Monday, April 4, 2016

April 2016

Friday, April 29  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: the University of Connecticut closes its Torrington campus; the Connecticut state Senate tables a bill raising the state minimum wage; tick-borne diseases on Suffolk County are most prevalent on the East End; and, critics oppose EPA dumping in Long Island Sound.

The Register Citizen reports:
Despite area officials and students pleading with the UConn Board of Trustees on Wednesday morning for the Torrington campus to stay open, the board voted to close the campus. The vote was nearly unanimous.

Former Mayor Michael Conway and petitioner Brian Ohler urged further investment in the Torrington campus. Ohler said his online petition to keep the UConn-Torrington campus open had garnered 1,250 signatures.  Members of the Northwest Hills Council of Governments recently signaled their collective support for UConn-Torrington and voted unanimously to send a letter to the Board of Trustees opposing the closure.

UConn Vice President and General Counsel Rich Orr said there was no legal impediment to prevent the board from considering the potential closure, and that the Board of Trustees does not control its membership, and the issue of geographic representation was thus not within its purview.

Vice Provost Sally Reis cited declining enrollment, the cost of maintaining the campus, and the need to reallocate resources to other campuses as the primary reasons for the closure.

In an unexpected move, the Connecticut state Senate raised and then tabled debate on a bill that calls for an increase in the state’s minimum wage from its current $9.60 an hour to $12 an hour by January 1, 2020.

The bill, which would have originally fined large companies for not paying their employees $15 an hour, was amended to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by January 1, 2020.

However, before debate on the Senate bill ended yesterday, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey (D – Hamden), said he was unaware the Senate would be raising the measure this year. At around 9pm, Sharkey said: “It came as a surprise to me that this was something that was going to be brought up in the Senate.”

Senator Marilyn Moore (D – Trumbull), who raised the bill and took a minimum wage job last summer for the experience, said she could have never lived off $9.60 an hour if she had a family to support. The bill called for the minimum wage, which is already slated to increase under current law to $10.10 per hour on January 1, 2017, to increase to $10.70 an hour on January 1, 2018, $11.30 an hour on January 1, 2019, and finally to $12.00 an hour on January 1, 2020. 

There have been more cases of East End tick-borne diseases reported than anywhere in Suffolk County in recent years, according to a new report from the County Department of Health Services.

Lyme Disease was the most common tick-borne illness; four other less commonly known diseases caused almost the same number of cases. All are difficult to diagnose and can in some cases be life-threatening.

The report suggests that doctors should treat patients based on clinical diagnoses, regardless of diagnostic tests, since tests sometimes fail to detect these diseases.

The New York State Department of Health provides tips to prevent tick-borne illnesses when spending time outdoors:

Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
Consider using insect repellent.
Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas.
Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.
Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.

According to The Suffolk Times, the Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday it will continue to dump dredged materials back into Long Island Sound.  Critics are lining up, arguing the materials could be toxic and may be diffused throughout the Sound.

This dredging has occurred mostly in Connecticut harbors and rivers, clearing sand and silt to make waterways safer for ships.

County Legislator Al Krupski said: “There should be no dumping of that material in Long Island Sound.” Supervisor Scott Russell said Southold would “stand in stark opposition.” 

Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said: “In a perfect world they would have crafted a plan that transitions from dumping in the sound to beneficial reuse.” She’s concerned there is no long-term plan to abandon the practice.

The proposed eastern Long Island Sound dumpsite is about a mile and a half northwest of Fishers Island. Two other areas in Niantic Bay and near Cornfield Shoals could also be used.

EPA scheduled two public meetings on the North Fork. On May 25: from 1pm to 3pm at Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center on East Main Street in Riverhead; and from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at Mattituck-Laurel Library in Mattituck.

Thursday, April 28 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser.)

In tonight’s news: Bridgeport mayor lobbies for law allowing police to ask for gun permits; Connecticut car dealers oppose Tesla legislation; Bureau of Indian Affairs reacts to two nations plan for a third casino; and, East Hampton is designated a climate smart community

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Joe Ganim, along with Bridgeport police officers, urged legislators to pass a bill that would allow an officer to ask a person to show their permit to carry a firearm, whether or not the individual is suspected of a crime. Under the current law, officers can only ask to see a firearms permit if they suspect that a crime is being committed.

In a recent video, Bridgeport police responded to a call concerning an individual openly carrying a pistol. They asked to see the man’s permit, he challenged the officers’ right to demand he show his permit, and the officers had to let him go. The video pointed out ambiguities in state gun laws.

The National Rifle Association and the Connecticut Citizens Defense League said asking a gun owner to see their permit is a violation of their rights. Mayor Ganim said: “If you are openly carrying a firearm, you are already required to carry your pistol permit on your person. . . .This bill . . . require[s] you to produce that permit if asked by law enforcement officers . . . .I urge our General Assembly to pass this bill before the session ends next week.”

A poll commissioned by electric car maker Tesla found that 76% of 600 likely Connecticut voters support legislation that would allow them to sell directly to consumers. The same poll found that 63% would oppose capping the number of stores Tesla could build. 

The General Assembly is considering legislation that would allow an electric carmaker to open up to three retail locations and sell directly to consumers. No other car manufacturer, including those who make electric vehicles, are allowed to sell directly to consumers, which is why the legislation is being opposed by car dealers and manufacturers. 

Connecticut car dealers say there’s a misconception that they don’t want to sell electric vehicles or would steer customers to traditional cars that run on gasoline or diesel.

Leo Karl, owner of the Karl Chevrolet Group, said during a public hearing on the bill that they have mechanics to work on electric vehicles. And the legislation will damage Connecticut businesses for no reason. 

A Bureau of Indian Affairs official says the special act giving exclusive rights to build a third casino to two federally-recognized Indian tribes would not violate any exclusivity arrangement they have in their gaming agreement with Connecticut or the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

But in a letter to the tribes, Acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts
wrote that the tribes would have to seek an amendment to their compact with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in order to move forward with building a third casino in Connecticut.

East Hampton Town has been designated a Climate Smart Community through New York State's Climate Smart Community Program 

The program aims to recognize municipalities that work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for the impact of climate change and save taxpayer money.  

This achievement is part of the East Hampton Town Board’s efforts to become more resilient to the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and extreme weather. 

Communities that become certified work to reduce their carbon footprint and make their coastline more resilient against storms. The town unveiled a climate action plan designed to meet these goals in October 2015. To date, more than 170 communities in New York state, have signed the Climate Smart Communities pledge, but only East Hampton and six other towns have been certified by the state. Southampton Town and the Village of Greenport have also signed the pledge.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said: “The town is experiencing a changing coast line and scientists are improving their modeling to demonstrate that we need to prepare to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change …. By becoming a Certified Community, the town becomes eligible for unique funding opportunities that will put forth new technologies and methods to adapt and become more resilient.“

Wednesday, April 27 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers.)

In tonight’s news: bill would take guns from Connecticut subjects of domestic violence restraining orders; Connecticut will receive rebate for opioid overdose drug; New York Comptroller says oil train spills threaten state funds; and, Long Island Railroad summer service to the North Fork resuming. 

A senior advisor to President Obama called Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey on Tuesday to urge action on a bill that would require individuals who are the subject of temporary restraining orders to give up their firearms. Sharkey says the bill will be acted on, but domestic violence advocates in Connecticut are still concerned since the legislative session is ending May 4. The bill, which died on the calendar last year, has been a priority of Governor Malloy’s administration. 

Between 2000 and 2011, 175 people in the state of Connecticut were killed by an intimate partner, and 38% of these homicides were committed with a gun. 
There are a number of Republican lawmakers who have concerns about the constitutional rights of gun owners and the process the bill creates to take those firearms away without a judicial hearing.

Second Amendment supporters argued that the state already has a law on the books that would protect domestic violence victims from their abuser and creating another one was unnecessary. They said the bill would violate due process rights for gun owners. 

Connecticut will receive a popular drug used to counteract the effects of opioid overdoses at a reduced cost, thanks to a settlement reached between the state and drug maker.

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. will give the state a $6 rebate for every dose of naloxone bought by state, municipal or local town agencies over the next year. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is used to counter the effects of opioid overdoses — from drugs including heroin and prescription painkillers. 

Connecticut has enacted new laws in recent years to make the drug more widely available to law enforcement and first responders, and last fall questioned large price increases for the medication.
Under the new agreement, Amphastar will give a $6-per-dose rebate for the purchase of naloxone. Naxolone’s retail price is between $33 and $60 a dose, depending on the distributor and volume being bought. Amphastar has agreed not to raise its wholesale per-dose cost for the drug for a year. 

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has written to the head of the federal Department of Transportation urging officials to increase oil train safety measures. 

In a letter to USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, DiNapoli  wrote: "The possibility of an accident on the scale of the Lac-Mégantic (Quebec) tragedy is not only a significant hazard to New York residents and environmental resources — it is also a financial threat. A higher consequence incident would not only deplete the state's mechanism for funding cleanup of petroleum spills, but could also divert funding from other vital services."

DiNapoli oversees the state Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund, which is authorized to hold up to $40 million for spill-related issues. Disaster costs higher than the $40 million would need to be covered by the state general fund.

