Monday, June 29 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editor Scott Schere.):
Connecticut Democrats roll back raises for state employees and increase money for hospitals; LIPA OKs $2.5 billion debt refinancing; a new Senate bill would halt the sale of Plum Island to highest bidder; and, Connecticut could rake in $62 billion if highway tolls were to return.
Late Friday, Connecticut Democratic leaders said that they reached a deal on changes to the two-year, $40.3 billion state budget.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey from Hamden said the revisions take the concerns of the business community into account by eliminating an increase in the data processing tax and delaying the unitary reporting requirement until Jan. 1, 2016.
It also gives $30 million back to hospitals and $1 million to non-union nursing homes to provide more equity in pay.
Sharkey said the remaining $13 million in spending cuts in the revised budget is slated to come from reductions in raises for union and non-union state workers in 2017.
House Majority Leader Joseph Aresimowicz from Berlin said the revised plan doesn’t hit as hard as Malloy’s proposal did, but did not discount the possibility that the funding reduction could lead to layoffs.
Aresimowicz said, “Is there room to trim maybe around the managerial levels? Maybe. We don’t know that. I think the governor and his commissioners are the ones that can decide that.”
LIPA trustees Friday authorized the refinancing of $2.5 billion more in old utility debt, and extended LIPA's participation in a partnership to build a wind farm off Long Island's South Shore.
Both measures passed unanimously at
the meeting in LIPA headquarters in Uniondale.
The debt plan allows another state authority to refinance up to $2.5 billion in debt by issuing new bonds at lower interest rates.
Falcone said half the new debt will be repaid over the next 12 years, the remainder over the following 23, "just like the existing bonds."
Falcone said. "It's the interest cost that's going down," noting the new average interest rate is 3.5 percent compared with the old bonds' average 5 percent.
Trustees also approved a measure to authorize LIPA to continue in an offshore wind collaborative with Con Edison and New York Power Authority that seeks to put a 105-square-mile wind farm in waters 11 miles off the South Shore, from Far Rockaway to the Suffolk border.
A new Senate bill would prevent Plum Island from being sold to the highest bidder and pave the way for ownership of the mostly undeveloped parcel to be transferred to a federal environmental agency.
The Plum Island Conservation Act, introduced last week by Sen. Charles Schumer, changes an existing law to prevent the General Services Administration, which oversees the island, from selling to the highest bidder.
The island is home to a number of species, including osprey, bank swallows, piping plovers and many plants.
Leah Schmalz, program director of Save the Sound, said, “We are extremely grateful to all of our senators who have been pushing to preserve Plum Island for the past number of years and this is a huge step in the right direction.”
Mr. Schumer said, “The worst thing we can do is rip apart this 840-acre environmental setting and destroy or threaten the lives of species who live there.”
According to Mr. Schumer, the bill would also give the GSA the flexibility to transfer the sale of the island to a national environmental agency that would conserve it as a wildlife sanctuary.
The Ct. Post reports:
Gov. Dannel Malloy has distanced himself from a state commissioned study which concludes that slapping electronic tolls on all of Connecticut’s highways could generate more than $62 billion in revenue over 25 years.
The study looked at various tolling possibilities and concludes maximum revenue would be produced by placing tolls on all highways: I-95 and I-84, the Merritt Parkway and limited access state highways such as Route 8.
Electronic tolls scan cars as they pass underneath. The old-fashioned toll booths, which can back up traffic for miles, are not required.
Despite the huge windfall predicted by the study, Devon Puglia, a Malloy spokesman said, ‘The governor has neither proposed tolling nor endorsed the contents of this report.”
The study says, “Tolling can be a viable option for establishing a new, sustainable and equitable source of revenue for transportation investment in Connecticut. This is great for reducing carbon emissions and reducing dependency on foreign oil. It’s terrible for transportation finance if we continue to rely so heavily on the gas tax.”
Malloy has proposed a $100-billion, 30-year plan to fix the state’s aging and congested road, rail and bridge systems.
Friday, May 29 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Mike Merli.):
In tonight’s news, casino legislation moves forward in Connecticut; Ethics code passes Connecticut House but Senate approval in doubt; New York State Assembly approves a single-payer health system but Republican Senators likely to kill it; Southampton water protection plan revealed; needs state action.
Late last night, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed legislation allowing the Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Tribal Nation to build a casino north of Hartford.
After passing with an 88-55 vote shortly before midnight, the legislation now moves on to Governor Malloy.
The bill authorizes the two tribes to have conversations with host municipalities.
In a letter to House Speaker Brendan Sharkey on April 19, Attorney General George Jepsen expressed concerns over the bill. Jepsen believes the bill does not impact the state’s current agreements with the two tribes.
Jepsen also believes the bill does not obligate the state to enter into agreements with other tribes that become federally recognized in the future.
Governor Malloy agrees Sharkey’s concerns are substantial, but Malloy feels the legislation takes care of some of his other concerns.
Under the current bill, the tribes would have to return to the General Assembly after choosing a location to get approval to start construction.
East Windsor, Windsor Locks, and Hartford have expressed interest in hosting a casino.
Connecticut state House lawmakers united last night in passing legislation that will undo changes to campaign finance laws made in 2013.
The bill reduces campaign contribution amounts while limiting or eliminating other campaign financial activities.
Democratic party spending in the 2014 election prompted the Republican amendment, which is more uncertain of passage in the State Senate.
Senate Democrats say they have unspecified concerns about the bill.
Common Cause director Cheri Quickmire called the vote "a charade" that glosses over the need for actual reform.
House minority Republicans say the bill signals that the House is serious about cleaning up our elections , and fulfills a pledge made to clean up and fix a broken campaign finance system.
The state Assembly approved a bill Wednesday that would create a single-payer health system in New York.
The bill cleared the Democratic-controlled Assembly, passing by an 89-47 vote.
But passage is highly unlikely in the Republican-majority state Senate according to the Albany Times-Union.
The proposal, called the New York Health Act and dubbed "Medicare for all" by advocates, would provide comprehensive health coverage to all New Yorkers.
Proponents, including some medical groups and labor unions, argue that a single-payer system would be less costly and easier to administer than the current private health system.
The Health Plan Association, which represents insurance companies, has opposed it.
They say the act would dissolve the current private health care industry, which has a proven record for providing care.
An analysis released in March by a University of Massachusetts professor estimated New York health care expenditures would be reduced by $45 billion a year if the law were enacted.
But Vermont recently backed away from implementing a single-payer plan due to the high cost.
The Southampton Town Board unveiled the town’s proposed Water Protection Plan this week.
It is a 300-plus-page document containing a range of of guidelines and policy recommendations for managing development and preservation of the town’s coastlines.
The plan aims to protect water quality, ecological habitats and traditional cultural uses of the shorefront, and expand jurisdiction into new areas, usurping some State powers.
It includes 13 general policy guidelines, from managing septic wastewater to fisheries management, and dozens of recommendations for specific policy approaches to guiding human activities that affect the town’s waters.
If the plan is adopted by the town and approved by the state, it would allow the town to set its own regulatory policies and parameters for development along the waterfront and adjacent lands, binding regulators from other agencies to following the local guidelines rather than broader state statutes.
The 13 policies would trump some 44 state policies, forcing those agencies to adhere to the 13 new Town policies.
The town might add the document as an amendment to the Town Comprehensive Plan, or it could present the plan to the state to be folded into state law, creating a statutory overlay for the town.
Both East Hampton Town and Sag Harbor Village have adopted similar water regulation plans.
Thursday, May 28 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):
In the news tonight: the Connecticut Senate passes a ban on restraining students in public schools; the Community Investment Act faces funding cuts; Montauk explores a community a sewer district; and, the Peconic Land Trust gets a grant for Southampton Town.
Connecticut State senators voted Wednesday to ban physical restraint and seclusion of public school students except in emergencies.
The bill goes to the House of Representatives next.
State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo introduced the measure by citing state Department of Education statistics that showed there were more than 30,000 incidents of restraint and seclusion among special education students in the 2012-2013 school year.
The bill prohibits school employees from restraining students or putting them in isolation without a threat of injury to the student or others.
The bill would extend existing special education data reporting requirements to regular education students through a pilot program and applies to public schools serving students in kindergarten through grade 12.
The measure also limits the allowable duration of seclusion, if necessary, and tightens parental notification requirements.
A program that has invested in almost every town in Connecticut over the past nine years for open space, affordable housing, historic preservation and sustainable food projects is threatened as the legislature works to close the budget gap.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed sweeping the portion of the Community Investment Act that is collected on real estate transactions for the programs and transferring the money to the general fund from January 2016 through June 2017.
A $40 fee from each real estate sale sends $1 to the local town clerk, $3 to local capital projects, $10 to supplement the income of dairy farmers when national milk prices are low and $26 among the four CIA sectors.
