Saturday, July 4, 2015

July 2015

Friday, July 31  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Wendy Brunell and Mike Merli.):

A new Connecticut law improves the processing and collection of sexual assault evidence; Connecticut lawmakers to discuss a property tax relief “lock box”; Native American business incubator study featured at Lindenhurst pow-wow; a community organization looks to branch out in Suffolk County.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy joined victim advocates last week to commemorate the passage of a new law that improves the processing and collection of sexual assault evidence.

The new law speeds the transfer of all sexual assault evidence kits from police stations to the Connecticut Forensic Science Lab in Meriden.

According to a report by Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, 879 rape kits have yet to be sent to the state crime lab for testing.

Until now, state law had been silent on the timeline for transfer and testing.

Standard protocol had been for the police in the town in which the rape had occurred to pick up the kit from the hospital and transport it to the lab in Meriden.

The new law, which goes into effect October 1st, requires the state lab to analyze the kits with a name attached within 60 days.

Anonymous kits had been required to be transferred to the lab, but remained untested unless the victim chose to report the assault.

Under the new law, anonymous case will be required to be held by the lab up to five years to give the victims time to decide whether to pursue their case.

Despite the lack of language in the budget guaranteeing that future legislatures will continue to use a half percent of the sales tax to fund property tax relief on motor vehicles, Democratic legislators remain hopeful that the funds will continue to be used for their intended purpose.

The budget that passed June 3 will create a statewide motor vehicle tax rate of 32 mills and will use half a percent of the sales tax to offset any losses towns experience because of the new rate.

Senate President Martin Looney said that about 37 percent of all car taxes are paid by businesses, so the new statewide rate will be a substantial property tax break for businesses.

Looney supports the idea of using a “lock box” to make sure the funds from the sales tax continue to be used to reduce motor vehicle taxes.

When the Democratic legislature and Governor Malloy negotiated the budget, they agreed to use a half percent of the sales tax for property tax relief, and a half percent to fund the governor’s transportation initiative.

On Tuesday, Governor Malloy said he would talk to lawmakers about convening a special session to make sure the funding for transportation would be there in the future. He added that he prefers a constitutional amendment to make that happen.

The 35th annual Paumanauke American Indian pow-wow taking place Saturday in Lindenhurst kicks off a study about starting a Native American business incubator in Long Island.

Representatives from several local tribes, working in collaboration with the Long Island Community Foundation and Stony Brook University, are looking for ways to help Native American entrepreneurs on Long Island and want to see if an incubator could assist those looking to launch a start-up and those hoping to grow existing businesses. 

Darlene Troge, a member of the Shinnecock tribe and director of Shinnecock Soverign Holdings, said the event provides an opportunity for outreach to Long Island’s Native American business entrepreneurs. 

She said it includes a survey which is critical to finding out what businesses the Native Americans own and how they want to expand, as well as learning what people need to get a start-up off the ground.

Troge noted that despite more than 3,000 manufacturers on Long Island, the industry has become stagnant. If the study shows the need for an incubator, entrepreneurs can receive training and be matched to industries on Long Island.

The powwow takes place at Babylon Town Hall Park Saturday and Sunday.

The Guardian Angels are looking to grow their presence in Suffolk County.

Curtis Sliwa, head of The Guardian Angels, said the organization is also looking to bring a Junior Guardian Angels program to the Greenport school district by late fall.

The community-watchers say they’ve been patrolling once or twice a week in Greenport since November and in Riverhead since May. Many are optimistic that their efforts to curb gang violence in Hispanic communities have been successful.

Concerned village residents contacted the Guardian Angels last November after a bloody fight between alleged members of MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang broke out.

Greenport Mayor George Hubbard said that he supports the group’s presence, even though they were never formally invited by the Village Board.
The Angels’ primary focus has been “right in the immigrant community itself,” Mr. Sliwa said.

In Riverhead, a string of violent attacks on Hispanic men throughout 2014 prompted the Mayor to explore proactive solutions to increase safety, including working with the Guardian Angels.

In Greenport, the Angels are supported by a batch of local volunteers who are provided with a signature red beret and jacket to wear while on duty and are offered training in self-defense and patrol strategies.

Thursday, July 30 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer and Nadine Dumser.):

Connecticut legislators weigh funding for transportation; New Haveners discuss police practices; Riverhead debates treatment of immigrants; and, drones are banned over Suffolk County beaches.

The Connecticut State Bond Commission has approved $ 25 million in financing from state sales tax receipts for the initial stage of Governor Malloy's proposed transportation initiative, but lawmakers are balking at the Governor's desire to insulate those funds in a "lock box" that would be protected by Constitutional amendment.

Legislators agree with the Governor’s plan to protect fuel tax receipts in the lock box, but are balking at protecting a percentage of sales tax revenues in the lock box as well, arguing that while transportation congestion is a major issue in Fairfield County, in the rest of the state property tax relief, which is funded by sales tax revenues, is more important to businesses and residents. 

Some state lawmakers agree with the Governor's lock box plan, but only within each budget year, rather than on a permanent basis, pointing out that some states have found themselves hamstrung in balancing their budgets without access to funds that are lock box protected.

The Governor has hinted he may call the Legislature into special session to consider the lock box amendment, which would also require state voter approval.

A panel of speakers representing many perspectives on racial profiling, excessive force and criminal justice reform talked about some changes in legislation and possible improvements in police practices Tuesday night in New Haven. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

A state senator and a state representative, both African-American, talked about their frustrations in trying to make changes that would help their constituents from inner city New Haven while being told by their white suburban colleagues what's really best for them.

The panelists agreed that the new laws -- such as the use of police body cameras and reclassifying certain drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors that are part of Governor Dannel Malloy's Second Chance Society effort -- are just the beginning of needed reforms.

In a discussion of police practices, New Haven Assistant Police Chief Anthony Campbell said that potential police recruits are psychologically tested to exclude anyone deemed unfit to serve. 

But once on the force, they are never tested again unless their behavior gets radically out of line, even though he said that years of police work often makes an officer more prejudiced or more belligerent toward community members.

“Let's say it was mandated that every five years an officer has to have psychological testing. That becomes one more tools that I as a police chief and administrator can use to make sure my officer is mentally sound, and if he or she needs help, that we can get them the help they need.”

The event was sponsored by My Brother's Keeper and the Anti-Racism Team of the Unitarian Society of New Haven.

At the Riverhead Town Board meeting Tuesday, Connie Lassandro, chair of the Anti-Bias Task Force, called on the board to clarify comments saying the town should hold those wanted by federal immigration authorities and interview them.

But some of the board members stand by their statements, noting that they don’t want the town to be seen as a haven for anyone who comes into the country illegally.

Under the law, Ms. Lassandro noted that neither illegal immigrants nor legal citizens can be held against their will without a warrant.

The town’s current policy calls for those who 
are wanted on warrants to be held for further questioning.

Board member Jodi Giglio said the board will discuss changing the town’s police policy to hold more illegal immigrants if they are identified, and “get the federal government here to interview them and either dismiss them or take them.”

Ms. Lassandro of the Anti-Bias group said she also supports holding those accused of criminal offenses, like robbery or assault, and is in favor of the police department’s current policies. 

But she is concerned that board members’ statements could encourage undocumented immigrants to avoid cooperating with authorities.

The Suffolk County Legislature voted Tuesday to ban drone use over county public beaches during the summer and require operators to get permits to fly the devices in county parks.

North Fork legislator Al Krupski said: “People have a certain expectation of enjoyment when they go to beaches. I would think it’d be very intrusive if people are flying drones on public beaches with cameras.”

But South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman abstained from the vote, saying he believes drone operators who are “engaging in legitimate aerial photography” shouldn’t have to get a permit.

Mr. Schneiderman owns a drone himself and said the birds-eye view is “a beautiful perspective for photography.”

The drone regulations don’t apply to news organizations who have credentials with the county police department,

The Federal Aviation Administration is still working to adopt new regulations for drone use nationwide.  

Wednesday, July 29 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):

The state Labor Department in Connecticut faces layoffs; a store opening will create 300 jobs at the Westfield mall; the New York state legislature passes the Community Preservation Fund extension; and, the state attorney general examines the death of a woman arrested in Westchester. 

The Hartford Courant reports that the state labor department may lay off as many as 95 employees and close offices because the federal government is providing $28 million to $32 million less than expected to the state.

Nancy Steffens, the department’s chief spokeswoman, said the size of the layoffs will be decided in the coming weeks, and would not be effective until October 1, the start of the federal fiscal year.

Union officials said about 95 people will be laid off, including those who help unemployed people find jobs.

The state relies heavily on the federal government to cover about 90 percent of its budget. Of the department's 800 employees, about 700 are funded by the federal government.

Steffens said as the unemployment rate drops, so does the amount of money provided by the federal government to the state to help unemployed workers.

Among the topics under discussion are asking some older employees to retire and possibly closing some of the department's 13 offices.

Boscov's, a department store chain based in Pennsylvania, will open its first New England store as an anchor at the Westfield Meriden Mall in October — creating more than 300 jobs.

The Hartford Courant reports Boscov's will take over space JC Penney vacated more than a year ago and it will maintain a "hiring center" at the mall, starting Monday.