Di Napoli questioned whether the two major crude oil tank transporters – CSX and Canadian Pacific have adequate insurance coverage for large-scale accidents.  And he questioned whether Federal funding is  sufficient to cover damages from a serious oil train accident.

The Long Island Rail Road weekend summer service from Ronkonkoma to Greenport begins this Saturday and ends on November 27. As reported by Newsday, year-round weekend service was eliminated in 2010 during a round of budget cuts. 

Service has been restored annually on Saturday, Sundays and holidays during the summer with trains serving the North Fork wine region and historic-area sites. The service allows New Yorkers to travel to Greenport and back in a day but travel in the reverse direction is not convenient. 

Trains depart Penn Station at 9:12 a.m. and 2:12 p.m. At Ronkonkoma, passengers transfer for the trip the rest of the way east. For travel to Manhattan, trains leave Greenport at 1:11 p.m. and 6:11 p.m.

Tuesday, April 26  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Republicans offer to take a pay cut to help balance the budget; Connecticut considers public retirement plan; Smithtown dispute raises questions about Long Island’s hire-local policy; farmers will get representation on Suffolk County Planning Commission.

Hartford Courant reports:
Connecticut Republican legislators outlined an alternative budget Monday that would cut their own salaries and fringe benefits to close the current year's deficit and generate surpluses in the next four years. The proposal cuts their salaries by 10% and includes a wage freeze for all state employees. Their plan also calls for increasing health care insurance premiums and co-pays for nonunion state employees.

The Republican budget agrees with Governor Malloy’s plan for eliminating 2,500 state government positions, which cuts $281 million out of the projected $935 million deficit. However, the proposal scales back Malloy's 30-year, $100 billion transportation plan and eliminates the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account. 

Republicans want to reduce the current 27 legislative committees to 15, including combining the appropriations and finance committees. 

Republicans say the state would save $7.6 million annually by closing the University of Connecticut Health Center's police and fire departments and providing $1 million to Farmington to handle those duties. The plan also would cut $25 million from UConn and UConn Health Center, $14.1 million from the technical college system, and $13.6 million from the four-campus Connecticut State University system. Besides the cuts, the proposal calls for restoring funding to hospitals, cut by Malloy in a clash that has lasted for months.

The Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill early Tuesday morning that would create a quasi-public agency to administer a retirement system for residents who may not have one through their employer.

Under the bill, employees who work for companies that don’t offer a retirement would automatically be enrolled and have a contribution deducted from their payroll. The default contribution would be 3% of an employee’s pay, if the employee didn’t specify an amount.

A report by the Connecticut Retirement Security Board found that a public retirement program would need approximately $1 billion to become financially self-sustaining. If a third of those eligible to enroll did so and contributed up to 6% of their earnings, then the program should be self-sustaining by the end of year two.

The retirement system would offer a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA that comes with tax benefits, because the state can’t afford to give up what’s estimated as possibly $10 million in revenue.

Connecticut would be one of the first states, after California, to offer a public retirement program. The proposal has the support of top state officials and organizations like the AARP.

Newsday reports:
A dispute between a union and the new owner of a Smithtown senior housing development has raised questions about the effectiveness of “hire-local” requirements for building projects.

Local 66 of the General Building and Construction Laborers union members have been demonstrating outside the housing development that is being refurbished by its new owner, GHC Housing Partners. Union members feel that GHC should exclusively use Long Island contractors and workers.

The dispute has led the Industrial Development Agency examining whether GHC is complying with the agency’s 2012 buy-local, hire-local policy called “Long Island First.” The policy states: “To the greatest extent possible project applicants should consider purchasing goods and services from Long Island based providers.”

Suffolk IDA treasurer and Local 66 official Peter Zarcone said: “I’m not happy with what is going on.” He vowed to push for a requirement that 90% of the workers on IDA projects be Long Islanders.

Monday, April 25 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight:Feds threaten to sue Connecticut over motor-voter law violations; Hillary talks gun laws in Hartford; Primary is tomorrow in Connecticut. Referendum would put Suffolk water surcharge for reducing nitrogen pollution on the ballot; and, a proposed law would stop the sale of Plum Island.  

The U.S. Department of Justice said it’s planning to sue Connecticut for failure to comply with the motor-voter provision of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, if it doesn’t fix the problem. 

A Justice Department official wrote to state officials on April 15 saying the State appears to be in violation of Federal laws that require an application for a driver’s license to serve as an application for voter registration.  Also change of address forms do not change a voter’s registration when an applicant moves between towns.  

A spokesman for the Department of Motor Vehicles said last Wednesday that they are working to ensure the state is in compliance with the law. Earlier this year, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill worked with lawmakers to streamline the motor-voter registration system at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is currently upgrading its computer system. The process has been plagued with problems, including one which caused the entire system to crash last Tuesday.  

Merrill said that one-third of Connecticut residents who are eligible to vote are not registered. 

Only 3% of likely Democratic primary voters told the Quinnipiac University poll last week that gun policy was the “most important issue in deciding who to support” — the economy, income inequality, and health care were the only issues to poll in the double digits. 

But that didn’t stop Hillary Clinton from focusing her message on the gun issue Thursday during a campaign stop at the YMCA on Albany Avenue in Hartford’s north end. This is possibly because it’s one issue that sets her apart from her Democratic rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. 

The polls in Connecticut are open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Registered Republicans and Democrats can vote in their respective party primaries. New and unaffiliated voters had until noon today to register. 

Suffolk County officials and environmentalists gathered today in support of County Executive Steve Bellone’s plan to put a referendum on the November ballot on whether to add a surcharge to water bills to support nitrogen-removal efforts. 

The county is seeking state legislation to allow voters to decide whether they want to create a water quality protection fee of $1 per 1,000 gallons of water used.
A family of four would end up paying an extra $73 per year, according to a county estimate. The fund would total just under $75 million.

The money would go into a water quality protection fund, which would be used to help homeowners upgrade aging cesspools, connect homes to sewers, help municipalities with wastewater needs, and other measures.

About 360,000 homes in Suffolk County are on septic systems and cesspools. The county says those systems are responsible for about 70% of the nitrogen pollution in the area’s surface water.  Excess nitrogen causes harmful algal blooms and decreased oxygen levels in Long Island’s waterways.
If the measure goes to the ballot and voters approve it, the fee would begin to be collected in 2018.

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin announced a new proposal that would suspend the sale and marketing of Plum Island to private buyers and require an additional federal study of the sale, as reported by Newsday. 

At a news conference Sunday, Zeldin, a first term Republican who represents eastern Long Island, said his bill would mandate that the government outline alternative uses for the island. Zeldin introduced a bill last year to prevent the sale. That bill stalled because it did not direct the federal government on what to do with the land.

Congress in 2008 voted to close the existing Plum Island Animal Disease Center and move it to a new facility in Kansas.  Long Island and Connecticut elected officials and environmentalists rallied to preserve the island. They say the undeveloped land should be preserved because it has become a sanctuary for wildlife. In 2013 Donald Trump proposed to re-develop the Island as a golf course.

Southold rezoned the island in 2013 to prevent development there. Zeldin said Sunday “One presidential candidate had a different version for making Plum Island great again. We think it’s great as it is.”  Zeldin has not endorsed any candidate for President.

Friday, April 22  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: more layoffs at the Connecticut Department of Correction; Senate ok’s grocery bag law; Riverhead approves zoning for rental housing project; and, the race for Long Island State Senate District continues.

Yesterday, Department of Correction staff who arrived for third shift at Bridgeport Correctional Center were walked off the job and given their pink slips. The routine continued throughout the day at various Connecticut locations. In all yesterday, 166 Correction Department employees, including 40 new correction officers, were separated from state service.

Earlier this month, Correction Commissioner Scott Semple shared a letter with staff to let them know a plan to eliminate 147 positions had been approved by the administration. Over the past few weeks, the plan changed and 19 more positions were eliminated.

Correction officers and other public safety staff rallied at the Capitol at the end of March to call on the governor and lawmakers to consider tax increases instead of layoffs.

The Connecticut Senate voted 29-2 Wednesday to advance a bill that requires a 50% reduction by 2021 in the distribution of paper and plastic single-use carryout bags from the grocery and retail industries. Senator Ted Kennedy Jr., co-chairman of the Environment Committee, called it “an historic agreement with grocery stores to voluntarily reduce by 33% single-use bags.” 

The amended bill requires a phased-in transition to 100% recyclable, single-use carryout bags that contain not less than 80% post-consumer recycled materials.

It will also require the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the grocery and retail industries that provides for a 50% reduction in the distribution of paper bags and plastic single-use carryout bags by 2021.

On Tuesday night, the Riverhead Town Board voted 3-2 in favor of approving a new zoning code that will allow development of 132 rental housing units and a community center. The development, known as the Family Community Life Center, will be built on 12 acres of land owned by the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, next to the church on Northville Turnpike. 

The Center is to consist of 132 workforce housing rental apartments, plus a community center with a gymnasium, indoor pool, meeting rooms, classrooms, performing arts space, child care and senior care facilities.