Helen Higgins, executive director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic preservation, said lawmakers adopted the act to specifically fund these areas and to not be dependent on the taxpayer-funded state budget.
She said it is the only program in the state, possibly in the country, that has had enormous success investing in 168 communities, $133 million, thousands of jobs.
Property owners in downtown Montauk can explore what it would mean to upgrade their septic systems by joining a community sewer district, according to 27east.com.
The East Hampton Town Natural Resources Department will hold an information session as part of the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at the Montauk School on Monday, June 1.
Property owners and businesses can ask questions about the idea of a cost-shared water quality improvement district, or sewer system.
Natural Resources Department Director Kim Shaw said the town is gauging the interest of the community to see if it should pursue grants and do further design.
The town has identified properties within “Montauk Center” that could potentially be a part of a community sewer system and estimated how much it would cost for each property owner to “buy-in”—several thousand dollars a year—to a water quality improvement district.
Currently the properties rely on existing cesspools or septic systems.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Montauk School’s cafeteria on South Dorset Drive. Property owners can arrive earlier, at 5 p.m., to speak with project engineers.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Land Trust Alliance recently awarded the Peconic Land Trust a grant to help Southampton Town improve its farmland preservation strategy.
The $40,000 grant was distributed through the Conservation Partnership Program of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.
The trust will review and revise the town’s 1998 Farm and Farmland Preservation Strategy and develop new tools and plans to conserve remaining farmland, which is considered at risk of extreme development pressure.
Dawn Haight, Conservation Design Manager at the Peconic Land Trust said the trust will identify present-day challenges, such as the dramatic increase in the value of protected farmland as a result of purchases by non-farmers to enhance an estate or expand a vanity horse farm.
Flanagan said he “would be surprised if there were further (ethics) changes before the end of session.”
In the news tonight: Bridgeport police cleared of wrongdoing in killing; Connecticut's Senators sound off on Amtrak funding; urban limits for drug sales in Connecticut; and
fired auditors say Medicaid problems still an issue with the New York Health Department.
The Connecticut Post reports:
Following a year and a half investigation, Litchfield State's Attorney David Shepack has cleared four Bridgeport police detectives of any criminal wrongdoing in the 2013 shooting of suspected gun dealers Carnell Williams, who was killed and Kiarra Davis who was wounded.
Shepack's report says the officers “believed the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend themselves and their fellow officers from the imminent use of deadly physical force.”
Shepack said "such force was appropriate” under state law.
Davis' lawyer Robert Berke said that only police officers fired shots.
When state police examined Davis' car after the shooting they found two unloaded guns with the bullets for both guns in a backpack.
Williams was shot five times with the fatal shot entering his mid back and exiting his chest. The fatal shot was fired while Williams was in the car according to the investigation.
Berke is preparing to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city's police department over the shooting.
Connecticut Senators Blumenthal and Murphy are calling for what they call proper funding of Amtrak.
Senator Chris Murphy cites the high-speed rail in Japan and France as never having fatal accidents, while attaining speeds at up to 200 mph.
Murphy credits both countries’ investments for their successes and blames congress for $21 billion backlog in needed Amtrak improvements.
House Speaker Boehner has said it is “stupid” for Democrats to blame Republican budget cuts for the recent fatal accident in Philadelphia.
But funding for the extension of a speed control system was a casualty of those budget cuts.
Senator Blumenthal contends more people would use rail transportation if the system were safer and more dependable.
President Obama's budget includes $500 million in capital improvement for the Northeast Corridor, and Murphy says that's a step in the right direction, but it's not enough to take care of the backlog.
Governor Malloy has proposed to reduce penalties for drug possession near schools and daycare centers, eliminating mandatory prison sentences for such offenses and making them misdemeanors instead of felonies.
That means offenders would no longer face a two-year minimum sentence for possessing small amounts of drugs within 1,500 feet of a school or childcare facility.
The Governor contends this disproportionately affects minority residents in densely packed cities such as Bridgeport, where 90 percent of the population resides in a defined school zone.
He says the move will alleviate prison overcrowding and allow police to focus on violent crimes.
However, the penalties for selling, intent to sell and possession of large quantities of drugs would be unchanged.
Several current and former New York State employees who were part of two federal lawsuits alleging the state’s Medicaid program is awash in fraud are speaking out about their efforts to report the abuse.
In one case, a group of auditors said Health Department managers unethically directed and altered their work results.
The auditors were employed by the Center for Development of Human Services, or CDHS, an arm of the SUNY Research Foundation.
The CDHS was under contract with the state Health Department and charged to rein in fraud and mistakes within the Medicaid system.
Two former CDHS employees complained to their supervisors that Heath Department officials were interfering with their work and were taking steps to manipulate the audit results. Less than a month after reporting their concerns, the two were fired.
In 2010, one year after the U.S. Attorney’s office launched an investigation of the allegations, the state terminated its contract with the Foundation.
Five months ago, a civil claim filed by former CDHS employees ended with the Foundation agreeing to pay $3.75 million to settle the case.
For its part, the state Health Department admitted no wrongdoing and was not listed as a defendant—yet the Department was referenced more than 30 times in the 15-page complaint.
“The CDHS got a bum wrap,” said one of the complainants. “They took the heat for the Department of Health.”
Monday, May 25 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Paul Atkin.):
Dozens of Marines get together on a Southold farm to honor fallen comrades; still more debate in Connecticut about the common core standard tests; a Yale doctor believes a lack of research clouds the medical marijuana debate; and, year-round residents of the East End are facing a summer housing crunch.
Memorial Day weekend was deeply personal for the dozens of Marines who gathered on a Southold farm Saturday, reunited for the first time in five years after losing five comrades in Afghanistan and another to suicide.
Six wooden crosses were driven into the ground of Cliff Cornell's 10-acre hops farm, where roughly 85 Marines had gathered from across the country for three days of camping, barbecuing and catching up.
Sgt. Jose Saenz III, 30; Sgt. Ronald Rodriguez, 26; Cpl. Jorge Villarreal Jr., 22; Lance Cpl. Francisco Jackson, 24; and Sgt. Jason Smith, 28, were killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. Sgt. Rick Villani took his own life a year after returning home in November 2011.
Capt. James Ferguson, a Rockville Centre native who now lives in Virginia, helped organize the reunion for his unit with Cornell -- who donated his farm and raised $15,000 for the event -- and the nonprofit Semper Fi Fund.
On Saturday morning, the Marines ran in formation during a race to honor veterans in East Northport.
The CT Post reports:
There are still questions being asked about the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium test, which has replaced the state's other standardized exams as part of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
The SBAC, given in third through eighth grades and to high school juniors, was drawn up by an 18-state coalition of educators. It was administered last year as a test, but this year the results will count -- and that has a lot of people on edge.
It was deliberately made tough so American students can be compared for college-readiness to their peers here and in other countries.
The SBAC results will classify students' performance in one of four categories -- "novice," "developing," "proficient" and "advanced" -- and cautions against interpreting test results using terms like "pass" and "fail."
Connecticut's largest teachers union has criticized the SBAC, and a small but significant minority of parents have refused to let their children take it.
Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said the rigorous standards in the SBAC will encourage schools to strengthen curriculum and help them better prepare students for college.
The Middletown Press reports:
There’s an absence of high-quality evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness as a medicine according to Dr. Deepak D’Souza, a Yale professor-psychiatrist and member of the Medical Marijuana Board of Physicians.
While the Connecticut consumer protection commissioner claims that the medical marijuana program will bring relief to more patients, Dr D’Douza keeps championing the scientific method and voting down a quick expansion of marijuana use.
D’Souza said last week, “There is no single drug that can treat all approved conditions.” Though marijuana’s effect may “reduce anxiety and distress,” it may not actually affect the disease process.
“It’s unstudied. Marijuana has more than 400 constituents. Most available drugs have one or two,” said D’Souza.
Many advocates of medical marijuana claim that stringent regulations will better control society’s use and legalization will reduce the number of drug offenders in prison systems.
It's Memorial Day, and in the Hamptons residents are being forced to live in the spare rooms of friends and relatives or in tents, as landlords trade their year-round tenants for seasonal vacationers willing to pay hundreds of dollars a night or thousands a month to summer on the East End.
Newsday reports housing officials say the seasonal rental trend is worsening an already serious affordable-housing shortage and is pushing year-round residents to less pricey communities in Riverhead and Brookhaven towns, adding more commuters to traffic congestion on South Fork roadways.
The Hamptons attract some of the world's wealthiest people each summer, but 80,000 year-round residents live and work among them.
Officials have had challenges building affordable rental housing, in part because of high land costs and neighborhood opposition, as well as pressure from developers.
Area residents sued Southampton last year after the town board approved a 28-unit affordable housing apartment complex. The lawsuit is pending.
