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June 2015

Friday, July 10  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):

Charter schools in Connecticut must be more transparent; Connecticut law will allow taxing large non-profit hospitals; New York State will intervene in police killings; and, Eastern Long Island Hospital joins forces with Stony Brook.
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On Tuesday, Governor Dannel Malloy signed a bill that requires charter schools and their management organizations to provide more information to the state about their finances.

The bill will require the state Education Commissioner to continue to monitor and audit one charter school each year. It also requires each charter governing council to adopt anti-nepotism and conflict-of-interest policies. It also requires all employees to undergo a background check. 

These provisions are the result of an investigation into the now defunct charter management organization that ran Jumoke Academy in Hartford. The investigation found rampant nepotism and a lack of background checks.

The new law also requires charter schools to provide the state with an audited statement of revenues from public and private sources.

In addition, the law changes how charter schools are to be approved going forward, shifting some of the authority from the state Department of Education to the legislature.
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New property tax legislation promoted by House Speaker Brendan Sharkey passed during last week’s special legislative session.

Starting in October 2015, the law allows municipalities to levy property taxes on student housing other than dormitories and any new medical facility acquired by a hospital network that netted patient revenue of $1.5 billion as of 2013.

Only the Yale-New Haven Hospital and Hartford Hospital networks will be impacted by the language regarding hospital facilities.

Sharkey argued that the “affected private colleges and large hospitals are not your typical small, struggling non-profits — they are large entities, nearly indistinguishable from traditional private sector businesses, except they don’t pay property taxes.”

Sharkey says the host town’s families and businesses must pick up the tab in the form of higher property taxes. The new law will give “hard-working families and local businesses property tax relief.”

But Michele Sharp, a spokeswoman for Connecticut Hospital Association, said "all Connecticut hospitals provide healthcare to people in need during emergencies and disasters, whether they can afford it or not. It is for this reason that they merit exemption from local property taxes.”
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The Albany Times Union reports:
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon granting New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the power to intervene in cases involving the death of a civilian at the hands of police.

Schneiderman may now choose to have his office step in as special prosecutor when a civilian is killed by police during the course of regular duty. 

The Attorney General may choose to intervene whether a civilian may have been unarmed or considered armed and dangerous by authorities.

As of now, the executive order will last one year, as Governor Cuomo and the state legislature attempt to work out a more permanent strategy for handling police killings.

At the signing of the executive order in Manhattan, Cuomo said: “The situation that we are addressing is a crisis. It’s a crisis in this state, and it is a crisis nationwide. It is a crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system. It is a crisis of trust. And the system does not work without trust.”
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After months of deliberation, the board of trustees of Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport voted yesterday to join forces with Stony Brook University Hospital.

As recently as March of this year, ELIH was negotiating with the North Shore-LIJ network which has an affiliation agreement with Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

ELIH will affiliate with Stony Brook subject to the completion of the definitive agreement and all regulatory and other approvals.

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Tuesday, June 30  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Chris Cadra and Trace Alford):

Rolling back Connecticut’s business tax; no second chance for tribes seeking recognition; and, Long Island’s power grid problems. 
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The Connecticut Senate voted on Monday in favor of rolling back business tax hikes built into the state’s two-year budget. 

The vote is the first step toward reversing $178 million of $1.5 billion in tax hikes.

The biggest tax relief involves scrapping planned increases from one to three percent in the sales tax on data processing. Another rollback involves a one-year delay on a unitary reporting requirement for corporation tax. Critics charge the delay will allow corporations to hide profits among out-of-state affiliates, thereby minimizing their Connecticut tax bill.

To pay for these changes, lawmakers ordered several cuts in spending.

The cuts will affect several state agencies, including public colleges and universities, but most will center on “other expense” accounts in Executive Branch departments.   

Additional cuts will be made from a transportation infrastructure-enhancement initiative and a public financing fund for state elections.

Governor Malloy had sought to trim funding from healthcare, social services, higher education and municipal aid to pay for the tax hike rollbacks. Lawmakers instead opted for the rollbacks.

The budget adjustments were expected to be adopted in the House of Representatives by today.
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Governor Dannel Malloy announced Monday that Indian tribes in Connecticut who had previously been denied federal recognition would not be given a second chance. 

The ruling was the result of contentious debate between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and elected officials in Connecticut.

According to Indian Country Today Media Network, the 11th-hour effort to block the final rule is baffling since Congress had two years to challenge it. 

The BIA worked for a year on revisions before Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn released a discussion draft of proposed changes in June 2013.

The current ruling, which the BIA released Monday, shuts down the previous proposal to allow the existence of state reservations to secure a tribe’s recognition.

A tribal group recognized as a sovereign entity has rights that can overturn state law, local property rights, zoning laws, and criminal jurisdictions.

In order to become recognized by the federal government, a tribe must prove that it has maintained continuous community and political authority since 1900.

Currently, only two tribes are federally recognized in Connecticut — the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe. 
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Newsday reports:
New York State's Energy Vision initiative calls for 50% of electricity to come from so-called renewable sources within 15 years, and to that end, LIPA and PSEG have awarded contracts for large solar arrays across Long Island. 

But already problems are arising that have led 50% of the planned projects to be abandoned.

Limitations on the existing distribution grid are beginning to challenge the utility's ability to accept such green energy sources. Adding to the problem is that thousands of residential solar sources are beginning to feed excess solar power into the grid. 

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a green-energy advocate, said the move to renewables is so important, with climate concerns so critical, that the utility should do whatever it takes to accommodate both residential and large-scale solar.

Raacke said he does not think the utilities should be pitting large-scale solar against residential rooftop solar. He said. "We need both.”

A PSEG official said while it was “possible that someday we have so much solar we can't take anymore, right now the grid has plenty of capacity.”
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A partial power outage Monday afternoon affecting businesses along Riverhead’s Route 58, including the Tanger Outlets mall, caused smoke and haze to fill up a few stores and forced dozens more to temporarily close.

Traffic lights along the stretch of Route 58 also lost power for roughly an hour, and police had to direct traffic.

A Riverhead Fire Marshall said the outage was a “brownout” that cut partial power to buildings along the corridor, which caused electrical systems to break.

He said the cause of the outage was unknown.

By 7:45 p.m. the outages had been mostly restored, according to an online PSEG outage map. A temporary repair was made by PSEG workers, with a full repair scheduled for Tuesday.
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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.
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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.”
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Newsday reports: 
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. 
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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.
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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.
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Friday, June 26 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):

Connecticut lawmakers try to reach a budget agreement; the University of Connecticut comes under fire for its closed-door budget process; the New York state budget is approved; and, a massive construction project breaks ground in Suffolk County.
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Legislative leaders and members of Governor Malloy’s administration were meeting Thursday night to hash out a budget plan that will roll back some business taxes and doesn’t cut too much spending: finding the right balance to win approval. Malloy will be at the Democratic Governors Association meeting in Nantucket through Sunday but will return to Hartford if needed, according to his staff.

Negotiations in Hartford revolve around the two-year, $40.3 billion budget narrowly approved by the General Assembly on June 3.

After a little more than a week of vociferous opposition from the business community, Malloy announced plans to roll back some of the most objectionable taxes. He told lawmakers to find $223.5 million in spending cuts to get the budget to balance, or to authorize him to do it for them.

An across-the-board cut of 1.5 percent would fall the heaviest on the departments of Development Services, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Social Services, and state colleges and the University of Connecticut.

Sal Luciano, executive director of the union representing state, municipal, and private sector workers, said the corporate tax rollbacks being considered “would affect only the largest and most profitable multi-state corporations, the very companies that already pay so little, so that families and small businesses have to pay more.”
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Yesterday, the Connecticut state legislature’s higher education committee called for greater transparency in the University of Connecticut’s budget process.
A day earlier, on Wednesday, the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees adopted a $1.3 billion budget after a private discussion closed off to public input.

Sen. Dant√© Bartolomeo (D-Meriden), co-chairwoman of the legislature’s higher education committee, criticized the university’s decision stating, “I think that giving no opportunity for input is absolutely wrong.”

On Wednesday, Richard F. Orr, the general counsel for the university, explained, “The budget is a draft until the Board acts on it. UConn made the determination that the public interest in withholding outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-Canton) suggested state lawmakers consider modifying state law to require budget meetings be held in public.
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The New York State Budget was approved late Thursday. 

As reported by the Albany Times-Union, the final bill reflected hard-fought deals on sticky issues ranging from rent regulation and real estate tax breaks in New York City to the creation of a $1.3 billion, four-year property tax rebate program that’s expected to benefit an estimated 2.5 million homeowners outside New York City.

The credit would be available to households with an annual income of less than $275,000 who live in school districts that are compliant with the state's flexible 2 percent tax cap. 

The legislation also includes the following items relating to schools:

·        The “growth score”, measuring student improvement in part through the use of standardized tests, “shall take into consideration certain student characteristics, as determined by the Education commissioner, included but not limited to students with disabilities, poverty, English language learner status, and prior academic history.”

·        $19 million is set aside to aid municipalities and school districts that face the loss of PILOT payments (fees in lieu of taxes) due to the closure of fossil-fuel-consuming power plants.
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First unveiled in 1989, the massive construction project known as The Meadows at Yaphank is finally underway, as reported by Newsday. 

Yesterday, company and public officials ceremoniously drove nails into lumber to be used in construction of the central clubhouse for a new residential community of 850 housing units, and some 350,000 square feet of retail space. The project is tagged at $400 million.

Although the construction will take a decade to finish, the current goals are but a fraction of what was first envisaged 25 years ago by developer Victor Breslin.

The target residents are expected to be employees at Brookhaven National Labs, the largest employer in the region, at the intersection of the Long Island Expressway and the William Floyd Parkway, which was a racetrack in the past. It closed four months after opening, never to reopen.

Brian Ferruggiari, a spokesman for AVR Realty, said developers plan to begin renting housing units later this year. Most one-bedroom units are expected to rent for about $1,700 to $1,800 a month; 10 percent of units would be state-mandated "affordable" units rented at lower rates.
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Thursday, June 25  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):

A new report says economic growth has evaporated in Connecticut; Uber partners with the Connecticut NAACP; a Senate bill aims to prevent the sale of Plum Island; and,legislation allowing CPF money for water quality improvements awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature.
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A new report by University of Connecticut economists says the state's economic growth has evaporated, according to the Hartford Courant.

The Connecticut Economic Outlook released today said data from the U.S. Commerce Department had previously reported Connecticut's growth from 2012 to 2013 was second only to Massachusetts in the Northeast.

But new data released June 10 shows Connecticut's economy grew a tiny 0.6 percent last year.

The report said this new data "demolished the basis" for earlier optimistic growth projections by UConn economists for this year and 2016.

The UConn report said job creation, which is 22,000 below the previous peak in 2008, will likely stall and may even decline.
Cuomo’s signature.
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Uber, the web-based ride-sharing company, is expanding a national initiative to attract drivers from urban centers to Connecticut.

On Tuesday it launched its UberUP initiative, saying that it hoped to hire 1,500 new drivers in cities around the state.

The last two letters in UberUP stand for Urban Partnership, and the company’s Connecticut general manager Matt Powers said that the company was entering into a partnership with the state’s NAACP chapters to recruit drivers.

Powers said partnering with drivers in urban areas not only increases the economic opportunities available, it also helps to improve access to transportation for residents.

A 2013 NAACP study on the availability of transportation to workers in urban neighborhoods showed that transportation was a large part of the barrier to employment.

Powers said Uber currently has about 700 drivers in the New Haven area and it has launched its Urban Partnership in cities like Boston, Pittsburgh and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Milagros Martinez of New Haven said she left her job as customer service representative a year ago to become an Uber driver.

She now has more time to spend with her daughter and is able to make about $900 a week working a five-day a week schedule.
Cuomo’s signature.
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A Senate bill to prevent Plum Island's sale, which calls for a report on how to transfer the property so it can be preserved, was introduced last night, according to Newsday.

Senator Charles Schumer, the measure’s author, said yet another bill hanging over the 840 acres will douse any potential buyers' desire to snap up the undeveloped, remote island, where the federal government has a research laboratory.

The bill reflects one in the House aimed at reversing Congress' 2008 decision to offset the cost of a $1.2 billion replacement facility in Kansas with Plum Island's sale, but it also calls for recommendations on transferring the land to the federal agency that is most capable of preserving the island's natural and historic resources.

Schumer said “the idea of selling it to the highest bidder, to throw away an entire ecosystem and a whole piece of Long Island history . . . and generating revenue for another facility in Kansas doesn't help Long Island." 

Efforts to put the island on the market have been opposed by environmental groups, Southold Town and Long Island's delegation to the State Legislature.
Cuomo’s signature.
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Legislation that would allow East End towns to use up to 20 percent of its Community Preservation Fund dollars for water quality improvement projects is awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

If the governor OK’s the measure, passed last week in Albany, voters in each town would vote on referendums to amend the preservation program.

The new changes would allow funding to be used for water quality improvement projects, wastewater treatment, aquatic habitat restoration projects, pollution projects, stormwater collection systems and vessel pump-out stations.

Recently the lack of water quality has been evident in the thousands of dead bunker that washed ashore in Flanders Bay.

Scientists blame the die-off on excessive nitrogen in local waters, which stem from fertilizers and outdated cesspools and septic systems.
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Wednesday June 24  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Nadine Dumser.):

Bridgeport needs $146 million for new train station; social services advocates rally Connecticut lawmakers to keep funding; experts seek solution to mass fish kills on Long Island; and, a new bill would increase property tax exemptions for New York veterans.
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Concerned about budget cuts, human and social services advocates converged outside a closed-door meeting at the state capitol Tuesday as Democratic lawmakers reviewed the latest developments in the state budget process. 

Governor Dannel Malloy had told legislators to either revisit some of the business taxes or authorize him to do it after pushback from the business community on the revenue package attached to the two-year, $40.3 billion budget the legislature approved June 3.

At least 200 people were there Tuesday to lobby for causes ranging from residential housing for developmentally disabled people to adequate funding for nursing homes. Many waved “#PeopleMatter” signs.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said the budget shows the legislature’s commitment to restoring extensive cuts to agencies, including the Department of Developmental Services. But balancing concerns of taxing and spending is delicate. 

Sharkey said, “The public should know that…we’re hearing some of the concerns, but we also have to find a way to pay for it.”
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A planned second Metro North train station on Bridgeport’s East Side will cost an estimated $146 million, a considerable increase from the lowest previous estimate of $48 million, the Connecticut Post reports. The newer, higher estimates include the price for cleaning up the contaminated seven-acre parcel off Barnum Avenue.

While it's still unclear where all the funding will be found, some will come from Governor Malloy's planned $32 million upgrade to the commuter rail system. An additional $11 million is being sought through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery competitive grant program, with 7.4 million coming from the state's transportation budget.

To be called Barnum Station, the project would require major infrastructure changes and could help revitalize two low-income neighborhoods that contain over 700 aces of vacant and under-utilized land.

A 2018 opening is possible if all needed funding is secured.
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Scientists, politicians and environmentalists met Tuesday in Stony Brook to discuss nitrogen pollution in Long Island's waterways in the wake of several mass fish kills, Newsday reports. The forum focused on technological and funding solutions to the nitrogen problem in Suffolk County.

Some experts believe nitrogen pollution, largely from septic systems, is the underlying cause of three recent mass fish kills in Riverhead’s Peconic River. Other scientists, though, argue the fish kills could be attributed to natural seasonal changes in the water.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Department of Health Services are investigating and will issue a report.

Some ideas from the forum included extending the community preservation fund to improving water quality, as well as seeking dollars beyond Long Island's borders.

To that end, Connecticut and New York lawmakers are seeking $65 million to clean up Long Island Sound with new legislation, according to the Connecticut Post.

The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act would combine two water quality and shore restoration programs to be funded at $40 million and $25 million, respectively per year, through 2020.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the act Monday. Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy co-sponsored the bill. 
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Riverhead Town will increase real property tax exemptions to veterans by nearly 40 percent, if Governor Andrew Cuomo signs into law a bill that recently passed the New York State Legislature.

Tax exemptions of the assessed value of a veteran’s residential property would be increased to $75,000 from the current $54,000, eligible combat veterans would get an additional exemption up to $50,000 from $36,000, and disabled veterans’ exemptions would be increased to $250,000 from $180,000.

In a press release announcing the law, Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele said, “The incredible rise in real property values over the last several years has forced veterans to relocate out of state where the cost of living and property taxes are dramatically lower. . . .Enabling the tax exemption increase to reasonable levels is the least we can do to show our appreciation.”

If signed into law, the bill would become effective January 2, 2016; but the exemptions would not be increased until the town board amends the town code to adopt the higher limits.
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Tuesday, June Tuesday, June 23 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Chris Cadra, Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus.):

Connecticut budget cuts; a forum on green jobs; Long Island landscaper fined for withholding wages; and, data released on assault style weapons registered under New York’s SAFE act.