The new code creates an overlay district, that can be placed in any existing zoning district on sites that meet specific criteria – including minimum size, roadway access, sewer district hookup, and affordable housing standards.

The present plan for the Center was first proposed more than three years ago by First Baptist’s Reverend Charles Coverdale and Mrs. Shirley Coverdale, who is executive director of the Center.  It initially met opposition from members of the Riverhead Town and School boards, concerned with the impact on their budgets.  

The race to decide who will represent the 9th State Senate District on Long Island for the final seven weeks of the legislative session is far from over, according to the Albany Times-Union. Democrat Todd Kaminsky declared victory Tuesday night but Republican challenger Chris McGrath refused to concede the close race. Kaminsky’s lead on Tuesday night was 780 votes.

Senate Democrats on Thursday called on Republicans to back down after Senate Republican Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cathy Young told the Buffalo News Wednesday that the paper ballot counting process “is going to take a while.”

Senate Democratic Conference spokesman Mike Murphy criticized Young for dragging  out the certification process for more months, while the district has no representation in Albany. 

Also at issue in the race is the balance of Senate power, at least numerically speaking. If Kaminsky joins the Senate Democrats there would be 32 registered Democrats in the chamber, the number needed to control the majority. But one Brooklyn Democrat has caucused with the Republicans and five other Democrats have a coalition with the Republicans as well.

Thursday, April 21  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Democrats spurn Malloy’s budget cuts; Senate approves bill to give Connecticut’s undocumented students financial aid at public colleges and universities; who voted and who did not in New York’s Democratic Primary; and, Long Island’s deer harvest reported.

Democratic legislative leaders declined to meet with Governor Malloy on Tuesday because they do not agree with his revised budget proposal. Much to the consternation of the lawmakers, Malloy proposed closing a $922 million budget deficit on April 12 with deep cuts to education, municipal aid, and hospitals.

Senator Martin Looney said: “. . . there are many elements in the governor’s plan that we do not support and that could not be a starting point for discussions.” Looney said Democrats are working on a $920 million plan, and “further talks would not be productive until we have specifics to reach that number.”

Malloy said he didn’t feel slighted by Democratic legislative leaders’ decision not to attend the meeting and acknowledged that it’s not easy to balance a budget. However, he said he won’t sign a budget that includes borrowing, use of the Rainy Day fund, or tax increases.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey signaled the intention of lawmakers to approve a budget before they adjourn on May 4.

Connecticut undocumented students cheered Senate approval Wednesday of a bill that gives them access to financial aid at public colleges and universities. The bill passed 21-13 after a two-hour debate over how students are prioritized to receive financial aid and whether undocumented students are as deserving of access to financial aid as legal U.S. citizens.

Lawmakers passed a law back in 2011 allowing undocumented students, also known as Dreamers, to pay in-state tuition rates at the state’s public universities. These universities are required to set aside 15 percent of tuition for institutional aid, which means these Dreamers who are paying tuition are already contributing to the type of financial aid they are seeking.

Senate President Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat, says that students who earn their degrees in Connecticut are more likely to stay and build their career in the state and contribute to Connecticut’s economy. But Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, a Republican of North Haven, said he was concerned with the limited resources available.  Fasano voted against the legislation.

California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington currently allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid.

New York’s attorney general announced late Wednesday afternoon that his office had received more than 1,000 primary-related complaints from voters, far more than what it received in years past according to the Albany Times-Union. 

The New York Public Interest Research Group called for automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration. A petition being circulated by Move-On calls for a full statewide audit of voter purges.
In Brooklyn about 125,000 Democratic voters were taken off the rolls. 

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office has opened an investigation into “alleged improprieties” in Tuesday voting by the city Board of Elections.

On Long Island’s east end where the vote was closer than in parts west, election workers reported a significant number of Democratic voters unable to cast ballots. These included previously registered voters whose names were missing and those whose spouses were still on the rolls.  Out of 166 Democratic voters at one East Hampton polling station, 39 would-be voters had to file affidavit ballots.  These were not counted and were sent to the Suffolk Board of Elections.  At another station 181 votes were cast in the Democratic contest while 15 affidavit ballots were filed. 

In the 1st Congressional District Clinton received 51.8% of the vote. Sanders received 48.2%. 

Hunters in Suffolk County killed fewer deer this winter than last, but their harvest still far exceeded historical averages, according to a report by state environmental officials.
Hunters killed about 3400 deer this past hunting season, from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31, according to a report the Department of Environmental Conservation. That’s about 100 fewer deer than the prior hunting season. 

But Long Island’s past two hunting seasons yielded far more deer than the prior seven seasons, when the average harvest was 2,709 deer.

Bow season on Long Island extended from October 1 to January 31 while firearms season was January 3 to January 31. 

Since 2014, Long Island hunters have benefited from new rules designed to help them kill more deer — a response to complaints about deer overpopulation linked to increased motor vehicle collisions, tick-borne illnesses, and damage to forests, farms and landscaping. Prior to the 2014-2015 hunting season, state officials loosened rules about where bows could be fired and extended bow hunting season to overlap with firearms season in January.  

Brookhaven, Southampton and Southold had Long Island’s biggest deer harvests this season.

Wednesday, April 20  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: advocates are worried about Malloy’s health insurance cuts; a Senate bill puts residents before bottled water companies during a drought; and, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders got a higher percentage of the vote on the East End than in the rest of the state.

Advocates are concerned that Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposed cuts to the state’s health insurance program could leave thousands without coverage. Malloy wants to eliminate coverage for parents with incomes over 138% of the federal poverty level with children enrolled in the state's HUSKY Health program.

Jane McNichol, a public policy advocate for the Legal Assistance Resource Center, says this would be the second year the income cap has been lowered, and of the first few hundred who have already lost HUSKY coverage, only a few bought insurance through the state exchange.

McNichol said only 25% bought on the exchange, indicating it's not a viable option for people at that income level, and, with a $220 million budget gap to close, the savings from the second round of cuts would be minimal in the first year.

The proposal would only cut insurance for parents, but studies show when parents lose health coverage, their children also lose coverage. The governor has also proposed more than $5 million in cuts to dental services for children in low-income families.

The state Senate voted 24-11 Tuesday in favor of a bill that prioritizes residential water customers over commercial bottling companies during a drought. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote.

Sen. Beth Bye proposed the legislation because of concerns about a regional water authority’s decision to sell water to the Niagara Bottling Co. of California at a lower price than it charges residential customers. Niagara plans to build a plant in Bloomfield and withdraw up to 2 million gallons of water per day from the Metropolitan District Commission water sources, bottle it, and then sell it.

The bill requires the state water plan to recommend the water rates charged to commercial water bottlers in Connecticut and it requires each water company to recognize and implement uniform drought metrics and comply with all water restrictions ordered by the state Department of Public health during a declared public drinking water supply emergency. 

The bill also prohibits any person or municipality, after June 1, 2017, from diverting more than 500,000 gallons per day for the sale or bottling of water without a permit from the state Public Health department.

The East End of Long Island gave both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders a higher percentage of the vote in yesterday’s presidential primaries than either candidate received statewide, in a contest that saw Trump and Hillary Clinton walk off with big wins.
In the Republican race, Trump received 72.9% of the vote in the East End’s First Congressional District, John Kasich received 17.22%, Ted Cruz received 9.14% and Ben Carson, who dropped out whose name is still on the ballot, received 0.73%, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

Statewide, Trump received 60.5% of the vote, Kasich received 25% and Ted Cruz received 14.5%.
In all, 50,939 voters participated in the Republican primary in the First Congressional District, which includes the East End towns, Brookhaven and most of Smithton.

In the Democratic primary, Sanders received 48.16% of the vote and Clinton received 51.84%. Statewide, Sanders received just 42.1% of the vote while Clinton received 57.9 %.

In all, 42,172 First District voters participated in the Democratic primary.

Mr. Trump got 89 New York delegates and Mr. Kasich got 3, so the breakdown after last night’s primary stands at 845 delegates for Trump, 559 for Cruz, 171 for Rubio and 147 for Kasich. Trump needs 1,237 delegates to avoid a brokered convention.

In the Democratic primary, Clinton got 139 delegates and Sanders got 106, bringing Ms. Clinton’s delegate count to 1,428 and Sanders’ count to 1,151. Clinton now has the support of 469 superdelegates and Sanders has 31, with 212 super delegates still unaffiliated.

Tuesday, April 19 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford and Chris Cadra.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut cities say Malloy’s budget means tax increases; daily fantasy sports fee proposed in Connecticut is seen as a gamble; popular Long Island solar rebate program ends; and, New York business interests push new gas pipeline.

Governor Malloy’s second budget proposal released last week would not only reduce education funding for 139 Connecticut towns, but also eliminate most of the money lawmakers set aside last year to reduce local property taxes.The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities said reducing the Municipal Revenue Sharing Account, which saved a 0.5% of the sales tax for local property tax relief, will result in tax hikes and service cuts.