In Sag Harbor Village a large luxury housing project at the derelict Bulova watchcase factory was approved, contrary to a County law requiring 20% of the apartments to be affordable.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst says the lack of affordable year-round homes has made it difficult for Hamptons businesses, schools and hospitals to find workers and for fire departments to recruit volunteers.
Friday, May 22 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Malcolm Dankner and Mike Merli.):
Connecticut lawmakers address police misconduct and cut municipal tax exemptions for nonprofit institutions; Save The Sound fights the sale of Plum Island, Southold debates diverting land preservation funds for water protection.
The Connecticut State Black and Latino Caucus is working on legislation to deal with police misconduct. According to Senator Eric Coleman (D-Bloomfield), the bill would be an amendment to S.B. 1109, which seeks to address police training in the excessive use of force, cultural competency, and bias-free policing.
The new bill will include language that would allow citizens to record police activity and bring legal action against officers who try to prevent them from recording.
At the end of April, the Public Safety and Security Committee stripped language from the bill that would have required officers to wear body cameras to record their interactions with the public. The new amendment restores the body camera language, and seeks $15 million to fund the policy.
Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) estimated the body cameras would cost $900 each, and this number was multiplied by the number of state and municipal officers throughout Connecticut. He said it would cost $8 million to outfit the entire police force in Connecticut with body cameras, and an additional $7 million to store the footage captured.
Early this morning, the Connecticut state House of Representatives approved a measure to end a portion of the municipal tax exemption for private, nonprofit colleges and hospitals.
House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) has argued that cities and towns have watched nonprofit colleges and hospitals purchase increasing amounts of property off their main campuses in recent years.
In most cases, state law exempts those acquisitions from municipal taxation. As a result, residents and local businesses must pay more as the properties vanish from the local tax rolls. The state reimburses communities for a portion of the lost taxes, but reimbursement rates have dwindled below 40 percent in recent years.
The bill adopted today requires colleges to pay when they acquire residential properties with 20 or fewer housing units off of their main campus, if they are used to house students. The measure applies to future purchases as well as existing holdings.
The bill also requires that any off-campus sites acquired by hospitals and recorded as property-tax-exempt on local grand lists as of October 1, 2014 would maintain that status in the future.
New sites acquired after October 1 of this year, however, would be subject to taxation unless those sites are adjacent to a hospital’s main campus.
On Tuesday, Save the Sound attended the Southold Town Board meeting. The group announced its plans to sue federal agencies that have failed to protect endangered species on Plum Island.
Chris Cryder, the special projects coordinator for Save the Sound, said the group will file its lawsuit in the coming months.
The 840-acre island is currently home to the Animal Disease Research Center and will be sold to the highest bidder to offset costs of building a new facility in Kansas.
The group believes the federal agencies violated the Endangered Species Act by deciding the fate of the island without sufficiently consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service.
The island and surrounding waters support a unique mix of habitats and wildlife species, some of which are federally protected as endangered or threatened.
Mr. Cryder said that preservation activists are confident they will be able to block the sale of the island at the federal level, citing both the impending lawsuit and recent efforts by lawmakers to repeal the law requiring the sale.
Since 1999 The Community Preservation Fund has generated over $1 billion and preserved more than 10,000 acres of open space and farmland in the five east end towns on Long Island.
The fund uses a two percent tax on real estate purchases to preserve open space.
New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele has proposed to use some of the money for water treatment systems and other water quality improvement programs.
Albany lawmakers are working to extend the Community Preservation Fund to 2050 and break off a portion of its proceeds to protect the region’s water quality.
But Southold Planning Board members say they are not fully supporting the moves and are writing to the Town Board about their concerns.
The board members agreed there’s still much land that needs preserving in town, and they don’t want the program getting distracted from its goals of protecting it.
Assemblyman Thiele says that if the proposal passes the legislature each of the towns themselves would have to create a local law and that would go to referendum. Thiele added, “It’s not a mandate; it’s a local option for local governments.”
Thursday, May 21 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Chris Cadra and Nadine Dumser.):
In the news tonight: Connecticut legislature acts on variable-rate electricity contracts; Connecticut teachers give 'smarter balanced exams' a low score; New York Assembly passes education reform package but there are dissenters; and, Brookhaven Town Supervisor wants limit on harvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait.
The State Senate has approved a bill including a ban on variable-rate electricity contracts to protect residential electric consumers.
It is now up to the House to decide if Connecticut will become the first state in the country to ban the contracts.
The bipartisan measure would prevent retail electric suppliers from both entering into variable rate contracts and from automatically renewing them.
The bill is a response to consumer complaints about third-party suppliers. A report from the Office of Consumer Counsel cites a record number of complaints in 2013.
Data shows that almost nine out of ten customers of Connecticut Light and Power, now known as Eversource, paid more than the standard fixed rate offer in September 2013.
The bill would ban new variable contracts as of October 1, but not completely extinguish variable rates. At the conclusion of contract, a consumer still could be assigned a variable rate if they do not sign a new contract or switch to the standard offer.
But State Sen. Paul Doyle, a Wethersfield Democrat, said that the ultimate goal is to completely eliminate variable rates from electricity billing.
Connecticut’s new computerized standardized student exam has come under fire by officials with the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
Union leaders say teachers overseeing the exam, called the Smarter Balanced Assessments, have experienced widespread problems.
They want the state to join other states that no longer administer the exam.
Teachers the union surveyed reported system crashes and login problems.
But the Department of Education backs the assessment program and says that, while the vendor-run help desk has received more than 3600 requests for help, direct feedback from educators and students has been positive.
According to Kelly Donnelly, a department of education spokesperson, the number of requests for help represents less than a half percent of the more than 835,000 exams administered. She said, “Large scale transitions are never without bumps in the road.”
The New York Assembly passed an omnibus education reform package Wednesday by a 135-1 vote, although not everyone concerned is happy.
The wide-ranging bill addresses both the updated teacher evaluation system and the Common Core standards according to the Albany Times-Union.
It grants an extension to when schools must fully implement the new evaluation system, delinks funding from the full implementation of the standards, and requires the state Education commissioner to review the Common Core standards.
It would provide $8.4 million worth of funding to the state Education Department.
New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee said, “This bill, while not perfect, clearly begins meeting the concerns of students, parents and educators.”
But StudentsFirstNY, a group that has supported Governor Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation and education policies, says a better teacher evaluation system is needed.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has said the Senate will pass legislation to improve provisions enacted in the budget, to make sure tests are age-appropriate for students and curriculum is consistent with higher learning standards.
Flanagan sponsors a Senate omnibus bill that would also extend the time that schools have to implement evaluation plans and require the state Education commissioner to review the Common Core standards.
That bill is still in the Education Committee.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine wants the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ban horseshoe crab harvesting within 500 feet of town-owned lands because the species is endangered.
Romaine said that people have illegally harvested hundreds and sometimes thousands of horseshoe crabs in town waters.
New York State permits the harvesting of 200 horseshoe crabs per day.
Kevin McAllister, biologist and founder of the nonprofit environmental group Defend H2O, says a number of East Coast states allow horseshoe crabs to be sold for bait.
Those who fish are banned from harvesting horseshoe crabs in New Jersey.
McAllister said, “There’s a greater demand here locally because they are exporting them.”
Brookhaven Town has roughly 150 miles of shoreline, making it difficult to monitor illegal harvesting, especially at night.
Town officials say it takes a female horseshoe crab about nine years to reach sexual maturity and reproduce. They are one of the few species whose prime harvesting season coincides with their spawning activities.
Wednesday, May 20 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):
In the news tonight, the Connecticut Senate votes on a consent threshold in campus sex assault cases; the Legislature approves financial aid for undocumented immigrants; a new hi-speed ferry service connects Manhattan to the East End; and, NY legislators propose additional education fixes.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to establish an affirmative-consent threshold in cases of sexual assault on all college and university campuses in Connecticut.
The measure passed 34-1 and now heads to the House of Representatives.
In order to find that the actions were consensual, the bill requires that the institution’s disciplinary board identify that an unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity was provided.
It also requires that all students and employees be advised about the affirmative consent standard.
The bill, which would take effect on July 1, also stipulates that it is the responsibility of each person to ensure that he or she has obtained affirmative consent before engaging in sexual activity and the existence of a prior dating relationship or sexual activity does not constitute affirmative consent.
In addition, the affirmative consent requirement is not waived because the victim was intoxicated, unconscious, asleep or unable to communicate because of a mental or physical condition.
The Connecticut Post reports that the House and Senate voted Tuesday in separate actions to allow more undocumented immigrants to apply for in-state college tuition and seek financial aid.
Under a House bill, expanding on the 2011 law to let those pursuing legal status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to pay in-state tuition rates, the requirement for Connecticut high school attendance would be reduced from four years to two.