Boscov's is one of the last family-owned department store chains in the country, and claims to be the largest, with 43 stores across the mid-Atlantic region and Ohio.

Its first outlet opened in Reading, Pa., in 1918.
Boscov's will be the first permanent replacement for JC Penney, which had been an anchor tenant.

The new store will hire full-time and part-time sales associates and managers. Hours at the hiring center are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
------------------------------- reports that legislation to extend the life of the region’s Community Preservation Fund tax, and tap it to fund water quality programs, has passed both houses of the New York State Legislature.

The bill would allow up to 20 percent of the CPF revenue, which comes from a 2-percent real estate transfer tax, to be used for water quality protection and would extend the tax to 2050.

The funds would go towards upgrading septic systems and tackling the amount of nitrogen found in East End water bodies.

If Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, the five East End towns could pass local laws mirroring the extension of the CPF, and use some of the revenue for water quality protection.

Each town would create a water quality protection plan, and a referendum would be presented to voters in each town explaining how it would spend the CPF money.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office is examining whether the death Monday of a woman in a Mount Vernon holding cell requires further investigation by his office.

Schneiderman spokesman Eric Soufer said Tuesday that investigators from the team tasked with probing police-involved deaths are in Westchester County, where 43-year-old Raynette Turner died in a police holding cell awaiting arraignment on a shoplifting charge.

The case is one of the first Schneiderman’s office has examined since Gov. Andrew Cuomo named him special prosecutor earlier this month, granting him the power to investigate and — if necessary — prosecute police officers involved in the death of an unarmed civilian.

It’s not yet clear whether Schneiderman will launch a full investigation.

Cuomo’s July 8 executive order requires Schneiderman to investigate certain matters involving the death of an unarmed civilian, whether in custody or not, caused by a law-enforcement officer. 

The order limited the role of district attorneys in police probes, which drew extensive criticism from the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York and several police unions.

Turner, a mother of eight, was found dead in the holding cell Monday afternoon by Mount Vernon police. 

Tuesday, July 28  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.):

Heat wave makes for some unhealthy air in Fairfield County; Connecticut commuter advocate says don't delay railroad crash prevention system; Riverhead seeks grant funding for South Jamesport sewer feasibility study; and, East Hampton warns of further tax cap squeeze.

Get ready for a mini-heat wave that will begin today and last through most of the week.

The National Weather Service says temperatures will be in the nineties with high humidity.

The hottest and most oppressive day of the week will be Wednesday when temperatures will be in the low 90s.

And to make matters worse: the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is forecasting unhealthy air quality for “sensitive groups” on Tuesday and Wednesday due to predicted elevated ground-level ozone pollution for southern sections of Fairfield and New Haven counties.

Commissioner Rob Klee said, “Forecasters are predicting the hottest weather of the summer yet, so everyone should take simple precautions when high temperatures combined with poor air quality is expected.”

An approaching cool front will reach the state late Thursday bringing some clouds into the region which will reduce high concentrations of ground level ozone on Thursday.

Connecticut News Service reports: Lawmakers in Washington are debating another three-year delay on the deadline for railroads to install crash-prevention measures called the positive control system.

Jim Cameron, with Connecticut’s Commuter Action Group, believes lawmakers should force railroads to meet the December 2015 deadline to install the system, which automatically slows trains if they approach curves at dangerous speeds.

Cameron says: "This is an outrageous last-minute attempt by the railroads to absolve themselves of responsibility for something that they have had seven years to work on."

The proposed three-year delay is contained in the Senate version of the Transportation Bill.  An industry spokesperson defended the change, saying it represented substantial progress and offered a hard end date for installation by 2018.

Amtrak says it will install positive control in the northeast corridor by the current deadline. Cameron says that means trains on the New Haven line will get the added safety, while riders on the Harlem and Hudson lines would still be subject to human error.
Congress set the 2015 deadline after a 2008 derailment in California that left 25 people dead. Experts say positive control could have prevented the Amtrak derailment two months ago that left eight dead in Pennsylvania. Investigators say that train was traveling at about twice the posted speed limit.

The town board of Riverhead Long Island is looking into constructing a sewer system in the South Jamesport area. 

The action comes following a massive fish kill in the Peconic River and Flanders Bay where high nitrogen levels were found to be responsible. Nitrogen from residential septic systems makes its way to groundwater and then to the surface waters of the rivers and bays.

The board has authorized a consolidated funding application for state grant funds to support a wastewater infrastructure feasibility study for the South Jamesport area. 

The study will include the effectiveness of running the sewer line to the town’s existing wastewater treatment center in Riverhead versus building a new facility in the area to be served. 

The grant application is due July 31. 

As East Hampton continues digging itself out of debt, Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell now warns that the town’s 2016 budget could get even tighter.

The New York State Comptroller’s Office announced last week that the 2016 base tax levy cap for local governments will be set at 0.73 percent, compared to 1.56 percent in 2015. In dollars, that gives East Hampton a levy increase of $1,095,000, compared to $1,694,400 in 2015.

This news comes at a time when residents are asking for more police and code enforcement officers to address quality of life issues. Additionally, the town is looking at health insurance premium increases and labor agreements that raise salaries by 2 to 2.5 percent.

East Hampton Town Budget Officer Len Bernard said: “This obviously puts tremendous pressure and stress on the remainder of [the] budget. 

East End supervisors’ 2016 budgets are due by the last day of September, after which there will be revisions and public hearings, with final budgets adopted by mid-November.

Cantwell said East Hampton might have to pierce the tax cap in order to provide needed services.

Monday, July 27 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

Wall Street cautiously boosts Connecticut’s fiscal outlook; Five Suffolk towns are subpoenaed in the DA's probe of sand mining; the Anthem-Cigna deal leaves consumers unsure; and, a Long Island limo group pushes for limits on U-turns in wake of the recent Cutchogue deadly crash.

Last week, Wall Street’s three rating agencies cautiously moved Connecticut’s bond outlook from “negative” to “stable.”

Fitch Ratings said the newly adopted state budget, which was approved after a debate over the state’s business tax climate “is based on conservative revenue assumptions, appears structurally balanced, and avoids large non-recurring measures.”  

Two other credit rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service and Kroll Bond Ratings, maintained their ratings of Aa3 and AA for the state, respectively, with stable outlooks. However, Standard & Poor’s maintained its negative outlook, first put in place in March.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers continue to express concern about the level of debt the state is taking on.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said “more borrowing means more debt and more instability.”  

Malloy’s budget office issued a statement saying that “We have reached this point because the scale of the crucial projects we are funding — $650 million for school construction and new, state-of-the-art classrooms, $312 million for UConn 2000 and NextGen for a brighter higher education system, $193 million for economic development to grow jobs and boost our economy, and $117 million to build affordable housing and create new vibrant communities.”

The Suffolk County district attorney's office is investigating sand mining on Long Island and has subpoenaed the towns of Brookhaven, Islip, Riverhead, Huntington and Babylon and a state agency seeking records related to the practice, Newsday reports.

"Brookhaven Town welcomes this investigation," Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. "The DA by doing this is helping the environment. And we support his efforts."

The DA's examination of sand mining comes in the wake of its probe into illegal dumping in and around Islip Town.

Six men and four companies were indicted in December in connection with a scheme to dump contaminated fill in a vacant lot in Central Islip and a state-protected wetlands area in Deer Park.

Sand mining and dumping often accompany each other since the hole from sand mining presents an opportunity for debris disposal. 

Sarah Meyland, director of the Center for Water Resources Management said, "There is a real risk that once the sand comes out, there's now a spot to take whatever waste people want to get rid of and quickly fill it up.”  

She added, “Contaminated fill placed in sand-mined holes near the groundwater level can be especially problematic because the contaminants can more quickly and easily leach into the aquifer system, which is the sole source of drinking water for Long Islanders.”

The announcement Friday that Anthem Inc. plans to buy Bloomfield-based Cigna Corp. comes amid a period of rapid consolidation in the health care industry.

The deal follows the announcement earlier this month that Hartford-based Aetna had reached an agreement to buy Humana. 

Both deals must be reviewed by federal and state regulators. Anthem and Cigna said Friday they expect the acquisition to close in the second half of 2016.

Where does that leave consumers?

“That’s the million dollar question right now,” said Jim Wadleigh, chief executive of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT.

Experts say potential benefits of consolidation include economies of scale that can lead to reduced costs, while potential drawbacks include reduced competition that could have the opposite effect on prices.

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said “It in some sense makes sense to have companies come together, but obviously we need to make sure there’s enough competition in the marketplace and that people have choices, as things present, we’ll all be looking very closely at this.” 

A local limousine association wants its members to limit making U-turns to avoid collisions like the July 18 fatal limousine crash in Cutchogue according to Newsday.

"Safety is our main objective here," said Robert Cunningham, president of the Long Island Limousine Association.

It is legal to make a U-turn at the Cutchogue intersection where four women died when a pickup truck broadsided their limousine as it turned. But police and neighbors said drivers struggle to do it safely.

The limousine association said the accident has caused them to recommend that drivers don't make U-turns on Route 48 or any other main road. 

"Most limos are too big to make a U-turn in one shot," said Michael F. Engelhart, who owns Fire Island Limousine in Sayville, who avoids making those turns in his limo. "They end up doing a three-point turn."