Malloy’s supplemental budget dropped the $109.3 million in the account to $17.3 million.  Mayors from Connecticut’s three largest cities have urged lawmakers to maintain the funding. Malloy’s budget would cut New Haven’s share from $114,863 to $18,817, Bridgeport’s share from $9.7 million to $1.5 million and Hartford’s share from $1.4 million to $245,505.

The governor said he doesn’t necessarily believe these reductions in state aid will cause local property tax increases. Local elected officials, however, reminded Malloy that they have no other way to raise revenues.

A proposed 8.75% surcharge on daily fantasy sport operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel in Connecticut, likely will not move forward. 

On Monday, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen told Senate President Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff: “There is a substantial risk that the passage of such legislation could jeopardize the state’s revenue-sharing arrangements with the Tribes.”
Jepsen said the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes, which operate the state’s two casinos, could view the legislation as a violation of Connecticut’s agreements with them. The tribes currently give the state a 25% cut of their slot machine revenue, and the state risks losing that money if it violates the agreement. Following the release of Jepsen’s opinion, Senate President Looney concluded that, “due to the risk and uncertainty that would result from a potential legal challenge, the prospect of passing legislation this session is unlikely.”

The two tribes did not testify on legislation and have not taken a public position.

Newsday reports:
A popular rebate program that helped subsidize tens of thousands of solar energy systems on Long Island ended this past weekend after state funding for the region ran out. The rebate program, operated by Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island, was taken over by the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority two years ago, with a $40 million funding commitment. Fast-paced solar sales led to the fund’s quick depletion. 

The move comes as PSEG Long Island prepares to announce that 30,000 residential solar systems have been installed on Long Island since the program started more than a decade ago. 

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority declared the Long Island solar market “self-sufficient and able to function without public subsidies.” The agency continues to fund rebate programs in areas of the state that have not used up their subsidies.

Albany Times-Union reports: 
As the deadline nears for a state decision on the Constitution natural gas pipeline, business interests are urging Governor Cuomo to clear the way for the project.

Letters from the Business Council of New York and the Manufacturers Consortium of Long Island called for Cuomo to ensure the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues the project’s water quality permits, which are the final approval needed. DEC is expected to decide later this month.

The planned $750 million, 124-mile pipeline would carry hydro-fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania into New York where it then would move into the Iroquois pipeline running between Canada and Long Island. The Iroquois pipeline currently delivers gas south from Canada into the southern Hudson Valley, Connecticut and Long Island. But Iroquois owners may reverse that flow so some gas from Constitution – if built – could move north to Canada.

Business Council spokesman Darren Suarez said that potential change does not reduce the Constitution’s economic benefit to New York State. Manufacturing Consortium of Long Island chairwoman Anne Shybunko-Moore said the pipeline should result in lower natural gas prices on Long Island.

On its route in New York, Constitution would affect more than 700 parcels of land, and 120 landowners face losing property under eminent domain.

Monday, April 18  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight: Sandy Hook families’ lawsuit against gun makers advances; Connecticut’s unemployment rate rises despite increase in jobs; many opt out from Common Core math test on Long Island; and Long Island Sound dredging-plan to fix beach draws fishermen’s ire.

Families of victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School persuaded Connecticut judge Barbara Bellis to advance their case against gun makers Thursday. T

he victory may be short-lived, however, as the gun manufacturers could restyle their objections with a motion to strike, under a Federal act which includes exceptions from liability for gun manufacturers and sellers. Judge Bellis said it is premature in proceedings to determine whether the act applies.

The motion to dismiss involved a challenge to the court's jurisdiction. But the motion to strike would go to the merits of the case, including whether Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act applies to the sale or marketing of firearms.

Survivors of the shooting and their families allege that the makers and sellers of the weapon used at Sandy Hook "know that civilians are unfit to operate AR-15s, and yet continue selling the Bushmaster XM15-E2S to the civilian market, disregarding the unreasonable risks that the weapon poses." 

Attorneys for the defendants, which include Bushmaster Firearms and Remington Arms Co., have not returned requests for comment.

Connecticut’s economy added just 300 jobs last month and its unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.7%, as reported by the Middletown Press.

Pete Gioia, an economist with the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said the state is “still struggling to come to terms with a stubborn new economic reality. We are adding back low-wage jobs at a much higher rate than high-paying jobs.”  Andy Condon, the state Labor Department’s director of the Office of Research, said: “Job growth is occurring, but not fast enough to employ all of those recently entering the market.”

The biggest employment gains in Connecticut for March came from the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 1,300 jobs followed by the warehousing, and utility components group, which grew by 900 workers. The construction and mining sector lost the most workers, an 1100-employee decline. 

New Haven was the only Connecticut area to lose jobs in March, losing 700 workers. Hartford and surrounding areas added 1,100 jobs last month.

Nearly 88,000 Long Island students in grades three through eight, half those eligible, opted out of the state Common Core math test last week. This is the fourth consecutive year of test refusals linked to state-driven education reforms, according to Newsday. Last spring, an estimated 200,000 students statewide refused to take the English and math tests. 

In response to public outcry, the state lessened the number of test questions and established a four-year moratorium, meaning scores cannot be used punitively against students, or against teachers whose performance evaluations are linked by law to the results. 

On Friday, the third and final day the math test was given, about 88,000 students in 106 school systems in Nassau and Suffolk counties, or 53%, refused to take the exam. That's up from 66,000 last year. 

Parents in the opt-out movement say the exams are harmful and have age-inappropriate questions, that extensive test-prep time detracts from instruction in other subjects, and that the assessments put undue pressure on students and teachers.

A federal proposal to remove thousands of cubic yards of sand from Long Island Sound to rebuild Asharoken Village beach is meeting resistance, according to Newsday. 

Fishermen say dredging will kill marine life and drive away the fish. They launched a petition drive aimed at persuading the US Army Corp of Engineers and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation to look elsewhere for the sand needed to shore up the 2.4 miles of beach and slow the pace of erosion.  

The Village of Asharoken on Long Island’s north shore is a narrow isthmus connecting the Village of Northport on the mainland to the hamlet of Eatons Neck. Asharoken Avenue, which provides the only land access to Eatons Neck, is prone to flooding. When that happens, more than 2,000 residents are cut off from emergency services.

The Army Corps recommended pumping sand and constructing groins, which are structures built out from a shore, to protect it from erosion.  Asharoken Village officials said they preferred an option that requires only beach replenishment. 

Village residents have said they would not support the project if it requires them to give the public access to their private beach, which the federal government said is necessary if taxpayer money is used to fund the project.

Friday, April 15 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus, Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: Yale divests from fossil fuels; Trump cheered at Suffolk fundraiser as immigrant advocates decry targeting Latinos; Democrats debate job creation on Long Island; and, two doctors in Albany to promote law to allow aid in dying.

More than 150 Yale students gathered Tuesday on campus after U.N. General Secretary Ban ki-Moon addressed an audience that included 30 college presidents, about the issue of preserving cultural heritage. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

During his talk, several students held up a large banner that read: "U.N. supports divestment. Universities, when will you?"

An hour before the event, Yale announced that it divested $10 million in coal and tar sands investments out of its $25.6 billion endowment. The rationale is that such investments are unlikely to be profitable if carbon pricing is ever put in place that would reflect the true cost to the climate of burning fossil fuels.

While Ban lavished praise on Yale President Peter Salovey for the move, the students claimed credit for this first step toward divestment, after five years of campaigning. 

Freshman Arabelle Schoenberg told those at the rally: “And this partial victory is an important first step, although it does not reflect an ethics-based university wide commitment to divestment, hopefully it represents a change in the consciousness of these universities and a step toward what we've been fighting for all along. So thank you guys all for coming (cheers).”

Yale's Chief Investment Officer David Swenson said the endowment includes only minor investments in coal and oil. Fossil Free Yale intends to keep pushing Yale to divest completely.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News

More than 1,300 people packed a Patchogue nightclub for a Republican fundraiser Thursday evening with Donald Trump the star attraction. 

Trump told the raucous crowd that he would reverse Long Island’s manufacturing job losses by negotiating better trade deals. The crowd interrupted Trump with shouts of “Build the wall!” a number of times.

Trump said his campaign “is a movement to take back our country, a movement to rebuild our military, to make it bigger, better and stronger than ever before.” Immigrant advocates had called for the Trump event to be cancelled.  

About 120 people held a vigil Thursday afternoon at the nearby site of the murder of immigrant worker Marcelo Lucero in 2008.

Patrick Young, a professor of immigration law at Hofstra University recalled the atmosphere in 2008, when he said Suffolk County leaders raised fears among white voters by targeting Latinos as potential criminals, rapists, and killers. 

Young told Newsday: “We are going to see people who want to harvest votes from hatred come here and do a fundraiser three blocks away from where a gang of kids inspired by similar rhetoric took the life of an immigrant working man.  It brings hatred back into this community.”  

Although national Republican leaders worry about Trump’s ability to win Hispanic voters in a general election, most Nassau and Suffolk county GOP leaders have endorsed Trump.

According to The Suffolk Times, two Democratic candidates argued on Tuesday night over job creation ideas, in a debate hosted by Southold Democratic Club.