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A new budget proposed by Connecticut Governor Malloy includes cuts to education, municipal aid, healthcare and social services. The spending cuts must match the tax reductions included in the governor’s budget.


That includes trimming up to 1.5 percent of discretionary spending. 


Benjamin Barnes, the governor’s budget director, said the exact method for determining what gets cut has yet to be determined. The cuts would not include payments the state must legally make, such as debt service.


Also immune to spending cuts are state employee salaries and benefits and funding for magnet schools.

Instead, the $224 million in two-year savings the governor seeks would come from the rest of the budget. 

The areas with the largest potential hits include local school districts, mental health care services, Medicaid, and programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. 


None of the immediate cuts discussed would exceed 1.5 percent for any budget item. However, if Malloy is unable find the savings through the proposed cuts, he could make up the difference by using his authority to make midyear cuts.

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About 50 people gathered last Thursday evening in North Haven for a meeting of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate & Jobs. The group brings together people from the labor movement, environmental activists and those from the faith community to promote well-paying green jobs that reduce the impact of climate change in the state. 


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.


Several members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were there, and said that one of Governor Dannel Malloy's transportation priorities, the rapid bus transit system known as FasTrack, created many new union jobs.  But others were skeptical of Malloy's proposed 30-year, $100 billion state transportation overhaul.


Jeremy Brecher, a labor historian and activist, was one.


“The governor has spoken extremely eloquently about the need for public transportation, but if you look at the money -- I was just looking at the D.O.T.'s plans -- and both their five-year plan and their 30-year plan, like 80 or 90 percent of the money is going into highways.”


As for renewable energy, another area with great potential for green jobs, a member of the Sierra Club lamented the General Assembly's failure to pass a robust shared solar bill that would have enabled thousands of homeowners to access solar power who couldn't otherwise do so. Instead lawmakers created a very small two-year pilot project.

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Newsday reports:

The owner of a Stony Brook landscaping company was charged Monday with failing to pay $13,000 in wages owed to three workers and defrauding the 
state unemployment system of $12,000 by paying workers off the books.

Richard Orvieto, 55, owner of Double O Landscaping, was awaiting arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip on multiple counts of falsifying business records and other charges, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.


Orvieto faces up to four years in prison if convicted on the most serious charges and may also be fined and have to pay restitution.


Orvieto fired three workers in 2013 and did not pay them overtime they were due and wages for their last week of work.


Schneiderman said Orvieto was liable for as much as $19,000 in unpaid unemployment insurance, fraud penalties and interest.

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With the State Police declining to appeal an earlier trial court decision ordering them to release the data, the number of people who have registered assault style weapons under the New York SAFE Act became public on Monday, according to the Albany Times Union.

Rochester lawyer Paloma Capanna successfully sued on behalf of a client for the information.


23,847 people since the 2013 law took effect have applied to register assault style weapons. A total of 44,485 weapons have been registered, including 3,865 weapons in Suffolk County.

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Monday, June 22     (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Scott Schere and Leslie Stenull.)

Governor Malloy widens the rift between Connecticut and Amtrak; Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone seeks federal funds to fix infrastructure and curb fish kills; Southold is forming a committee to combat deer ticks; and, Melinda Tuhus has a report from a New Haven gathering about the recent South Carolina church killings.
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The Hartford Courant reports: 
A dispute between Amtrak and Connecticut has jeopardized chances that commuter trains will be running on the New Haven to Springfield line by late next year.

Governor Dannel Malloy is asking federal officials to intervene because of what he calls Amtrak's failure to manage budgeting and staffing for what was supposed to be a $365 million job. Earlier this year, Amtrak boosted that estimate to $615 million, according to the DOT.

Connecticut and Massachusetts have been working for years toward establishing a high-frequency commuter rail operation linking the New Haven, Hartford and Springfield job markets and the communities in between. 

A longer-term plan utilizes the route for a second purpose: higher-speed intercity service ultimately linking New York, Boston and Montreal.

Malloy has made the Hartford Line a part of his $100 billion, 30-year plan for transforming the state's transportation network. 

State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said he anticipates a report from Amtrak and its primary contractor in mid- to late August showing a detailed budget forecast and construction schedule.
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Newsday reports: 
During a news conference Saturday along the Peconic River, Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone addressed recent die-offs of bunker fish that have affected an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 fish. 

The first die-off in early May went largely unnoticed, but a second die-off from late May to early June, which killed approximately 200,000 fish, brought attention to the issue. 

While the State Department of Environmental Conservation and county officials have yet to issue their report with official findings, Bellone has called on officials to respond to what he calls “a stark reminder to all of us that we have an urgent issue to address in this region.”

Jeff Gilmore, Chief of the Marine Resources Bureau of the Department of Environmental Conservation, attributes the die-offs to proliferation of algae blooms, which scientists blame on high levels of nitrogen in the water.  

Gilmore also referred to weather-related shifts in migratory activities as a factor. 

Scientists believe the large number of aging septic systems in Suffolk County homes are a major contributor to nitrogen pollution on Long Island. 

Bellone called on federal officials to provide an unspecified level of funding for sewers and other pollution mitigating measures, citing the federal government’s designation of the Peconic Estuary as among 28 that have been deemed “nationally significant.” 
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This week Southold town officials started efforts to deal with tick-borne illnesses. 

Southold is so narrow and dense that it is difficult to meet certain county tick-management regulations so a new exploratory town tick committee is now in the works and Supervisor Scott Russell is working to recruit qualified individuals for the committee. 

Five to seven volunteers will comprise the anti-tick team, and the town wants individuals with specific qualifications, including a wildlife biologist and a public health expert. Members of the tick committee would serve on a set four-month timeframe.

“What we’re proposing is almost like a working group,” Mr. Russell said. “We’re asking the committee to evaluate anything that has been implemented with regard to tick control.” 

Mr. Russell added: “The more deer you have, the more ticks you have and the more tick-borne illness.”
Mr. Russell hopes to have the team up and running in four to six weeks. 
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A hundred New Haveners -- mostly white -- gathered on the corner of the Green at 6 p.m. Sunday in solidarity with protests around the country at the urging of Black Lives Matter and other groups to decry the murders of nine parishioners in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. and call for action. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports: 
Several speakers said the issue is neither gun control nor the possible insanity of the shooter, but ingrained racism that sees black people gunned down repeatedly and black churches especially targeted. 

Paul Hammer said he sees that the issues are intertwined: ‘We shouldn't talk only about gun control and mental illness, and not talk about racism, but racism, in addition to being part of our economy since slavery, and even today, is also a mental illness.”

He also called for strengthening gun control laws nationally.

Local activist Stan Heller said there are practical things people can demand: “The first and most obvious is, tear down that Confederate flag. (applause) The flag of treason, the flag of slavery, segregation and racism -- that that should be at the Capitol is absolutely absurd.”

Many in the crowd held up simple hand-lettered signs mourning the deaths at the A.M.E. church and standing in solidarity with that community.
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Friday, June 19  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):

A Connecticut city holds a prayer vigil for the church shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina; protesters rally in support of the Hartford 17; New York lawmakers push for a last-minute ban on electronic cigarettes; and, a massive fish-kill in the Peconic River leads to a water advisory.
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From the Hartford Courant:
Last night, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomfield, Connecticut held a prayer vigil in memory of the nine victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Reverend Daylan K. Greer Sr. said that the tragedy in Charleston would challenge his community’s faith, but added that “we have to hold onto that in the face of violence and death.”
Greer had no extra plans to lock the doors of his church during services or resort to armed security.
At the vigil, several dozen people gathered in prayer and song for those killed in the Charleston shooting.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of Connecticut’s NAACP, placed the Charleston massacre in a national context. Esdaile said, “Racial tension is at an all-time high in this country. All the prayer vigils, all the marches, rallies, town hall meetings – it’s still getting worse. An open dialogue must occur.”
---------------------------
Members of the Hartford 17 – a group of protesters arrested at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration on June 8 – were sentenced to three days of community service on Wednesday.
The Hartford 17 were arrested for blocking traffic on Central Row during rush hour to bring visibility to issues disproportionately affecting people of color in the United States.
The group were given the option of pleading guilty or serving three days community service. Choosing the community service meant they would not have to make any admissions, and their record would be wiped clean after 30 days.
Each of the arrested chose the community service.
Before the court hearing, a rally was held by the Hartford area groups Moral Monday Connecticut and Hartford Action to show support for the Hartford 17.
The rally called on communities across Connecticut to take action. The protesters called for the retraining of police in nonviolent communication.
Derek Hall, a founding member of Hartford Action, also stressed that colorblindness and indifference among more privileged communities perpetuates systemic racism.
---------------------------
A coalition of New York state groups have united for a last-minute end-of-session push to apply the Clean Indoor Air Act to electronic cigarettes. The vaping devices would not be allowed in work places including restaurants, bars, and bowling alleys.
As currently configured, this bill exempts convenience and grocery stores from the tobacco control rules that include periodic checks by the Department of Health, to ensure stores are not selling to minors.
Under the current proposal, independent, free-standing “vape” shops that only sell smokeless cigarettes wouldn’t have the Department of Health oversight, unless it is added explicitly into the law.
---------------------------
Newsday reports:
Suffolk County health officials have warned residents to avoid touching the dead bunker baitfish that inundated the Peconic River during a massive fish kill this week. 
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter reported that workers removed 10,000 pounds of dead bunker from the river Wednesday. This removal came after a massive die-off swamped the waterway and its banks with rotting fish.
County officials issued a news release yesterday, urging residents to take caution. 
Due to increased risks of bacteria, viruses and parasites, people in the area should not handle any remaining fish, and avoid swimming or wading in water where they are accumulating.
Officials added that anyone who has contact with the water should wash their hands before eating. Any live fish caught near the die-off should be cooked thoroughly.
 ==============

Thursday, June 18  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Nadine Dumser and Kristiana Pastir.)

Community-police relations in Bridgeport; Hartford adopts municipal ID Card; Connecticut may have paid improper disability retirement benefits; and, Long Island Utility operator gets bonus, wants more.

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

The Connecticut Post reports;

Congregants of two Bridgeport churches met at Bethel AME Church on the west end Wednesday night looking for answers to issues of crime and police response to it.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Police Chief Joseph Gaudett were present to answer questions. 


The meeting had been planned for weeks by members of Bethel AME and Mt. Aery Baptist Church.

But an incident where nine people were shot, one fatally, in Bridgeport last week, may have brought more people to the meeting. 

Ann Fuller, a member of Bethel AME, was the first speaker.


Referring to encounters with the police, she said: “Any interaction always resulted in a negative experience, whether it was getting a traffic ticket or being the victim of a crime or a family member being arrested. It was never a positive experience where I could thank an officer and mean it.”


Gaudett said he was distressed to hear this, and he said “community policing was the core strategy of the department, from the top on down.”


Fuller said she heard from residents that police were taking too long to respond. Gaudett said, “We respond to hundreds of calls a day, and there can be times when we are saturated with calls.” 


He did not mention that the force was down several officers.


Other topics covered were use of force and police training.

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

The Hartford City Council has approved a municipal identification card program that will be available to residents starting in September.  


Most of those expected to apply will likely come from among the city's estimated 20,000 undocumented workers, though the cards will also provide city recognized identification to ex-inmate and homeless residents.


The cards will allow access to city services , health clinics and cultural institutions and provide the identification needed to open a bank account. 

Hartford joins Bridgeport and a small but growing number of cities and counties in adopting a resident ID card system first implemented in New Haven eight years ago.

The program there needs greater support and commitment from city government according to community activists.  


Bridgeport has earmarked $300,000 for their card plan, while the Hartford plan will be operated by an outside vendor and self-funded thru card application fees. 

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

Connecticut state auditors disclosed Wednesday a major breakdown in safeguards in the comptroller’s office that could have led to improper payment of millions in disability retirement benefits. 


The Retirement Services Division stopped performing required eligibility follow-up tests, among other failures, according to the auditors’ report to Governor Malloy. 


Comptroller Kevin Lembo said he notified state employee unions and the Office of Policy and Management about the problem two years ago and has been urging action ever since.


“The failure to conduct 24-month entitlement reviews for such an extended period has most likely resulted in considerable payments in disability benefits to retirees who were no longer eligible to receive them,” the auditors wrote.


Contributing to the issue is the recently redefined “suitable and comparable” part of the state law determining eligibility for disability retirement benefits.


After 24 months, an employee can only continue receiving benefits if he still cannot perform his work duties or another “suitable and comparable” state occupation. What’s considered suitable and comparable is under debate. 


The state sets benefits for all of its employees and retirees by bargaining collectively with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.

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

Connecticut state auditors disclosed Wednesday a major breakdown in safeguards in the comptroller’s office that could have led to improper payment of millions in disability retirement benefits. 


The Retirement Services Division stopped performing required eligibility follow-up tests, among other failures, according to the auditors’ report to Governor Malloy. 


Comptroller Kevin Lembo said he notified state employee unions and the Office of Policy and Management about the problem two years ago and has been urging action ever since.


“The failure to conduct 24-month entitlement reviews for such an extended period has most likely resulted in considerable payments in disability benefits to retirees who were no longer eligible to receive them,” the auditors wrote.


Contributing to the issue is the recently redefined “suitable and comparable” part of the state law determining eligibility for disability retirement benefits.


After 24 months, an employee can only continue receiving benefits if he still cannot perform his work duties or another “suitable and comparable” state occupation. What’s considered suitable and comparable is under debate. 


The state sets benefits for all of its employees and retirees by bargaining collectively with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.

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

PSEG Long Island will receive at least $5.47 million in performance-incentive pay for 2014 in addition to its $45 million annual management fee, but the utility is pressing for a bigger bonus. 


PSEG operates the power grid, owned by the Long Island Power Authority. 


PSEG is eligible for the bonus if it meets 20 different service metrics. Last year it met 19, falling below in one measure of worker safety.


PSEG is arguing that excess points earned in other categories should be applied to the one in which it fell short. This would result in a bonus payment of $5.76 million. 


According to Department of Public Service Chief Executive Audrey Zibelman, “LIPA does not agree and asserts that points can only be utilized within individual categories.” 


The LIPA/PSEG contract says PSEG is eligible for the incentive payments and may be assessed penalties for falling short of the metrics.


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


Wednesday, June 17  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):


High bacteria levels close Connecticut beaches; low oxygen levels lead to dead zone in Peconic River and East End; legislators propose bills to ease affordable housing crunch.

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

The Connecticut Post reports that residents in three towns had to find another source of relief from the summer humidity Tuesday after beaches at state parks were closed due to high bacteria levels in the water.


Beaches at Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport and Indian Well State Park in Shelton were closed by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Tuesday.


The agency said it was retesting the water quality at the beaches and the results were due today, when a decision would be made to reopen the beaches.

Also closed was the beach at Kettletown State Park in Southbury. 
--------------------------

Newsday reports that oxygen levels remain critically low to nonexistent along a stretch of the Peconic River that has seen two massive fish kills in recent weeks, creating a large dead zone, experts said.


Over a two-day period since the most recent die-off of menhaden, when tens of thousands of fish massed in Riverhead boatyards, oxygen levels have hit zero on three occasions, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.


Christopher Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University's Center for Aquatic and Atmospheric Sciences, said low levels have registered before, including the days leading up to the first die-off in late May.


Meanwhile, in its latest clean-up effort, the Riverhead town board voted last night to pay a Greenport fisherman to haul the dead bunker out of the river with a seine net, beginning today. 


Higher levels of nitrogen and the alga blooms that accompany them have been cited as the main culprit for this week's die-off.


Rising water temperatures will further constrain the ability of the water to hold dissolved oxygen. Water temperatures in the river reached a 2015 high on Sunday of nearly 78 degrees, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

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

State lawmakers from eastern Long Island are trying to pass bills to ease the Hamptons housing crunch before the scheduled end of the legislative session, according to Newsday.


Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. is pushing a bill that would allow the five East End towns to impose a "McMansion tax" on the construction of homes exceeding 3,000 square feet. The fee would help fund town loans of as much as $250,000 to first-time home buyers.


The bill was in the Assembly housing committee Tuesday, but it was unclear if it would pass. 


Meanwhile, Sen. Kenneth LaValle sponsored a bill that passed the Senate on June 8 to allow the creation of special funds for the construction of affordable housing and aid to first-time home buyers on the East End. 


Both laws are designed to help alleviate a housing shortage for people who live and work year-round in East Hampton, Southampton, Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island, which has forced some workers into homelessness and caused others to leave.

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


Tuesday, June 16 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus):


United Technologies will spin off or sell Sikorsky; New Haven school plans native plant garden; Southampton Town celebrates founding while Shinnecock people review history from their side; Suffolk beaches closed again.

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

United Technologies announced Monday it plans to spin off or sell Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft.


UTC President and CEO Gregory Hayes said, “exiting the helicopter business is the best path forward for United Technologies.” He added that, “a separation of Sikorsky from the portfolio will allow both United Technologies and Sikorsky to better focus on their core businesses.”


UTC officials will decide by the end of the third quarter whether the aircraft manufacturer will be sold or spun off as a new, independent company.