Charles Gandolfo, a board member of the association that represents 70 companies said "We want them to go where there is a light, or . . . go to the shopping center and turn around."

Friday, July 24   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):

An immigrant rights group says penalty for underpaying workers is not enough; legislator calls for Connecticut’s DCF Commissioner to resign; New York State Comptroller's report says the LIPA Reform Act left higher electric bills, increasing debt and less transparency; and, the New York state-mandated tax levy cap will dip below 1 percent next year.

On Wednesday, an immigrant rights group in New Haven made a statement to state lawmakers about workers’ rights.

The group, Unidad Latina en Accion, believes the new bill Governor Malloy signed increasing the amount businesses who underpay their workers are fined, is not enough.

The bill requires a court to order double damages if a business is found guilty of underpaying its workers.

While this legislation may be a step in the right direction, members of the group are calling on lawmakers and Governor Malloy to address the systemic problems of wage theft – that businesses have and will continue to exploit workers because the laws in place are still not enough of a deterrent.

Unidad member and New Haven worker, Edgar Sandoval, said, “The law has always been there, you have to find a way for people to apply the laws, not for them just to be written down on paper.”

Connecticut is one of three states that requires employers found violating wage laws to pay “double damages.”

Ten states, including Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont, hold employers liable for three times the amount unpaid in damages.

Citing recent reports highlighting problems at DCF’s two locked facilities, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano is now calling on Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz to resign.

Katz was one of Governor Malloy’s first appointees. Prior to her current position as head of DCF, she worked as a public defender and then a judge. 

Malloy believed Katz’s experience equipped her to lead a bureaucracy that has “too often failed our children.”

Yesterday, Mark Bergman, Governor Malloy’s director of communications, defended the Governor’s decision to re-nominate Katz to continue as DCF commissioner.

Bergman noted that since Katz took over the department there has been a 16 percent reduction in kids under the care of DCF, and a 58 percent reduction of kids in group homes and institutional settings.

Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for DCF, said the agency is “vigorously responding” to issues raised by the Child Advocate’s report.

Senator Dante Bartolomeo, a co-chair of the Children’s Committee, believes that getting rid of Katz will not fix the problem. She believes providing more support to DCF is a better solution.

Newsday reports:

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, criticizes Governor Cuomo's 2013 LIPA Reform Act in a report that says the law has left customers facing higher electric bills, increasing debt and less transparency from their utility.

The report raises questions about the law and PSEG Long Island's contract to manage the electric grid that stripped away mechanisms for oversight of the utility, while creating a new oversight agency -- the Long Island office of the state Department of Public Service.

The LIPA Reform Act greatly expanded the role of PSEG Long Island in managing the electric grid, while allowing for refinancing of LIPA debt by issuing new securities.

The utility’s debt burden is projected to increase to $8.3 billion by 2018.

DiNapoli's report found that LIPA customers are facing higher bills with new categories of charges as well as a proposed three-year rate increase.

The report says that ratepayers have less transparency and accountability than they had under the previous LIPA structure or its predecessor LILCO.

LILCO, a private company, was subject to oversight by the state Department of Public Service and state Public Service Commission rulings.   

Now, the local DPS office only has "review and recommend" authority, with no PSC jurisdiction. 
The report notes that the proposed rate hike is the largest increase ratepayers have faced since LIPA took over from LILCO in 1998.

27 east dot com reports:

The New York state-mandated tax levy cap will dip below one percent for the coming year, likely costing taxing districts millions of dollars in revenue.

The cap restricts how much a taxing district can increase the amount of revenue it collects in a given year. That figure is set at either two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

In 2012 and 2013, the cap was set at two percent, but it has steadily dropped since then.

The 2016 cap, set at 0.73 percent, will be less than half the current year’s cap of 1.56 percent.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell issued a statement Tuesday decrying the new tax cap, saying it was untenable given the costs the town was already set to incur from Albany.

Thursday, July 23  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Kevin Brewer.)

Child Advocates say unlawful restraint used at two juvenile facilities in Middletown; Connecticut insurance customers urging regulators to reject rate hikes; New York State Plans $15 an hour minimum wage for fast food workers; and,sale of dormant Suffolk nursing home will benefit county’s budget;  

Connecticut’s Office of the Child Advocate has identified numerous safety risks, incidents of abuse, and the use of “unlawful” restraint and seclusion at two locked state facilities for boys and girls in Middletown. 

The information is part of a report, released Wednesday, that also indicates that some whistleblower calls made by Department of Children and Families’ staff about the abuse were ignored.

The 18-month investigation by the state Child Advocate’s office involved a lengthy review of videotape from the facilities showing youth being physically restrained and locked in padded cells for not listening to staff or after attempting suicide.

Over the course of the last 12 months juveniles in the two facilities were physically restrained 532 times and handcuffed or shackled 134 times.

State law allows physical or mechanical restraints or seclusion to be used to “prevent immediate or imminent injury to the person or to others,” but Eagan concludes that they are being used at these facilities as behavior management. 

DCF has stated that its vision for juvenile justice intervention is to provide therapeutic programs that rehabilitate youth and increase their chance of success in the community.

Dozens of Connecticut insurance customers have urged state regulators to reject proposals to raise rates next year.

In a comment submitted to the Connecticut Insurance Department., one ConnectiCare customer wrote: “This is unbelievable. A rate increase of 10% on a government mandated insurance?  My monthly rate is already $433.”

Another customer wrote: “Can you give us a break? I'm trying to provide the best health care for my kids and you make it more difficult each year! I might as well just drop insurance altogether.”

An Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield customer wrote: “This increase would probably make me opt to pay the fine for not having insurance.”

The insurance department published comments on three companies’ proposed rate hikes in advance of next Monday’s public hearing on the proposals. 

Anthem is seeking to raise rates by an average of 4.7 percent on plans that cover 55,000 people, while ConnectiCare is seeking a 9.8 percent rate hike for plans that cover 34,400 people. 

Golden Rule, which covers 3,414 people, has proposed an 18.5 percent rate increase.

The rate increases subject to the hearing are for plans sold through the state’s individual market and, if approved, would take effect January 1, 2016.

The New York Times reports:
A panel appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recommended yesterday that the minimum wage for fast food chain restaurant workers be raised to $15 per hour over the next few years.

Minimum wages for New York City residents would rise at a slightly faster rate than the rest of the state due to the higher cost of living in the city, reaching the $15 figure in 2018, with the rest of the state reaching that rate in 2021.

While this wage raise applies only to workers employed in fast food chains with more than 30 outlets, it's expected the raise will "ripple out" through other low wage jobs as employers are forced to offer more pay to compete for workers.  

Employers say these mandated raises will force them to increase prices and cut employee hours in order to remain profitable. 

Workers in other low wage fields such as retail are wondering why they aren't included in the mandated pay increases, pointing out that "we all work hard for our checks." 

After walking away from a $36 million deal to buy the former John J. Foley nursing home four years ago, a prominent New York nursing home operator is back with a new offer of $20 million, according to Newsday.

Kenneth Rozenberg, chief executive of the Bronx-based Centers Health Care, said the offer is contingent on getting approval from the state to reopen the 264-bed Yaphank complex as a nursing home, as well as getting zoning approval from Brookhaven to operate the five-story building as a private nursing facility.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the new offer would not only provide Suffolk County with nearly twice as much money as originally expected but would eliminate $700,000 in annual upkeep costs for an empty building and put the property on the tax rolls, generating about $500,000 a year.

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

A new study says the economic recovery is leaving Connecticut’s minority children behind;  the FAA investigates an 18-year-old Connecticut man for operating an armed drone; Southold’s real estate sales boost the East End preservation fund; and, new charges are filed in the Skelos corruption probe

Data released Tuesday by a leading children’s charity reveals that the economic recovery has left behind a disproportionate number of minority children in Connecticut.

Roger Senserrich, policy director at the Connecticut Association for Human Services, said statistics for 2013 showed 28 percent of black children and 33 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared to 6 percent of white children.

The KIDS Count Data Book, an annual survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, examined the educational, social, economic and physical well-being of children and ranked Connecticut sixth in the nation for the overall well-being of its children.

Although the state was in the top five in the areas of children’s health and education, Senserrich said the local picture shows the state is the second most unequal in the country.

Poverty in the state is extremely concentrated since half the children living in poverty live in just five communities — Hartford, Bridgeport, New Britain, New Haven, and Waterbury.

The study showed approximately 13,000 more children across the state lived in low-income families in 2013 compared to 2008 and twenty-nine percent of the state’s children were part of families in which no parent had full-time employment, a 17-percent increase from 2008.

The Hartford Courant reports that an 18-year-old Clinton man might be in trouble with federal aviation officials after posting a video online that shows shots being fired from a drone that was jury-rigged with a handgun.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that it was investigating whether Austin Haughwout violated its regulations, which prohibit the careless or reckless operation of a model aircraft.

The 14-second video shows a four-propeller drone with a semiautomatic handgun strapped on top, hovering as it fires four shots in a wooded area.

Haughwout's father told WFSB-TV last week that his son created the drone with the help of a Central Connecticut State University professor.

The FAA said it was working with Clinton police, who also are investigating.


The Suffolk Times reports the first six months of the year were profitable for the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund, with a large part of the boost thanks to Southold Town, according to elected officials.