Former Southampton Town Supervisor, Anna Throne-Holst of Bridgehampton, and former Suffolk County Planning Commission chairman David Calone of East Setauket, are vying for the Democratic nomination for the First Congressional District seat in a primary.  
Disagreement centered on who has better experience, who will beat the incumbent, and how to create skilled, high-paying jobs.

Ms. Throne-Holst defends building the job base in the District economy: primarily agriculture, the service industry, healthcare, tourism, second-home ownership, and the environment. She pointed out her involvement with economic development and revitalization, and with addressing nitrogen pollution in groundwater and surface water.

Mr. Calone said he created the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, he was involved in helping young farmers get money to expand or start farms on Long Island, and in developing aquaculture companies. 

Throne-Holst said Calone talks of high-tech jobs, but she questions how many people actually work in that industry.

Candidates agreed on: $15 an hour federal minimum wage; legal path to citizenship; funding for Planned Parenthood; and climate change.

The incumbent is Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley.

Two bills before NYS state lawmakers would give terminally ill, mentally competent adults the right to request a lethal dose of medication that can be self-administered.

Dr. David Grebe is a doctor from Oregon who has prescribed medication to speed patients' deaths. Dr. Grebe said: "In Oregon, 95% of the people who opt to get a lethal prescription are receiving palliative care in hospice. The prescription can restore a sense of control and bring solace. It's like other forms of care that seek to provide comfort and autonomy at the end of life.”

Some opponents to aid in dying refer to the practice as assisted suicide, see improved palliative care as a better route than enacting laws that they fear may lead to coercion of the sick and vulnerable, and lead to euthanasia. 

Dr. Grebe and Dr. David Pratt said palliative care and aid in dying work in conjunction with each other.  Grebe and Pratt both support the bills after experiences early in their careers when they saw terminally patients take their own lives violently.

Thursday, April 14  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers.)

In the news tonight: Newtown cyclists arrive in Washington again; Trump on Long Island tonight; expected in Hartford next week as primaries approach.

On Tuesday “Team 26”, a group of cyclists, arrived in Washington DC from Newtown to honor victims of gun violence – and participate in a bit of Congress bashing. Team 26 was named after the 26 people slaughtered in December 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This is the fourth time that the riders have made the nearly 400-mile journey. They want people to remember Newtown’s victims, and other victims of gun violence. They are also trying to prod a recalcitrant Congress to act.

The team assembled for a press conference, with all seven members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, outside the Capitol. The lawmakers sharply rebuked their colleagues in Congress:

Senator Chris Murphy said: “The American public knows exactly what needs to be done and yet this building does absolutely nothing.” Representative John Larson said that the House of Representatives’ failure to take up a bill that would extend FBI background checks of gun buyers was “immoral and not justified.” Representative Elizabeth Esty, who represents Newtown in Congress, said: “Since the tragedy in Sandy Hook, more than 500 children have lost their lives to gun violence in this country. And in that time, the House has not held a single vote on gun safety legislation. We cannot wait any longer for Congress to do its job.”

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, will visit the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford Friday night for a rally, according to the Connecticut Post. Trump allies and foes are bracing for protests outside the venue, which can accommodate up to 8,000 people.

Connecticut holds its presidential primaries Tuesday, April 26. Twenty-eight Republican delegates are at stake. The most recent poll, conducted April 10-11 by the Emerson College Polling Society, installed Trump as the favorite with support from 50% of likely GOP primary voters. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was at 26% and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was at 17%.

Voters can register up to Monday April 25 and must be registered as either Republican or Democrat to vote in those party’s elections. You can register to vote, or change party affiliation, if you do it in person at your town or city registrar of voters.

Details are at

Presidential candidate Donald Trump was scheduled to headline the Suffolk County Republican Party fundraiser at a Patchogue nightclub Thursday at 5  pm, amid tight security. Organizers expected up to 1,300 people. Trump opponents were planning a protest outside the venue, according to Newsday. 

Religious leaders and anti-Trump activists had called for the fundraiser to be canceled because of its proximity to the site where Marcelo Lucero, an immigrant from Ecuador, was attacked by a group of teenagers and stabbed to death in 2008. Marcelo’s brother, Joselo Lucero, has urged Trump not to bring his charged immigration rhetoric to the village. Lucero and friends organized a candlelight vigil today scheduled from 4 to 6 pm, at the place where his brother was killed near the Long Island Railroad station.   

Suffolk Republican Party Chairman John Jay LaValle, who endorsed Trump last week asked supporters not to confront protesters. He wrote in an email: “Please do not engage these individuals with any words or actions that would be construed as hostile. The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to peacefully assemble and we should do our part to promote mutual respect.”

Police warned that restrictions on all roads in the area should be expected all day.  Parking lots near the fundraiser and the Long Island Rail Road station were closed at 9 am. 

Wednesday, April 13  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: Malloy proposes cutting another $352 million from the budget; a green energy program gets funding; East Hampton residents are notified of the new rental law; and, East Coast Verizon workers go on strike.

The Connecticut Post reports that Gov. Dannel Malloy’s new fiscal initiative would slash state agencies across the board and add $352 million in cuts above and beyond last week’s legislative budget.

To reduce spending by $922 million next year, it would take $100 million from towns and cities and $53 million from the state’s cost-sharing formula for local education, forcing affluent towns to pay more for public schools. 

The proposal, outlined Tuesday, takes about $100 million from municipalities and trims $53 million from the state’s education cost sharing. Malloy said he expects that between layoffs and attrition, 2,500 state employees will leave their jobs before the next fiscal year starts on July 1.

The $20.1 billion budget approved last year would be reduced to $19.1 billion under Malloy’s proposal. Last week, the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee approved a budget addressing $570 million of a budget deficit that is estimated at up to $930 million.

Malloy’s plan joins the legislative budget and will be negotiated with legislative leaders before the legislative adjournment on May 4.

A green energy program that appeared to have run out of money is back, clearing the way for stalled municipal projects to get under way again and opening the door for new projects in more towns. 
With an additional $8 million in funding provided in part by electrical ratepayers, the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority agreed to reopen the program for another two years because of the declining cost of generating solar power.

The Low and Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit Program funded twenty-two projects and was so popular that it ran out of money, potentially crippling green energy initiatives in at least 11 communities statewide.

Michael Silvestrini, president of Greenskies Renewable Energy in Middletown, said Friday that the solar industry has reduced the cost of solar energy by nearly 60% since the program began in 2010. Silvestrini said localities across the state should recognize that “now is the time to act” to take advantage of the ruling.

Newsday reports that a brochure explaining the new East Hampton rental registry law, and another detailing the related town code, is being sent to residents this week.

The law requires all absentee landlords to register with the town and to furnish the building department with the number of tenants on a lease, the terms of the agreement and requires owners to fill out a property safety checklist.  Applications for the rental registry became available February 1 and enforcement of the law begins on May 1st.

Town board members adopted the law in December as one effort to control overcrowding and other problems associated with disruptive summertime visitors. The brochure also defines short-term rentals, excessive turnover, parking restrictions renovations permits and fire and pool safety.

Colleen Reynolds, assistant to Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, said more than 1,100 rental registry applications have been submitted.

Newsday reports that 39,000 Verizon landline and cable workers on the East Coast walked off the job Wednesday after little progress in negotiations since their contract expired eight months ago.

The workers from the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are installers, customer service employees, and repairmen in Connecticut, New York, and other states for fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service.

Keith Purce, president of CWA Local 1101, which represents about 3,500 workers in Manhattan and the Bronx, said talks broke off last week and no new talks were scheduled. Verizon spokesman Rich Young said the company was disappointed that union leadership called a strike and has trained thousands of non-union workers to fill in for the striking workers. The workers' contract expired in August.

The unions say Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers. Verizon said health care issues need to be addressed for retirees and current workers because medical costs have grown and it wants "greater flexibility" in managing its workers.

Tuesday, April 12  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: Layoffs start at some Connecticut state departments; Connecticut sends complaint to EPA about upwind states’ pollution; Patchogue residents plan to protest Thursday’s Trump fundraiser; a new bill aims to suspend Suffolk red-light cameras.

On Monday, the Malloy administration laid off 165 union and non-union employees in two state departments.

Most of the 106 layoffs at the Department of Children and Families were employees at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. According to an Office of Policy and Management memo, this saves $12.6 million and will help align staff with the reduced number of residents at the facility slated to close in 2018. At the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, 59 employees lost their jobs in order to save $15 million.

Among plans to close a West Haven mental health clinic adult team and a café and library at a Middletown hospital, the agency also plans to end outreach services to the homeless and two transitional residential programs in Norwalk and Bridgeport as well as reduce the hours of several mobile crisis programs. 

Malloy will release a new budget Tuesday afternoon that erases the estimated $930 million deficit. But it’s unclear if it will help mitigate the number of layoffs.

Connecticut Post reports:
Connecticut wants the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about the air pollution created by nine “upwind states.”  In a letter to the EPA, Connecticut and eight other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states say they have spent tens of billions of dollars to reduce their emissions while “upwind states” like Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia haven’t gone far enough to reduce their pollution. As a result, most of Connecticut’s pollution is blown here. 

The nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states want the EPA to add those nine upwind states to the Ozone Transport Region, which would require that they install and operate the same air pollution controls required from similar sources in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and improve air quality in both upwind and downwind states.

Rob Klee of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in the letter, “Over 90 percent of our air pollution comes from out of state on ‘bad air’ days…The continued lack of meaningful and binding emissions reductions puts the health and welfare of our citizens at continued risk.”

Newsday reports:
A Republican Party fundraiser with Donald Trump planned Thursday at Patchogue’s The Emporium has raised controversy. 

On Monday, Ecuadorian immigrant Joselo Lucero stood near the spot on Railroad Avenue where his brother, Marcelo, was attacked in a fatal 2008 hate crime to make the point that the Republican presidential candidate should not bring his charged immigration rhetoric to the village. The attack occurred near the venue where Trump is expected to speak. Lucero and other immigrant advocates are calling for the event to be canceled out of respect for the community and plan to protest.

Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle said the fundraiser is not a Trump event, but a party reception planned two months ago. All Republican candidates in contention at the time were invited and only Trump responded.

A vigil for Marcelo Lucero at the site of his murder is also planned for Thursday.

Newsday reports: 
Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta wants to suspend the county’s red-light camera program, arguing that the cameras cause more accidents than they prevent.

At a news conference Monday, the Fort Salonga Republican announced plans to halt the program until county officials can re-evaluate camera locations. Trotta cited a county report that showed accidents involving injuries more than doubled at three intersections in his district with red-light cameras.

The report showed that at 44 of the 100 intersections with cameras, the frequency of accidents with injuries increased through the end of 2014, as compared to the three-year period before the program began in 2010. Countywide, crashes involving injuries decreased by 4.2% at intersections with red-light cameras through 2014 compared with the period before 2010. Total accidents decreased by 3% through 2014.

In 2014, motorists paid $33 million in tickets generated by red-light cameras. That same year, the county paid its vendor Xerox State and Local Solutions $9.5 million. Trotta accuses Suffolk County Executive Steve Ballone of using the camera revenue to avoid a property tax increase.

Monday, April 11 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In the news tonight: bill to allow New Haven to tax more of Yale’s property moves forward; police concerned over use of recreational marijuana while driving; farmers meet with east end Congressman about federal work visa program;  debate scheduled for Tuesday in Democratic contest for First District House seat.

A bill that would pave the way for the city of New Haven to be able to tax some of Yale University’s property, cleared its first hurdle last Thursday. The bill was approved 28-22 by the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

Representative Roland Lemar, a New Haven Democrat, said the bill seeks to clarify the difference between educational property and commercial property owned by the university, and would allow Yale to be treated the same as other institutions in Connecticut and across the country.

New Haven Democrat Representative Toni Walker, said a levy of $78 million would halve the $135 million in cuts to higher education proposed by Governor Malloy. Walker also said that Yale’s tax exempt property in New Haven totals $2.5 billion, but the University currently pays, on a voluntarily basis, only about $8.2 million to New Haven.

In a statement, Yale said it already pays property taxes on its commercial properties and is the fifth largest taxpayer in New Haven. In addition, the University said it contributes to the community and helped create 60 companies attracting $1 billion in investment to New Haven.

Robert Ticer is no fan of legalized recreational marijuana: the Avon, Colorado police chief said Thursday that more pot in Connecticut’s future would increase challenges for cops on this state’s roads. 
As reported by the Connecticut Post, Ticer talked about marijuana’s spread through Colorado. He spoke at the Webster Bank Arena as part of a traffic safety summit. 

Full legalization was approved as a Colorado constitutional amendment in 2013, and there are now 505 medical dispensaries and 322 retail stores selling recreational cannabis. The outlets outnumber the 405 Starbucks and 227 McDonald locations.
Legalization of marijuana may be just around the corner in Connecticut, where medical cannabis was legalized in 2012.  

Bridgeport police Chief Joseph Gaudett said he has “a feeling” that the state is heading toward full recreational use of marijuana for adults. Ticer advised police in Connecticut to lobby against the expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program and to build coalitions, if or when full recreational use becomes the law. He said police have to be ready to fight for more enforcement funding and to enlist the marijuana industry itself to partner in raising the awareness of the public about driving while stoned.

East End farmers met with Congressman Lee Zeldin last week to air their concerns on a range of issues including the temporary work visa program.  

Most local farmers rely on immigrant workers to plant, maintain and harvest their crops. There is a temporary work visa available for agricultural workers, but farmers and growers say the federal government is too slow in processing applications: the Department of Labor must interview each worker before issuing the visa. 

One farmer complained: “They won’t do the interviews. They’re supposed to be here by April 1. They haven’t even scheduled the interviews yet. That’s almost 20% of my work force. What am I supposed to do?”

Farm Bureau administrative director Rob Carpenter said farmers often turn to undocumented laborers to fill their needs. Nearly 50% of all Long Island farmers report doing so.

Congressman Zeldin said “a statutory fix is not the fix for this year.” He said he’s hopeful broken immigration system can be addressed in phases.

The two contenders for the Democratic nomination to challenge Representative Lee Zeldin in the general election this year will face off in a debate Tuesday night in Southold.

Vying for the Democratic nomination are David Calone, an East Setauket venture capitalist and former federal prosecutor who served as chairman of the Suffolk County planning commission for seven years.  Opposing Mr. Calone is Anna Throne-Holst, the former Southampton Town supervisor who stepped down from that post in December to make the run for Congress.

New York’s First Congressional District stretches from Smithtown and Islip to the tips of the twin forks. 

Democrats will choose between Calone and Throne-Holst in the congressional primary election to be held on June 28. Tuesday’s debate, hosted by the Southold Town Democratic Club, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Southold High School auditorium. 
The event is free and open to the public, which is invited to send questions for the debate to

Friday, April 8  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)  

In tonight’s news:  Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy bans state-funded travel to Mississippi; U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro introduces wage theft legislation; Tax Freedom Day approaches next month for New York; and, Suffolk County announces a new grant program to help mobile home parks install an advanced septic system to help the Peconic Estuary.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy is banning state-funded travel to Mississippi following passage of legislation in that state allowing businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a “religious freedom bill” that allows businesses to refuse to employ or rent to someone because they are lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. It also allows medical professionals to refuse to participate in treatments, counseling, and surgery related to “sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning.”

Malloy was able to use Executive Order 45, which he signed last year after Indiana passed a similar law. That law has since been repealed. 

Malloy recently signed another executive order to ban state-funded travel to North Carolina. Two weeks ago, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special session and voted to overrule a local ordinance in Charlotte that banned discrimination against LGBT people. One of the most controversial parts of the Charlotte ordinance allowed transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender with which they identify.

Following passage of that legislation, in addition to banning state-funded travel to North Carolina, Malloy invited businesses there to relocate to Connecticut. Malloy wrote: “Not only are we an inclusive state, but we have one of the best-educated and most productive workforces in the nation.”

The New Haven Independent reports:
Brothers Axel and Henry Tubac worked for a company installing kitchens in New Haven. For the first two years they were paid without fail. Then, for six and seven weeks, respectively, their employer stopped paying them. 

When they met with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro at New Haven Legal Assistance headquarters Tuesday afternoon, the brothers still hadn’t been paid.  They have filed suit against their former employer for wage theft.  Axel says he is owed at least $4000.

DeLauro has introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State is the Senate sponsor. The legislation would allow employees access to employers’ wage and hours records so that they can make sure that they are being paid properly.  The bill also provides for increased penalties for violating wage and hour laws, including a civil penalty of $2,000 for first-time violators and $10,000 for repeat offenders.

Business owners caught stealing from their employers would be required to pay damages that are in some cases triple the wages owed plus interest.

According to The Tax Foundation, America’s ‘Tax Freedom Day’ is on April 24th this year. 

National Tax Freedom Day represents how many days into the year Americans as a whole have to work, in order to pay the nation’s total tax bill for the year. Nearly $5 trillion, or 31% of the nation’s total income, goes to federal, state and local taxes.  Americans will spend nearly $1 trillion more on taxes in 2016, than they will on food, clothing and housing combined. 

State Tax Freedom days for 2016, based on state taxes, range from April 5th at the earliest, to the latest, in Connecticut, arriving on May 21st. New York reaches its Tax Freedom Day on May 11th.

Revenues from federal individual income taxes are expected to rise as a share of the economy this year, while revenues from federal corporate, payroll and excise tax revenues fall. 

In 2000, Americans hit the latest ‘Tax Freedom Day’ ever on May 1, paying out 33% of total income. By comparison, in 1900, Americans paid under 6% and reached ‘Tax Freedom’ just 22 days into the year. Calculations are based on data from the Department of Commerce.

Suffolk County announced a new grant program to help mobile home parks install an advanced septic system to help protect the Peconic Estuary. The county is offering a competitive grant for mobile home communities to install an advanced wastewater treatment system.