According to David Cadden, professor emeritus at Quinnipiac University, UTC is likely looking to spin off or sell Sikorsky because of Sikorsky’s relatively low profit margins. 


Mr. Cadden cites several factors contributing to declining margins, including decreasing military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Sikorsky announced earlier this month it plans to lay off 1,400 employees. Falling oil prices have reduced demand for aircraft needed to transport workers to and from oil rigs. 


Known for making Black Hawk helicopters and the Marine One helicopter, Sikorsky employs about 8,000 people. 


The company is developing several new products, including a military heavy-lift helicopter.


U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro said she expects Sikorsky’s future leadership will keep the company in Stratford.

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

Newly planted Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, blueberries and other native plants now adorn the front of Edgewood K-8 School in New Haven. On Friday the school inaugurated its Schoolyard Habitat.


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:                                                               

Audubon CT, Common Ground High School, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service put out a request for proposals and Edgewood was chosen as one of six schools in New Haven to participate. Each school got a $3,000 mini-grant and staff support from the three partners.

A few years ago, New Haven was designated as one of the country's first urban wildlife refuges. 

Edgewood parent Dana Holahan worked on the project:

“I'm a real believer in having children spend as much time outdoors as they possibly can, in learning environments, safe environments. So this would be a way to get children to spend more time outdoors, with their teachers, let the teachers have relaxing and engaging spaces to bring their children, and there's so much they can do out here; they can do scientific observation; they can do experiments; they can sit and write; they can sit and draw.”


Luci-Anne Gardener was one of the second-graders offering tours of the habitat:


“My favorite one was the pink lemonade blueberry over there, because when the blueberry ripens, it turns pink.”


A group of volunteers will make sure the new plants are cared for over the summer.

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

On Saturday, 375 years after the arrival of English settlers, the Town of Southampton celebrated its founding.


WPKN’s Hazel Kahan reports: 

The settlers were received peacefully by the Shinnecock natives who occupied the entire area of what is now Southampton Town. Today they live on a 1.3 square mile reservation.

For the first time, on Saturday, the Shinnecock were invited to participate in the Town’s founding celebrations.


They presented an historical re-enactment of the settlers’ arrival, narrated by Shinnecock elder Elizabeth Thunder Bird Haile.  



The Reverend Holly Haile Davis of Shinnecock also spoke at the event.  


She referred to the deteriorating condition of the land and the “continuing affliction on the way of life of the Indian People of Long Island” since the arrival of the colonists.


Reverend Haile-Davis said her people “knew enough to protect and not destroy Mother Earth,” including the “green and growing vegetation, medicine plants, trees, soil, pure waters, her winged and swimming creatures and the four-legged.”


As examples of the poor relationship between the tribe and the Town of Southampton, she cited the Town’s challenge in a U.S. Court of the tribe’s right to exist, and the call by a Federal judge for the Town to sit down with the Shinnecock.


Had the Town "sat down with the Shinnecock," Reverend Haile-Davis continued, they would have heard an appeal to stop the destruction of our fragile eco-systems by air pollution, contamination of bays and groundwater and the rampant over-development of these dangerously over-populated shores. 


Reverend Haile-Davis said “it is long past due to right old wrongs and to consider rents that are long-overdue and lands that might be rightly returned.”


She called for dialog about protecting the graves and burials of both our Native and colonial ancestors. 

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

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services issued an advisory against bathing at 64 Long Island beaches on Monday.


The advisory is due to the heavy rainfall that occurred on Sunday night.


The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and, because of their location, experience limited tidal flushing.


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



Monday, June 15   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus.):


An iconic business declares bankruptcy; New Haveners rally for jobs; a proposed solution for stormwater runoff; and, the New York Comptroller questions the safety of oil-carrying rail cars.

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

Bloomberg Business reports that Colt Defense LLC, the 179-year-old gunmaker that supplies M4 carbines and M16 rifles for the U.S. and foreign militaries, filed for bankruptcy amid delayed government sales and declining demand. 


The West Hartford-based firearms maker listed assets of as much as $500 million and debt of as much as $500 million in a Chapter 11 filing late Sunday in bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. 


Changing demand for its sporting rifles and commercial handguns, along with delays in anticipated U.S. government and foreign sales, have hurt business, the company said in an earlier regulatory filing. It will remain open for business during restructuring.

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

More than 500 people marched from New Haven City Hall Thursday evening to the city's two biggest employers -- Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital -- demanding that they and other businesses hire more New Haven residents. 


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

New Haven Works, a job-training and placement agency, is a collaboration of city government, Yale, and the city's biggest labor unions. 

They say they have trained 500 New Haven residents for jobs in construction, health care, hospitality and education, but very few have been hired by New Haven employers. 


Dominique Dickey was leading chants during the high-energy march. 


“We want our jobs to come back to the city. We want the money to come back to the city. We want equality to come back to the city. We want to keep doing this. We want to keep the jobs flowing to our residents.”


According to U.S. Census data, there are 83,000 jobs in New Haven, 47,000 of which pay a "living wage" of at least $20 an hour. 


But only 9,000 of those 47,000 jobs are held by New Haven residents, and only 2,000 of them by residents in the city's low-income neighborhoods. 


The unemployment rate for blacks and Latinos in New Haven is 2.5-3 times higher than that of white residents. 


Yale has 13,000 employees, fewer than a third of whom live in New Haven.


The event was organized by New Haven Rising, which is affiliated with the Yale unions.

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

27east reports: 

Hampton Bays residents and Southampton Town officials are hopeful that a form of landscape design will help prevent stormwater runoff from contaminating local bays. 

The idea behind the structures—known as bio-swales—is to funnel stormwater into roadside gardens consisting of plants that are proficient at filtering contaminants like salt, rubber, oil and various other automotive fluids that get flushed from the road’s surface by rainwater.


As the stormwater seeps into the ground, moving past the plants, their roots and the soil below, the contaminants are removed, leaving only clean water to enter the watershed, according to one expert. 


The bioswales would replace traditional storm drains that typically funnel the water into either an underground temporary holding chamber or a surface-level sump.


Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said bioswales are something the town is strongly considering in Hampton Bays, particularly for the Good Ground Park project that he is spearheading.


“It’s decorative, it’s functional, it’s green, and there’s a cost savings in that the typical approach is to install stormwater drains, and this could remove that infrastructure, which costs money to maintain,” he said.

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

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has sent letters to 14 companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Hess Corp. and CSX Corp., seeking information about measures the businesses are taking in response to the increasing number of serious accidents involving trains shipping petroleum.


DiNapoli said, “Rail lines carry petroleum crude oil through communities large and small, across important agricultural lands and other vulnerable natural resources. 


Recent rail accidents resulting in catastrophic losses from oil spills pose serious risks for the public, the environment, and the companies involved.”


DiNapoli’s letter asks the companies to answer five questions related to safety. 

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

Wednesday, June 12 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):


In the news tonight, Connecticut plans more pot dispensaries, a new study shows Connecticut’s gun law lowered homicides by 40 percent, Southampton Town considers helicopter restrictions, and the chair of the Suffolk legislature’s health committee supports a sales tax to fund sewers.

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

Connecticut plans to build three new medical marijuana dispensaries after the number of patients in the program has nearly doubled. 


The state now has six dispensary facilities and four producers. The producers distribute cannabis to the dispensaries, which then transfer the product to registered patients or caregivers.


Since September 2014, the number of patients registered for the medical marijuana program has increased from 1,683 to 4,097 this month.


Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said applications for additional dispensaries are now open through mid-September.


While licensed physicians in Connecticut have only been allowed to prescribe medical marijuana since 2012, the state passed a law in 1981 allowing doctors to prescribe pot to treat glaucoma and the side effects of chemotherapy.

----------

A new study shows that Connecticut’s decision in 1995 to make it harder to purchase a handgun has sharply reduced gun-related homicides.


Published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, the study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research shows the 1995 law resulted in as many as 40 percent fewer homicides by gun.


Center director Daniel Webster said researchers compared Connecticut’s homicide rate for ten years against those in states that were similar to Connecticut's before the state implemented the new restrictions.


The law reduced the availability of handguns to criminals and others not legally permitted to buy guns.


The 1995 law requires all prospective handgun purchasers to apply for a permit in person with the local police whether the seller of the handgun is a licensed dealer or private seller. It also raised the handgun purchasing age from 18 to 21 years and required at least eight hours of approved handgun safety training.


Scott Wilson, a gun-rights advocate and the president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the study is flawed because it does not consider the national drop in crime and homicide rates or the high number of homicides in certain cities and states that have tough gun restrictions.

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

Southampton Village officials may implement restrictions on how many times a helicopter can land at the heliport on Meadow Lane each week during summer months.


The proposed law would restrict helicopter landings to no more than three times per week from July 1 through September 15.


Currently, pilots who use the heliport can land there during the summer from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.


A public hearing on the law is scheduled for the Tuesday, June 23, Village Board meeting at 6 p.m.


Officials began looking into the use of its helipad in light of restrictions on helicopter landings that East Hampton Town has attempted to implement at the East Hampton Airport. 


East Hampton agreed to put off enforcing them so a federal judge can issue a ruling on an injunction sought by Friends of the East Hampton Airport, a group that represents aviation businesses.


Village Attorney Richard DePetris said if the East Hampton restrictions are implemented, many helicopter pilots would most likely turn to Southampton Village’s helipad.


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


The chair of Suffolk County's Health Committee said Thursday that he would support a referendum to increase the sales tax to expand Suffolk sewers to improve water quality.


Legislator William Spencer said he believed residents would be willing to pay more in taxes for a tangible benefit, according to Newsday. 


Any sales tax increase would need approval through state legislation.


Spencer's is the first idea floated by an elected official -- outside of hopes for federal and state grants -- about how to fund sewer and wastewater infrastructure estimated to cost as much as $9 billion.


County spokesman Justin Meyers said Suffolk is open to options but has not decided on any funding proposal.


County Executive Steve Bellone has declared nitrogen in the water a top priority for his administration. The county has secured $383 million in grants to build sewers in four areas on the South Shore, but has not identified local funding sources.


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


Thursday, June 11 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Kevin Brewer):  

In tonight’s news: Is Connecticut's transit funding locked in? and will corporate taxes be re-negotiated?; more derelict homes on Long Island; and advocates for fracking are not giving up yet in New York.  


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


The Connecticut legislative session ended last week without approval of either the so-called “lock box” for transportation money or an increase in transportation funding.    


At a press conference Tuesday Governor  Malloy called for the General Assembly  to approve both during a special session.


He said the money the budget takes from the sales tax needs to go in the lock box along with the money from the gas and oil taxes.


Republican lawmakers pointed out that the budget they approved on June 3 cancels transfers from the general fund to the transportation fund.


The Malloy administration counters that even though they are stopping the transfer of general funds to the special transportation fund, they are also shoring up a funding stream for the special transportation fund.


Malloy said by taking a half percent of the sales tax and locking it up means there will be an average gain of about $300 million a year in the fund dedicated to transportation.


Republicans contend a constitutional amendment is required to truly secure the transportation funds.   


Democratic leaders say they are willing to tackle the concept of a lock box during a special session. 

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

Governor Malloy will be meeting this week with Connecticut Business and Industry Association CEO Joe Brennan to discuss the new state tax package approved by the Assembly and panned by the business community.


In agreeing to the meeting, the Governor says the new taxes may be clarified but did not indicate if they could be changed.


CBIA's Brennan joins executives from Aetna , Travelers, GE and others in criticizing the budget. 


He is concerned over the long term consequences of the new tax plan combined with years of “bad economic development policy.”


The business community particularly opposes efforts to close tax loopholes that allow them to shift their profits to states with no corporate income tax. 


State lawmakers say these changes would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue back to the state.


GE confirms they have formed an exploratory team to look into relocating their Fairfield based corporate headquarters, with GE's CEO Jeff Immelt lamenting "ten tough years trying to maximize profits in the state."


The company had after-tax income of $15.35 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to Marketwatch.com.

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

Long Island continues to lead New York State in abandoned foreclosed houses according to Newsday.


The houses cost municipalities millions of dollars, lower property values and endanger first responders when they enter structurally unsound homes. 


And they attract squatters, vermin, garbage and crime. 


Suffolk County has the fourth highest number of these homes in the nation, climbing from seventh place just three months ago. 


Responsibility for the maintenance of abandoned homes in foreclosure has been hotly contested.


Banks and mortgage lenders insist they are limited in what they can do on a property before they hold title.


But the New York Department of Financial Services officials reached an agreement with 11 banks and mortgage companies to regularly maintain abandoned houses that are in foreclosure 

until they can go back on the market.
--------------

The Albany Times Union reports that supporters of the currently-banned practice of hydrofracking for gas in New York State haven’t given up hope entirely.


This is despite a decision by the Cuomo Administration in December to continue the ban which has been in place for more than five years.


Karen Moreau, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s New York branch, pointed to a study earlier this month from the federal EPA that found there was“no widespread systemic” water pollution associated with the practice.


In addition to the EPA report, Moreau said fracking supporters, including energy firms, pipe fitters and landowners who want to lease their property for drilling, are pinning some level of hope on the fact that the state’s ban isn’t complete.


That’s because the state Department of Environmental Conservation still needs to enter a Findings Document, or decision that would go into the State Register.


When and if that happens, Moreau predicted there would be lawsuits, possibly by property owners and energy firms.

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

Wednesday June 10:

(Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser, Chris Cadra, Kevin Brewer and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news, Washington debates a new fund that would pay for submarine production in Connecticut; Governor Malloy promises to lock up funds for transportation; a new program in Suffolk County encourages businesses and homeowners to go green; and lawmakers in upstate New York push for new training procedures for enforcing animal cruelty laws.

-------

In Washington this week, the House of Representatives will consider a defense spending bill that prohibits financing a fund that would pay for a new class of nuclear subs, likely to be built in Connecticut.


The National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund was established a year ago to help pay for a new class of nuclear ballistic-missile submarines that would replace the aging Ohio-class boats. The replacement submarines would be the largest in the U.S. military, and would cost at least $6 billion each.


A non-profit watchdog group has raised concerns that two Navy officials interested in the fund may have violated restrictions of the Anti-Lobbying Act, which prohibits federal agencies from using taxpayer money to conduct grassroots lobbying of Congress.


Last month, Forbes and Courtney were able to beat an amendment that would have eliminated the fund in the authorization bill. They hope to have the same success when they introduce an amendment to the defense spending bill this week.

------------------ 

It should have been a slam dunk. Both parties seemed to agree at the beginning of the legislative session that if they were going to dedicate more funding to transportation, that money should be locked up and used solely for transportation.


Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the money the budget takes from the sales tax needs to go in the lock box along with the money from the gas and oil taxes.


Malloy faced criticism from Republican lawmakers. Rep. Chris Davis (R-East Windsor) said, “We’re not truly increasing the funding to pay for these transportation projects because we are shifting the sales tax money and then not shifting general fund money as we previously would have.” The Malloy administration counters that that’s not what’s happening.


On Tuesday, Malloy said by taking a half percent of the sales tax and locking it up means there will be an average gain of about $300 million a year in the fund dedicated to transportation so “we have the monies necessary to move the projects along.”

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

In an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Suffolk County hopes to motivate businesses and homeowners to upgrade their outdated structures.


Low-cost funding to help cover the costs of these upgrades would be available through Energize NY Finance, a nonprofit organization subsidized by state and federal grants. The financing would encourage business owners to improve the county’s aging commercial buildings.


The proposed funding program was included in a 95-page Climate Action Plan, presented to the county legislature’s Public Works, Transportation, and Energy committee yesterday. 


Neal Lewis, an author of the plan, said that Suffolk County is among the most progressive counties in the state regarding energy efficiency concerns. The county-owned buildings are in decent shape; however, the commercially owned buildings within the county need work.


Under the program, up to 100 percent of upgrade costs to commercial buildings would be covered by low interest loans. The funds could also be used for residential buildings owned by companies, like apartment housing.


The owner would pay back the loan at a low interest rate, which would be added to their tax bill.

--------------
The Albany Times Union reports:

Legislators from rural upstate and animal welfare advocates are hoping a low profile bill, one of hundreds now awaiting late session votes, will lead to new training policies for enforcement of animal cruelty and protection laws.


The bill would allow the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Municipal Police Training Council to educate and familiarize law enforcement personnel with the laws pertaining to animal welfare.  Unfamiliarity with these laws can leave cops struggling to make appropriate charges.  Animal cruelty can be a bridge crime to other offenses, such as animal hoarding developing into child or elder abuse.


Officials say the increased training would likely lead to a rise in animal cruelty citations and arrests.  The projected cost of the legislation has not yet been determined.

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

Tuesday, June 9  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Wendy Brunell.):


updated 6-10-15


Seventeen arrested at Moral Monday protest in Hartford; Keno has another chance; Huntington wants drones grounded; and, a proposed New York law would allow commercial spear fishing for striped bass.