The legislation would require students without legal-immigration status who meet the requirements to file affidavits with the institute of higher education -- indicating they have applied to legalize their status.
The bill, approved in a 78-70 House vote following a seven-hour debate amid Republican opposition, next heads to the Senate.
Meanwhile the Senate, in a 24-12 vote, approved legislation that would allow that same pool of students to apply for financial aid, including waivers, grants, student employment and other scholarship programs that amount to 18 percent of UConn's student income and 15 percent of state universities and community colleges.
The Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry is partnering with Seastreak and Hampton Jitney to offer a new travel system called Sea Jitney, which will ferry passengers from Long Island to Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut beginning on Friday.
A high-speed passenger ferry, the Seastreak will transport passengers as part of the seasonal weekend service.
From Port Jefferson, the Sea Jitney hub, travelers can take a Hampton Jitney bus to Calverton, Southampton, Sag Harbor and East Hampton.
A ferry ride will be available from Port Jefferson to Manhattan, with one destination as East 35th Street and another destination as Highlands, N.J.
The service will run weekends from May 22 to September 9, with the exception of July 4.
Three returning departures from the East End are scheduled for Sundays.
The ink may be dry on the 2015-16 state budget, but legislative efforts to tweak its education elements before the end of the legislative session are not over, according to the Albany Times-Union.
Assembly Democrats Tuesday finalized changes to the state's new teacher evaluation system and state Senate Democrats called for passage of an education package that also includes evaluation fixes.
The Assembly's legislation, which moved through the Rules Committee on Tuesday, would extend the teacher evaluation implementation timetable and de-link funding from the implementation of evaluations.
It also would require the state education commissioner to review the Common Core standards.
The Senate Democrats' proposal also aims to de-link school aid from the implementation of evaluation plans by November 15, and make optional the use of independent outside observers in the assessments.
There are just 13 days left on the legislative calendar and adjusting the budget's education policy changes signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo will be an uphill effort.
Tuesday, May 19 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Tony Ernst.):
In the news tonight: Connecticut transportation funding cuts; State Police dispatching will return to local barracks; Suffolk Police under fire; Governor Cuomo's plan to reform criminal justice system; and, still time to vote on school candidates and budgets on Long Island.
The Department of Transportation has warned the nation’s governors there could be a sharp cutoff in transportation funds to states when the transportation trust fund that pays for that spending runs out at the end of July.
Roughly half of the revenue collected to support the trust fund comes from the federal gas tax. The tax, currently at about 18.4 cents per gallon, has not seen an increase since 1993.
Meanwhile, Americans are driving less, cars are more fuel-efficient and the cost of building roads and highways has increased.
A number of revenue proposals have been suggested to support the fund.
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy’s proposal to raise the tax 12 cents per gallon over two years was rejected by the White House and Republican leadership.
States, meanwhile, continue to increase their gas taxes to pay for transportation and other costs. According to the American Petroleum Institute, Connecticut’s gas tax is the nation’s fourth highest at 59.3 cents per gallon while New York, at 62.9 cents per gallon, is the third highest.
Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro said she is returning all state police call-taking and dispatch functions to their original, regional barracks.
The change is in response to complaints from citizens, police, and lawmakers about increased response times and spiraling public confidence.
During a 2014 home invasion, children in Windham who locked themselves in a bathroom waited one and a half hours before a trooper arrived at the scene.
Dispatchers are unable to direct troopers efficiently because they are not familiar with the regions they are covering.
The reversal will be phased in over the next several months.
The consolidation initially cost about $3 million and will cost $380,000 to undo. The money will come from bonding and a capital equipment fund.
Activists calling themselves the Long Island United for Police Reform Coalition, staged a news conference today at the Central Islip Courts to highlight what they call aggressive policing in minority communities.
Newsday reports the event was timed to coincide with a scheduled court appearance for former Suffolk police Sgt. Scott Greene. Greene is charged with stealing cash from immigrants at traffic stops. He has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of grand larceny and petty larceny, charged as hate crimes.
Last month, two Latino advocacy groups launched a suit in federal court in Central Islip against the Suffolk Police department on behalf of 21 Latinos who live in the county.
The suit charges that some officers in the Department routinely targeted Latinos for traffic stops based on their ethnicity, then robbed them or gave them unjustified summonses and that the practice has gone on for a decade.
The groups, LatinoJustice and Make the Road New York, say that after the Greene arrest, "dozens" of other people came forward and that the new witnesses "were too afraid, or thought it pointless, to complain about widespread police criminality.”
Separately, LatinoJustice has asked for a Department of Justice investigation of the Suffolk police, similar to the DOJ investigations into police practice in Ferguson, Missouri.
Governor Cuomo, citing recent events in Baltimore and last summer’s death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, has called on legislators to act on a set of reforms to the criminal justice system.
The Governor is asking that he be allowed to appoint a monitor to review certain cases in which a grand jury fails to charge the police in the death of an unarmed civilian.
If the monitor concludes that a case involved error or wrongdoing, the Governor would have the power to appoint a special prosecutor who could convene a second grand jury.
Cuomo is also calling for public disclosure of a district attorney’s instructions to the grand jury as to which charges they should consider in such cases.
In a letter to legislators Cuomo wrote:
“Confidence and trust in our criminal justice system has been challenged in recent months. New Yorkers don’t need to be reminded by the events in Baltimore that relations between police and communities are as delicate as they are fundamental to the foundations of society.”
Voters on Long Island went to the polls today to elect school board members and vote on budgets.
Polls are open until 8 pm in Greenport and Bridgehampton and until 9 pm in most other districts.
Monday May 18 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Paull Atkin, Scott Schere and Tony Ernst.):
In the news tonight:
Who will pay for solar power in Connecticut, Suffolk County funding on hold for new Riverhead traffic circle; police surveillance bill heads to the Connecticut house; after downtown holdups Riverhead Town debates patrols by the Guardian Angels; and, a hold on helicopter restrictions at East Hampton Airport.
The Connecticut Post reports:
The rise of solar power use in Connecticut is causing concerns for utility companies on how to manage the state’s electric grid.
Over the last seven years, residential solar systems attached to homes in Fairfield rose from six to 131; in Greenwich from 10 to 67; and from two to 52 homes in Danbury.
The rise is so significant that utility companies are warning that the subsidies and favorable loans fueling the solar boom will place a greater burden on non-solar customers to fund future infrastructure improvements.
Mitch Gross, a spokesman for Eversource, said the state's largest electric company supports renewable energy but added, “it's important everyone pays their fair share to maintain it, no matter how much power they use or don't use."
Governor Dannel Malloy sponsored a bill this year to create the Solar Home Renewable Energy Credit to encourage solar development. The legislation awaits action by the full General Assembly.
Assemblyman Fred Thiele accuses county officials of reneging on a commitment to promptly reconstruct the Riverhead traffic circle, and the specter of seceding from the County was brought up again.
Local East End groups have repeatedly proposed the formation of a new county as a logical solution to meeting their needs that are ignored by Suffolk County, despite Riverhead being the official County Seat.
Reconstruction of the Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside now won’t take place until 2018, instead of 2016, under a capital budget plan presented last month by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender said, “This is needed to bring economic development to one of the most depressed areas of Suffolk County. It doesn’t make sense to put this off.”
The CT Post reports:
Law enforcement investigators would have to get court-ordered warrants before gathering suspects' texts, location data, Facebook posts and other digital information, under a bill approved Thursday in the Connecticut Senate.
The bill, which passed 29-5, next heads to the House.
If signed into law it would raise the current standard for police surveillance techniques.
The law would require that notice of data surveillance would have to be provided to a suspect within 48 hours; and if no criminal charges result, the data would have to be destroyed after 14 days.
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, warning of a trend in "intrusive technology by police," said that probable cause should be the threshold for such data-mining by police, replacing the prevailing less formal "reasonable and articulable suspicion."
A recent string of robberies and graffiti incidents in downtown Riverhead has brought crime talks and plans for increased patrols by police and The Guardian Angels.
A downtown pharmacy, a bank and a pizza restaurant were robbed recently.
The incidents come as Town Board members wrestle with opinions about the Guardian Angels, a community watch group launched in the 1970s in New York City.
Police Chief David Hegermiller has met with Guardian Angels leader Curtis Sliwa and both he and Town Supervisor Sean Walter approve of the group’s intervention.
Hegermiller said he doesn’t want the group to detain suspects until police arrive or try to make citizen’s arrests.
Instead, he wants them to be “eyes and ears in the street” and provide police with information.
But Town Board members expressed skepticism about the Guardian Angels at last Wednesday’s meeting.
They questioned whether the group’s presence is truly needed and whether it sends visitors the wrong message: that Riverhead isn’t a welcoming place.
Councilman George Gabrielsen wants the Board to have approval over employing the Guardian Angels.
The group is expected to begin patrols and recruiting this week.
