCare, and employ over 3,500 workers represented by SEIU 1199, New England. Contracts at the nursing homes expired last month.


Union spokeswoman Jennifer Schneider said most of the workers feel that their voices are not being heard by their employers or state lawmakers.


The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, a trade group that manages the three nursing home chains, issued a statement urging employees to continue negotiating and stay on the job.


According to SEIU 1199, on average the nursing home workers represented by the union are 44 years old with 10 years of experience. Excluding nurses, more than half of the nursing home workers earn under $15 an hour.


Negotiations are ongoing with the three chains affected by the strike.

--------------------

In less than two weeks, single-use plastic shopping bags will be illegal in the town of Southampton. A public information campaign has started to raise awareness about the code change.


The Southampton rule will go into effect on Earth Day, April 22, but the East Hampton rule isn’t slated to go into effect until September. 


Any retailer caught breaking the ban will be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 15 days.


To encourage residents to bring their own bags when shopping, bag ban legislation has also been enacted.


Southampton’s Sustainability Committee is available to host or sponsor reusable bag giveaways, provide signs, or distribute literature at stores throughout town as the transition gets under way.

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The month of April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Riverhead Town Police will be taking part in the campaign, created by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association.


"U Drive, U Text, U Pay" is the name and the message of the campaign that starts tomorrow, April 10th, and runs through the 15th  It will combine intense enforcement of anti-texting laws with a stepped-up media awareness campaign. In 2013, nionwide over 3000 people were killed nationwide and more than 420,000 were injured in accidents that involved distracted drivers.


Riverhead Police will be active in numerous safe driving campaigns for the rest of the year, addressing aggressive driving, school bus safety, and driving under the influence, among other issues.


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Wednesday, April 8 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):


Windsor opposes new casino; study shows traffic stop bias; Proposed chopper restrictions for East Hampton downgraded and Amityville considers canceling health benefits for some former village officials.

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The Windsor Town Council adopted the state's first resolution opposing casino expansion.

The resolution was drafted in response to a bill being debated in the legislature that would allow the tribes who operate the Mohegan Sun and the Foxwoods Casino to build up to three new casinos in the state.

Windsor Councilman Al Simon decided to preemptively send a message to the tribes that Windsor was not interested.


Mohegan Chairman Kevin Brown said the tribes are not interested in locating a casino in a town that doesn’t want a casino. 


The tribes maintain their primary concern is keeping the current jobs at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, while preventing customers from going to casinos in Massachusetts or Rhode Island.


Representative Peggy Sayers, who represents both Windsor and Windsor Locks, is in favor of the tribes adding slot machines to the Bradley Teletheater in Windsor Locks. 

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Police departments in Groton, Granby, and Waterbury and state police troops in Tolland and Hartford are more likely to stop black and Hispanic drivers, according to a study conducted by researchers at Central Connecticut State University.

It was mandated by a state law that requires traffic stop data to be collected and analyzed. The data was given to the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee Tuesday.

According to the report, statewide, of the nearly 620,000 traffic stops made 13.5 percent of motorists stopped were black and 11.7 percent were of Hispanic descent, percentages higher than in the population. 


That means if you are a black or Hispanic driver in Connecticut, you are twice as likely to get stopped by police and more than twice as likely to have your vehicle searched.


For the state police barracks in Tolland the results also indicated “significant racial and ethnic disparity” when it comes to searching vehicles during a traffic stop. The study further found that minority motorists were searched more frequently relative to the rate at which they were actually found with anything illegal.

Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said he felt very comfortable saying racial and ethnic discrimination is not practiced by any of the 1,076 members of his union.  
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East Hampton Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, has spearheaded a drive to impose four restrictions on helicopters and other aircraft flying into and out of East Hampton Airport.  Tuesday, she scrapped one of the proposals after strong opposition from elected officials from the North and South forks. 

The officials say companies would simply divert flights into their communities.


Ms. Burke-Gonzalez will recommend to the East Hampton board that an original proposal to ban all helicopter operations on summer weekends from noon Thursday through noon Monday not be included in a set of local laws the board will consider later this month.