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

Hartford police arrested 17 people during a “Black Lives Matter” march Monday during the evening rush hour after blocking a busy intersection at the foot of the Founders Bridge. 


Those attending the protest said it was held as part of the Black Lives Matter movement aimed at making changes to the criminal justice system, prisons, schools and housing they believe will help the African American community. 


The protesters were a mix of young and old and black, white and Hispanic.


Protestors estimated the group to be several hundred in size.


The march was part of the national grassroots “Moral Monday” movement.


Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct.

Among them was Bishop John Selders, pastor of Hartford’s Amistad United Church of Christ and an event organizer. 

Reverend Henry Brown, who has been vocal about violence in the city and one of yesterday’s protesters, said it was good to see people standing up for people in urban communities.


Moral Monday protests began in North Carolina in 2013 when the president of the state’s NAACP chapter, Reverend William Barber, led protests after the state legislature enacted stricter voting laws.

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

The two-year Connecticut budget, passed in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session, relies on $43.6 million from Keno.


The video lottery would be installed in bars and restaurants. 


But the Connecticut Lottery Corporation can’t start Keno operations until the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe sign off on a revenue-sharing agreement.


The tribes and the state are expected to start negotiations once Governor Malloy signs the budget.


During 2013 budget negotiations, each tribe agreed to a 12.5 percent cut of the action but the General Assembly repealed the budget provision the next year before it could go into effect.


There are currently more than 2,800 lottery retailers across the state. 


200 to 600 new restaurants and bars will be added once Keno is authorized.


Proceeds from the operation – after operating expenses, the tribes portion, and the players' winnings will go into the state’s general fund.  

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

Town of Huntington officials are looking at regulating drones, saying they could become a potential threat to public safety.


The drones have been in use at the town’s St. Patrick Day parade and at local beaches.


Councilman Mark Cuthbertson says he is considering adding a chapter to the town code. It would include provisions that the devices can’t interfere with other aircraft, can’t be on a property without consent of the owner and can’t monitor people without their permission.


Last month a passenger jet bound for LaGuardia Airport narrowly missed hitting a drone and just last week singer Enrique Iglesias severely cut his fingers attempting to grab one during a normal routine that is part of his concerts.


In April, a bill was introduced in the Suffolk Legislature that would ban camera-carrying drones from flying over county-owned spaces. 


The bill was returned to committee for revisions. 

The Huntington Town Board meeting was scheduled today for 2 p.m. at Town Hall.
---------------------------------

New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle has proposed a bill that would allow commercial spear fishing for striped bass.


Long Island's commercial fishing industry is highly regulated, with limits on total catches for various species, harvesting seasons, and techniques used. 


Fishing regulations differ for sports and commercial fishing.


The new bill proposes to allow commercial fishermen to use spears, spear guns, and underwater guns. 


Underwater guns use explosives to propel the spear; spear guns use only human muscles.


The current rules permit commercial spear fishing for most species, but not striped bass.


The proposed legislation is in the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee so it is not expected to impact fishing practices this year.


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



Monday, June 8   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Scott Schere and Leslie Stenull.):


Governor Malloy is prepared to sign a Connecticut casino bill into law; Uber stops serving East Hampton; UConn and the state university system are facing fiscal challenges, spending cuts and reductions; and, Greenport Village wins a $100,000 electrical survey through a grant.

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

The Hartford Courant reports: 

Governor Dannel Malloy plans to sign a bill to allow casino gambling along the Connecticut border in response to competition from casino development in New York and Massachusetts. 

Under the bill, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes will issue a request for proposals, or “RFP”, to municipalities to host one satellite casino. 

Tribal officials have said they would place the eventual casino along the I-91 corridor in north central Connecticut.

State Senator Tim Larson from East Hartford recently explained reporting requirements for the projects.  Any agreement between the tribes and local communities would have to be reviewed by the state attorney general to make sure it doesn’t conflict with already existing agreements.


Any new casino is contingent on an amendment to state law to allow casino gambling.  The state’s two existing casinos are on sovereign tribal lands.  The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs will also review the project.


Governor Malloy voiced concerns over earlier versions of the legislation that would have allowed as many as three new casinos, agreeing with the Attorney General that such legislation could lead to legal challenges, as well as risking the state’s revenue sharing arrangement with the tribes.

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

Uber, the app-based ride-booking service, will suspend operations in the Town of East Hampton after more than 20 drivers, all of whom said they were Uber partners, were charged with misdemeanors over the past two weekends when they failed to produce valid business licenses. 


The town crafted new licensing rules after more than 700 cabs from across the region flooded the town to compete for lucrative summer business last year. 


Taxis must be registered under the name of a company that holds a business license, and taxi companies must maintain an office within the town.


Friday afternoon East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that he and town code enforcement officers met with Uber Friday morning, after which “Uber informed the town that it would suspend operations in East Hampton immediately.”


Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang stated, “Unfortunately the East Hampton town supervisor and town board have changed the rules, banning Uber from the town and denying their constituents access to our service.”

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

The Hartford Courant reports:

The budget approved by the General Assembly on Wednesday will mean spending cuts and reductions but it is more generous than the governor's proposal earlier this year for UConn and the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system.

Under the governor's budget, UConn officials said they faced a $40 million budget gap, but in an email to the UConn community this week President Susan Herbst said that gap is now expected to be less than $20 million.


Herbst added that "as always, our focus will be on carrying out our academic plan and funding key academic priorities in support of teaching and research."


The legislature’s budget for next year contains $12.9 million more for the CSCU system than did the governor's proposal, including roughly $9.4 million for developmental education. The balance will go to tuition relief for students. 


CSCU President Gregory W. Gray said, the budget "creates some fiscal challenges for CSCU that will require our collective focus and commitment to address."


A spokesman for the CSCU system said the budget gap for the next fiscal year now stands at about $22 million.

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

Greenport Village has won a $100,000 feasibility study through a New York state grant program.


The electrical survey comes as part of a proposal submitted by Global Common, a power plant company interested in building a new facility at the scavenger waste plant on Moores Lane. The company has pitched a “peaking” plant with a capacity of 50 to 75 megawatts.


The plant would use natural gas as its primary fuel for high-efficiency engines that could throttle up or down depending on energy needs.


Administrator Paul Pallas said the grant would examine all the Village’s electrical infrastructure and make recommendations about potential upgrades and renewable energy sources.


Mayor George Hubbard said the study would be provided to the village free of charge. Even if Global Common’s proposal is not chosen, the Village would still be able to use the survey for its own planning purposes.



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


Friday, June 5   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):

Criminal justice reform gets a second chance in Connecticut; Senator Murphy pushes expanding broadband access for low-income students; a New York federal judge delays the helicopter ruling again; and, Riverhead declines to support a marijuana farm. 

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

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Second Chance Society bill and a bill to address the use of excessive force by police appeared dead as the legislative session was ending on Wednesday.


But one bill was added to the call for the special session to implement the budget legislation.

The bill would eliminate mandatory prison time for possession of illegal drugs within 1,500 feet of a school.

Advocates of the bill say the so-called drug-free school zone law is responsible for the mass incarceration of people of color.


The bill aims to avoid situations like those in Ferguson, Baltimore, and New York, where unarmed black men were killed by police officers.


A Washington Post analysis released last week found that 385 people in the United States had been fatally shot by police in the first five months of 2015.


When adjusted for local population, the analysis found that blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities.

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

A large portion of Bridgeport's 22,000 students would qualify for free broadband access under a proposal to bring the Internet to low-income families, according to the Connecticut Post.


U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., hopes to bridge the digital divide with the Broadband Adoption Act of 2015 that he co-authored.


The plan would subsidize broadband Internet service for eligible households and expand the Universal Service Fund Lifeline Assistance Program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission, which subsidizes basic landline and mobile phone services for low-income Americans.


Bridgeport schools interim superintendent, Fran Rabonowitz said most of the Bridgeport student body would qualify on the basis of low family income.

Children in grades seven to 12 already have school-provided laptops but lack access to the Internet at home.

Last month, the FCC announced it would expand the Lifeline program to include Internet.


Murphy's spokesman, Chris Harris, said the bill would put the force of law behind the effort so a future president could not end it.

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

A federal judge said Wednesday she needs more time to rule on a challenge to laws that would restrict flights into and out of East Hampton’s airport, according to 27east.com.


Judge Joanna Seybert was to rule on the challenge by Monday, but she extended that until June 26, citing the complexity of the case, according to the East Hampton Town Board. 


The judge heard arguments last month from a helicopter pilot’s organization and aviation interests protesting a law that would limit some flights at the airport using flight patterns over Shelter Island and the North and South forks.


The town delayed implementing the laws, set to take effect Memorial Day weekend, to wait for the judge’s ruling.


The East Hampton Town Board said it remains confident that it will prevail in the litigation.


In April the board passed laws that would shut down of flights into or out of the airport from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and banned noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.

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

The Riverhead Town Board declined to support a Baiting Hollow farmer’s application to grow medical marijuana, according to the Riverhead News-Review.

The issue was defeated by an informal 3-2 margin Tuesday.

Ivy Acres owner Jack Van de Wetering and his son Kurt are planning to submit an application to the New York State Department of Health to grow up to 10 acres of marijuana in a greenhouse on their 22-acre Baiting Hollow property.


They asked the Town Board for a letter of support for the venture and said the proposal would create up to 100 high-paying jobs.


In June 2014, New York became one of 23 states to legalize the sale of medical marijuana.


Supervisor Sean Walter opposed the measure because he feels it is part of an “incremental approach” to legalizing marijuana outright.


The Van de Weterings plan to submit the application without Town Board support, which is not required, and said they were seeking its approval as a courtesy.

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

Thursday June 4  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser.):
Legislature passes the Malloy budget despite corporate threats; Nepalese immigrants say Long Island gas stations did not pay them; a study looks at  the impact of immigrants on Long Island's economy; and, a Quinnipiac poll shows no confidence in New York's Governor and legislators. 
--------------------------------
Late Wednesday the Connecticut Senate joined the House in passing  a $40.3 billion, two-year budget package that largely restores deep cuts to social services and expands municipal aid while increasing taxes by almost $2 billion.  
The budget was negotiated by Democratic majorities in both chambers and the Governor’s office.
The budget dedicates almost $436 million in sales tax receipts to cities and towns over the next two years, helping communities control property taxes. 
The package also makes an initial – but limited - investment rebuilding Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.
The budget increases income taxes on the wealthy and the middle class. It also increases taxes on corporations, hospitals, cigarettes, and luxury items.
Of the $2 billion in new tax revenue, $475 million cancelled previously approved tax cuts for shoppers, businesses, insurance companies and the working poor. 
Those tax policy changes sparked protests and threats from some of Connecticut’s largest employers, including Aetna and General Electric, who warned that the overall tax burden — and particularly controversial sales and corporation tax hikes — would drive employers from the state.
--------------------------------
Newsday reports: On Wednesday, more than 20 Nepalese immigrant workers demanded their salaries be paid after toiling at Long Island gas stations. They claim they are owed more than $2 million in unpaid wages by Steve Keshtgar, owner of 22 gas stations and convenience stores.

Keshtgar filed for bankruptcy in December and January. 

Citing the April earthquake that devastated their homeland, former employees chanted, "Nepali workers need to be paid to help their families back home."

Pasang Lama, who worked at Islandia and Centereach stations, said that gasoline exposure left him sick and he is now penniless. Lama said, "I can't support my family here and I can't support my extended family back in Nepal." 

Workers said the businesses closed without notice, owing months of wages and overtime pay. They allege that their employer took rent deductions for filthy and crowded rooms where some slept in shifts.

The group is supported by the Long Island Federation of Labor, Long Island Jobs with Justice, and Adhikaara human rights and social justice organization working with the Nepali-speaking community.
--------------------------------
Over a half-million people born outside the United States now live in Long Island, making up 18 percent of the Island's 2.9 million people and powering the region's labor force.

Those immigrants account for about 20 percent of Long Island's $91 billion economy.

That is according to a study by the progressive non-profit Fiscal Policy Institute as reported by Newsday.
El Salvador, India and the Dominican Republic top the countries of origin.

The study says the immigrant population not only has continued to grow in size and diversity, but also is having a significant impact on the region's economy.

More than half the foreign-born residents are working in white-collar jobs.

Six of every 10 immigrant households report incomes of more than $80,000 per year. 

About three-quarters live in owner-occupied housing.

The study says immigrants are a diverse crowd of largely legal residents or U.S. citizens who aren't always toiling in low-wage jobs.

On average, the region's immigrants earn 31 percent less than U.S.-born workers.

The population of immigrants here illegally is about 98,000; close to half from Central America.
--------------------------------
The Albany Times Union reports:
A majority of respondents in the latest Quinnipiac poll, taken in March, say that all elected officials in Albany should be voted out of office so new officials can start with a clean slate. 
No group polled thinks state elected officials are capable of ending political corruption in Albany. 
And Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approval ratings hit a new low of 44 percent favorable/42 percent unfavorable.  His handling of ethics contributed to the low numbers according to poll results.


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

Wednesday, June 3  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Mike Merli.):


Connecticut lawmakers pass a new police accountability measure; a new bill seeks to protect the health of first responders in Connecticut; the Peconic Land Trust helps East End farmers with a new program; and, a new advisory affects 63 beaches throughout Suffolk County.

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

Early Tuesday, the Connecticut state Senate unanimously passed a new police accountability measure.


The new legislation would establish a standard for investigating officer-involved shootings and equipping police with body cameras.


The bill also requires changes in police training and hiring, and subjects departments to liability if police illegally stop a citizen from recording them.


With the new bill, the Connecticut State Police would be required to equip its troopers with body cameras, while municipal departments will be encouraged, but not required, to do the same.


$13 million in grants would be created for municipalities to purchase cameras and store the images, beginning in the 2017 fiscal year.


The bill also encourages departments to recruit minorities, and prohibits them from hiring former officers who were fired or disciplined for serious misconduct.


The legislation also requires that fatal police shootings be investigated by a special prosecutor, or a prosecutor from a different judicial district other than the one in which the killing occurred.


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

With the legislative session nearing a close, the future is uncertain for a bill that would look out for the mental and physical health of first responders in Connecticut.

For the last month, firefighters and police officers have lobbied at the Capitol in Hartford for the new legislation. 


The bill, which passed the Senate on a 25-11 vote, combines two separate measures.


The first would expand workers’ compensation coverage to police officers who experience post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing a death in the line of duty, or respond within six hours to a death. 


The second measure of the bill would give firefighters who don’t smoke the option to file a workers’ compensation claim for certain types of cancers related to the dangers they face on the job. 


Responding to talk of turning the legislation into a study instead, Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said the coalition of firefighters and police officers could not wait another year for a task force to research the issue. 


Matthews said, “These are people’s lives. People’s lives are in really bad places. We need protection now.”

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

Thanks to a grant from the Empire State Development Commission, the Peconic Land Trust has one million dollars to give out to East End Farmers through their new "Agricultural Capital Equipment Grant Program.”  Applications for the funds are being accepted now on the Land Trust website.


Farmers are able to apply for funds up to $25,000 to cover 20% of the purchase price of new equipment or construction of new farm buildings. 


 The awards are targeted at younger East End farmers, and offering incentives for younger people to become farmers.  


Agricultural production values in Suffolk County have slumped and local and state officials say the funds are part of their plan to make farming affordable, and they urge East End farmers to take advantage of the program.

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

An alert against swimming and bathing at 63 beaches has been issued by Suffolk County because levels of bacteria may have risen due to this week's heavy rain, according to Newsday.


The advisory affects bay beaches and Long Island Sound beaches, including Lake Ronkonkoma-Islip Town Beach, Amityville Village Beach, Shoreham Beach, Asharoken Beach, Crab Meadow Beach in Northport, Islip Beach and Shirley Beach.


Health officials suggest not even touching the water until the rain has stopped and at least 24 hours have passed.


The advisory will be lifted Thursday morning unless elevated levels of bacteria are found in water samples.


Details are available at 631-852-5822. 

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

Tuesday, June 2 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Wendy Brunell and Trace Alford.)


In tonight’s news, Connecticut’s General Electric threatens move over tax increases; Connecticut health care bill passes in House and goes back to Senate; safety of meningitis vaccinations, required by New York schools, is questioned; and, reporting guns returned under New York’s Safe Act. 

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

General Electric along with other Connecticut businesses made a last ditch effort Monday to stop what they say will be devastating tax increases. 


The proposed budget increases taxes on corporations and businesses by nearly $282 million while overall taxes would increase by $720 Million.


The new tax package changes how multi-state corporations are taxed, maintains the 20 percent corporate surcharge, reduces by 50 percent the losses a business can carry forward, and reduces credits against certain taxes.


General Electric said the tax hikes will make businesses “seriously consider whether it makes any sense to continue being located in this state”…since other states “offer more opportunities for business growth”.


Republican State Representative John Frey of Ridgefield received a phone call from Jeff Bornstein, GE’s CFO, saying the company was considering moving its corporate headquarters based on the proposed tax package.