A seasonal increase from three to as many as seven Town Police patrolling downtown will start on Memorial Day, according to Supervisor Walter.
The East Hampton Star reports:
It will be another three weeks before a federal judge decides whether new access restrictions at East Hampton Airport can take effect.
A coalition of airport users and aviation business groups calling themselves Friends of East Hampton Airport, had applied for a temporary restraining order, which would have kept the new laws from taking effect.
In the meantime, it will be business as usual at the airport.
Friday, May 15 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):
In tonight’s news, Connecticut lawmakers debate a new bill to protect firefighters; former Connecticut governor John Rowland unlikely to get a new trial; Long Island Department of Public Service proposes a reduction to a utilities rate-hike; and a Riverhead firefighter is honored for fifty years of service.
Representatives from various Connecticut towns and cities met with members of the firefighters’ union on Wednesday to discuss a new bill aimed at protecting firefighters.
The bill would shift the burden of proof to municipalities in worker’s compensation cases involving firefighters with certain cancers.
The bill outlines several types of cancer said to be the result of firefighting efforts.
The municipality would be responsible for proving that a paid or volunteer firefighter’s cancer was not a result of his or her job.
The types of cancer specified in the bill are based on several scientific studies conducted by the federal government and institutions that found that firefighters have an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with certain cancers.
The bill also specifies that any current or retired firefighter “may be required to submit to yearly physical examinations as a condition of receiving” the benefits.
Last week, federal prosecutors opposed a motion by the defense to keep former Connecticut Governor John Rowland out of prison pending appeal, because he is unlikely to get a new trial.
The prosecutors maintain that the defense did not meet the four requirements for keeping their client out of jail pending appeal.
The defense would need to prove that Rowland is not a flight risk, is not simply trying to stall the process, and that he is raising a substantial question of law or fact that is likely to result in a reversal or new trial.
The prosecutors have also refuted claims in the defense motion that they withheld information and misrepresented Rowland’s involvement in the alleged scam.
In September, a jury found the former Connecticut governor guilty of trying to hide from election regulators fees he tried to charge to two Congressional campaigns for consulting work.
Rowland was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and fined $35,000 for hiding the campaign work.
The Long Island Department of Public Service has determined that the three-year rate hike proposed by Long Island Power Authority and Public Service Enterprise Group overstated its inflation allowance, underestimated interest savings from refinancing, and under-projected electricity sales.
The Department of Public Service believes the request of $221 million should be reduced to $47.8 million.
The state agency added that the utilities’ proposal for three years of nearly 4 percent rate hikes should be trimmed to increases of 0.6 in 2016, 0.5 in 2017, and 1.2 percent in 2018 for a total 2.3 percent rate hikes.
The rate increases affect a customer’s fixed charges, which comprise roughly half of a monthly bill. The other half is based on how much energy is actually used.
The Department of Public Service argues that the utilities can trim a total of $4.44 million in proposed advertising spending, $4.8 million from smart-meter computer and staffing expenses, $19.3 million from a proposed tree-trimming budget and $6.2 million for pole inspections over the three years.
Public Service Enterprise Group spokesman, Jeff Weir, said the company will review the proposals and formally respond on June 4.
Long Island Power Authority has not yet commented on the proposal.
On Tuesday night, former Chief of the Riverhead Fire Department Joseph Gadzinski was honored for 50 years of service as a firefighter.
Gadzinski, 72, first joined the department on May 13, 1965 and went on to serve in many different positions, including Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain, Chief, District Commissioner, Deputy Treasurer, Assistant Secretary, and most recently, District Secretary.
President of Suffolk County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, Peter Cincotta, presented Gadzinski with a certificate of appreciation at Tuesday night’s ceremony.
Cincotta told Gadzinski, “1965 was a long time ago. Thank you so much for your service.”
In the news tonight:
Pre-schooling is falling short in Connecticut while the graduation gap is high, but closing; New York State bans fracking, and New York Jobs Ad Campaign under fire.
Just 22 of 123 eligible school districts applied for the funding under Connecticut’s legislative plan to increase spending over the next ten years for pre-schooling.
The funds, $15 million more this fiscal year and $20 million more for the next 10 years, were approved last year by the legislature.
The legislature also funded a separate plan to add 1,020 preschool seats this year.
But just 22 of 123 eligible school districts applied for the funding.
The state provides $5,000 for each new student in the program — or $75,000 per new preschool classroom — much less than district leaders say it costs to open new preschool classrooms.
On Monday the state awarded districts $1.6 million of the $15 million available — and it is not anticipated that more will to be awarded before the fiscal year ends in seven weeks.
Meanwhile, preschool programs in the state's lowest-performing districts report they have the space to accommodate more preschool classes but not the money to operate them.
According to figures supplied by CTMirror.org, in Bridgeport there are about 330 children in poverty and the schools are short 92 pre-school seats.
In Stratford only 392 seats are available for the eligible 544 children. But New Haven and Hartford have seats for almost all the eligible children.
At the other end of the public education scale:
Connecticut has one of the largest gaps in high school graduation rates between students from low-income families and their higher-income peers.
But a recent report by Grad Nation, an alliance of numerous organizations, including John Hopkins University's Everyone Graduates Center, shows the state is closing that gap faster than any other state.
Just 72 percent of low-income students graduated with their class in 2013, compared to 93 percent of their more affluent peers — a 21 percentage-point gap.
Two years earlier, the gap was 27 percentage points.
Despite this progress, the state still has one of the highest graduation gaps; only six states had a larger one in their 2013 class.
The report shows graduation rates in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport have all increased by seven percent over the last three years, but Waterbury's rate has remained unchanged.
Years after the still-heated debate over the use of hydraulic fracturing in New York began, the state has released its final review of the controversial practice.
In the review released Wednesday, The Department of Environmental Conservation announced that fracking would not be allowed to take place in New York.
Anti-fracking groups lauded the release of the report while the business community criticized the decision sharply.
Kate Sinding, director of the Community Fracking Defense Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “New Yorkers have valid concerns about the threats fracking would pose to the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the communities we live in. The governor let science and the will of the people be his guide, despite pressure from a powerful industry.”
State Business Council President and CEO Heather Briccetti said that the DEC “ignored their statutory responsibility to promote the development of New York’s plentiful oil and gas resources.”
According to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a five-year, $211 million local business and tourism advertising campaign lacks the performance measures needed to determine if the spending has been a wise decision.
Mr. DiNapoli said: “When government spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to send a message that New York is a place to visit and open for business, it should have clear objectives and show the public actual results.”
The campaign, championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has cost about $40 million per year over the past five years.
The ad campaign includes the Start-Up NY and Taste NY initiatives, among others.
While close to 2,100 jobs have been promised by businesses opting into the Start-Up NY campaign, only 72 jobs had been created by the end of 2014.
North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo told the Suffolk Times: “The only way for us to really encourage businesses to come to New York, and specifically Long Island, is to create a more business-friendly climate.”
Pulumbo cited the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s payroll tax which taxes businesses with over 25 employees despite the MTA's poor transit service for the east end.
Meanwhile, Newsday reports:
Suffolk County plans to air television, radio, and internet ads this summer touting the benefits of doing business in the county.
The county's Industrial Development Agency recently approved spending up to $170,000 on the two-month advertising campaign.
Wednesday, May 13 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):
Dawn Hochsprung's dream of becoming a school superintendent ended inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School when she confronted a gunman who killed her and 25 others.
The Hartford Courant reports that Saturday she will be awarded the doctorate degree that she pursued just before her death.
The Sage Colleges Esteves School of Education in Troy, N.Y., will award Hochsprung a doctorate in education along with 13 others who completed the first semester one week before the massacre on Dec. 14, 2012.
Hochsprung, the principal at Sandy Hook, ran out of a meeting and confronted Adam Lanza, who shot and killed her before killing 20 first-graders and five other adults.
Some of the 3,500 unionized nursing home workers who were ready to strike in April lobbied the Connecticut legislature Tuesday to remind lawmakers they expect higher Medicaid reimbursements so that their wages can rise.The strike was postponed, but without more state money, nursing home owners say they cannot offer raises that will satisfy their workers, according to the Hartford Courant.
Medicaid pays for 70 percent of the patient stays in Connecticut.
Service Employees International Union District 1199 spokeswoman Jennifer Schneider said that although the appropriations committee designated $9 million in each of the next two years to increase wages, it doesn't go far when spread across about 25,000 nursing home workers.
If all were full time — many work either two part-time jobs or work only 32 hours a week — the Democrats' proposal would be enough for roughly an 18 cents an hour, or a 1.2 percent raise.
The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, which represents nursing home owners, praised the committee for finding money to increase wages and benefits.
Natasha Henry, a nursing assistant, said she came to lobby for the first time in her life because she needs to make $15 an hour to make ends meet.