The CPF as a whole had a 5.5 percent increase in revenue year over year and raised a total of $48.28 million, according to data from state Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office.

The money comes through a voter-approved two percent real estate transfer tax used to purchase open space and farmland development rights in the five East End towns.

Southold revenue rose 20.7 percent, from $2.21 million to $2.76 million, the highest growth in revenue.

East Hampton saw an increase of 6.5 percent during the first six months of 2015 compared to 2014 and Southampton’s fund revenue rose by 5.8 percent.

Riverhead and Shelter Island saw a marked decrease in the first half of 2015, with Shelter Island down 11.8 percent and Riverhead decreasing by 20.7 percent, from $1.79 million to $1.42 million.

The Albany Times-Union reports that a grand jury has returned a superseding indictment against former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, that includes two new charges related to an alleged no-show job given to the younger man at his father’s request.

The two new counts charge father and son with extortion and soliciting bribes from a malpractice insurance company.

The new charges are similar to those already levied against them in regard to Adam Skelos’ employment by an environmental technology firm that sought to obtain a $12 million stormwater remediation contract with Nassau County.

The indictment alleges that beginning in 2012, the Republican leader made repeated pitches to the CEO of the company in an attempt to provide his son with income.

Adam Skelos was eventually hired by the firm in January 2013 at an annual salary of $78,000 but according to the indictment, he regularly failed to report for work.

Tuesday, July 21  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.):

Connecticut unemployment hits lowest rate since 2008; after buyout, Sikorsky to stay in Stratford; A&P files for bankruptcy and will close five Long Island stores; and, East End residents want FAA reforms to end helicopter noise.

Connecticut’s Department of Labor reported Monday the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.7 percent in June, its lowest point since July 2008. Connecticut added 600 jobs last month—including 2,600 in the private sector that offset losses in government employment.

Since June 2014, 27,900 jobs have been added across all sectors, when the unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent. 

Connecticut Business and Industry Association chief economist Peter Gioia noted that the unemployment rate still exceeds the national rate of 5.3 percent and shows how stubborn the state’s recovery is more than five years after the end of the recession. 

Four of the state’s ten major industry supersectors had job gains last month, including the construction and mining supersector with the biggest gain, while the government supersector faced the biggest drop in June, primarily at the municipal government level.

Two of the state’s four major labor market areas gained jobs in June, led by Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk. The greater Hartford market was the biggest loser, shedding 1,500 positions.

The Connecticut Post reports: 
Sikorsky Aircraft will stay in Stratford and keep its name after Lockheed Martin takes it over, a company spokesman said Monday.

But whether Sikorsky’s staffing levels will remain the same is another matter.

Lockheed has agreed to buy the helicopter maker from its parent company United Technologies in a $9 billion deal.

Lockheed said it expects to save $150 million a year from the deal, part of which will come from a “rationalization” of employee counts and facilities. Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said that could include jobs, facility consolidation and the elimination of overlapping procurement costs.

Sikorsky has 8,050 employees in the Stratford area, and 15,300 employees globally. The company announced plans last month to cut 1,400 jobs globally, while closing a facility in Bridgeport.

Newsday reports: 
Supermarket operator Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and said it would close five stores on Long Island and sell others.

The bankruptcy filing, which allows the company to continue operating, comes three years after the company previously emerged from court protections.

A&P announced it will close 25 stores in all, including stores in Centereach, Oceanside and Riverhead.  

A&P has agreed to sell 120 of its stores for about $600 million to several supermarket chains including Stop & Shop, which will purchase Waldbaum stores in Southampton and East Hampton.

The stores to be sold employ 12,500 people.

The deal is subject to bankruptcy court approval.

Acme, Stop & Shop and Key Food conditioned their purchases on being "free and clear" of all union bargaining agreements.
In response the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, representing more than 30,000 A&P workers, said: "The UFCW and UFCW local unions will work hard to ensure that the process for selling stores protects our members' jobs, working conditions, and benefits."

According to local sources, Waldbaum stores on the east end have been operating largely with part time help. Many full time employees have had their hours reduced in recent years.

Residents say that despite numerous attempts to curb helicopter noise on the East End, it’s still a problem.

Congressman Lee Zeldin’s legislative assistant Kevn Dowley said communities all over the country have aircraft noise complaints and that Zeldin intends to do something about it.

The House of Representatives recently approved a bill Zeldin sponsored that prohibited the FAA from spending money to take punitive action against East Hampton Town, which enacted curfews on aircraft using its airport against FAA wishes.

Officials have said that a 2012 FAA rule that was meant to help Southold Town has only made the situation worse. It requires helicopters en route to the South Fork to fly over Long Island Sound and go around Orient Point instead of flying over North Fork houses. But since the rule allows pilots to deviate from the route when necessary, the FAA would have to clear air travel lanes if helicopters are permitted to fly over South Shore waters. 

Dowley said, “That would take the North Fork completely off the table" By entirely circumventing the North Fork, air traffic would now impact only communities on the South Fork.

Monday, July 20 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers.)

Bridgeport Mayor Finch and ex-mayor Ganim are hoping for an important endorsement Tuesday night;  Suffolk County to repair 500 acres of tidal wetlands;  Connecticut’s DMV blames long delays of licensing services on undocumented immigrants; and, Brookhaven to ask the state to ban horseshoe crab harvesting at town beaches and Setauket Harbor.

The Ct Post  reports:
Bill Finch, Bridgeport’s incumbent two-term mayor, and Joe Ganim, a former five-term mayor who spent seven years in federal prison, are in a fight for their political lives.

They’ve battled over police substations, dueled over housing developments and now they vie for the Democratic Town Committee endorsement.

Donald Greenberg, a Fairfield University political professor said, “That endorsement is so important. When you are endorsed, everyone else is running after you. Your name’s at the top of the ballot.”

Mary-Jane Foster, another mayoral candidate said last week, “What the voters see are two career politicians. One is a failed mayor desperate to keep his job, and the other is a convicted mayor desperate to get a job. Both will stop at nothing to get what they want — they’re in the process of eviscerating each other.”

Robert Halstead, seeking re-election from the 132nd district and supporting Ganim said, “Everybody loves a comeback story, Bridgeport loves a comeback story.”

The endorsement announcement will be made Tuesday night in Testo’s Italian Family Restaurant. 

Suffolk County will begin rehabilitating more than 500 acres of tidal wetlands under an executive order signed last week by County Executive Steve Bellone. according to Newsday.

The order adopting a new Wetlands Stewardship Strategy is expected in the long term to restore more than 2,500 acres of damaged wetlands with federal, state and county  funding totaling about eight million dollars.

The aim is to make Suffolk's shoreline more resilient to increasingly severe seasonal storms and higher waters caused by climate change.

But Kevin McAllister of the organization Defend H2O sees the plan differently.  His organization is devoted to protecting Long Island’s water supply and shorelines.

McAllister told WPKN News:
“I've seen the prescribed work on paper and in the field, it's scientifically indefensible for most of the sites they seek to dredge in. As for enhancing costal resiliency, what a contradiction. This is not only NOT restoration, but so damaging to the functions and values of tidal wetlands.”

Waiting times for state driver-licensing tests have tripled since last year and complaints about it spurred the Department of Motor Vehicles to email driving-school operators telling them what not to say to their customers according to the Hartford Courant.

The July 10 email told the driving schools that they shouldn't blame the long delays on a new state program that, since January 1, has allowed undocumented immigrants to be tested and licensed as drivers.

The unsigned email stated, "Please refrain from telling parents and/or students that this is the reason for the wait times for appointments.”

However, DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala admits the increased wait times are in fact  a direct result of an "onslaught" of applications from undocumented immigrants, about three times what legislative analysts projected when the law took effect this past January 1.

Ayala said of the email: "Unfortunately … I probably should have looked at it a little bit closer," before it was sent.

According to Newsday, Brookhaven Town officials plan to ask state environmental officials to ban harvesting of horseshoe crabs at town beaches and Setauket Harbor.

The town board voted 7-0 Thursday to submit a request to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Town officials and others who support the ban, including environmentalists and marine scientists, said the measure is needed to protect the prehistoric creatures from over harvesting.

"You have the opportunity . . . to save a species," Elaine Maas, a member of the St. James-based Four Harbors chapter of the National Audubon Society said and then asked, "How many of us have that opportunity?"

Town officials have said horseshoe crabs are especially vulnerable when they move into shallow waters during their spawning season in May and June. 

The crabs are used in biomedical testing, as bait for fishermen, and birds use horseshoe crab eggs as a food source.

DEC spokesman Jomo A. Miller said DEC studies have found horseshoe crab populations on Long Island are "relatively steady" but some areas "have shown some downward trends."

Assemblyman Steven Englebright spoke in favor of the proposed ban and said "A park is usually a place where animals have an opportunity to have refuge." 

Friday, July 17  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Wendy Brunell.):

Activists rally against gas pipeline in Willimantic; green energy project underway in Bridgeport; New York State puts five Long Island schools under receivership; Judge rules against Montauk restaurant operating as a nightclub.

Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch toured Green Energy Park on Thursday.  It is being built on top of an old landfill at Seaside Park. 