General Electric has 5,700 employees in Connecticut, but the biggest impact of GE leaving would be its relationships with suppliers and vendors around the state.  


The company had $17.23 billion in net income and after-tax income of $15.35 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to Marketwatch.com.


Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Governor Malloy, cited transportation funding saying, “The historic investments we’re making, the largest in the history of Connecticut — an additional $10 billion — are good for job creation, good for the economy, and good for businesses, GE included.”

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

The House of Representatives passed a wide-ranging, controversial health care bill Saturday night after scaling back certain provisions deemed particularly onerous by hospitals.


Many individual provisions of the 87-page proposal could have been controversial bills on their own; together, they represent a set of changes that could have significant ripples through major industries undergoing rapid change. 


Hospital officials have said the new regulations could make it harder for distressed hospitals to find purchasers to help them survive, while unions and advocacy groups say they could help rein in costs and protect patients.


The bill, which passed the House 98 to 43, now goes to the Senate, which passed an earlier version of the bill but must vote again since the proposal was revised.


The bill addresses many facets of health care. It would revise the approval process for the sale of hospitals and establish a statewide system for sharing patients’ medical records. 


It would require health care providers and insurers to make more information available about the cost and quality of care and insurance plan details, and would curtail certain hospital billing practices. 


It aims to unravel some of the advantages hospital chains can gain by acquiring physician practices, although the House bill eliminated some of the most controversial steps in that direction developed by the Senate.

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

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. scheduled a press conference for today to speak in opposition to a bill working its way through the New York State Legislature. 


According to the Albany Times-Union, the bill would mandate meningitis vaccinations for school children.


Mr. Kennedy, an environmentalist and the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, believes that thimerosal, the preservative contained in the vaccine, contains levels of mercury exceeding the federal safety standards and is unsafe for children. 


The bill, New York Assembly Bill A791a, scheduled to go to a state senate vote this week, would mandate meningitis vaccinations for New York State sixth and eleventh graders.


During his press conference, Mr. Kennedy was expected to address the financial conflict of interest between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and vaccine makers, explaining how vaccine industry money has neutralized the checks and balances between the pharmaceutical industry and children.

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

Rochester-area attorney Paloma Capanna, who is involved in several lawsuits concerning provisions of the SAFE Act gun control law, says the various plaintiffs and the state have set June 22 as the “drop-dead deadline” for responses.


A court ruling commanded the State Police to release data concerning newly registered assault weapons.

The SAFE Act, passed in January 2013, required owners of newly defined assault-style weapons to register them with the state.

Sales and new ownership of such firearms was banned by passage of the bill. 


For more than a year, the State Police has refused requests from the media and SAFE opponents to disclose the number of people who have registered previously owned weapons. 


They point to a provision of the law that exempts information in the registry database from disclosure.

In his decision in the case of Robinson v. Cuomo, Acting Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara said nothing in the SAFE Act barred disclosure of data derived from the databank, including the raw number of new registrants, as well as geographic breakdowns of those registrations by county.

The State Police has not yet said whether it plans to abide by the ruling or appeal, though they confirmed that June 22 was the agreed-upon deadline.

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






Monday, June 1 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editor 


Leslie Stenull):



Bridgeport schools face $5 million in cuts; a massive fish die off is reported in Riverhead and Southampton while a North Fork environmental group plans a green tour next weekend; and, the Connecticut house votes to set standards for Uber.
-------------------------------

The Connecticut Post reports: 

The Bridgeport school board will have to find $5 million to cut in a school budget that serves some of the poorest, underserved students in the state due to the state budget cuts.

It is a familiar situation for the board, but it is the first time since Interim School Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz's return to the district that she faces cutting -- rather than adding -- to a district budget.


The Bridgeport district --with more than 20,000 students this school year-- has a $239.5 million operating budget which is about $90 million less than Hartford spends on roughly the same number of students. 


Rabinowitz was counting on $246.5 million for 2015-16 just to keep services as they are now.


Instead of reducing class sizes and adding teacher aides to kindergarten classrooms, the superintendent's office has generated a list of potential cuts that would reduce the existing number of teacher aids through attrition. 


There would also be fewer repairs made, four fewer guidance counselors and fewer people to conduct state-mandated teacher evaluations.


Rabinowitz said, "We are trying to find the least invasive ways to cut." 

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

Tens of thousands of dead fish emerged in the Peconic Estuary on Friday, prompting officials to organize cleanup efforts Saturday. 

The die-off has been blamed on low oxygen levels in nearby waters caused by a recent algae bloom.

The dead bunker fish were spotted floating in the Peconic River, and numerous creeks down the adjoining coast bay side, according to Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

"This morning there was almost wall-to-wall fish down here,” said Walter, standing along the Peconic Riverwalk on Saturday afternoon.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials surveyed the area Friday and found that depths beyond three feet did not have enough oxygen for the fish.

Ed Warner Jr., president of Southampton Town Trustees, said the estuary has been beset by fish kills in recent years."Every year, we have more and more bunkers that come into Peconic Bay to spawn, which is a very confined area of shallow water, and they basically run out of oxygen and suffocate," he said.
----------------------------------

Next weekend, the first ever NoFo Blue (plus) Green Tour will take place in Southold.

The timing of this tour, particularly the preservation of North Fork waterways, comes on the heels of this weekend’s massive fish die off and as hundreds of small turtles have also washed up dead on the eastern end of Long Island in the last month. 

Scientists blame the die-off on waterborne toxins that have reached unprecedented levels and may be related to nitrogen in the water caused by leaking septic tanks and sewage that makes its way into bays.

Peconic Green Growth, a nonprofit group focused on creating alternatives to traditional septic systems, is hosting the event.

The event will feature speakers on organic gardening and landscaping, waterways protection and septic systems, as well as project tours. 

Glynnis Berry of Peconic Green Growth says the group plans to “mix education and fun” and “put information out to the general public.”

The day’s itinerary includes tours, demonstrations, lectures and a documentary film.

Tickets are available in advance on the group’s website peconicgreengrowth.org.
----------------------------------

A year after Uber entered the Connecticut market, ignoring rules and regulations imposed on the taxi industry, the House voted 133 to 9 Saturday night for a bill that would establish safety and insurance standards on the ride-sharing business.

Banning the fast-growing business may have been a possibility in 2014, but not after a year in operation bringing service to portions of Connecticut where taxis are hard or impossible to find.

A century-old regulatory system dictates whom taxi companies can hire, how many cabs they can put on the road, where they can send them and how much they can charge.

Uber complies with none of those requirements as a "transportation network company."

It owns no cars, employs no drivers and charges whatever the market will bear. A foundation of its business is a smart-phone app used by passengers to summon rides and then pay for them.

The bill requires Uber to use a private third-party company to screen drivers for criminal records and sets standards for insurance coverage and vehicle safety.
=================


 \













2(Thanks to WPKN volunteers Chris Cadra, Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus.):

Connecticut budget cuts; a forum on green jobs; Long Island  landscaper fined for withholding wages; and,data released on assault style weapons registered under New York’s SAFE act.

 -----------------------------------

A new budget proposed by Connecticut Governor Malloy includes cuts to education, municipal aid, healthcare and social services. The spending cuts must match the tax reductions included in the governor’s budget.

That includes trimming up to 1.5 percent of discretionary spending. 
Benjamin Barnes, the governor’s budget director, said the exact method for determining what gets cut has yet to be determined. The cuts would not include payments the state must legally make, such as debt service.
Also immune to spending cuts are state employee salaries and benefits and funding for magnet schools.
Instead, the $224 million in two-year savings the governor seeks would come from the rest of the budget. 
The areas with the largest potential hits include local school districts, mental health care services, Medicaid, and programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. 
None of the immediate cuts discussed would exceed 1.5 percent for any budget item. However, if Malloy is unable find the savings through the proposed cuts, he could make up the difference by using his authority to make midyear cuts.
-----------------------------------

About 50 people gathered last Thursday evening in North Haven, for a meeting of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate & Jobs. The group brings together people from the labor movement, environmental activists and those from the faith community to promote well-paying green jobs that reduce the impact of climate change in the state. 


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.


Several members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were there, and said that one of Governor Dannel Malloy's transportation priorities, the rapid bus transit system known as FasTrack, created many new union jobs.  But others were skeptical of Malloy's proposed 30-year, $100 billion state transportation overhaul.


Jeremy Brecher, a labor historian and activist, was one.


“The governor has spoken extremely eloquently about the need for public transportation, but if you look at the money -- I was just looking at the D.O.T.'s plans -- and both their five-year plan and their 30-year plan, like 80 or 90 percent of the money is going into highways.”


As for renewable energy, another area with great potential for green jobs, a member of the Sierra Club lamented the General Assembly's failure to pass a robust shared solar bill that would have enabled thousands of homeowners to access solar power who couldn't otherwise do so. Instead lawmakers created a very small two-year pilot project.

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

Newsday reports:

The owner of a Stony Brook landscaping company was charged Monday with failing to pay $13,000 in wages owed to three workers and defrauding the state unemployment system of $12,000 by paying workers off the books.
Richard Orvieto, 55, owner of Double O Landscaping, was awaiting arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip on multiple counts of falsifying business records and other charges, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Orvieto faces up to four years in prison if convicted on the most serious charges and may also be fined and have to pay restitution.
Orvieto fired three workers in 2013 and did not pay them overtime they were due and wages for their last week of work.
Schneiderman said Orvieto was liable for as much as $19,000 in unpaid unemployment insurance, fraud penalties and interest.
-----------------------------------


With the State Police declining to appeal an earlier trial court decision ordering them to release the data, the number of people who have registered assault style weapons under the New York SAFE Act became public on Monday, according to the Albany Times Union.

Rochester lawyer Paloma Capanna successfully sued on behalf of a client for the information.
23,847 people since the 2013 law took effect have applied to register assault style weapons. A total of 44,485 weapons have been registered, including 3,865 weapons in Suffolk County.
-----------------------------------




Tuesday, June 23 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Chris Cadra, Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus.):

Connecticut budget cuts; a forum on green jobs; Long Island  landscaper fined for withholding wages; and,data released on assault style weapons registered under New York’s SAFE act.

 -----------------------------------

A new budget proposed by Connecticut Governor Malloy includes cuts to education, municipal aid, healthcare and social services. The spending cuts must match the tax reductions included in the governor’s budget.

That includes trimming up to 1.5 percent of discretionary spending. 
Benjamin Barnes, the governor’s budget director, said the exact method for determining what gets cut has yet to be determined. The cuts would not include payments the state must legally make, such as debt service.
Also immune to spending cuts are state employee salaries and benefits and funding for magnet schools.
Instead, the $224 million in two-year savings the governor seeks would come from the rest of the budget. 
The areas with the largest potential hits include local school districts, mental health care services, Medicaid, and programs for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. 
None of the immediate cuts discussed would exceed 1.5 percent for any budget item. However, if Malloy is unable find the savings through the proposed cuts, he could make up the difference by using his authority to make midyear cuts.
-----------------------------------

About 50 people gathered last Thursday evening in North Haven, for a meeting of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate & Jobs. The group brings together people from the labor movement, environmental activists and those from the faith community to promote well-paying green jobs that reduce the impact of climate change in the state. 


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.


Several members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were there, and said that one of Governor Dannel Malloy's transportation priorities, the rapid bus transit system known as FasTrack, created many new union jobs.  But others were skeptical of Malloy's proposed 30-year, $100 billion state transportation overhaul.


Jeremy Brecher, a labor historian and activist, was one.


“The governor has spoken extremely eloquently about the need for public transportation, but if you look at the money -- I was just looking at the D.O.T.'s plans -- and both their five-year plan and their 30-year plan, like 80 or 90 percent of the money is going into highways.”


As for renewable energy, another area with great potential for green jobs, a member of the Sierra Club lamented the General Assembly's failure to pass a robust shared solar bill that would have enabled thousands of homeowners to access solar power who couldn't otherwise do so. Instead lawmakers created a very small two-year pilot project.

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

Newsday reports:

The owner of a Stony Brook landscaping company was charged Monday with failing to pay $13,000 in wages owed to three workers and defrauding the state unemployment system of $12,000 by paying workers off the books.
Richard Orvieto, 55, owner of Double O Landscaping, was awaiting arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip on multiple counts of falsifying business records and other charges, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Orvieto faces up to four years in prison if convicted on the most serious charges and may also be fined and have to pay restitution.
Orvieto fired three workers in 2013 and did not pay them overtime they were due and wages for their last week of work.
Schneiderman said Orvieto was liable for as much as $19,000 in unpaid unemployment insurance, fraud penalties and interest.
-----------------------------------


With the State Police declining to appeal an earlier trial court decision ordering them to release the data, the number of people who have registered assault style weapons under the New York SAFE Act became public on Monday, according to the Albany Times Union.

Rochester lawyer Paloma Capanna successfully sued on behalf of a client for the information.
23,847 people since the 2013 law took effect have applied to register assault style weapons. A total of 44,485 weapons have been registered, including 3,865 weapons in Suffolk County.
-----------------------------------




T


Monday, June 22     (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Scott Schere and Leslie Stenull.)


Governor Malloy widens the rift between Connecticut and Amtrak; Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone seeks federal funds to fix infrastructure and curb fish kills; Southold is forming a committee to combat deer ticks; and, Melinda Tuhus has a report from a New Haven gathering about the recent South Carolina church killings.
---------------------------

The Hartford Courant reports: 
A dispute between Amtrak and Connecticut has jeopardized chances that commuter trains will be running on the New Haven to Springfield line by late next year.

Governor Dannel Malloy is asking federal officials to intervene because of what he calls Amtrak's failure to manage budgeting and staffing for what was supposed to be a $365 million job. Earlier this year, Amtrak boosted that estimate to $615 million, according to the DOT.

Connecticut and Massachusetts have been working for years toward establishing a high-frequency commuter rail operation linking the New Haven, Hartford and Springfield job markets and the communities in between. 

A longer-term plan utilizes the route for a second purpose: higher-speed intercity service ultimately linking New York, Boston and Montreal.

Malloy has made the Hartford Line a part of his $100 billion, 30-year plan for transforming the state's transportation network. 

State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said he anticipates a report from Amtrak and its primary contractor in mid- to late August showing a detailed budget forecast and construction schedule.
---------------------------

Newsday reports: 
During a news conference Saturday along the Peconic River, Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone addressed recent die-offs of bunker fish that have affected an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 fish. 

The first die-off in early May went largely unnoticed, but a second die-off from late May to early June, which killed approximately 200,000 fish, brought attention to the issue. 

While the State Department of Environmental Conservation and county officials have yet to issue their report with official findings, Bellone has called on officials to respond to what he calls “a stark reminder to all of us that we have an urgent issue to address in this region.”

Jeff Gilmore, Chief of the Marine Resources Bureau of the Department of Environmental Conservation, attributes the die-offs to proliferation of algae blooms, which scientists blame on high levels of nitrogen in the water.  

Gilmore also referred to weather-related shifts in migratory activities as a factor. 

Scientists believe the large number of aging septic systems in Suffolk County homes are a major contributor to nitrogen pollution on Long Island. 

Bellone called on federal officials to provide an unspecified level of funding for sewers and other pollution mitigating measures, citing the federal government’s designation of the Peconic Estuary as among 28 that have been deemed “nationally significant.” 
---------------------------

This week Southold town officials started efforts to deal with tick-borne illnesses. 

Southold is so narrow and dense that it is difficult to meet certain county tick-management regulations so a new exploratory town tick committee is now in the works and Supervisor Scott Russell is working to recruit qualified individuals for the committee. 

Five to seven volunteers will comprise the anti-tick team, and the town wants individuals with specific qualifications, including a wildlife biologist and a public health expert. Members of the tick committee would serve on a set four-month timeframe.

“What we’re proposing is almost like a working group,” Mr. Russell said. “We’re asking the committee to evaluate anything that has been implemented with regard to tick control.” 

Mr. Russell added: “The more deer you have, the more ticks you have and the more tick-borne illness.”
Mr. Russell hopes to have the team up and running in four to six weeks. 
---------------------------

A hundred New Haveners -- mostly white -- gathered on the corner of the Green at 6 p.m. Sunday in solidarity with protests around the country at the urging of Black Lives Matter and other groups to decry the murders of nine parishioners in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. and call for action. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports: 
Several speakers said the issue is neither gun control nor the possible insanity of the shooter, but ingrained racism that sees black people gunned down repeatedly and black churches especially targeted. 

Paul Hammer said he sees that the issues are intertwined: ‘We shouldn't talk only about gun control and mental illness, and not talk about racism, but racism, in addition to being part of our economy since slavery, and even today, is also a mental illness.”

He also called for strengthening gun control laws nationally.

Local activist Stan Heller said there are practical things people can demand: “The first and most obvious is, tear down that Confederate flag. (applause) The flag of treason, the flag of slavery, segregation and racism -- that that should be at the Capitol is absolutely absurd.”