Still in place to be voted on are:

• a mandatory nighttime airport curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
• an extended curfew on so-called “noisy” aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.
• limiting noisy aircraft to one trip – a single landing and takeoff – each week during the summer season.
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Newsday reports:
Amityville Mayor James Wandell says the village will likely move ahead with plans to cancel health benefits in the next budget year for some former officials.

Wandell described the move as a necessary response to the "fiscal disaster" brought on by police salaries and construction costs associated with a new Village Hall built in 2009. He blames former Mayor Peter Imbert for Amityville’s poor finances.


The mayor cited the average police salary of $164,000 last year and the cost of work done at Village Hall at $12 million. 


Salaries for non-union village employees are currently frozen, and the Village has asked the police union to make pay concessions.


Joseph Slack, former trustee who receives the benefits said he will sue the village to prevent cuts. The Village says the former employees will have access to Medicare and have an extended period to find other coverage.


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Tuesday, April 7 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Melinda Tuhus, and Mike Merli.):

In tonight’s news, a new lawsuit seeks disability benefits for a New Haven veteran; a new website allows Long Islanders to document coyote movement; and a new hotel on Route 58 has been granted tax breaks.

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A first-of-its kind class action-type lawsuit was filed on Monday on behalf of a New Haven Marine combat veteran and up to 300,000 other vets who have been waiting for action on their appeals for disability benefits. The lawsuit was announced at a press conference at Yale Law School Monday morning. 
WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

Vietnam veteran Conley Monk Jr. received a less-than-honorable discharge due to combat-related post-traumatic stress that was not diagnosed until 2012. He explained why the lawsuit includes all veterans in his situation.


Monk:  “The problem that we're having is that once again the military has taken so long to address these discharges and if they was case by case, more than likely it would never happen. A lot of the veterans from the Vietnam era is dying off, you know, we have a variety of different illnesses, that we need to have immediate action.”


The suit seeks to compel the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs promptly to decide initial disability compensation appeals that have been pending more than one year, when the case involves a veteran facing medical or financial hardship. It was filed in DC, where the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is located. Monk is being represented by law student interns from the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

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The organizers of Gotham Coyote Project, which documents coyote life in New York City, have launched the Wild Suburbia Project, to help Long Islanders document the presence of coyotes, foxes, and bobcats.

Wildlife biologist Dr. Chris Nagy gave an overview of the project at last month’s Long Island Natural History Conference.


Two sightings of a lone coyote have been documented in the past two years near farm fields in Bridgehampton and Water Mill. In addition, Fishers Island residents have been hearing coyotes howl for years.


Dr. Nagy said the purpose of the Wild Suburbia Project is to “have as many eyes on the ground as we can” to track the movement of coyotes on Long Island. He hopes residents log in to the website to document both the absence and the presence of coyotes in the area, and believes both types of information are valuable to the research.

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The Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, or IDA, yesterday granted tax breaks totaling more than $1.6 million to the developer of a proposed Route 58 Marriot Residence Inn. The application, submitted by hotel developer Lee Browning, was approved by the Agency’s board in a three to one vote. Mr. Browning currently operates the Hilton Garden Inn on the same Route 58 site.

According to a cost-benefit analysis prepared by IDA executive director Tracy Starks-James, the package will provide Mr. Browning state and local county sales tax exemptions, a state mortgage recording tax exemption and real property tax abatements. Mr. Browning will be responsible for the IDA application fee and annual compliance fees. 


Following the vote, Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association president Angela DeVito questioned the board’s movement forward with the vote. Earlier requests that the public be allowed to review and comment on information submitted to the board after the final public hearing were denied.


Once underway, it is anticipated that the project will create 45 permanent jobs by year two as well as 250 construction jobs. 

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Monday, April 6 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Paul Atkin.):


In tonight’s news, Senator Blumenthal says that Connecticut taxpayers are owed $13 million from unclaimed tax refunds, East End residents oppose expanding a gasoline terminal,  Governor Malloy lifts his ban on State-Funded travel to Indiana, and a Riverhead supervisor proposes full tax rates for solar developers.

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The Hartford Courant reports that U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday he has learned there is $13.4 million worth of unclaimed tax refunds from 2011 currently owed to Connecticut taxpayers. He said the bulk of that money is owed to people who didn't claim the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.