The Green Energy Park includes 9,000 solar panels and a 2.8 megawatt fuel cell as  reported by the Connecticut Post.

Once complete, the solar panels and fuel cell will produce enough clean energy to power an additional 5,000 homes while creating up to 92 jobs, according to the Mayor.

United Illuminating is collaborating with the city on the project. It will pay $7 million over the life of a 20-year lease for the site. 

The facility is expected to be producing energy by the fall.

A few dozen people who oppose the expansion or construction of new natural gas pipelines in Connecticut held a spirited rally at a site in Willimantic, in eastern Connecticut where construction has started on a pipeline owned by Spectra Energy. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:

Chanting: We're gonna fight to stop the pipe!

“Among the groups represented were Connecticut Against Fracking, the Sierra Club and 350CT. 

Martha Klein of the Sierra Club explained that the gas is coming from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania through New York and several New England states and going up to Maine, where it will be exported and not benefit Connecticut users at all. 

This despite what Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration says about wanting to move customers off of oil onto gas.

“The glut of shale gas is depressing the price of gas. So the gas companies and the electric utility companies, including Eversource, are going for this big gamble of doing export because that's the only way for them to make back all that profit.

She (Tuhus) said: “There are health and safety concerns as well as worries about the impact of natural gas -- a fossil fuel -- on climate change. 

“After standing for an hour across from the construction site, the group walked to downtown Willimantic to let people who had come in for the town's monthly street festival know what's afoot, since even the pipeline's neighbors seemed to know nothing about it.”

New York on Thursday announced its first major drive to turn around falling public schools in more than a decade, placing 144 schools under receivership, according to Newsday. 

The state granted a last minute reprieve to Roosevelt High School on Long Island, a school that had languished on previous state rosters of failing schools for more than 20 years.

The state lists two categories of schools in the receivership control: “persistently struggling” and “struggling.” 

The term “receivership,” refers to schools that are placed under control of superintendents or other managers with special administrative powers.

Schools “persistently struggling” have failed to meet state and federal standards for at least a decade and have one year to show progress, while “struggling” schools have fallen short of standards for three consecutive years and have two years to show progress. 

On Long Island, only Hempstead High School is in the “persistently struggling” category.

The receivership law, adopted in April, represents Albany’s first significant attempt to intervene in local school management since 2002. That was the year lawmakers approved a direct takeover of the Roosevelt district—the first and only such move in New York’s history.

When the state’s control ended in 2013, the district had more than $200 million worth of new and renovated schools, but low passing rates on state tests in grades 3-8. However, high school graduation rates improved.

Newsday reports the recent boom in popularity of Montauk as a vacation destination has resulted in an out-of-control nightclub scene, overcrowded streets and drunken behavior. 

Tuesday, nearly 300 residents packed a four-hour town board meeting in Montauk where many attendees complained about a chaotic Fourth of July weekend. 

Town officials said they would take steps to increase code enforcement for things such as noise ordinances.

Town officials said Thursday they won a battle in a court case against a Montauk restaurant accused of operating as an unsafe overcrowded nightclub.

The court found that the eatery had as many as 300 revelers partying in a space designed for 68 diners, and that there was no fire sprinkler system. 

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

Connecticut’s Open Budget website; deer disrupts morning commute; Brookhaven officials critique Medford casino plan; Senator Gillibrand targets gun trafficking; and, Governor Cuomo’s popularity is dwindling.

Connecticut State Comptroller Kevin Lembo has launched a second open government website called "Open Budget." 

"Open Budget" joins the "Open Connecticut" and "Open Checkbook" state websites unveiled by Lembo in recent years to provide detailed, easily accessible examination of state finances and expenditures. 

Open Budget allows the user to better understand expenditures within the overall budget and make comparisons to spending in previous years.

Comptroller Lembo said, "It's been a priority of mine to open the state’s books, to make sure data was available to policy makers, the media and others so they can determine where we are and where we should be going."  

While viewing numbers for the Open Connecticut websites haven't been huge, Lembo feels making this information available grows confidence in the electorate and better informs lawmakers, community leaders and the media.

The new Open Budget website information will be updated monthly.  The Open Checkbook data is updated daily.

Metro-North’s Waterbury Line was disrupted for a couple of hours Wednesday morning after one of its trains struck a deer on the tracks.

The Connecticut Post reports that the railroad cancelled the 5:46 AM train from Waterbury to Devon Transfer due to a disabled train caused by a deer collision. 

Substitute Bus Service was provided.

By 8 a.m., train service had resumed on the 27-mile route that stops in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Seymour, Ansonia and Derby.

The line is on track to get $70 million in state spending to install signals and potentially increase service dramatically.

Newsday reports:
Brookhaven Town officials have raised concerns about drainage, sewage, traffic and other issues related to Suffolk OTB's proposed $76 million casino in Medford.
The facility would have up to 1,000 video lottery terminals.  

In a letter responding to a draft plan for the casino, Brookhaven officials wrote that it would create a greater demand for policing, fire protection and emergency medical services and does not conform with the nature and character of the area. 

The letter said OTB officials should use "green" landscaping techniques to mitigate storm water runoff and alter an exit to the Long Island Expressway to reduce traffic impact.  

Also, the town suggested payments in lieu of taxes to local fire and ambulance agencies.

The casino is expected to open on a Long Island Expressway service road east of Route 112 in summer or fall of 2016.

Opponents have sued in State Supreme Court to stop the project, saying the gaming facility would bring noise, crime and environmental hazards to the community. 

Supporters say the casino would provide hundreds of jobs and boost the coffers of Suffolk County and the struggling OTB, which is coming out of bankruptcy.  

The Albany Times-Union reports:
In her ongoing push to fight gun trafficking, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a bill on Tuesday focused on cutting the flow of illegal guns to the nation’s streets. 

Bipartisan support came from Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who co-authored the bill.

According to the NYPD, roughly 90 percent of guns used in New York City crimes come from out of state, but there is currently no law that identifies firearm trafficking as a crime.

Gillibrand said although New York has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation, those who can't legally purchase guns in the state based on age or criminal background often turn to the black market.

Under the proposed legislation, it would be illegal to sell or transfer two or more firearms to someone prohibited from ownership or to provide false information on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives firearms transaction record.

Nearly 70 percent of the 8,539 firearms recovered in New York in 2013 came from out of state, according to the ATF.

A new Siena College poll shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s favorability numbers have slipped to 49 favorable/44 unfavorable, the first time he has dipped below 50 percent favorability in a Siena poll since he became governor in 2011.

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

A police official is charged in probe of a Connecticut drug ring; two Connecticut towns get brownfield redevelopment grants; Suffolk starts a wetlands restoration project; and police, personnel increased for the summer after a wild Fourth of July weekend in Montauk. 

The Hartford Courant reports that another Connecticut police official has been charged with involvement in a ring that imported and sold illegal steroids and prescription painkillers.

The U.S. Attorney's office said it arrested Raymond J. Martin, 48, of Easton, a member of the Easton Police Commission. 

Martin was charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute the prescription painkiller oxycodone in federal court in New Haven Tuesday and released on bail.

Martin is the 12th person charged in a federal investigation of individuals, some in law enforcement, who are accused of receiving shipments of steroid ingredients from China and manufacturing and distributing wholesale quantities of steroids and distributing prescription pills, including oxycodone.
Federal prosecutors said a wiretap caught Martin engaging in text communications with other members of the conspiracy.

Former Newtown police Sgt. Steven Santucci was charged earlier in the probe.

The town of Stratford and city of Ansonia have been awarded federal grants to clean up property that officials hope can be redeveloped into housing or retail use, according to the Connecticut Post.

Stratford’s $1.2 million Brownfields grant will be use to remediate and abate a 3.6-acre former public school site at 1000 East Broadway for a mixed-use, transit-oriented development, according to the state Department of Economic and Community 

The Stratford and Ansonia monies are part of $7 million in grants for 12 brownfield redevelopment and assessment projects across the state.

Ansonia was awarded $146,000 for investigation of two city-owned parcels at 497-501 East Main Street, now under renovation into apartments, and 153 Main Street, a former elastic factory housing a senior center.

Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti hopes to have a private developer renovate the buildings for housing and retail establishments. 

Newsday reports that Suffolk County will begin rehabilitating more than 500 acres of tidal wetlands under an executive order signed Tuesday by County Executive Steve Bellone.

The order adopting a new Wetlands Stewardship Strategy is expected to obtain millions in increased federal and state aid to restore more than 2,500 acres of damaged wetlands.

This will make the shoreline more resilient to increasingly severe storms and higher waters caused by climate change.

The county has received approvals for $7.4 million in state and federal funding for work at nine initial sites totaling more than 500 acres, with Suffolk contributing $385,000 of the cost.

Officials estimate it will take two to three years to complete the initial restoration projects, and long-range plans will be developed to protect all 17,000 acres of publicly owned wetlands across the county. 

The effort will focus on improving water circulation in marshes; encouraging marine life and healthy vegetative growth; building up natural sediment to make saltwater marshes better able to absorb wave energy, and ridding areas of destructive invasive species.

East Hampton's town board has authorized overtime funding for police, fire and code enforcement personnel in Montauk through the end of summer to address parties and drinking that residents say have gotten out of control, according to Newsday.