Many in the crowd held up simple hand-lettered signs mourning the deaths at the A.M.E. church and standing in solidarity with that community.
===============

Friday, June 19  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):

A Connecticut city holds a prayer vigil for the church shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina; protesters rally in support of the Hartford 17; New York lawmakers push for a last-minute ban on electronic cigarettes; and, a massive fish-kill in the Peconic River leads to a water advisory.
---------------------------
From the Hartford Courant:
Last night, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomfield, Connecticut held a prayer vigil in memory of the nine victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Reverend Daylan K. Greer Sr. said that the tragedy in Charleston would challenge his community’s faith, but added that “we have to hold onto that in the face of violence and death.”
Greer had no extra plans to lock the doors of his church during services or resort to armed security.
At the vigil, several dozen people gathered in prayer and song for those killed in the Charleston shooting.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of Connecticut’s NAACP, placed the Charleston massacre in a national context. Esdaile said, “Racial tension is at an all-time high in this country. All the prayer vigils, all the marches, rallies, town hall meetings – it’s still getting worse. An open dialogue must occur.”
---------------------------
Members of the Hartford 17 – a group of protesters arrested at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration on June 8 – were sentenced to three days of community service on Wednesday.
The Hartford 17 were arrested for blocking traffic on Central Row during rush hour to bring visibility to issues disproportionately affecting people of color in the United States.
The group were given the option of pleading guilty or serving three days community service. Choosing the community service meant they would not have to make any admissions, and their record would be wiped clean after 30 days.
Each of the arrested chose the community service.
Before the court hearing, a rally was held by the Hartford area groups Moral Monday Connecticut and Hartford Action to show support for the Hartford 17.
The rally called on communities across Connecticut to take action. The protesters called for the retraining of police in nonviolent communication.
Derek Hall, a founding member of Hartford Action, also stressed that colorblindness and indifference among more privileged communities perpetuates systemic racism.
---------------------------
A coalition of New York state groups have united for a last-minute end-of-session push to apply the Clean Indoor Air Act to electronic cigarettes. The vaping devices would not be allowed in work places including restaurants, bars, and bowling alleys.
As currently configured, this bill exempts convenience and grocery stores from the tobacco control rules that include periodic checks by the Department of Health, to ensure stores are not selling to minors.
Under the current proposal, independent, free-standing “vape” shops that only sell smokeless cigarettes wouldn’t have the Department of Health oversight, unless it is added explicitly into the law.
---------------------------
Newsday reports:
Suffolk County health officials have warned residents to avoid touching the dead bunker baitfish that inundated the Peconic River during a massive fish kill this week. 
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter reported that workers removed 10,000 pounds of dead bunker from the river Wednesday. This removal came after a massive die-off swamped the waterway and its banks with rotting fish.
County officials issued a news release yesterday, urging residents to take caution. 
Due to increased risks of bacteria, viruses and parasites, people in the area should not handle any remaining fish, and avoid swimming or wading in water where they are accumulating.
Officials added that anyone who has contact with the water should wash their hands before eating. Any live fish caught near the die-off should be cooked thoroughly.
 ==============

Thursday, June 18  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Nadine Dumser and Kristiana Pastir.)

Community-police relations in Bridgeport; Hartford adopts municipal ID Card; Connecticut may have paid improper disability retirement benefits; and, Long Island Utility operator gets bonus, wants more.

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

The Connecticut Post reports;

Congregants of two Bridgeport churches met at Bethel AME Church on the west end Wednesday night looking for answers to issues of crime and police response to it.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Police Chief Joseph Gaudett were present to answer questions. 


The meeting had been planned for weeks by members of Bethel AME and Mt. Aery Baptist Church.

But an incident where nine people were shot, one fatally, in Bridgeport last week, may have brought more people to the meeting. 

Ann Fuller, a member of Bethel AME, was the first speaker.


Referring to encounters with the police, she said: “Any interaction always resulted in a negative experience, whether it was getting a traffic ticket or being the victim of a crime or a family member being arrested. It was never a positive experience where I could thank an officer and mean it.”


Gaudett said he was distressed to hear this, and he said “community policing was the core strategy of the department, from the top on down.”


Fuller said she heard from residents that police were taking too long to respond. Gaudett said, “We respond to hundreds of calls a day, and there can be times when we are saturated with calls.” 


He did not mention that the force was down several officers.


Other topics covered were use of force and police training.

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

The Hartford City Council has approved a municipal identification card program that will be available to residents starting in September.  


Most of those expected to apply will likely come from among the city's estimated 20,000 undocumented workers, though the cards will also provide city recognized identification to ex-inmate and homeless residents.


The cards will allow access to city services , health clinics and cultural institutions and provide the identification needed to open a bank account. 

Hartford joins Bridgeport and a small but growing number of cities and counties in adopting a resident ID card system first implemented in New Haven eight years ago.

The program there needs greater support and commitment from city government according to community activists.  


Bridgeport has earmarked $300,000 for their card plan, while the Hartford plan will be operated by an outside vendor and self-funded thru card application fees. 

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

Connecticut state auditors disclosed Wednesday a major breakdown in safeguards in the comptroller’s office that could have led to improper payment of millions in disability retirement benefits. 


The Retirement Services Division stopped performing required eligibility follow-up tests, among other failures, according to the auditors’ report to Governor Malloy. 


Comptroller Kevin Lembo said he notified state employee unions and the Office of Policy and Management about the problem two years ago and has been urging action ever since.


“The failure to conduct 24-month entitlement reviews for such an extended period has most likely resulted in considerable payments in disability benefits to retirees who were no longer eligible to receive them,” the auditors wrote.


Contributing to the issue is the recently redefined “suitable and comparable” part of the state law determining eligibility for disability retirement benefits.


After 24 months, an employee can only continue receiving benefits if he still cannot perform his work duties or another “suitable and comparable” state occupation. What’s considered suitable and comparable is under debate. 


The state sets benefits for all of its employees and retirees by bargaining collectively with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.

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

Connecticut state auditors disclosed Wednesday a major breakdown in safeguards in the comptroller’s office that could have led to improper payment of millions in disability retirement benefits. 


The Retirement Services Division stopped performing required eligibility follow-up tests, among other failures, according to the auditors’ report to Governor Malloy. 


Comptroller Kevin Lembo said he notified state employee unions and the Office of Policy and Management about the problem two years ago and has been urging action ever since.


“The failure to conduct 24-month entitlement reviews for such an extended period has most likely resulted in considerable payments in disability benefits to retirees who were no longer eligible to receive them,” the auditors wrote.


Contributing to the issue is the recently redefined “suitable and comparable” part of the state law determining eligibility for disability retirement benefits.


After 24 months, an employee can only continue receiving benefits if he still cannot perform his work duties or another “suitable and comparable” state occupation. What’s considered suitable and comparable is under debate. 


The state sets benefits for all of its employees and retirees by bargaining collectively with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.

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

PSEG Long Island will receive at least $5.47 million in performance-incentive pay for 2014 in addition to its $45 million annual management fee, but the utility is pressing for a bigger bonus. 


PSEG operates the power grid, owned by the Long Island Power Authority. 


PSEG is eligible for the bonus if it meets 20 different service metrics. Last year it met 19, falling below in one measure of worker safety.


PSEG is arguing that excess points earned in other categories should be applied to the one in which it fell short. This would result in a bonus payment of $5.76 million. 


According to Department of Public Service Chief Executive Audrey Zibelman, “LIPA does not agree and asserts that points can only be utilized within individual categories.” 


The LIPA/PSEG contract says PSEG is eligible for the incentive payments and may be assessed penalties for falling short of the metrics.


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


Wednesday, June 17  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):


High bacteria levels close Connecticut beaches; low oxygen levels lead to dead zone in Peconic River and East End; legislators propose bills to ease affordable housing crunch.

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

The Connecticut Post reports that residents in three towns had to find another source of relief from the summer humidity Tuesday after beaches at state parks were closed due to high bacteria levels in the water.


Beaches at Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport and Indian Well State Park in Shelton were closed by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Tuesday.


The agency said it was retesting the water quality at the beaches and the results were due today, when a decision would be made to reopen the beaches.

Also closed was the beach at Kettletown State Park in Southbury. 
--------------------------

Newsday reports that oxygen levels remain critically low to nonexistent along a stretch of the Peconic River that has seen two massive fish kills in recent weeks, creating a large dead zone, experts said.


Over a two-day period since the most recent die-off of menhaden, when tens of thousands of fish massed in Riverhead boatyards, oxygen levels have hit zero on three occasions, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.


Christopher Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University's Center for Aquatic and Atmospheric Sciences, said low levels have registered before, including the days leading up to the first die-off in late May.


Meanwhile, in its latest clean-up effort, the Riverhead town board voted last night to pay a Greenport fisherman to haul the dead bunker out of the river with a seine net, beginning today. 


Higher levels of nitrogen and the alga blooms that accompany them have been cited as the main culprit for this week's die-off.


Rising water temperatures will further constrain the ability of the water to hold dissolved oxygen. Water temperatures in the river reached a 2015 high on Sunday of nearly 78 degrees, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

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

State lawmakers from eastern Long Island are trying to pass bills to ease the Hamptons housing crunch before the scheduled end of the legislative session, according to Newsday.


Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. is pushing a bill that would allow the five East End towns to impose a "McMansion tax" on the construction of homes exceeding 3,000 square feet. The fee would help fund town loans of as much as $250,000 to first-time home buyers.


The bill was in the Assembly housing committee Tuesday, but it was unclear if it would pass. 


Meanwhile, Sen. Kenneth LaValle sponsored a bill that passed the Senate on June 8 to allow the creation of special funds for the construction of affordable housing and aid to first-time home buyers on the East End. 


Both laws are designed to help alleviate a housing shortage for people who live and work year-round in East Hampton, Southampton, Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island, which has forced some workers into homelessness and caused others to leave.

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


Tuesday, June 16 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus):


United Technologies will spin off or sell Sikorsky; New Haven school plans native plant garden; Southampton Town celebrates founding while Shinnecock people review history from their side; Suffolk beaches closed again.

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

United Technologies announced Monday it plans to spin off or sell Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft.


UTC President and CEO Gregory Hayes said, “exiting the helicopter business is the best path forward for United Technologies.” He added that, “a separation of Sikorsky from the portfolio will allow both United Technologies and Sikorsky to better focus on their core businesses.”


UTC officials will decide by the end of the third quarter whether the aircraft manufacturer will be sold or spun off as a new, independent company.


According to David Cadden, professor emeritus at Quinnipiac University, UTC is likely looking to spin off or sell Sikorsky because of Sikorsky’s relatively low profit margins. 


Mr. Cadden cites several factors contributing to declining margins, including decreasing military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Sikorsky announced earlier this month it plans to lay off 1,400 employees. Falling oil prices have reduced demand for aircraft needed to transport workers to and from oil rigs. 


Known for making Black Hawk helicopters and the Marine One helicopter, Sikorsky employs about 8,000 people. 


The company is developing several new products, including a military heavy-lift helicopter.


U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro said she expects Sikorsky’s future leadership will keep the company in Stratford.

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

Newly planted Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, blueberries and other native plants now adorn the front of Edgewood K-8 School in New Haven. On Friday the school inaugurated its Schoolyard Habitat.


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:                                                               

Audubon CT, Common Ground High School, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service put out a request for proposals and Edgewood was chosen as one of six schools in New Haven to participate. Each school got a $3,000 mini-grant and staff support from the three partners.

A few years ago, New Haven was designated as one of the country's first urban wildlife refuges. 

Edgewood parent Dana Holahan worked on the project:

“I'm a real believer in having children spend as much time outdoors as they possibly can, in learning environments, safe environments. So this would be a way to get children to spend more time outdoors, with their teachers, let the teachers have relaxing and engaging spaces to bring their children, and there's so much they can do out here; they can do scientific observation; they can do experiments; they can sit and write; they can sit and draw.”


Luci-Anne Gardener was one of the second-graders offering tours of the habitat:


“My favorite one was the pink lemonade blueberry over there, because when the blueberry ripens, it turns pink.”


A group of volunteers will make sure the new plants are cared for over the summer.

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

On Saturday, 375 years after the arrival of English settlers, the Town of Southampton celebrated its founding.


WPKN’s Hazel Kahan reports: 

The settlers were received peacefully by the Shinnecock natives who occupied the entire area of what is now Southampton Town. Today they live on a 1.3 square mile reservation.

For the first time, on Saturday, the Shinnecock were invited to participate in the Town’s founding celebrations.


They presented an historical re-enactment of the settlers’ arrival, narrated by Shinnecock elder Elizabeth Thunder Bird Haile.  



The Reverend Holly Haile Davis of Shinnecock also spoke at the event.  


She referred to the deteriorating condition of the land and the “continuing affliction on the way of life of the Indian People of Long Island” since the arrival of the colonists.


Reverend Haile-Davis said her people “knew enough to protect and not destroy Mother Earth,” including the “green and growing vegetation, medicine plants, trees, soil, pure waters, her winged and swimming creatures and the four-legged.”


As examples of the poor relationship between the tribe and the Town of Southampton, she cited the Town’s challenge in a U.S. Court of the tribe’s right to exist, and the call by a Federal judge for the Town to sit down with the Shinnecock.


Had the Town "sat down with the Shinnecock," Reverend Haile-Davis continued, they would have heard an appeal to stop the destruction of our fragile eco-systems by air pollution, contamination of bays and groundwater and the rampant over-development of these dangerously over-populated shores. 


Reverend Haile-Davis said “it is long past due to right old wrongs and to consider rents that are long-overdue and lands that might be rightly returned.”


She called for dialog about protecting the graves and burials of both our Native and colonial ancestors. 

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

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services issued an advisory against bathing at 64 Long Island beaches on Monday.


The advisory is due to the heavy rainfall that occurred on Sunday night.


The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and, because of their location, experience limited tidal flushing.


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



Monday, June 15   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus.):


An iconic business declares bankruptcy; New Haveners rally for jobs; a proposed solution for stormwater runoff; and, the New York Comptroller questions the safety of oil-carrying rail cars.

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

Bloomberg Business reports that Colt Defense LLC, the 179-year-old gunmaker that supplies M4 carbines and M16 rifles for the U.S. and foreign militaries, filed for bankruptcy amid delayed government sales and declining demand. 


The West Hartford-based firearms maker listed assets of as much as $500 million and debt of as much as $500 million in a Chapter 11 filing late Sunday in bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. 


Changing demand for its sporting rifles and commercial handguns, along with delays in anticipated U.S. government and foreign sales, have hurt business, the company said in an earlier regulatory filing. It will remain open for business during restructuring.

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

More than 500 people marched from New Haven City Hall Thursday evening to the city's two biggest employers -- Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital -- demanding that they and other businesses hire more New Haven residents. 


WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

New Haven Works, a job-training and placement agency, is a collaboration of city government, Yale, and the city's biggest labor unions. 

They say they have trained 500 New Haven residents for jobs in construction, health care, hospitality and education, but very few have been hired by New Haven employers. 


Dominique Dickey was leading chants during the high-energy march. 


“We want our jobs to come back to the city. We want the money to come back to the city. We want equality to come back to the city. We want to keep doing this. We want to keep the jobs flowing to our residents.”


According to U.S. Census data, there are 83,000 jobs in New Haven, 47,000 of which pay a "living wage" of at least $20 an hour. 


But only 9,000 of those 47,000 jobs are held by New Haven residents, and only 2,000 of them by residents in the city's low-income neighborhoods. 


The unemployment rate for blacks and Latinos in New Haven is 2.5-3 times higher than that of white residents. 


Yale has 13,000 employees, fewer than a third of whom live in New Haven.


The event was organized by New Haven Rising, which is affiliated with the Yale unions.

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

27east reports: 

Hampton Bays residents and Southampton Town officials are hopeful that a form of landscape design will help prevent stormwater runoff from contaminating local bays. 

The idea behind the structures—known as bio-swales—is to funnel stormwater into roadside gardens consisting of plants that are proficient at filtering contaminants like salt, rubber, oil and various other automotive fluids that get flushed from the road’s surface by rainwater.


As the stormwater seeps into the ground, moving past the plants, their roots and the soil below, the contaminants are removed, leaving only clean water to enter the watershed, according to one expert. 


The bioswales would replace traditional storm drains that typically funnel the water into either an underground temporary holding chamber or a surface-level sump.


Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said bioswales are something the town is strongly considering in Hampton Bays, particularly for the Good Ground Park project that he is spearheading.


“It’s decorative, it’s functional, it’s green, and there’s a cost savings in that the typical approach is to install stormwater drains, and this could remove that infrastructure, which costs money to maintain,” he said.

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

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has sent letters to 14 companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Hess Corp. and CSX Corp., seeking information about measures the businesses are taking in response to the increasing number of serious accidents involving trains shipping petroleum.


DiNapoli said, “Rail lines carry petroleum crude oil through communities large and small, across important agricultural lands and other vulnerable natural resources. 


Recent rail accidents resulting in catastrophic losses from oil spills pose serious risks for the public, the environment, and the companies involved.”