This project would replace the existing septic systems at a mobile home community with an advanced treatment system, which removes harmful chemicals and dramatically reduces nitrogen overload. The winning community will receive an advanced treatment system, and the mobile home community would be responsible for the cost of operation and maintenance of the system.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said: "This project will protect the Peconic Estuary by replacing older septic systems or cesspools which leach nitrogen directly into our water with an advanced system which treats these pollutants.” The Suffolk County Department of Health Services estimates the project will remove up to 1,343 pounds of nitrogen each year, depending on which mobile home park is selected.

Mobile home park owners can email for more information. Applications are due Friday, April 22, 2016.


Thursday, April 7 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser and Melinda Tuhus.)

In the news tonight: Appropriations Committee Budget falls short of closing Connecticut’s deficit; a Bridgeport rally against environmental racism;  Suffolk Police hiring new deputy commissioner; and, Riverhead gets reprieve on land preservation debt repayment.

The Connecticut Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee approved a $19.9 billion budget plan on Wednesday. Although the overall plan is out of balance, the committee believes it restores fairness to  a fiscal system that has cut too heavily from social services, health care, and education.

The plan imposes deep cuts by reducing spending about $570 million below that in a preliminary budget adopted last June. But nonpartisan analysts say that budget was more than $900 million out of balance.

The plan would cut less from social services than Governor Malloy’s proposal. But programs that serve Connecticut's most needy, such as mental health treatment, have been cut severely. In the committee’s plan all aspects of state spending must share if more cuts happen, including transportation spending, which Governor Malloy wants to expand. 

Though the committee reduced education funding in several areas, it didn’t go as deeply as Malloy sought — particularly in districts with high concentrations of poverty.The Governor says he will release his own revised budget next week. 

Last weekend about 60 people rallied against environmental racism in Bridgeport. 
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:

The rally was organized by Moral Monday CT, an affiliate of Black Lives Matter. 
Protesters spoke about Bridgeport specific issues like the natural gas plant that's being built, the PSEG coal plant, the trash incinerator that's poisoning the air, the biomedical facilities -- all the environmental issues that are disproportionately harming people of color. 

Organizers included Bishop John Selders of Hartford and Rev. Osagyefo Sekou of St. Louis. Both had been on the ground in Ferguson during protests after the killing of Michael Brown in 2014.

A spokeswoman from Capitalism Versus the Climate who participated in the rally said that going forward, residents of Bridgeport are interested in looking into the possibility that their public water supply is contaminated by lead, since the infrastructure is about a century old.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

John Barry, Suffolk’s deputy police commissioner-in-waiting, has competition from four applicants seeking the $150,000-a-year post, according to Newsday. But a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said none of those applicants will be interviewed. 

Justin Meyers said the names were submitted to county police Commissioner Timothy Sini. None will be interviewed because “none of the resumes had the combined federal and local law enforcement experience we were looking for.” 

The county also will proceed with a request for a state waiver so that Barry can legally collect $236,000 annually in county salary along with an $86,000 New York City police pension. Under state law, any former state or local government worker under age 65 who receives a state pension must obtain a waiver from the state Civil Service Department to return to public payroll unless they earn less than $30,000 a year.  Barry who is 46, is on leave from his federal job and is serving the county police department on a volunteer basis.

The New York State Legislature passed a bill last week that will allow Riverhead Town to refinance its outstanding debt on about $70 million in borrowing done to finance land preservation. By state law the East End towns collect a 2-percent transfer tax on real property sales within their borders. The transfer tax is put into the Community Preservation Fund, which, by state law, is set aside for land preservation.

At the height of the real estate market, Riverhead borrowed against future income from the Fund. After the real estate market went bust in 2008, that future income didn’t materialize. So Riverhead has been relying on its CPF reserves to make up the difference between transfer tax revenues collected and debt payments due.  But the reserves are running out.  

The town, by extending its repayment period, will be able to avoid the significant general fund tax increase that would have otherwise been needed. Faced with having to allocate more than $2 million a year from the general fund to pay the land preservation debt — which would have required a double-digit town tax rate increase — town officials lobbied state lawmakers for help. It came in the form of the bill passed last week.

Wednesday, April 6  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray.)

In the news tonight: thousands of food stamp recipients lose benefits in Connecticut; state officials get a discount on an overdose drug; a Southold group says deer hunting can reduce tick-borne diseases; and, state legislators propose data reporting requirements for police.

Thousands of Connecticut food stamp recipients lost their benefits on April 1st because the economy has improved in the towns where they live.
The state’s economic upturn in 87 towns, including Torrington, Stamford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Trumbull, has left single, childless, food stamp recipients who are unemployed -- known as “Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents,” without benefits unless they get jobs, education or training for at least 20 hours a week.

States obtained waivers from regulations of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or (SNAP), the official name for food stamps, because of the Great Recession in 2009, but the waivers expired in states like Connecticut, where employment rates are high.

The Connecticut Department of Social Services says 3,305 recipients living in the 82 towns with lower unemployment rates, lost SNAP benefits on April 1. Cities and towns still eligible for benefits are Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, East Haven, New London and Norwalk. Anti-hunger advocates say the change will cause hardship for some of society’s most vulnerable.

Connecticut officials reached an agreement with the maker of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to receive a $6 rebate for each dose purchased by a government agency.

Attorney General George Jepsen said he wrote to Amphasta Pharmaceuticals in September about a dramatic increase in the price of the drug, which occurred as Connecticut and other states were seeking to make it more available to first responders.  Jepsen worried the “steep price increase” in the face of a public health crisis due to opioid abuse could hurt first responders’ efforts to use naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan.

The one-year agreement calls for the company to provide $6 per-dose rebates and the rebates would rise if the wholesale cost of the drug increases. Naloxone currently costs from approximately $33 to $60 per dose, according to the attorney general’s office. The company pledged not to raise the wholesale acquisition cost per dose for one year.

Meaningful reduction of the deer herd on the North Fork is the only way to control the serious tick-borne diseases infecting local residents, according to a report by Southold Town’s tick working group.

The group, chaired by John Rasweiler, delivered the report to the Southold Town Board at Tuesday’s work session. It recommended incorporating professional deer harvesting, because recreational hunting alone cannot reduce the herd to a level that will not pose a threat to human health. The report says non-lethal methods, such as four-posters and deer sterilization, are ineffective or impractical, and spraying chemicals to reduce ticks is ineffective.

The deer increase is responsible for the proliferation of black-legged and lone star ticks, which spread serious diseases that can be fatal, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and Lyme disease.  A 13-year study in Groton, Connecticut showed that reducing the deer population to about 13 animals per square mile resulted in a 76-percent reduction in ticks and an 80-percent reduction in reported cases of Lyme disease in the community.

The town board did not further discuss the group’s recommendations at yesterday’s meeting.

The Albany Times-Union reports that a renewed push is on for legislation that would establish new data reporting requirements for police agencies statewide after it was not included in the state budget.

The bill, proposed by Brooklyn Democrats Assemblyman Joe Lentol and state Senator Daniel Squadron, would require public reporting of the total of arrests and tickets, the race, ethnicity, age and sex of people charged with violations or misdemeanors, and the total number of people who die during interactions with police and where the death occurred.

Lentol noted there was resistance to putting cameras in police cars, which in the end helped those who say they are wronged by police and the police themselves.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also asked for more data in his 2015 state of the state address, calling for race and ethnic data on police actions statewide. A Cuomo spokesman said the administration would review the bill.

Tuesday, April 5  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Gretchen Swanson.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut finance committee considers giving up state admissions tax; food activists in Connecticut push to enact GMO labeling; Long Island Sound nitrogen reduction strategy needs funding; and, a New York labor-business alliance fights cuts to retiree Medicare plans.

A Connecticut finance committee passed a bill that would eliminate the state-imposed admissions tax on ticket sales at numerous venues and instead allow municipalities to implement their own admissions tax. 

The bill will cost the state about $2.2 million in revenue starting in 2018. But several members on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee felt it would eliminate inequity in the current tax structure and help municipalities.  Each local legislative body would vote to impose the admissions tax on a venue in its own city or town.

Representative Mary Mushinsky, a Wallingford Democrat, said the bill removes the unfair advantage some theaters have over Wallingford’s Oakdale Theater, which paid the admissions tax. Other venues, like Hartford’s XL Center and some nonprofit theater groups, currently are exempt from the tax.

At least one committee member worried the bill was too broadly drafted and could impact school plays or basketball games at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. However, committee co-chair Jeff Berger said that’s not the committee’s intent.

Connecticut activists are making a late-session push to amend the state’s labeling law on foods produced with genetically modified organisms.

In 2013, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law requiring GMO labeling, but it never took effect because of a trigger provision: four other states with a combined population of 20 million first had to adopt a similar standard.

The trigger was a compromise because opponents argued that a single-state labeling standard would either drive some products off the shelves or force higher prices to pay for a special label. But the political terrain changed last month when some of the nation’s biggest food producers announced they would revamp their labels to abide by a Vermont law that takes effect July 1. GMO Free CT founder Tara Cook-Littman said this shows that Connecticut can repeal the trigger without fear of driving up food prices or losing products.

Connecticut Bioscience Growth Council executive director Paul Pescatello said the anti-GMO movement is based on unfounded fears, not science. He said the label is unnecessary and its presence suggests that GMOs are a danger to be disclosed. 