Board members will also examine emergency and code enforcement staff levels in Montauk while working on the budget in the fall to see if more personnel are needed.

The decisions Tuesday followed a packed four-hour board meeting attended by 300 angry residents and business owners who said the Fourth of July weekend pushed them over the edge.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said residents were overwhelmed with the visitors, “some of whom are behaving very badly.” 

Residents complained about public urination, noise and parking problems and overcrowding of rental homes and bars. 

“When it becomes a public safety issue, we have a responsibility to staff better," Cantwell said.

East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said there were a record 464 calls during the holiday weekend, with 16 arrests, including 11 for drunken driving, and five others for offenses such as harassment and motor vehicle violations and an arrest for drug possession.

Tuesday, July 14 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.):

A Norwalk-based electric supplier to pay $2.6 million to energy nonprofit; Connecticut’s DCF to focus more on rehabilitation for juvenile offenders; New York District Attorneys criticize Cuomo’s executive order on police-related deaths; and. Senate Democrats call Cuomo's deal delaying gun control database unconstitutional.

A Norwalk-based electric supplier accused of deceptive marketing tactics will pay $2.6 million to nonprofit Operation Fuel in a settlement agreement.

State Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz announced the agreement was filed with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority last week. 

If approved, the settlement would resolve a two-year state investigation into charges of North American Power offering a low introductory rate that soon changed to a higher variable rate.

Under the agreement, the company will make a $100,000 charitable donation every month for 26 months to Operation Fuel, a statewide emergency energy assistance program for families in need.

“We are satisfied that … the dispute has been resolved with no finding of wrongdoing,” North American Power officials said in a statement.

Attorney General Jepsen said in a statement, “While we are agreeing to disagree with the company regarding any finding of fault…, we do agree that bringing this matter to a close at this time is in the public interest.”

He added that North American Power is subject to “significant new laws” governing electric suppliers in Connecticut.

Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families says it plans to focus more on rehabilitation and less on restraint and seclusion at its locked facilities for boys and girls in Middletown. 

The statement comes after the release of a report from the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. Included in the report’s findings is whether the goal of the two facilities is to rehabilitate the boys and girls through therapy, or incarcerate them.

DCF commissioner Joette Katz said that some of the report’s recommendations, like a greater adherence to trauma-informed care, a suicide prevention audit and reduction in the use of restraint and seclusion, were already under way.

The report also recommended that steps be made to record outcome measures for youths placed at the facility: subsequent days placed in the community, recidivism up to three years following discharge, child protection contact and educational/vocational outcomes would be tracked. 

The Department of Children and Families paid $40,254 for the report.

The state District Attorneys Association on Monday issued a scathing criticism of an executive order signed last week that allows the state attorney general to investigate and prosecute in cases of police killings of unarmed civilians.

The group said Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order was "gravely flawed.”

District Attorney Gerald Mollen said, "It is understandable that the governor and the attorney general sought to address the concerns of the families who tragically lost loved ones in encounters with the police. However, district attorneys have far more experience — and resources — in dealing with these cases than either the governor or the attorney general."

In signing the order, Cuomo denied the existence of a conflict of interest with local district attorneys working on such cases, though he said the perception of such a conflict has eroded public trust in the judicial system.

The District Attorneys Association has supported legislation that would allow a grand jury to issue a report on evidence, and create an independent monitor to review grand jury proceedings.

Mollen said, "Sadly and ironically, the executive order does nothing to create greater transparency to the grand jury process that the public craves and the District Attorneys Association supports."

The New York Daily News reports that State Senate Democrats may go to court to block Governor Cuomo's agreement with Senate Republicans that suspends the launch of a database meant to provide background checks of people who buy ammunition.

The agreement prevents any allocation of state funds for the database unless all parties agree on a plan.

Queens Senator Michael Gianaris said the deal is unconstitutional because it negates a key provision of the SAFE Act, the governor’s much-heralded 2013 gun control law. He said, "It is completely outrageous and not legally correct.”

Cuomo administration officials say the agreement simply declares that the database — which has had numerous technical hurdles — will not be implemented until it’s ready.

Monday, July 13 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.):

Connecticut’s largest teachers union lobbies lawmakers; the Correction Department will close a portion of a Bridgeport correctional facility this month; Cuomo fundraiser draws protest over charter schools and hedge fund influence; and, Suffolk County warns residents of poisonous jellyfish.

Connecticut’s largest teachers union is lobbying legislators to override Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of legislation that would require education commissioners to have experience in both teaching and school administration.

According to Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, Connecticut Education Association reached out to leading lawmakers last week to make its case.

The union said time is running out to convince the General Assembly to reverse Malloy’s decision.

According to Av Harris, spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office, any veto override would have to occur during the constitutionally-required veto session, held on July 20.

The union’s president, Sheila Cohen, explained that other agencies in the state already require professional experience that “directly aligns with job responsibilities.”

For example, Cohn noted that the Department of Public Health Commissioner must be a physician or hold a master’s degree in public health.

The state Department of Education currently relies on generic, statutory language requiring that any department head “be qualified by training and experience for the duties of his office.”

The bill, which specifies that education commissioners must have at least five years’ experience as a teacher and three years as an administrator, passed the House 138-5 and the Senate unanimously, before being vetoed by Malloy.

In conjunction with Governor Malloy’s Second Chance proposal, state Correction Department Commissioner Scott Semple announced last week that the department would be closing a portion of the Bridgeport Correctional Center before the end of the month.

The Correction Department plans to close the 204-bed Fairmont Building, which would save taxpayers over $2.1 million per fiscal year.

The department also closed Bergin Correctional Institution in Storrs in August 2011, for a savings of $12 million a year, as well as Gates Correctional Institution in Niantic in June 2011, saving $12.3 million a year.

As part of Governor Malloy’s Second Chance proposal, the Correction Department has been rethinking how to better facilitate prisoner re-entry into society. 

This plan is what launched the Cybulski Community Reintegration Center – a recently rededicated 600-bed facility aimed at preparing prisoners for re-entry.
The state’s total incarceration level is 16,064, which is down more than 360 from last year.

The State of Connecticut spends more than $700 million of its annual budget on the prison system, which employs about 6,300 people.

Newsday reports:
Hundreds of liberal activists and teachers descended on East Hampton Saturday to protest Governor Andrew Cuomo's appearance at a fundraiser hosted by hedge fund billionaire Dan Loeb.

About 250 demonstrators gathered outside Loeb’s oceanfront estate, chanting for more public school funding and against the influence of hedge fund executives in politics.

The protest was organized by the Hedge Clippers, a coalition formed to draw attention to hedge fund executives' sway in politics.

Five buses picked up protesters from New York City and Long Island including teachers who criticized Loeb's and Cuomo's support of charter schools.

Loeb, the founder of the hedge fund Third Point LLC, is chairman of the board of Success Academy Charter Schools, based in Manhattan.

Northport-East Northport teachers union president Antoinette Blanck said: "Public schools  educate every student. Charter schools, which this fundraiser is supporting, are selective and, in my opinion, they discriminate."

A Cuomo spokesman said in an email Saturday night: "The governor's progressive  accomplishments are nationally recognized and stand on their own. This is just some more performance art from the same paid political advocates under a different name."

With droves of beachgoers expected to venture out to the ocean on hot summer days, first responders are on the alert for patients who may be stung by highly venomous Portuguese Man of War jellyfish.

Two young boys were stung by the jellyfish on Fire Island, and the Long Island Coastal Conservation Research Alliance reports that Portuguese Men of War have been spotted on the bay and ocean in Montauk, at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays and at Robert Moses State Park in Babylon.

Sting symptoms range from immense pain at the sting site to abdominal pain, chest pain, changes in heart rate, headaches, muscle pain/spasm, numbness/weakness, difficulty swallowing, raised, red, or soft tissue injury at sting sites, runny nose or watery eyes, and collapse.

The Suffolk County Health Department is warning bathers to stay away from the jellyfish if they see them and notify the lifeguard and to immediately seek first aid if stung.


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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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

Malloy puts two new criminal justice reforms on the books; Connecticut receives special status to help its aerospace and shipbuilding industries; Amityville high school administrator who accused the district of racial discrimination is fired; and, North Fork residents near Mattituck Inlet fight proposed subdivision. 

Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law two new criminal justice reform bills. Known as the “excessive force” and “Second Chance Society” bills, the legislation addresses disparities in the way police and the courts treat citizens.

The “excessive force” bill calls on police departments to increase diversity in their staffing and provide instruction on deadly physical force, cultural sensitivity, and body cameras.

The “Second Chance Society” bill aims to reduce incarceration rates among nonviolent offenders. It treats drug possession as a misdemeanor and eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug possession.

Black and Puerto Rican Caucus chairman State Representative Bruce Morris said the signing of the bills represent a “historic moment.” 

The caucus has been a major advocate for a more diverse police force and one that is held accountable.

He said, “These two laws promote government transparency, accountability, health and safety of all our citizens — goals that should unite all of us.”

Connecticut was awarded special status yesterday as an "Advanced Manufacturing Communities Region.” This gives the state "head of the line" preference in obtaining federal grants to help Connecticut shipbuilding and aerospace industries.

The state’s output of durable goods, which includes aerospace and shipbuilding, fell slightly in 2014 to $18.7 billion, from a high of $19.4 billion in 2013.