DiNapoli’s letter asks the companies to answer five questions related to safety. 

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

Wednesday, June 12 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):


In the news tonight, Connecticut plans more pot dispensaries, a new study shows Connecticut’s gun law lowered homicides by 40 percent, Southampton Town considers helicopter restrictions, and the chair of the Suffolk legislature’s health committee supports a sales tax to fund sewers.

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

Connecticut plans to build three new medical marijuana dispensaries after the number of patients in the program has nearly doubled. 


The state now has six dispensary facilities and four producers. The producers distribute cannabis to the dispensaries, which then transfer the product to registered patients or caregivers.


Since September 2014, the number of patients registered for the medical marijuana program has increased from 1,683 to 4,097 this month.


Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said applications for additional dispensaries are now open through mid-September.


While licensed physicians in Connecticut have only been allowed to prescribe medical marijuana since 2012, the state passed a law in 1981 allowing doctors to prescribe pot to treat glaucoma and the side effects of chemotherapy.

----------

A new study shows that Connecticut’s decision in 1995 to make it harder to purchase a handgun has sharply reduced gun-related homicides.


Published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, the study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research shows the 1995 law resulted in as many as 40 percent fewer homicides by gun.


Center director Daniel Webster said researchers compared Connecticut’s homicide rate for ten years against those in states that were similar to Connecticut's before the state implemented the new restrictions.


The law reduced the availability of handguns to criminals and others not legally permitted to buy guns.


The 1995 law requires all prospective handgun purchasers to apply for a permit in person with the local police whether the seller of the handgun is a licensed dealer or private seller. It also raised the handgun purchasing age from 18 to 21 years and required at least eight hours of approved handgun safety training.


Scott Wilson, a gun-rights advocate and the president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the study is flawed because it does not consider the national drop in crime and homicide rates or the high number of homicides in certain cities and states that have tough gun restrictions.

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

Southampton Village officials may implement restrictions on how many times a helicopter can land at the heliport on Meadow Lane each week during summer months.


The proposed law would restrict helicopter landings to no more than three times per week from July 1 through September 15.


Currently, pilots who use the heliport can land there during the summer from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.


A public hearing on the law is scheduled for the Tuesday, June 23, Village Board meeting at 6 p.m.


Officials began looking into the use of its helipad in light of restrictions on helicopter landings that East Hampton Town has attempted to implement at the East Hampton Airport. 


East Hampton agreed to put off enforcing them so a federal judge can issue a ruling on an injunction sought by Friends of the East Hampton Airport, a group that represents aviation businesses.


Village Attorney Richard DePetris said if the East Hampton restrictions are implemented, many helicopter pilots would most likely turn to Southampton Village’s helipad.


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


The chair of Suffolk County's Health Committee said Thursday that he would support a referendum to increase the sales tax to expand Suffolk sewers to improve water quality.


Legislator William Spencer said he believed residents would be willing to pay more in taxes for a tangible benefit, according to Newsday. 


Any sales tax increase would need approval through state legislation.


Spencer's is the first idea floated by an elected official -- outside of hopes for federal and state grants -- about how to fund sewer and wastewater infrastructure estimated to cost as much as $9 billion.


County spokesman Justin Meyers said Suffolk is open to options but has not decided on any funding proposal.


County Executive Steve Bellone has declared nitrogen in the water a top priority for his administration. The county has secured $383 million in grants to build sewers in four areas on the South Shore, but has not identified local funding sources.


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


Thursday, June 11 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Kevin Brewer):  

In tonight’s news: Is Connecticut's transit funding locked in? and will corporate taxes be re-negotiated?; more derelict homes on Long Island; and advocates for fracking are not giving up yet in New York.  


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


The Connecticut legislative session ended last week without approval of either the so-called “lock box” for transportation money or an increase in transportation funding.    


At a press conference Tuesday Governor  Malloy called for the General Assembly  to approve both during a special session.


He said the money the budget takes from the sales tax needs to go in the lock box along with the money from the gas and oil taxes.


Republican lawmakers pointed out that the budget they approved on June 3 cancels transfers from the general fund to the transportation fund.


The Malloy administration counters that even though they are stopping the transfer of general funds to the special transportation fund, they are also shoring up a funding stream for the special transportation fund.


Malloy said by taking a half percent of the sales tax and locking it up means there will be an average gain of about $300 million a year in the fund dedicated to transportation.


Republicans contend a constitutional amendment is required to truly secure the transportation funds.   


Democratic leaders say they are willing to tackle the concept of a lock box during a special session. 

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

Governor Malloy will be meeting this week with Connecticut Business and Industry Association CEO Joe Brennan to discuss the new state tax package approved by the Assembly and panned by the business community.


In agreeing to the meeting, the Governor says the new taxes may be clarified but did not indicate if they could be changed.


CBIA's Brennan joins executives from Aetna , Travelers, GE and others in criticizing the budget. 


He is concerned over the long term consequences of the new tax plan combined with years of “bad economic development policy.”


The business community particularly opposes efforts to close tax loopholes that allow them to shift their profits to states with no corporate income tax. 


State lawmakers say these changes would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue back to the state.


GE confirms they have formed an exploratory team to look into relocating their Fairfield based corporate headquarters, with GE's CEO Jeff Immelt lamenting "ten tough years trying to maximize profits in the state."


The company had after-tax income of $15.35 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to Marketwatch.com.

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

Long Island continues to lead New York State in abandoned foreclosed houses according to Newsday.


The houses cost municipalities millions of dollars, lower property values and endanger first responders when they enter structurally unsound homes. 


And they attract squatters, vermin, garbage and crime. 


Suffolk County has the fourth highest number of these homes in the nation, climbing from seventh place just three months ago. 


Responsibility for the maintenance of abandoned homes in foreclosure has been hotly contested.


Banks and mortgage lenders insist they are limited in what they can do on a property before they hold title.


But the New York Department of Financial Services officials reached an agreement with 11 banks and mortgage companies to regularly maintain abandoned houses that are in foreclosure 

until they can go back on the market.
--------------

The Albany Times Union reports that supporters of the currently-banned practice of hydrofracking for gas in New York State haven’t given up hope entirely.


This is despite a decision by the Cuomo Administration in December to continue the ban which has been in place for more than five years.


Karen Moreau, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s New York branch, pointed to a study earlier this month from the federal EPA that found there was“no widespread systemic” water pollution associated with the practice.


In addition to the EPA report, Moreau said fracking supporters, including energy firms, pipe fitters and landowners who want to lease their property for drilling, are pinning some level of hope on the fact that the state’s ban isn’t complete.


That’s because the state Department of Environmental Conservation still needs to enter a Findings Document, or decision that would go into the State Register.


When and if that happens, Moreau predicted there would be lawsuits, possibly by property owners and energy firms.

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

Wednesday June 10:

(Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser, Chris Cadra, Kevin Brewer and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news, Washington debates a new fund that would pay for submarine production in Connecticut; Governor Malloy promises to lock up funds for transportation; a new program in Suffolk County encourages businesses and homeowners to go green; and lawmakers in upstate New York push for new training procedures for enforcing animal cruelty laws.

-------

In Washington this week, the House of Representatives will consider a defense spending bill that prohibits financing a fund that would pay for a new class of nuclear subs, likely to be built in Connecticut.


The National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund was established a year ago to help pay for a new class of nuclear ballistic-missile submarines that would replace the aging Ohio-class boats. The replacement submarines would be the largest in the U.S. military, and would cost at least $6 billion each.


A non-profit watchdog group has raised concerns that two Navy officials interested in the fund may have violated restrictions of the Anti-Lobbying Act, which prohibits federal agencies from using taxpayer money to conduct grassroots lobbying of Congress.


Last month, Forbes and Courtney were able to beat an amendment that would have eliminated the fund in the authorization bill. They hope to have the same success when they introduce an amendment to the defense spending bill this week.

------------------ 

It should have been a slam dunk. Both parties seemed to agree at the beginning of the legislative session that if they were going to dedicate more funding to transportation, that money should be locked up and used solely for transportation.


Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the money the budget takes from the sales tax needs to go in the lock box along with the money from the gas and oil taxes.


Malloy faced criticism from Republican lawmakers. Rep. Chris Davis (R-East Windsor) said, “We’re not truly increasing the funding to pay for these transportation projects because we are shifting the sales tax money and then not shifting general fund money as we previously would have.” The Malloy administration counters that that’s not what’s happening.


On Tuesday, Malloy said by taking a half percent of the sales tax and locking it up means there will be an average gain of about $300 million a year in the fund dedicated to transportation so “we have the monies necessary to move the projects along.”

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

In an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Suffolk County hopes to motivate businesses and homeowners to upgrade their outdated structures.


Low-cost funding to help cover the costs of these upgrades would be available through Energize NY Finance, a nonprofit organization subsidized by state and federal grants. The financing would encourage business owners to improve the county’s aging commercial buildings.


The proposed funding program was included in a 95-page Climate Action Plan, presented to the county legislature’s Public Works, Transportation, and Energy committee yesterday. 


Neal Lewis, an author of the plan, said that Suffolk County is among the most progressive counties in the state regarding energy efficiency concerns. The county-owned buildings are in decent shape; however, the commercially owned buildings within the county need work.


Under the program, up to 100 percent of upgrade costs to commercial buildings would be covered by low interest loans. The funds could also be used for residential buildings owned by companies, like apartment housing.


The owner would pay back the loan at a low interest rate, which would be added to their tax bill.

--------------
The Albany Times Union reports:

Legislators from rural upstate and animal welfare advocates are hoping a low profile bill, one of hundreds now awaiting late session votes, will lead to new training policies for enforcement of animal cruelty and protection laws.


The bill would allow the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Municipal Police Training Council to educate and familiarize law enforcement personnel with the laws pertaining to animal welfare.  Unfamiliarity with these laws can leave cops struggling to make appropriate charges.  Animal cruelty can be a bridge crime to other offenses, such as animal hoarding developing into child or elder abuse.


Officials say the increased training would likely lead to a rise in animal cruelty citations and arrests.  The projected cost of the legislation has not yet been determined.

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

Tuesday, June 9  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Wendy Brunell.):


updated 6-10-15


Seventeen arrested at Moral Monday protest in Hartford; Keno has another chance; Huntington wants drones grounded; and, a proposed New York law would allow commercial spear fishing for striped bass.

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

Hartford police arrested 17 people during a “Black Lives Matter” march Monday during the evening rush hour after blocking a busy intersection at the foot of the Founders Bridge. 


Those attending the protest said it was held as part of the Black Lives Matter movement aimed at making changes to the criminal justice system, prisons, schools and housing they believe will help the African American community. 


The protesters were a mix of young and old and black, white and Hispanic.


Protestors estimated the group to be several hundred in size.


The march was part of the national grassroots “Moral Monday” movement.


Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct.

Among them was Bishop John Selders, pastor of Hartford’s Amistad United Church of Christ and an event organizer. 

Reverend Henry Brown, who has been vocal about violence in the city and one of yesterday’s protesters, said it was good to see people standing up for people in urban communities.


Moral Monday protests began in North Carolina in 2013 when the president of the state’s NAACP chapter, Reverend William Barber, led protests after the state legislature enacted stricter voting laws.

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

The two-year Connecticut budget, passed in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session, relies on $43.6 million from Keno.


The video lottery would be installed in bars and restaurants. 


But the Connecticut Lottery Corporation can’t start Keno operations until the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe sign off on a revenue-sharing agreement.


The tribes and the state are expected to start negotiations once Governor Malloy signs the budget.


During 2013 budget negotiations, each tribe agreed to a 12.5 percent cut of the action but the General Assembly repealed the budget provision the next year before it could go into effect.


There are currently more than 2,800 lottery retailers across the state. 


200 to 600 new restaurants and bars will be added once Keno is authorized.


Proceeds from the operation – after operating expenses, the tribes portion, and the players' winnings will go into the state’s general fund.  

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

Town of Huntington officials are looking at regulating drones, saying they could become a potential threat to public safety.


The drones have been in use at the town’s St. Patrick Day parade and at local beaches.


Councilman Mark Cuthbertson says he is considering adding a chapter to the town code. It would include provisions that the devices can’t interfere with other aircraft, can’t be on a property without consent of the owner and can’t monitor people without their permission.


Last month a passenger jet bound for LaGuardia Airport narrowly missed hitting a drone and just last week singer Enrique Iglesias severely cut his fingers attempting to grab one during a normal routine that is part of his concerts.


In April, a bill was introduced in the Suffolk Legislature that would ban camera-carrying drones from flying over county-owned spaces. 


The bill was returned to committee for revisions. 

The Huntington Town Board meeting was scheduled today for 2 p.m. at Town Hall.
---------------------------------

New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle has proposed a bill that would allow commercial spear fishing for striped bass.


Long Island's commercial fishing industry is highly regulated, with limits on total catches for various species, harvesting seasons, and techniques used. 


Fishing regulations differ for sports and commercial fishing.


The new bill proposes to allow commercial fishermen to use spears, spear guns, and underwater guns. 


Underwater guns use explosives to propel the spear; spear guns use only human muscles.


The current rules permit commercial spear fishing for most species, but not striped bass.


The proposed legislation is in the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee so it is not expected to impact fishing practices this year.


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



Monday, June 8   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Scott Schere and Leslie Stenull.):


Governor Malloy is prepared to sign a Connecticut casino bill into law; Uber stops serving East Hampton; UConn and the state university system are facing fiscal challenges, spending cuts and reductions; and, Greenport Village wins a $100,000 electrical survey through a grant.

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

The Hartford Courant reports: 

Governor Dannel Malloy plans to sign a bill to allow casino gambling along the Connecticut border in response to competition from casino development in New York and Massachusetts. 

Under the bill, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes will issue a request for proposals, or “RFP”, to municipalities to host one satellite casino. 

Tribal officials have said they would place the eventual casino along the I-91 corridor in north central Connecticut.

State Senator Tim Larson from East Hartford recently explained reporting requirements for the projects.  Any agreement between the tribes and local communities would have to be reviewed by the state attorney general to make sure it doesn’t conflict with already existing agreements.


Any new casino is contingent on an amendment to state law to allow casino gambling.  The state’s two existing casinos are on sovereign tribal lands.  The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs will also review the project.


Governor Malloy voiced concerns over earlier versions of the legislation that would have allowed as many as three new casinos, agreeing with the Attorney General that such legislation could lead to legal challenges, as well as risking the state’s revenue sharing arrangement with the tribes.

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

Uber, the app-based ride-booking service, will suspend operations in the Town of East Hampton after more than 20 drivers, all of whom said they were Uber partners, were charged with misdemeanors over the past two weekends when they failed to produce valid business licenses. 


The town crafted new licensing rules after more than 700 cabs from across the region flooded the town to compete for lucrative summer business last year. 


Taxis must be registered under the name of a company that holds a business license, and taxi companies must maintain an office within the town.


Friday afternoon East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that he and town code enforcement officers met with Uber Friday morning, after which “Uber informed the town that it would suspend operations in East Hampton immediately.”


Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang stated, “Unfortunately the East Hampton town supervisor and town board have changed the rules, banning Uber from the town and denying their constituents access to our service.”

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

The Hartford Courant reports:

The budget approved by the General Assembly on Wednesday will mean spending cuts and reductions but it is more generous than the governor's proposal earlier this year for UConn and the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system.

Under the governor's budget, UConn officials said they faced a $40 million budget gap, but in an email to the UConn community this week President Susan Herbst said that gap is now expected to be less than $20 million.


Herbst added that "as always, our focus will be on carrying out our academic plan and funding key academic priorities in support of teaching and research."


The legislature’s budget for next year contains $12.9 million more for the CSCU system than did the governor's proposal, including roughly $9.4 million for developmental education. The balance will go to tuition relief for students. 


CSCU President Gregory W. Gray said, the budget "creates some fiscal challenges for CSCU that will require our collective focus and commitment to address."


A spokesman for the CSCU system said the budget gap for the next fiscal year now stands at about $22 million.

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

Greenport Village has won a $100,000 feasibility study through a New York state grant program.


The electrical survey comes as part of a proposal submitted by Global Common, a power plant company interested in building a new facility at the scavenger waste plant on Moores Lane. The company has pitched a “peaking” plant with a capacity of 50 to 75 megawatts.


The plant would use natural gas as its primary fuel for high-efficiency engines that could throttle up or down depending on energy needs.


Administrator Paul Pallas said the grant would examine all the Village’s electrical infrastructure and make recommendations about potential upgrades and renewable energy sources.


Mayor George Hubbard said the study would be provided to the village free of charge. Even if Global Common’s proposal is not chosen, the Village would still be able to use the survey for its own planning purposes.



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


Friday, June 5   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):

Criminal justice reform gets a second chance in Connecticut; Senator Murphy pushes expanding broadband access for low-income students; a New York federal judge delays the helicopter ruling again; and, Riverhead declines to support a marijuana farm. 

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

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Second Chance Society bill and a bill to address the use of excessive force by police appeared dead as the legislative session was ending on Wednesday.