Blumenthal said he came up with the idea to check on the amount of unclaimed refunds owed to Connecticut taxpayers after discussing the issue with some fellow senators. He said the IRS told him there are more than 13,400 Connecticut residents who haven't yet filed their 2011 tax returns. Some of those people might not have met the income threshold for filing a federal tax return but still might have qualified for the earned income tax credit.


Blumenthal urged residents needing help with tax preparation to visit Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites, which offers free tax preparation for individuals with household incomes of up to $53,000. Taxpayers can call 211 to find locations and set up appointments.


There is a three-year grace period for claiming a refund and tax returns must be postmarked by April 15.


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Newsday reports:

The owner of United Riverhead Terminal in Northville wants to expand his East End oil terminal into the gasoline business.


United officials have asked the Riverhead Town Board for permission to convert two tanks to store a total of 155,000 barrels of gasoline, and build two 19,000-gallon tanks to store ethanol.


United officials said the home heating oil business is declining as many homeowners switch to natural gas, and they want to return to supplying gasoline to Long Island.


John Catsimatidis, the owner of United said that his proposal would create jobs and lower gas prices on Long Island.


However, neighbors say the proposal will raise the risk for leaks and spills and add more truck traffic.


Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter says that United has not suggested any traffic improvement on the rural roads their trucks travel on.


Phil Barbado, a founder of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition said that gasoline is much more explosive and hazardous than the fuel oil presently stored at United’s terminal.


Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said the proposal could inject healthy competition into the regional gas market and that “the problem is people don't want anything in their backyard; they don't want change. But the fact is there's already a terminal there."

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Governor Malloy announced Saturday that he was rescinding his ban on state-funded travel between Connecticut and Indiana.


The announcement comes after Indiana's passage of an amended Religious Freedom Recognition Act last week. The adjusted legislation now provides protections to LGBTQ individuals, and according to a press release from Malloy's office, "falls outside the scope" of the executive order Malloy issued Monday.


The initial Indiana law had come under fire after it was signed by Governor Mike Pence. Pence defended the law and said it was designed to block any Indiana law that would "substantially burden" citizens from exercising their religious beliefs.


But on Thursday, Pence signed a revision to the law that eliminates the potential erosion of LGBT protections in communities that have local anti-discrimination ordinances protecting sexual orientation and gender identity.


Malloy said. "While the law even in its amended version remains divisive, I believe it is a step in the right direction. In 2015, we cannot, and should not, tolerate laws that open the door to discrimination against citizens.”

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Newsday reports that Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is hoping to tax the hundreds of acres of large commercial solar-energy farms proposed for largely agricultural areas at the town's full rate.


Walter said his plan would sharply increase the taxes of the energy companies that own the installations. He said he will introduce a resolution to institute the tax plan this month.


Walter said. "That may kill a lot of these solar projects but so be it."


The Long Island Power Authority has sought bids for solar projects over the past several years as it works to increase its green-energy portfolio.


Walter said under current state property tax law, school districts and towns can exempt solar installations from paying full property taxes, and that Riverhead has negotiated discounted tax rates for two solar farms being built in Calverton. He says that the $45,000 annual tax payment for the Calverton site would have been more than $75,000 at full taxes.


Walter said his resolution, if approved, would apply to all new proposals.


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Friday, April 3 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Kristiana Pastir)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust announces new housing development, Medicaid ob-gyn fee cuts worry Connecticut doctors, Illegal dumping in Long Island brings state budget money for Brentwood park cleanup and Central Islip lawsuit, and proposed Peconic Bay hospital partnership defies state’s recommendations.
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Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust announced another major development, the Connecticut Post reports. A $12 million project at 515 West Avenue that will include 48 housing units on five floors. This follows news of a three-story building with 30 one-bedroom units on Stratford Avenue.

The Trust also has a mixed-use development a few blocks away from the West Avenue location. 570 State Street will include the agency’s offices and 30 mixed-income apartments.

Construction is expected to begin within a year.

The building will be paid for with a $10 million Low Income Housing Tax Credit Allocation from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, as well as funding from the state Department of Housing, the U.S. Department of Housing, the city of Bridgeport, and other sources.
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Cuts in pay rates for ob-gyns in Connecticut’s Medicaid program have medical groups and advocates worrying it could make it harder for low-income pregnant women to get treatment.