Newsday reports the Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday night unanimously approved appropriating $207 million to replace the sewer pipe that carries millions of gallons of treated wastewater under the Great South Bay.
According to leaders in both parties, the approval of the project -- the largest in the county's $410.3 million capital budget -- will permit completion of design work in the next year, the beginning of construction in 2016 and completion of work in about 3 1/2 years.
Experts said that leaks of treated wastewater could damage water quality in the bay, which already suffered from brown tide algae that damaged the local clam fishery.
The new 14,000-foot-long pipe will replace a 6-foot-diameter pipe that runs from Bergen Point to Cedar Beach and connects with an ocean outfall pipe that takes treated waste 3.4 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Public works commissioner Gil Anderson said the county expects to receive $12.5 million in grants, $37.5 million in no-interest loans and $157 million in low-interest loans from the state Environmental Facilities Corp. to reduce the cost of the project to sewer district residents.
Tuesday, May 12 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Leslie Stenull and Trace Alford.):
In tonight’s news: budget negotiators off and running; business closures up and start-ups down in Connecticut; another Long Islander heads up the State Senate’s Republican caucus; a proposal for devices to monitor people with protective orders against them in Suffolk, and Hampton Bays votes on school budget today.
Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic lawmakers sat down Monday to negotiate the two-year, $40 billion budget.
Malloy campaigned on a pledge not to increase taxes, but the Democratic package calls for a $2.4 billion tax increase.
This includes $505 million in income taxes, $525 million in corporation taxes, about $1 billion in sales taxes and $272 million in hospital taxes.
The sales tax would be reduced from 6.35 to 5.35 percent starting in July 2016.
A portion of the sales tax would be allocated to municipalities starting this July.
However the sales tax would be levied on an increased number of items including veterinary services.
Joseph Brennan, of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the sales tax expansion will “cascade throughout the economy.”
He said the tax package will impact virtually every business in the state and have a detrimental impact on the economy.
Meanwhile, more than 100 people from across the state came to testify to Republican lawmakers against the Democratic tax proposals.
But others told Republican lawmakers that increased revenue is the only way to fund a budget that doesn’t cut into the social services the way Malloy’s proposal does.
Paul Acker of Focus On Recovery-United said the current tax structure isn’t equitable.
Acker proposes eliminating tax exemptions for residential renovation and repair, which could raise $25.3 million and restore mental health services funding.
Connecticut's economy is beginning to suffer from a slowdown in new business formations, and worse, a marked increase in business closures, according to the latest figures from the Secretary of State.
The number of business closures in Connecticut jumped 34 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same timeframe last year, while business startups dipped five percent.
In the first three months of this year, 3,275 businesses dissolved, up from 2,442 during the same span last year.
New York State Senator John Flanagan of East Northport was elected Monday afternoon to lead the Senate chamber’s 33-member Republican conference, succeeding his fellow Long Islander Dean Skelos, exactly a week after Skelos’ arrest to face a federal corruption complaint.
Flanagan said after the Monday session that New Yorkers need not worry about him being in legal trouble after the last five Senate leaders have been accused of wrongdoing, according to The Albany Times-Union.
Flanagan has left his job as of counsel at a Long Island law firm where he specialized in real estate and municipal law.
He said he would adhere to the state’s disclosure requirements, but hinted that he would not immediately release information about who his clients have been in the past.
The Suffolk County probation department would expand use of GPS devices to monitor people with protective orders against them, under a bill passed by the Public Safety Committee last Thursday.
Kara Hahn, sponsor of the plan, said it was aimed at strengthening domestic violence protections.
The legislation would direct Suffolk to seek expressions of interest from private vendors for 30 so-called proximity devices that would alert victims when the subjects of protective orders are nearby.
The bill was scheduled for a vote today before the full legislature.
The GPS devices each cost $4.40 per day to lease and are monitored by probation employees.
Existing staff is expected to be able to monitor the extra devices which would be funded through the county district attorney's asset forfeiture.
The Hampton Bays School District is asking voters to approve an approximate $49 million budget for 2015-16, a 2.33 percent increase from the current budget.
The local tax levy would increase 1.6 percent, below the state's tax-cap limit of 2 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required.
Voters have until 9 pm to vote at the Hampton Bays Middle School.
Monday, May 11 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editor Scott Schere.):
The Connecticut House votes to tighten religious exemptions on vaccinations, Southold is considering easing the process for deer hunting permits, Bridgeport considers a municipal ID for immigrants; and some East End bays are closed to shell fishing due to toxins.
Inspired by the California measles outbreak, the Connecticut House voted 86 to 56 last Thursday to require parents to annually declare if they are refusing to vaccinate their children on religious grounds.
Legislators debated whether the requirement was a small step toward boosting Connecticut’s already high childhood immunization rate — or the bullying of a parental minority.
Hartford State Representative Matthew Ritter said, “By formalizing the exemption process, the state would create a moment every year for parents to reflect on the potential consequences of leaving their children unprotected from preventable diseases.”
Under current law, parents need to sign a form once, before their children enter public school or day care, stating a religious objection to vaccinations.
The bill would require signed annual statements.
Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky, called the bill a “form of intimidation” and “bullying.”
Killingly State Representative Daniel Rovero, said “To me, this bill is a form of harassment.”
Norwalk State Representative Fred Wilms said, "I do not believe this annual acknowledgement is burdensome," and that the bill reflected a “compelling interest in protecting public health.”
None of the world's major faiths have explicit prohibitions against vaccinations.
A decades-old law in Southold Town could soon be eliminated to ease the process for residents to obtain deer hunting permits following a recommendation from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The proposed legislation before the Southold Town Board would eliminate a 1960s law that requires hunters to receive a special permit from the town clerk’s office in addition to a state-issued hunting permit.
Jeff Standish, the Southold director of public works said the DEC recommended the change after revisions to state law loosened deer hunting restrictions in Suffolk County, and added the loss of one dollar for each permit issued which is not expected to substantially affect the town budget.
The DEC is now requesting all Suffolk County towns to pass new legislation waiving the town permit requirement.
The local provision was designed to limit the number of hunters in each town.
However, applicant rates and the number of permits issued have been well below the maximum allowable, according to the DEC.
Hunters still need to obtain proper state hunting permits.
The CT Post reports:
Officials and activists believe Bridgeport's community of undocumented immigrants will benefit from a municipal identification card program likely to be a last-minute addition to the city budget.
Discussions between City Council members and Mayor Bill Finch's office are underway to include possibly setting aside $200,000 or $300,000 for rolling out IDs at some point in the coming fiscal year that begins July 1.
Finch spokesman Brett Broesder said Friday, "the administration's working with the council to ensure there are funds in the budget for it and to figure out revenue streams for it as well."
Hispanic and Latino council members want Connecticut's largest city to follow New Haven and Hartford and issue ID cards so non-legal residents can better access services, from obtaining library cards and dealing with local police to opening bank accounts and signing leases.
Tom Sherwood, the city's budget director, told members he had no opposition to setting aside money in reserve because an ID program, if launched, would supposedly pay for itself through fees of around $30 a person.
All of western Shinnecock Bay and both Meetinghouse Creek and Terry Creek in Aquebogue were closed to shell fishing this week due to high concentrations of saxitoxin in shellfish in those waters.
Saxitoxin is a compound that can cause paralytic shellfish poison in humans and is found in the algea alexandrium that tends to bloom heavily in nitrogen-loaded waters.
The two creeks in Aquebogue, totalling 100 acres, were closed on May 6 and Shinnecock Bay was closed on May 7 west of the Ponquogue Bridge.
In both areas, all harvesting of shellfish and carnivorous gastropods is prohibited until further notice.
These three water bodies have suffered from high levels of saxitoxin in the past as alexandrium blooms tend to begin on Long Island in early May and last for several weeks.
The DEC monitors for the presence of biotoxins in shellfish at 13 monitoring locations around Long Island and plans to continue to monitor closed areas closely over the next several weeks.
Friday, May (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli):
In tonight’s news, first-quarter business closures in Connecticut have risen from last year; Connecticut lawmakers raise awareness of safe sleeping practices for babies; proposed legislation in New York would require banks to maintain foreclosed homes; and a vitamin manufacturer will close its Amityville operation.
According to state data, the number of business closures in Connecticut is 34 percent higher in the first quarter of this year than the first quarter last year.
Figures tracked by the Secretary of State’s office show that 3,275 businesses dissolved in the first three months of the year, as opposed to 2,442 during the same time frame last year.
More than half of this year’s first-quarter closures came in March, when there were 1,655 business stops.
Connecticut Business and Industry Association leaders believe tax increases included in the proposed state budget will further deter businesses from setting up shop in the state.
Meanwhile, there are steps being taken to strengthen the state’s business climate.
The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee has passed S.B. 1137, which would create a Connecticut Competitiveness Council to assess the state’s economic advantages and disadvantages.