But one bill was added to the call for the special session to implement the budget legislation.

The bill would eliminate mandatory prison time for possession of illegal drugs within 1,500 feet of a school.

Advocates of the bill say the so-called drug-free school zone law is responsible for the mass incarceration of people of color.


The bill aims to avoid situations like those in Ferguson, Baltimore, and New York, where unarmed black men were killed by police officers.


A Washington Post analysis released last week found that 385 people in the United States had been fatally shot by police in the first five months of 2015.


When adjusted for local population, the analysis found that blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities.

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

A large portion of Bridgeport's 22,000 students would qualify for free broadband access under a proposal to bring the Internet to low-income families, according to the Connecticut Post.


U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., hopes to bridge the digital divide with the Broadband Adoption Act of 2015 that he co-authored.


The plan would subsidize broadband Internet service for eligible households and expand the Universal Service Fund Lifeline Assistance Program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission, which subsidizes basic landline and mobile phone services for low-income Americans.


Bridgeport schools interim superintendent, Fran Rabonowitz said most of the Bridgeport student body would qualify on the basis of low family income.

Children in grades seven to 12 already have school-provided laptops but lack access to the Internet at home.

Last month, the FCC announced it would expand the Lifeline program to include Internet.


Murphy's spokesman, Chris Harris, said the bill would put the force of law behind the effort so a future president could not end it.

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

A federal judge said Wednesday she needs more time to rule on a challenge to laws that would restrict flights into and out of East Hampton’s airport, according to 27east.com.


Judge Joanna Seybert was to rule on the challenge by Monday, but she extended that until June 26, citing the complexity of the case, according to the East Hampton Town Board. 


The judge heard arguments last month from a helicopter pilot’s organization and aviation interests protesting a law that would limit some flights at the airport using flight patterns over Shelter Island and the North and South forks.


The town delayed implementing the laws, set to take effect Memorial Day weekend, to wait for the judge’s ruling.


The East Hampton Town Board said it remains confident that it will prevail in the litigation.


In April the board passed laws that would shut down of flights into or out of the airport from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and banned noisy aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.

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

The Riverhead Town Board declined to support a Baiting Hollow farmer’s application to grow medical marijuana, according to the Riverhead News-Review.

The issue was defeated by an informal 3-2 margin Tuesday.

Ivy Acres owner Jack Van de Wetering and his son Kurt are planning to submit an application to the New York State Department of Health to grow up to 10 acres of marijuana in a greenhouse on their 22-acre Baiting Hollow property.


They asked the Town Board for a letter of support for the venture and said the proposal would create up to 100 high-paying jobs.


In June 2014, New York became one of 23 states to legalize the sale of medical marijuana.


Supervisor Sean Walter opposed the measure because he feels it is part of an “incremental approach” to legalizing marijuana outright.


The Van de Weterings plan to submit the application without Town Board support, which is not required, and said they were seeking its approval as a courtesy.

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

Thursday June 4  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser.):
Legislature passes the Malloy budget despite corporate threats; Nepalese immigrants say Long Island gas stations did not pay them; a study looks at  the impact of immigrants on Long Island's economy; and, a Quinnipiac poll shows no confidence in New York's Governor and legislators. 
--------------------------------
Late Wednesday the Connecticut Senate joined the House in passing  a $40.3 billion, two-year budget package that largely restores deep cuts to social services and expands municipal aid while increasing taxes by almost $2 billion.  
The budget was negotiated by Democratic majorities in both chambers and the Governor’s office.
The budget dedicates almost $436 million in sales tax receipts to cities and towns over the next two years, helping communities control property taxes. 
The package also makes an initial – but limited - investment rebuilding Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.
The budget increases income taxes on the wealthy and the middle class. It also increases taxes on corporations, hospitals, cigarettes, and luxury items.
Of the $2 billion in new tax revenue, $475 million cancelled previously approved tax cuts for shoppers, businesses, insurance companies and the working poor. 
Those tax policy changes sparked protests and threats from some of Connecticut’s largest employers, including Aetna and General Electric, who warned that the overall tax burden — and particularly controversial sales and corporation tax hikes — would drive employers from the state.
--------------------------------
Newsday reports: On Wednesday, more than 20 Nepalese immigrant workers demanded their salaries be paid after toiling at Long Island gas stations. They claim they are owed more than $2 million in unpaid wages by Steve Keshtgar, owner of 22 gas stations and convenience stores.

Keshtgar filed for bankruptcy in December and January. 

Citing the April earthquake that devastated their homeland, former employees chanted, "Nepali workers need to be paid to help their families back home."

Pasang Lama, who worked at Islandia and Centereach stations, said that gasoline exposure left him sick and he is now penniless. Lama said, "I can't support my family here and I can't support my extended family back in Nepal." 

Workers said the businesses closed without notice, owing months of wages and overtime pay. They allege that their employer took rent deductions for filthy and crowded rooms where some slept in shifts.

The group is supported by the Long Island Federation of Labor, Long Island Jobs with Justice, and Adhikaara human rights and social justice organization working with the Nepali-speaking community.
--------------------------------
Over a half-million people born outside the United States now live in Long Island, making up 18 percent of the Island's 2.9 million people and powering the region's labor force.

Those immigrants account for about 20 percent of Long Island's $91 billion economy.

That is according to a study by the progressive non-profit Fiscal Policy Institute as reported by Newsday.
El Salvador, India and the Dominican Republic top the countries of origin.

The study says the immigrant population not only has continued to grow in size and diversity, but also is having a significant impact on the region's economy.

More than half the foreign-born residents are working in white-collar jobs.

Six of every 10 immigrant households report incomes of more than $80,000 per year. 

About three-quarters live in owner-occupied housing.

The study says immigrants are a diverse crowd of largely legal residents or U.S. citizens who aren't always toiling in low-wage jobs.

On average, the region's immigrants earn 31 percent less than U.S.-born workers.

The population of immigrants here illegally is about 98,000; close to half from Central America.
--------------------------------

The Albany Times Union reports:
A majority of respondents in the latest Quinnipiac poll, taken in March, say that all elected officials in Albany should be voted out of office so new officials can start with a clean slate. 
No group polled thinks state elected officials are capable of ending political corruption in Albany. 
And Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approval ratings hit a new low of 44 percent favorable/42 percent unfavorable.  His handling of ethics contributed to the low numbers according to poll results.


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

Wednesday, June 3  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Mike Merli.):


Connecticut lawmakers pass a new police accountability measure; a new bill seeks to protect the health of first responders in Connecticut; the Peconic Land Trust helps East End farmers with a new program; and, a new advisory affects 63 beaches throughout Suffolk County.

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

Early Tuesday, the Connecticut state Senate unanimously passed a new police accountability measure.


The new legislation would establish a standard for investigating officer-involved shootings and equipping police with body cameras.


The bill also requires changes in police training and hiring, and subjects departments to liability if police illegally stop a citizen from recording them.


With the new bill, the Connecticut State Police would be required to equip its troopers with body cameras, while municipal departments will be encouraged, but not required, to do the same.


$13 million in grants would be created for municipalities to purchase cameras and store the images, beginning in the 2017 fiscal year.


The bill also encourages departments to recruit minorities, and prohibits them from hiring former officers who were fired or disciplined for serious misconduct.


The legislation also requires that fatal police shootings be investigated by a special prosecutor, or a prosecutor from a different judicial district other than the one in which the killing occurred.


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

With the legislative session nearing a close, the future is uncertain for a bill that would look out for the mental and physical health of first responders in Connecticut.

For the last month, firefighters and police officers have lobbied at the Capitol in Hartford for the new legislation. 


The bill, which passed the Senate on a 25-11 vote, combines two separate measures.


The first would expand workers’ compensation coverage to police officers who experience post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing a death in the line of duty, or respond within six hours to a death. 


The second measure of the bill would give firefighters who don’t smoke the option to file a workers’ compensation claim for certain types of cancers related to the dangers they face on the job. 


Responding to talk of turning the legislation into a study instead, Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said the coalition of firefighters and police officers could not wait another year for a task force to research the issue. 


Matthews said, “These are people’s lives. People’s lives are in really bad places. We need protection now.”

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

Thanks to a grant from the Empire State Development Commission, the Peconic Land Trust has one million dollars to give out to East End Farmers through their new "Agricultural Capital Equipment Grant Program.”  Applications for the funds are being accepted now on the Land Trust website.


Farmers are able to apply for funds up to $25,000 to cover 20% of the purchase price of new equipment or construction of new farm buildings. 


 The awards are targeted at younger East End farmers, and offering incentives for younger people to become farmers.  


Agricultural production values in Suffolk County have slumped and local and state officials say the funds are part of their plan to make farming affordable, and they urge East End farmers to take advantage of the program.

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

An alert against swimming and bathing at 63 beaches has been issued by Suffolk County because levels of bacteria may have risen due to this week's heavy rain, according to Newsday.


The advisory affects bay beaches and Long Island Sound beaches, including Lake Ronkonkoma-Islip Town Beach, Amityville Village Beach, Shoreham Beach, Asharoken Beach, Crab Meadow Beach in Northport, Islip Beach and Shirley Beach.


Health officials suggest not even touching the water until the rain has stopped and at least 24 hours have passed.


The advisory will be lifted Thursday morning unless elevated levels of bacteria are found in water samples.


Details are available at 631-852-5822. 

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


Tuesday, June 2 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Wendy Brunell and Trace Alford.)

In tonight’s news, Connecticut’s General Electric threatens move over tax increases; Connecticut health care bill passes in House and goes back to Senate; safety of meningitis vaccinations, required by New York schools, is questioned; and, reporting guns returned under New York’s Safe Act. 

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

General Electric along with other Connecticut businesses made a last ditch effort Monday to stop what they say will be devastating tax increases. 


The proposed budget increases taxes on corporations and businesses by nearly $282 million while overall taxes would increase by $720 Million.


The new tax package changes how multi-state corporations are taxed, maintains the 20 percent corporate surcharge, reduces by 50 percent the losses a business can carry forward, and reduces credits against certain taxes.


General Electric said the tax hikes will make businesses “seriously consider whether it makes any sense to continue being located in this state”…since other states “offer more opportunities for business growth”.


Republican State Representative John Frey of Ridgefield received a phone call from Jeff Bornstein, GE’s CFO, saying the company was considering moving its corporate headquarters based on the proposed tax package.


General Electric has 5,700 employees in Connecticut, but the biggest impact of GE leaving would be its relationships with suppliers and vendors around the state.  


The company had $17.23 billion in net income and after-tax income of $15.35 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to Marketwatch.com.


Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Governor Malloy, cited transportation funding saying, “The historic investments we’re making, the largest in the history of Connecticut — an additional $10 billion — are good for job creation, good for the economy, and good for businesses, GE included.”

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

The House of Representatives passed a wide-ranging, controversial health care bill Saturday night after scaling back certain provisions deemed particularly onerous by hospitals.


Many individual provisions of the 87-page proposal could have been controversial bills on their own; together, they represent a set of changes that could have significant ripples through major industries undergoing rapid change. 


Hospital officials have said the new regulations could make it harder for distressed hospitals to find purchasers to help them survive, while unions and advocacy groups say they could help rein in costs and protect patients.


The bill, which passed the House 98 to 43, now goes to the Senate, which passed an earlier version of the bill but must vote again since the proposal was revised.


The bill addresses many facets of health care. It would revise the approval process for the sale of hospitals and establish a statewide system for sharing patients’ medical records. 


It would require health care providers and insurers to make more information available about the cost and quality of care and insurance plan details, and would curtail certain hospital billing practices. 


It aims to unravel some of the advantages hospital chains can gain by acquiring physician practices, although the House bill eliminated some of the most controversial steps in that direction developed by the Senate.

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

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. scheduled a press conference for today to speak in opposition to a bill working its way through the New York State Legislature. 


According to the Albany Times-Union, the bill would mandate meningitis vaccinations for school children.


Mr. Kennedy, an environmentalist and the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, believes that thimerosal, the preservative contained in the vaccine, contains levels of mercury exceeding the federal safety standards and is unsafe for children. 


The bill, New York Assembly Bill A791a, scheduled to go to a state senate vote this week, would mandate meningitis vaccinations for New York State sixth and eleventh graders.


During his press conference, Mr. Kennedy was expected to address the financial conflict of interest between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and vaccine makers, explaining how vaccine industry money has neutralized the checks and balances between the pharmaceutical industry and children.

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

Rochester-area attorney Paloma Capanna, who is involved in several lawsuits concerning provisions of the SAFE Act gun control law, says the various plaintiffs and the state have set June 22 as the “drop-dead deadline” for responses.


A court ruling commanded the State Police to release data concerning newly registered assault weapons.

The SAFE Act, passed in January 2013, required owners of newly defined assault-style weapons to register them with the state.

Sales and new ownership of such firearms was banned by passage of the bill. 


For more than a year, the State Police has refused requests from the media and SAFE opponents to disclose the number of people who have registered previously owned weapons. 


They point to a provision of the law that exempts information in the registry database from disclosure.

In his decision in the case of Robinson v. Cuomo, Acting Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara said nothing in the SAFE Act barred disclosure of data derived from the databank, including the raw number of new registrants, as well as geographic breakdowns of those registrations by county.

The State Police has not yet said whether it plans to abide by the ruling or appeal, though they confirmed that June 22 was the agreed-upon deadline.

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










Monday, June 1 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editor 


Leslie Stenull):



Bridgeport schools face $5 million in cuts; a massive fish die off is reported in Riverhead and Southampton while a North Fork environmental group plans a green tour next weekend; and, the Connecticut house votes to set standards for Uber.
-------------------------------

The Connecticut Post reports:

The Bridgeport school board will have to find $5 million to cut in a school budget that serves some of the poorest, underserved students in the state due to the state budget cuts.

It is a familiar situation for the board, but it is the first time since Interim School Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz's return to the district that she faces cutting -- rather than adding -- to a district budget.


The Bridgeport district --with more than 20,000 students this school year-- has a $239.5 million operating budget which is about $90 million less than Hartford spends on roughly the same number of students. 


Rabinowitz was counting on $246.5 million for 2015-16 just to keep services as they are now.


Instead of reducing class sizes and adding teacher aides to kindergarten classrooms, the superintendent's office has generated a list of potential cuts that would reduce the existing number of teacher aids through attrition. 


There would also be fewer repairs made, four fewer guidance counselors and fewer people to conduct state-mandated teacher evaluations.


Rabinowitz said, "We are trying to find the least invasive ways to cut."

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

Tens of thousands of dead fish emerged in the Peconic Estuary on Friday, prompting officials to organize cleanup efforts Saturday. 

The die-off has been blamed on low oxygen levels in nearby waters caused by a recent algae bloom.

The dead bunker fish were spotted floating in the Peconic River, and numerous creeks down the adjoining coast bay side, according to Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

"This morning there was almost wall-to-wall fish down here,” said Walter, standing along the Peconic Riverwalk on Saturday afternoon.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials surveyed the area Friday and found that depths beyond three feet did not have enough oxygen for the fish.

Ed Warner Jr., president of Southampton Town Trustees, said the estuary has been beset by fish kills in recent years."Every year, we have more and more bunkers that come into Peconic Bay to spawn, which is a very confined area of shallow water, and they basically run out of oxygen and suffocate," he said.
----------------------------------

Next weekend, the first ever NoFo Blue (plus) Green Tour will take place in Southold.

The timing of this tour, particularly the preservation of North Fork waterways, comes on the heels of this weekend’s massive fish die off and as hundreds of small turtles have also washed up dead on the eastern end of Long Island in the last month. 

Scientists blame the die-off on waterborne toxins that have reached unprecedented levels and may be related to nitrogen in the water caused by leaking septic tanks and sewage that makes its way into bays.

Peconic Green Growth, a nonprofit group focused on creating alternatives to traditional septic systems, is hosting the event.

The event will feature speakers on organic gardening and landscaping, waterways protection and septic systems, as well as project tours. 

Glynnis Berry of Peconic Green Growth says the group plans to “mix education and fun” and “put information out to the general public.”

The day’s itinerary includes tours, demonstrations, lectures and a documentary film.

Tickets are available in advance on the group’s website peconicgreengrowth.org.
----------------------------------

A year after Uber entered the Connecticut market, ignoring rules and regulations imposed on the taxi industry, the House voted 133 to 9 Saturday night for a bill that would establish safety and insurance standards on the ride-sharing business.

Banning the fast-growing business may have been a possibility in 2014, but not after a year in operation bringing service to portions of Connecticut where taxis are hard or impossible to find.

A century-old regulatory system dictates whom taxi companies can hire, how many cabs they can put on the road, where they can send them and how much they can charge.

Uber complies with none of those requirements as a "transportation network company."

It owns no cars, employs no drivers and charges whatever the market will bear. A foundation of its business is a smart-phone app used by passengers to summon rides and then pay for them.

The bill requires Uber to use a private third-party company to screen drivers for criminal records and sets standards for insurance coverage and vehicle safety.
=================


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