This comes after significant growth in the number of people covered by Medicaid, noted a group of medical organizations and hospital officials. They warned that if physicians stop accepting Medicaid because of the reduced rates, Medicaid patients may have to travel long distances to get care, and many pregnant women wouldn’t be able to do so.

The rate cuts took effect April 1 and include reduced payments to ob-gyns for certain preventive care, imaging and deliveries. These are expected to save the state $1 million this year and $6 million in the next fiscal year.
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One million dollars is now in the state budget to help clean up contaminated debris illegally dumped at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, Long Island, officials announced Wednesday.

Senator Tom Croci, who served as Islip Town supervisor until January, helped secure the funds. The town has bonded for $6 million for the park’s cleanup and rehabilitation.

Work is expected to begin by June. An opening date for the park – closed since last April – has not been given.

Additionally, L-C Real Estate Group is suing a prominent Islip family, and others, for illegally dumping contaminated fill at its roughly 1-acre parcel in Central Islip. Its lawsuit comes two weeks after state environmental authorities filed a motion demanding the group clean up its site.

The L-C Real Estate Group’s suit names three Datre family members and nine companies connected with the Datres as the ones responsible for the dumping.
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Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead has announced it will join the North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System, pending approval from the State Department of Health and US Justice Department.

The partnership faces some obstacles, as it puts a dent in the state's long-term recommendations, developed in 2006, that Eastern Long Island hospitals forge a relationship with Stony Brook University Hospital.

In January, Southampton Hospital joined the Stony Brook network. Peconic Bay has now aligned with North Shore-LIJ, and Eastern Long Island Hospital is in discussions with both hospital groups, with a decision expected by May 28th.

This break from the 2006 recommendations to join with Stony Brook has met with disapproval from local and state officials who prefer the more localized health care system. Other officials, however, point out the desire of hospitals to align with the Affordable Care Act and its incentives and aspirations for addressing the changing face of healthcare.
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Thursday, April 2 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Nadine Dumser, and Mike Merli.):

In tonight’s news, a new bill seeks to exempt baby diapers from sales tax; Governor Malloy emphasizes the state cap on spending amid budget talks; Mental Health Awareness Day will bring information and care to the East End; and a Suffolk County correctional facility will not go through with a proposed expansion.

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New legislation referred Tuesday to the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee seeks to eliminate the state sales tax on baby diapers.
 

In Connecticut, the Department of Revenue Services considers baby diapers as clothing, and thus taxable, while adult diapers have been exempt because they are considered a medical supply associated with incontinence. Connecticut, Maryland, and North Dakota are the only three states to tax baby diapers but not adult diapers.

Currently, state statute will be exempting articles of clothing and footwear from sales tax beginning July 1.

However, Governor Malloy’s proposed budget would eliminate this tax exemption. If baby diapers remained taxable, enacting new legislation to exempt them could potentially cost the state $4.3 million in revenue for 2016 and 2017.
 

Some say the bill may face an uphill battle since it would drive revenue out of the state, at a time when lawmakers are looking to shrink an ever expanding deficit.
 

Meanwhile, community organizations, such as The Diaper Bank in North Haven, believe

this legislation could significantly help low-income families in need of relief.

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Governor Dannel P. Malloy made an announcement today, reiterating the spending cap he has outlined amid budget talks.

Malloy’s hope was to dissuade legislators from trying to circumvent the spending cap. 


Republicans gained enough seats in 2014 to deny the Democratic majority of the 60-percent super-majority needed to go over the spending cap.

The Connecticut Governor also ran on a pledge not to raise taxes when he was re-elected in 2014.

Governor Malloy said legislators could choose to restore some cuts, but only if they trim elsewhere.

Malloy said, “Let’s get a budget. Let’s get it going. Let’s do our jobs. Let’s stop bemoaning the situations we’re in and turn ourselves to the really hard work of
finalizing a budget.”

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The 12th Annual East End Mental Health Awareness Day will be next Saturday, April 11, at Southampton High School. 

Sponsored by the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, the free, day-long event will have presentations and group workshops on a variety of mental health concerns. 

Noted area health-care professionals will discuss the new South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative, a program funded in part by $150,000 in seed money received from the state with the aid of Assemblyman Fred Thiele.