To address that decline, state lawmakers last year approved a $30 million Innovation Fund to assist manufacturers with research and development, equipment, and training -- a move that prompted the White House to recognize those efforts by awarding the state this special status.

Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith said "this designation recognizes that the state has something that can be built upon" and ensures preferential consideration in applying for $1.3 billion in federal grant monies available for state manufacturing communities.

Newsday reports: 
The Amityville school board voted Wednesday night to fire Rodney Wilkins, a black high school administrator who has accused the district of racial discrimination.

Board members voted 7-0 to approve the termination resolution, ending Wilkins' employment as an associate principal at Amityville Memorial High School as of September 3.

In his complaint, Wilkins alleged he was treated unfairly by his superiors on the basis of his race.

He says he was excluded from key planning meetings, belittled in front of his staff and removed from his office.

In response school board President Mary Kelly issued a statement saying "the Amityville School district does not tolerate discrimination of any kind."


The Department of Environmental Conservation has already designated Mattituck Inlet as an “impaired watershed” but advocates and neighbors at Monday’s hearing before the Planning Board expressed concerns about a proposed subdivision near the inlet. 

They alleged potential development would impact not only the fragile Mattituck Inlet, but also their quality of life and property values.

The subdivision would break up a single plot of 5.1 acres into four separate properties: three would be considered for housing, and the fourth for limited business use.

Bill Toedter, President of the North Fork Environmental Council, said that more development would add further nitrogen into the creek, which could damage water quality by fueling algal blooms like those that killed thousands of bunker in the Peconic River last month.

Toedter went on to say that the NFEC found “errors and [in]consistencies” in the application and called on the Planning Board and the Town Board to dismiss it and begin again.

Wednesday July 8  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):

Senator Blumenthal seeks a break for veterans who face loss of GI benefits; public hearings are set for Connecticut health insurers requesting rate hikes; Portuguese man-of-wars sting children on Fire Island; and, the New York State Wage Board is still considering a fast-food wage hike. 

If Sen. Richard Blumenthal gets his way it’ll be no harm, no foul for veterans whose college education was derailed when Corinthian College folded earlier this year.

Some veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were attending the for-profit college when it applied for bankruptcy protection following allegations of fraud.

As a result, they risked losing the money from the G.I. Bill that sent them to college in the first place.

Blumenthal, the ranking member of the Committee on Senate Veterans’ Affairs, and other Senate Democrats, want to reset their G.I. Bill benefits, bailing out the students to give them a second chance at a degree, and said he plans to present legislation to that effect.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he’s willing to consider debt relief and will consider claims in groups wherever possible. 

The Connecticut Insurance Department will hold public hearings July 27 on proposals by three insurance companies to raise rates on health plans for 2016.

The plans offered by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, ConnectiCare and Golden Rule Insurance Company cover policyholders who purchased insurance through the state’s individual insurance market.

Some of the Anthem plans are sold through the state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, while all the ConnectiCare and Golden Rule plans are sold outside the exchange.

Anthem is seeking a 4.9 percent increase, ConnectiCare is seeking a 9.8 percent increase, and Golden Rule an 18.5 percent increase.

Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade ordered the hearing after consulting with state Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri about which plans should be subject to it.

The hearings will be held Monday, July 27, at the Connecticut Insurance Department, 153 Market St., Hartford, on the 7th floor, beginning at 9 a.m. Comments can be submitted electronically at

Newsday reports that venomous Portuguese man-of-wars stung two children Tuesday on Fire Island, sending one of the young boys to the hospital, according to police and Islip Town officials.

A 7-year-old was stung on the hand in Kismet around 3:08 p.m. and taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore. Another boy, 4, was stung earlier in the day at 12:17 p.m. in Davis Park, marine bureau Sgt. John Vahey said.

Man-of-wars are a colony of organisms with long tentacles that can sting.

They are carried by wind and currents, and can appear in the North Atlantic when the water is warm and the winds are out of the southwest.

Islip ordered purple flags to be posted on the west and east sides of Kismet and at the lifeguard station warning people that dangerous marine life had been spotted.

Earlier this week, man-of-wars were spotted along the Jersey Shore. Southampton Town Trustee
Edward Warner Jr. said he had not seen any “but that doesn't mean they're not going to be here any day."

The Albany-Times Union reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fast food Wage Board has received an extension from what was supposed to be a deadline last Saturday for deciding if and by how much wages in that industry should be increased.

They are meeting again on Monday in New York City at the Department of Labor at 75 Varick Street, 7th floor and the meeting will be webcast live.

The board is looking at a decision by the end of July.
One of the issues board members said may take some more time is settling on a clear definition of a ”fast food” establishment that would be subject to a wage increase.

Activists and unions have called for $15-an-hour but it remains unclear what the board’s final call might be and when it would take effect. 

Wage increases set in other cities such as Los Angeles and Seattle are being phased in.

Tuesday, July 7  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Chris Cadra and Trace Alford.)

Connecticut police under scrutiny; safety equipment delays new Long Island Railroad trains; and, a suit charges Amityville school board discriminated against a high school administrator.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed a bill last week expanding access to arrest details. 
The new law requires the release of an arrest affidavit, or a summary of events leading up to the arrest, and opens up any other public record of a law enforcement agency that documents or depicts the arrest or custody of a person during an ongoing criminal case.
The new provisions to the state’s Freedom of Information Act reverse a Connecticut Supreme Court decision that effectively exempted police from having to disclose arrest information. 
Previously, the court interpreted existing statute to mean police must release little more that basic “police blotter” information while a criminal case is pending, and said it was the legislature’s job to modify or clarify the public’s access to documents. 
A spokesperson for the governor said the administration believes in transparency and that “more information, rather than less, should be available.”
Lawmakers also passed a bill last week requiring body cameras for all sworn officers of the Connecticut State Police and state university program. The legislation says the cameras must be used whenever on-duty officers interact with the public.
About 50 protesters attended a rally Monday evening in Hartford, in response to a recent video that showed police officers striking a man with a baton.
The video showed the arrest, in the North End, of Samuel Bryant who was detained after officers saw him drinking from a wine cooler from a brown paper bag according to the Hartford Courant.
Bishop John Selders Jr. of the United Church of Christ in Hartford and a leader of the Moral Monday group, his wife, Pamela, and others, stood at Main Street and Albany Avenue and raised signs at passing cars that read, "Black Lives Matter."
They shouted: "There's no excuse for systems of abuse." 
Bishop Selders said it was unacceptable for police to beat anyone and directed the group to walk down High Street to the police department.
Marchers sought a meeting with police officials, but none came out of the building.
The Moral Monday group has organized several rallies to seek changes in the criminal justice system and raise awareness of social justice issues.
Newsday reports:
Long Island Rail Road officials said they did not set aside enough space to fit federally mandated crash-prevention equipment into the railroad's next generation of trains, an error that could increase costs of the new trains and delay their arrival.

The revelation of the problem appeared to surprise some MTA board members. The MTA knew since 2008 that it would have to install positive train control systems on all trains, and the LIRR ordered the new trains in 2013.

Positive train control is required by the end of this year on all railroads by the U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The technology removes the possibility of human error in several potentially deadly situations.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have said positive train control could have prevented several fatal accidents, including the May derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia and the December 2013 Metro-North derailment in the Bronx. 

The Federal Railroad Administration is considering extending the deadline for all railroads to have positive train control in place.

Amityville’s Memorial High School has filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights against the school district, alleging racial discrimination.
According to Newsday, Rodney Wilkins, of Manhattan was hired in March 2014 as an assistant principal at $500 per day. Four months later, he was made associate principal with an annual salary of $135,000.  
Amityville aimed to close an achievement gap for its students, 52 percent of them African-American, and 37 percent Hispanic.
Shortly after he started, Wilkins said in the complaint his work was undermined by then-interim superintendent Mary T. Kelly, who is white.

Wilkins said he was excluded from key planning meetings, belittled in front of his staff, removed from his office and relocated to a kitchen facility within the administrative building.  He said he was held to a different standard than were white employees. In June, he was banned from district property. 
In a statement Monday, Superintendent Kelly wrote: "The Amityville school district is committed to providing a professional work environment for all staff, and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind."

Friday, July 3   (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Leslie Stenull and Mike Merli.):

Connecticut lawmakers examine nursing home funding; budget adjustments bring the state of Connecticut closer to adopting paid family and medical leave; shellfish lands in Riverhead, Southold, and Southampton reopen; and, the state of New York settles with a company promising debt relief for student loans.

Yesterday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management issued a statement saying, “nursing home funding would need to be distributed based on a formula that treats all nursing homes equally as required under federal regulations and guidance.”

Earlier this week, Democratic lawmakers in Connecticut defended budget language that allocated more funds to union nursing homes than non-union nursing homes. 

The language indicated that up to $9 million would go to 60 unionized nursing homes, while up to $4 million would go to 170 non-union nursing homes.

Democratic legislators said SEIU 1199, the union representing nursing home workers, was prepared to go on strike earlier this year over wages. The union postponed the strike to see if it would receive the necessary funds from the legislature for raises.

Rep. Terrie Wood (R-Darien) proposed an amendment that would have required the $13 million be distributed equally among union and non-union nursing homes. The amendment did not pass.