The bill was referred to the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis on May 5.
Meanwhile, CBIA, chamber of commerce and business leaders from around the state have created the CT20x17 Campaign, a nonpartisan effort to turn Connecticut into one of the country’s “Top 20” economies by 2017.
The Connecticut State Senate has unanimously passed a bill to raise awareness of unsafe sleep practices that claim the lives of more than a dozen babies each year in the state.
Connecticut Hospital Association spokeswoman Michele Sharpe said that although hospitals already provide this information to patients, the new law would reinforce the practice. Sharpe explained that information on safe sleep practices is currently provided to parents in writing, and then reviewed with a nurse prior to discharge.
According to a report from the state Office of the Child Advocate and the Child Fatality Review Panel, infants are more likely to die from unsafe sleeping conditions than from child abuses, or accidents such as choking, drowning, or falling.
The most common fatal scenarios reported in the state range from more publicized risks, like putting a baby to sleep on his or her stomach, to lesser known dangers such as allowing a newborn or infant to sleep overnight in a carseat that has been removed from the vehicle.
According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, similar laws have been passed in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is supporting legislation that would shift more responsibility for cleaning up blighted properties onto banks.
The new legislation would require banks and lenders to maintain houses when they become vacant, as opposed to waiting until the end of the foreclosure process.
According to the Attorney General, the number of vacant, foreclosed homes on Long Island rose by 62 percent last year. The number is currently at 4,048, which is the highest of any region in the state.
Schneiderman said the bills would help Long Island reduce its number of these 'zombie' houses.
A Newsday investigation found that Long Island municipalities spent at least $3.2 million last year to maintain abandoned homes.
Vitamin and food supplement manufacturer, NBTY Inc., will close its Amityville operation in October.
In March, NBTY agreed to transfer the manufacture of its sports nutrition bars to Nellson Nutraceutical LLC, based in Irwindale, California.
Explaining the outsource, Andrea Staub, spokeswoman for NBTY, said, “They have very special manufacturing to meet the growing demand for our business.”
An estimated 214 workers will lose their jobs as a result. The workers, who are not represented by a union, were notified of the closure on March 3.
There are currently 120 open positions at five other NBTY manufacturing, packaging and warehousing facilities throughout Suffolk County.
NBTY is owned by the Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C.-based investment fund. NBTY employs about 13,000 people around the world, which includes about 6,000 in the U.S, and 2,600 on Long Island.
In the news tonight: Blumenthal joins Senators to stop offshore oil and gas drilling; Yale graduate students rally for union recognition; Solar Code for Suffolk approved as solar developer rejects it, and Brookhaven is not entertaining a new gas-fired power plant.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has joined other East Coast senators to stop President Obama from allowing oil and natural gas production off the Atlantic coast.
The Senators recently introduced the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism Anti-Drilling Act.
It would prohibit the U.S. Department of Interior from issuing leases for the exploration, development and production of oil and gas in the Atlantic.
It comes in response to the Obama administration’s reinstatement of a plan allowing offshore drilling outside a 50-mile coastal buffer.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said it will support American jobs and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
The senators represent states that are not the closest to the proposed lease sales.
They note that oil found from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was found on more that 1,100 miles of coastline.
Mr. Blumenthal said Long Island Sound is highly susceptible to pollutants and toxins introduced elsewhere and needs the protection afforded by this legislation.
In the early 1980’s, drilling was banned in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and limited to the western portion of the Gulf of Mexico and waters off the Alaskan coast.
Former President George W. Bush lifted the moratorium and proposed lease sales for oil and gas production for the Mid- and South-Atlantic.
Obama continued Bush’s energy program with some modifications. Offshore lease sales had been suspended following the Deep Water Horizon spill.
The Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO-UNITE HERE) organized a rally Tuesday afternoon on the Yale University campus to be recognized as a union.
Hundreds of Yale graduate students and union members delivered a 200-foot-long petition to the university provost’s office demanding the right to negotiate on mental health benefits, racial and gender equity, and funding security, according to the New Haven Independent.
Dealing with depression and facing obstacles from Yale’s mental health providers, graduate student Tif Shen said that the presence of a union on campus would allow graduate students to have a say over how mental health services are provided to them.
Students called on Yale to honor its past promise to diversify its teaching staff in terms of race and gender.
They said many black female professors were leaving for other universities without receiving tenure.
Chair Aaron Greenberg and other GESO members delivered the petition, promising to return until a union is formed on their behalf.
The Suffolk County Planning Commission Wednesday approved broad guidelines for large, utility-scale solar arrays, even as a large solar developer said the proposed rules would "kill" future projects, according to Newsday.
A working group of the commission developed a model code for towns across Suffolk that have been approached to permit large solar-power arrays on large fields.
The code calls for solar projects to be sited on industrial-zoned parcels.
It says 35 percent of the project land should remain "natural and undisturbed" and that the panels and related equipment should occupy no more than 60 percent of the lot.
Spaces between panels could not count as open space.
Garrett Gray, an attorney for sPower, which has proposed several large solar arrays on Long Island, said the open space restrictions would "kill every single utility-scale solar deal on Long Island".
Gray said the exclusion would upset the delicate formula of costs and expected profits.
Commission chairman David Calone said that the solar guidelines were drawn from similar codes across the country, and that solar installation companies helped devise Suffolk's model code.
Brookhaven Town officials said Monday they did not plan to vote on any measures related to a proposed 752-megawatt gas-fired power plant when the town board met today. This is despite the plant appearing on the agenda.
The town board last year voted 5-2 to approve a special permit for the plant to be built in Yaphank alongside a smaller gas-fired plant.
Supervisor Edward Romaine and Council member Virginia Cartright cast the dissenting votes.
But PSEG Long Island put the project on hold last year after determining that the plant is not needed.
Romaine said the agenda item acknowledges that the town received a letter from Caithness Long Island Energy officials stating that they had filed documents related to the project with the Suffolk County clerk's office.
But Romaine said the town has not been asked to approve an application related to the plant.
Caithness officials recently renewed efforts to build it.
Wednesday, May 6 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):
In the news tonight, a Newtown Connecticut police sergeant is charged as a drug kingpin, the new East Hampton New York airport restrictions may be blocked and the New York State Republican majority leader says he is innocent of corruption charges.
A sergeant who became a public face of the Newtown Police Department following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December 2012 is accused of running an international illegal drug business, according to the Connecticut Post.
Sgt. Steven Santucci of Waterbury was so successful that he could afford African safaris and other trips abroad and so good at hiding it that he went undetected for nearly four years, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut.
Santucci, 38, was frequently quoted in national media in the aftermath of the school shooting.
The sergeant and seven other men were charged last week with conspiracy to distribute, and distribution of, steroids, oxycodone, Xanax and counterfeit Cialis.
Santucci, who resigned Friday, faces up to 10 years in prison.
The probe, dubbed Operation Juice Box, began in 2014 when federal authorities received an anonymous letter sent with a sample of Santucci's steroids, federal authorities said.
As new East Hampton Airport restrictions are set to take effect on May 17 the Federal Aviation Administration has expressed support for a temporary restraining order sought by opponents of the new rules, reports 27East.com.
The temporary restraining order, or TRO, would block East Hampton Town from implementing curfews and restrictions at the airport which were adopted by the Town Board last month to alleviate noise.
A judge is expected to decide on May 14 whether or not to issue the TRO.
The FAA informed the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, a group that represents aviation businesses and has filed lawsuits against the FAA and the town, of its support of the TRO, according to a letter from the Friends to U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Feuerstein.
An FAA spokesman did not return a request for comment.
Starting this summer, if the regulations go forward, there would be a curfew banning all flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., year-round. Aircraft classified as “noisy” would not be permitted to take off or land between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., year-round.
The Albany-Times Union reports that Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Tuesday that the federal corruption complaint against him and his son is "nothing more than a press release."
A day after he was retained as leader in a closed-door meeting, Skelos continued to declare his innocence, as well as his effectiveness in guiding the narrow GOP majority in the final weeks of the legislative session.
Asked why he wanted to remain in power, the Long Island lawmaker said: "The very simple reason is I'm innocent."
Skelos and his son Adam turned themselves in to federal authorities Monday morning as they were slapped with a criminal complaint — augmented by wiretaps and cooperating witnesses — that accused them of bribery, extortion and other charges.
Prosecutors claimed Skelos worked to "monetize" his office by doling out extensive legislative favors to his son's business clients.
In the news tonight: In Connecticut's suburban schools, poverty growing faster than education aid; new tax proposal for Connecticut would add $2.4 billion over 2 years, Suffolk legislators nix moving meetings to Riverhead; and Democrat to run against Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin in first district House race next year.
Increasing numbers of poor students are attending suburban schools in Connecticut.
Numerous legislators support a $14.2 million increase in state aid to several suburban districts over the next two years to cover the cost of educating high-need students.