East Hampton school officials noted at a March 17 Town Board Meeting that the initiative has benefitted South Fork students greatly by providing local, more immediate care through expanded hours of operation, and a mobile psychiatric care unit.

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On Tuesday, Suffolk County got a reprieve on a costly new jail expansion at the correctional facility in Yaphank.

According to Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, the project would have cost taxpayers upwards of $300 million over the next 20 years.

However, due to dropping crime rates and measures now in place to provide alternatives to imprisonment, incarceration rates are at their lowest levels in more than a decade.

Youthful offenders convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors are now being diverted to
community placements in supervised environments. And counseling for substance abuse is also being offered.

A supervised program for offenders of all ages allows for their release from jail and provides them with counseling and training.

DeMarco contends that reducing the jail population through the use of community-based correctional alternatives and inmate rehabilitation has led to a significant drop in incarceration.

The state corrections agency will review the situation again in 3 years.
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Wednesday April 1 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):


In the news tonight, a campaign against distracted driving begins, college students are riled by racist speech and graffiti, Long Island gets record school aid from Albany, and the scallop season is extended.

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A month-long effort to stop people from texting and driving kicked off today in Connecticut.


April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and police officers from 50 towns and cities, plus state troopers, will be on the lookout for illegal cellphone use during phase 2 of a program called "U drive. U text. U pay."


Aaron Swanson of the state Department of Transportation said more than 7,000 tickets were issued during phase 1 in September, according to the Hartford Courant.


Under state law adult drivers can only talk on cell phones if they are equipped with hands-free devices and drivers cannot hold cellphones while their cars are being operated — even if they are stopped at a red light. 


The fine for first-time offenders is $150, second-time violators will be fined $300, and drivers caught a third time will be fined $500.

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On Monday, Connecticut College in New London cancelled classes and held mandatory discussions for the second time in two weeks, in response to hate speech by a faculty member and racist graffiti on campus.


The graffiti, a racial epithet for African-Americans, was discovered on bathroom walls in the student center Sunday, according to the New London Day 


Monday’s meetings came after an emotionally charged campus forum last week. 

That forum was held in response to a Facebook post by Andrew Pessin, a tenured philosophy Professor. 

The post compared Palestinians in Gaza to “a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.”


Pessin's post was published last summer during the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip during which at least 1767 civilians were killed. 


The posting went unnoticed until February, when a student emailed Pessin to tell him she was offended by its contents. Pessin apologized and took down the posting.


Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron said the events “show us,,, the kind of harm that bigoted and hateful speech can have.” 

But according to a WNPR report, Bergeron, in a letter, referred to free speech issues raised by the controversy, but did not criticize Pessin’s post 

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Long Island public schools will get an additional $157 million in state operating aid -- the biggest hike since the 2008 financial crash -- as part of a controversial package of financial incentives and education initiatives passed early Wednesday by Albany lawmakers.


The extra aid brings the total in the Island's 124 districts to more than $2.5 billion for the 2015-16 school year -- the highest amount ever, according to Newsday.


It includes more than $100 million aimed at restoring aid cuts in Nassau and Suffolk imposed after the economic downturn.

Restoration of the cutbacks was the No. 1 fiscal priority for the Island's school leaders.

The money comes with strings attached: School districts will have to adopt new systems of evaluating teachers' job performance that will involve greater state direction -- and less local control.


Student scores on tests aligned with the Common Core standards will play a larger role in teachers' ratings, and the state will decide how classroom observations are to be scored.


School leaders on Long Island worry that tougher evaluations based heavily on test scores will prompt more teachers to drill students for exams and convince more parents that they should boycott the state assessments.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has extended the commercial Peconic Bay scallop season until April 30.


DEC Commissioner Joe Martens extended the season last week and said it was critical to mitigate the financial hardship to commercial harvesters caused by extensive icing that prevented scallop harvesting in the Peconic Bays since early February.


This year’s season opened in November with more than 100 boats working in the Peconic Bays, but widespread freezing prevented baymen from scalloping for as much as five weeks.


The season was scheduled to end March 31.

The bay scallop harvest has been on the increase in the past few years.

The 2014 bay scallop landings were the highest annual harvest reported since 1985, before the brown tide laid waste to scallop habitats.

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