Yesterday’s statement said the Department of Social Services will compile the allowable costs for all nursing homes, and the total allowable cost of the wage enhancement will be compared to the available funding.

Budget adjustments signed into law on Tuesday bring the state of Connecticut one step closer to adopting paid family and medical leave.

The budget allocates $140,000 in 2016 to develop a plan for allowing workers to earn income while taking time off for illness, to bond with new children or to care for sick family members.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said the bill advances the concept of paid family and medical leave but additional legislative action is needed to implement it fully.

The issue is also a priority for advocates for the elderly and their caregivers. Nora Duncan, state director for AARP, said the latest directive from the legislature is a step toward ensuring that the children of elderly parents don’t have to choose between their jobs and their loved ones. 

Earlier this year, a bill that would give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave from their jobs was never raised for a vote in either chamber. 

Paid family and medical leave is currently available in Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

The State Departments of Environmental Conservation has reopened shellfish lands closed in May for high levels of toxin linked to paralytic shellfish poisoning.

On July 1, state environmental regulators reopened about 4,000 acres of shellfish lands in the towns of Riverhead, Southold and Southampton for harvesting whelks, conchs and moon snails. 

The closures had been enacted in May because of high levels of saxitoxin, a potential cause of paralytic shellfish poisoning. 

The shellfish lands in Terry’s Creek and Meetinghouse Creek are also among those determined by state regulators to be “uncertified for the taking of all other shellfish” for food use year round due to unsanitary conditions.

James Creek is uncertified from May 1st through November 30th. 

The closures followed a large die-off of diamondback terrapin turtles which consume shellfish as a major part of their diet, though officials have not made a direct link. 

Area waterways were also affected by algal blooms that drove water oxygen levels to zero, killing off scores of bunker fish.  The fish die-off prompted recreational use advisories for Flanders Bay and the Peconic River.  Those advisories will not be lifted, even as water quality improves. 

DEC has collected additional samples and a report is expected soon. 

A student loan debt relief provider will cease operations nationally following an agreement with the New York state Department of Financial Services.

The company, Interactiv Education LLC, also known as Direct Student Aid, advertised that it could reduce and lower monthly student loan payments, though all it did was complete applications for Direct Consolidation Loans from the federal Education Department, which are available for free to consumers. 

The Student Protection Unit’s investigation found that Direct Student Aid charged more than 400 New York consumers upfront fees ranging from $99 to $3,400 for its advertised student debt relief services in violation of state and federal laws and regulations.

The company didn’t properly disclose to prospective clients that they could file the same loan applications themselves without paying.

According to the Department of Financial Services, the company also said it could improve clients’ credit scores but it took illegal upfront fees from New York clients and didn’t provide various notices and disclosures required under state and federal statutes.

Thursday, July 2  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Kevin Brewer, Kristiana Pastir and Nadine Dumser.)

Connecticut governor shocks teachers’ union with veto of education commissioner requirements; Stratford’s Devon Bridge breakdown means extended delays; Suffolk County drug bust results in several local arrests; and, East Hampton forms a coastal resiliency committee.

Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have prescribed educational qualifications for the state’s Education Commissioner.

In his veto message, Malloy said the legislation “encroaches on the purview” of the chief executive and would prevent them from picking “the best candidate.”

Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said he was “stunned” by the veto. He said it’s good public policy that doesn’t take away any of the governor’s authority to choose a qualified individual for the job.

The CEA will ask legislative leaders to override the veto.

In his first term, Malloy faced criticism for choosing Stefan Pryor, a lawyer who co-founded a New Haven public charter school.

Last summer, a coalition of state unions adopted a resolution requiring an Education Commissioner to have the same professional experience of a school superintendent.

Malloy said he’s concerned the bill would unintentionally reduce the diversity of future commissioner applicant polls, since representation of African American and Hispanic teachers and administrators remains disproportionately low.

The breakdown of the Devon Bridge in Stratford Wednesday has led to Metro-North delays as train traffic across the Housatonic River is reduced to two tracks, the Hartford Courant reports. 

This will create rush hour delays "until further notice," Metro-North said in a statement.

With two of the four tracks useable, trains are slowed but not stopped. At peak travel times, passengers should expect delays of about 15 minutes because of the bottleneck effect. 

The northern span of the 111-year-old bridge locked in the open position around 1 a.m., and damaged its piers when workers tried to lower it, according to the state transportation department. The DOT declared an emergency, allowing contractors and Metro-North to expedite repairs, according to the railroad.

Construction crews have been working on a short-term repair to keep the bridge working until funding and design work is done for a long-term replacement. The opening early Wednesday was a test.

A major marijuana bust in Suffolk County has led to a 13-count indictment of 12 people on charges of trafficking 960 pounds of high-grade pot across the county since May of last year.

The yearlong investigation by Suffolk narcotics detectives and investigators and the Department of Homeland Security resulted in the arrest of ringleader Brian Poole, 27, of Bellport.

Suffolk County DA Tom Spota described an elaborate operation that saw the drugs purchased and sent from California in one-pound packages that were camouflaged with household chemicals in an attempt to hide the pungent marijuana odor.

Also arrested were Eric Gomez of Calverton, Jose Blanco of Bay Shore, and Marco Barilla of Hampton Bays, charged with selling marijuana to customers of his high-end catering business.

Homeland Security special agent in charge Raymond Palmer said: "These arrests dismantle a multi-state drug trafficking organization whose final destination was the streets of Suffolk County."

Last winter, East Hampton won a $250,000 state grant to develop a Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Plan to prepare for impending rising seas and erratic weather due to climate change. 

East Hampton Natural Resources Director Kim Shaw said that the newly formed Coastal Resiliency Project Advisory Committee would help with the scientific analysis needed to support effective coastal management and deliver the plan over the next 24 months.

In an announcement last week, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said: “This work will be in keeping with the Town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and will strengthen the resiliency of East Hampton. The needs of current and future generations will be addressed through broad-based public involvement, in order to develop and implement a community plan. It will also allow us to partner with the Army Corps of Engineers as they shape their much-anticipated Fire Island to Montauk Point proposal, which is slated for release this summer.”

Wednesday, July 1  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.):

Bridgeport cops will get body cameras; a $40 billion state budget passes in Connecticut; Uber drivers plead guilty in East Hampton; and, the Southold supervisor seeks a bike and race event ban.

The Connecticut Post reports that high-tech and old-fashioned policing methods are included in a new crime reduction effort announced Tuesday by Bridgeport officials.

Mayor Bill Finch said cops will be outfitted with body cameras as soon as possible. 

Without mentioning Trumbull Gardens, where nine people were shot — one fatally — on June 11, Finch said the measures are “to make people feel safe in their homes.”

A federal grant application filed jointly with Stamford and money in the city’s budget will pay for up to 750 of the devices. 

Targeted patrols will be added in public housing complexes, with eight officers on a walking beat from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week and 40 more police officers will be hired in the fall.

The expansion of a program that will put monitored cameras along the students’ route to school is also planned. 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation Tuesday that establishes a two-year, $40 billion state budget and rescinded $178 million of the nearly $1.5 billion in tax increases approved on June 3, according to the Hartford Courant.

The final budget bill postponed several controversial business taxes including a unitary reporting system that would hike taxes on some major corporations.
In addition to raising some taxes on the wealthy and businesses, the budget increases taxes on the middle class, including a $152 million increase over two years from changes in the property tax credit.

The credit will drop from $300 to $200, and the income threshold to qualify for the credit will decrease.

Households making up to $100,500 annually are now eligible for the maximum credit, but that threshold will drop to $70,500.

A 6.35 percent sales tax will be imposed on clothing and footwear under $50 and the state cigarette tax of $3.40 per pack will increase by 25 cents in the first year and 50 cents in the second year.

Newsday reports that all but one of the 22 Uber drivers charged with a misdemeanor for violating East Hampton Town's taxi licensing law pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser, non-criminal charge and agreed to pay a $400 fine.

The drivers entered pleas in East Hampton Town Justice Court before Judge Lisa Rana as part of a deal worked out between their attorney, Daniel G. Rodgers, and Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski.

Rodgers said 23 drivers were been charged over Memorial Day weekend with having no business owner license because they did not have an East Hampton address as required.

Rodgers called the business owner measure a bad law and questioned how a driver not having a physical office in town could threaten the public's safety.

But Sendlenski said it helps people stay in compliance, noting that Uber ended up complying because it ceased operations in East Hampton Town.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said Uber will be paying thousands of dollars in fines, so "apparently it's an effective law."

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell yesterday proposed a ban on all bicycle and race events on town roads during the height of the summer season.
If approved, the ban would be in place from May 1 to October 1.

Russell said prohibiting running and bicycling events would help to put the brakes on an escalating problem, as bicyclists ride three and four abreast, running red lights and putting the public in danger.

He said races could be allowed in the fall and winter months, saying they need to take place at a time that’s not inconveniencing people and risking safety.

Earlier this month, Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley addressed the town board and said the problem is worsening.

In recent weeks, riders participating in certain events have been involved in accidents; others have blatantly put themselves at risk, one race participant even standing alone, directing traffic on Route 48, while cars whizzed by at 50 miles per hour.

A code committee discussion on the issue will be the next step.