Senator Beth Bye, the senate chairmen of the budget-writing committee said, “if we keep underfunding communities that have growing poverty, it won't be long before their schools fall behind."
Last week, the Appropriations Committee approved education budget increases to suburban districts — including East Granby, Newtown, Orange and Simsbury — without increases to schools in the state's largest cities.
The Malloy administration is not supportive.
Ben Barnes, the governor's budget director, testified that “this approach would benefit those towns that are, for the most part, relatively better off during extremely tough fiscal times, requiring the state to either appropriate $15 million more in funding to the detriment of other state funded programs or decrease funding to other towns in order to fund these towns.”
A new revenue plan for the next two-year Connecticut budget was recommended by the review panel of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee last week.
Here is a rundown of the major points:
The 6.35 percent sales tax rate changes in two stages.
Starting Oct. 1, 2015, the sales tax would be split into a state rate of 5.85 percent and a municipal rate of 0.5 percent.
The total rate for consumers will not change.
On July 1, 2016, the state rate would drop to 5.35 percent.
That's a state-ordered municipal tax change of roughly $600 million over two years, designed to help cities and towns control rising property taxes.
Overall the plan calls for an added $2.4 billion in taxes over the two-year period.
This includes $505 million in income taxes, 525 million in corporation taxes, about 1 billion in sales taxes and $272 million in hospital taxes.
A Suffolk County legislator’s motion to hold legislative committee meetings in Riverhead has failed.
Al Krupski, a North Fork legislator, proposed moving a week’s worth of committee meetings from Hauppauge to Riverhead.
The proposal was defeated in a 9-9 vote at the end of a nine-hour general meeting.
While Riverhead is roughly its geographic center and is technically the county seat of government in Suffolk, the offices of the county legislature, county executive and most county agencies were moved to Hauppauge decades ago.
Hauppauge is at the center of the county’s more densely populated townships.
According to the legislature’s budget review office, holding committee meetings in Riverhead for one week would cost the county about $2,000 in travel expense reimbursements.
Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said holding some committee meetings in Riverhead would create a little more balance for East End residents.
Legislator William Spencer said that instead of moving the meeting location, the county should take advantage of existing technology to give citizens access to government, wherever they are.
David Calone, a venture capitalist and chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, has become the first candidate to officially declare as a challenger to freshman Republican Representative Lee Zeldin of Shirley next year.
Calone, 41, filed papers forming a campaign fundraising committee with the Federal Elections Commission on Friday.
Before going into private business seven years ago, Calone worked for four years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in international crime.
After 9/11 he helped on anti-terrorism cases. He has served seven years as chair for the county planning commission.
The Stony Brook resident describes himself as a moderate Democrat.
Monday, May 4 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Tony Ernst.):
In the news tonight: Billions proposed for weapons made in Connecticut; Power upgrade will use utility poles approved by three Long Island Towns, Block Island off shore wind farm under construction.
The House Armed Services Committee this week authorized billions of dollars for weapons systems built in Connecticut at three divisions of General Dynamics.
The funds include $1.4 billion in development costs for a new class of nuclear submarines likely to be built by Electric Boat in Groton.
The replacement submarines will be the most expensive in U.S. military history, at least $5 billion each.
This is about double the price tag of the current Virginia-class attack submarines, now built at Electric Boat for which the Committee authorized another $5.3 billion.
To ease pressure on the Navy's shipbuilding budget, a separate fund, called the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund would be funded from surplus money the Pentagon finds in other accounts.
But Steve Ellis, of the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said this is a “unique and irresponsible way” to pay for the submarines.
He predicted congressional appropriators would reject the funding.
The defense authorization bill also includes increased funding for 131 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters for the Army, Navy and National Guard, eight more than the Pentagon requested, at a cost of $ 2.6 billion.
The overall $612 billion defense authorization bill is expected to be voted on by the House in mid-May.
The Senate is expected to begin work on its defense authorization bill later this month.
Southold Town will agree to new treated utility poles.
After a work session last month, the Board discussed the merits of having PSEG-Long Island install the poles treated with pentachlorophenol – Penta for short.
The project would be funded with part of the $729 million funds made available by FEMA after Superstorm Sandy.
But that money won’t be available forever, and efforts by elected officials to push the Environmental Protection Agency to study “penta” treatment further are just in the early stages.
Riverhead and Brookhaven have already agreed to let PSEG-Long Island install the new penta-treated poles using FEMA money,
The preservative extends the serviceable life of the poles by decades but is known to cause cancer at high concentrations.
Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said he’s been through two hurricanes and several severe winter storms and nor’easters as town supervisor and he doesn’t believe it would be responsible to delay upgrades to the town’s electric grid. Board members agreed.
Russell said, “If we do not make the upgrades, we will not get the ability for quite some time. The prospect of prolonged outages, particularly during cold weather events, may be more dangerous to public health than penta.”
Mr. Russell also said he would support a town resolution asking the EPA to complete its study of the health risks of penta.
The Rhode Island-based firm Deepwater Wind has begun work installing five turbines in a demonstration project off the coast of Block Island, which could be the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
The firm had hoped to build a wind farm to power the East End off of the Montauk coast.
That project was not among the bid winners of last year’s alternative energy contracts awarded by the Long Island Power Authority.
East End wind energy advocates had staged several rallies in support of the project at LIPA board meetings in Uniondale last fall.
The Long Island utility cited the high cost of the power offered by Deepwater Wind for their decision.
They awarded contracts for the intstallation of solar arrays to be located in the Riverhead area and at other Long Island locations.
The 30-megawatt Block Island project is expected to be online providing power to Block Island by the end of 2016.
In the news tonight, Connecticut’s budget deficit hits $162 million, white supremacist fliers are found in Milford, Long Island hospitals are scored on safety, and Southampton Trustees lose authority to regulate oceanfront structures.
The governor's budget office is now projecting a deficit of nearly $162 million in the current fiscal year after income tax, cigarette taxes and casino money came in lower than expected.
State officials released estimates Thursday and said income tax is projected to generate $65 million less than expected, according to the Hartford Courant.
The biggest portion of the income tax that was lower was the estimated and final payments made by the state's wealthiest taxpayers.
The legislature and Governor Danell Malloy will attempt to finalize the two-year, $40 billion budget before the legislature adjourns on June 3.
Malloy did not propose increases in the personal income tax on wealthy taxpayers, but the finance committee voted to increase the income tax on individuals earning more than $500,000 and couples earning more than $1 million per year.
The Connecticut Post reports police are investigating the distribution of white supremacist fliers in a north Milford neighborhood that was also targeted two years ago.
The fliers, with the hashtag #WhiteLivesMatter, were found Wednesday on Herbert Street in the Great River neighborhood, and include the web site of The Nationalist Movement, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a "hate group.''
The hashtag is apparently a reference to the slogan "Black Lives Matter" used by groups responding to police violence against young black men.
Similar fliers were distributed in Milford in July 2013, after the acquittal of the man charged with fatally shooting black teenager Trayvon Martin.
In both cases, the fliers were printed on white paper, enclosed in plastic bags weighted with rocks and thrown onto Milford lawns and driveways.
Sgt. Jeff Nielsen, a Milford police spokesman, said police are investigating and urged anyone who sees or hears anything suspicious to call the police right away.
Five Long Island hospitals scored A’s and one a D in patient safety when ranked by a national health quality group, according to Newsday.
The nonprofit Leapfrog Group issued its spring safety report Wednesday grading hospitals from A to F on how well they prevented errors, injuries, infections and drug mix-ups.
For the seventh time in a row, both John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson and St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill, part of Catholic Health Services, scored A's.
For the third time in a row, Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson scored A's.
Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre also scored an A.
Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead scored a D because it was below average in correct use of antibiotics before and after surgery, removal of a catheter soon after surgery, and steps taken to prevent blood clots.
Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue was not included because of insufficient data.
St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, which last fall earned a D, this time scored a B.
A New York State Court has ruled that Southampton Town Trustees do not have legal authority to regulate the construction of hardened protective structures along the oceanfront.
The April 22 decision challenges the long-held authority of the board and could potentially threaten public access along the ocean, according to the Southampton Press.
In three rulings on parallel lawsuits, four state appellate judges issued a blow to the authority of the trustees, who have stood since the mid-1990s as a barrier to the hardening of Southampton’s shorefronts.
Attorneys from Quogue, West Hampton Dunes and a marine contractor had challenged the trustees’ legal standing to permit or block erosion control structures.
The judges said a 19th century state law had divested the trustees authority over town lands, leaving them only control of fisheries, bay bottoms, and activities within the waters of the town.
Trustees worry that the ruling will erode their ability to protect public access rights along the beaches as homeowners and incorporated villages try to restrict access.
They will meet this week to decide whether to appeal the ruling.