Newsday reports:
At a news conference Monday, New York Senator Chuck Schumer pledged to push for money to fund the Environmental Protection Agency’s nitrogen-reduction plan for Long Island Sound. He outlined several possible sources, including local and federal grants. Additionally, Schumer said he would ask for a $10 million line-item allocation for the Long Island Sound in the next federal appropriations bill. He said: “Without federal funding, the EPA strategy could stall. All of Long Island would suffer.”

The EPA’s new plan was outlined in a December 2015 letter to New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont — states that either border the Sound or have tributaries that feed into it. The agency said current efforts to reduce nitrogen are not enough and proposed an additional strategy targeting coastal wetlands and watersheds where wastewater-treatment plants discharge.

The agency will hold two public meetings next week, one on April 13 in Stamford, Connecticut, and the other on April 15 at Huntington Town Hall.

Albany Times-Union reports: 
Medicare will release a final price structure next week for a healthcare plan that covers former state and government employees.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is expected to cut 2.5% from Medicare Advantage Employer Group Waiver Plans which cover retirees who receive help from former employers to pay their health insurance. Crafters of the Affordable Care Act sought to reduce such contributions, seeing it as overly generous to insurance providers. This will affect nearly 220,000 retirees in New York, the third highest in the nation.

SEIU is in a coalition fighting the cuts, together with businesses, insurers and trade associations. The coalition argues that cuts mean higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs, reduced benefits, and fewer choices of doctors and hospitals. 

Bruce Josten of the Chamber of Commerce said: “Simply put, these proposed cuts could jeopardize comprehensive and affordable health care benefits for 3.3 million seniors.”  Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acting administrator Andy Slavitt said the extra cost will "support the provision of high-quality, affordable care to seniors."

Changes would not go into effect until 2017.

Monday, April 4 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Scott Schere.)

In tonight’s news: most Connecticut schools don’t test water for lead; retirements won’t avoid Connecticut state layoffs; critics bash veiled New York budget; and, Shinnecock Nation asks Supreme Court to rule on land theft case.

The drinking fountains at Burr District Elementary School in Haddam have been off limits to the school’s 250 students since a test in 2001 found the water they spouted had a level of lead that required the school, under federal law, to take remedial action.

Regional Superintendent Howard Thiery said: "Even when we reached compliance levels for periods of time, we remained on bottled water, and we will do so until we are sure the steps we have taken will produce a long-term compliance". Most of Connecticut’s more than 1,000 schools and day care centers don’t have to test their water, under federal or state laws.

Lawmakers are seeking to expand the Safe Drinking Water Act to require all schools to regularly test their water. Currently, only public water systems are required to comply with this law. Connecticut Department of Public Health official Lori Mathieu said, she would not be surprised if in the future the state or federal government implements laws requiring the testing of school water, “and we’ll be ready to implement those changes.”

The state of Connecticut received 360 retirement notices before the Friday deadline, but it’s doubtful they will be enough to avoid a substantial number of layoffs. 

Governor Malloy has said it will be necessary to layoff a “very, very substantial” number of state employees in order to balance the $900 million budget deficit expected for fiscal year 2017.  He has declined to say how many layoffs would be necessary.  State employees, who have declined to reopen their contract for health and pension benefits, continued to press the administration to look at alternatives to layoffs.  

Charles DellaRocco, a Connecticut State Supreme Court police officer, said: “How can a governor and legislators in the wealthiest state in America decide that the only way to close a budget deficit is on the backs of 2,000 state workers and the people who depend on the services they provide?” 

Meanwhile, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo warned that he’s worried about continued erosion of revenue as the state approaches the April 18 income tax filing deadline. 

The Albany Times-Union reports:
At about 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, the members of the New York State Senate started voting on one of the final bills needed to complete the state budget. 

Lawmakers in the minority conferences had been grousing for a while about not having the time to read legislation they were voting on — but this one was different. Not only was this bill — a technical measure that concerned pay for healthcare workers — rushed to the floor; the actual legislation hadn’t even been printed yet, thus unavailable for those seeking hard copies. But they were voting on it anyway.

Lawmakers at that point had been up for more than 30 hours straight. Both Cuomo and lawmakers want to say they hit the March 31 budget deadline, a feat that has been heralded as a sign of functional state government. To meet the budget deadline Cuomo offered almost all the budget bills with “messages of necessity” that allows legislation to be printed and voted on by lawmakers without the usual three-day waiting period during which bills are normally reviewed.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up its 11-year case to reclaim thousands of acres of Southampton property that the tribe argues was stolen by government officials in the 1800s, according to Newsday. When the Long Island Railroad extended its route through the east end, in 1859, it needed to pass through Shinnecock territory.   
Southampton Town leaders successfully applied to the New York State legislature to have 3600 acres transferred from the tribe to private interests. This was despite a 1790 U.S. law that specifies that Indian lands cannot be transferred without the consent of Congress.

Attorney Richard Guest of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Native American Rights Fund is representing the Southampton tribe. In the appeal to the Supreme Court, launched after a Federal appeals court dismissed the case last October, the tribe’s attorneys wrote: “At its heart, this case is about American property law and whether the rights of the Shinnecock Indian Nation can be ignored and disregarded by the courts.” 

Named among the defendants are New York State, Suffolk County, Southampton Town, and home developers and golf course companies that have developed the area.  

Friday, April 1 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst, and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: a Bridgeport woman found not guilty in the death of her abusive boyfriend; a Connecticut judge will decide if two residents deported to Italy can return to the state to give testimony; the New York State budget provides health homes for inmates prior to release; and a new hotline to help those struggling with opioid and heroin addiction becomes available today in Suffolk County.

Yesterday, a Superior Court found a Bridgeport woman not guilty on the charge of murdering her abusive boyfriend. Despite pleas for her release from 38 national domestic violence advocates and an online petition, 24 year-old Cherelle Baldwin was tried for the 2013 death of Jeffrey Brown.

Brown testified before the court that she had not intended to kill Brown, but was trying to escape him after he beat and choked her with a belt. Ten days before Brown’s death, a judge had ordered him to stay away from Baldwin. Baldwin said Brown ignored the judge’s order, and on May 18 broke into her home and beat and choked her as she lay on the bed with their child.

Upon hearing the verdict, Cherelle Baldwin exclaimed, “My son is going to have his mother back.”

Earlier this week, Yale law students argued in Hartford federal court that two Connecticut residents deported to Italy should be allowed to testify in person before the General Assembly.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant has yet to rule on whether Paula Milardo and Arnold Giammarco, who both moved to Connecticut legally as children in the early 1960s, should be allowed to return temporarily for an April hearing on how criminal convictions affect immigrant families. Milardo was deported in 2011 following a theft conviction. Giammarco was deported in 2012 following convictions for drug possession and misdemeanor theft.

In February, Representative William Tong (D – Stamford) and Senator Eric Coleman (D – Hartford), the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, subpoenaed Milardo and Giammarco to appear at an April 4 hearing about how criminal convictions affect immigrant families. Earlier this month, the Yale Law School students representing Milardo and Giammarco submitted a petition with the court that asks the Department of Homeland Security to temporarily suspend blocking the deportees from returning to the United States.

During last year’s legislative session, resolutions to formally pardon Giammarco were introduced by Representative Jack Hennessy (D – Bridgeport) and Representative Roland Lamar (D – New Haven), but neither were voted upon. 

According to the Albany Times Union, funding in the New York State budget may help certain high-needs inmates make the transition, when released from state and local prisons back into their communities.
The budget authorizes a pilot project, Criminal Justice Health Homes. 

Health homes are systems of comprehensive care for those with chronic medical conditions, including serious mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and HIV/AIDS.  Initially, $30 million of a total $200 million in funding will support the development of non-hospital-based infrastructure. This integrates select inpatient, outpatient, primary, home care, and residential health care service providers. 

Also, contingent upon additional approvals from CMS, Medicaid benefits will be restored to high-needs inmates for their last 30 days in prison, if they were on Medicaid before incarceration. This covers medical, prescription, care coordination, and other transitional services.  

These measures reflect New York State’s goal of being a national leader in creating a continuum of care for individuals with mental health conditions, who frequently relapse and become re-incarcerated, hospitalized or homeless. 

The New York State Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services stated, it is “extremely pleased” that legislature and the Cuomo Administration are expected to approve these measures over the next few days.

A new Suffolk County hotline for those dealing with opioid and heroin addiction became available today. County Executive Steve Bellone said:  “We need to tackle this epidemic on all fronts —including prevention, treatment and law enforcement. The creation of a local 24/7 hotline is now another tool in our arsenal to assist those who are battling opioid and heroin addiction and their families.”     

The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) will operate the hotline and provide screenings, referrals and follow-ups for those seeking assistance with substance abuse. The Suffolk County Health Department will provide oversight and analyze data to monitor its effectiveness and identify trends and emerging issues in the community.

County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory said: “The number of heroin deaths in Suffolk County has nearly tripled since 2010. This alarming data demands our immediate attention. A centralized hotline for people in crisis is a critical step toward saving lives, but we must do more.”  The hotline is the county’s latest initiative to combat a drug abuse crisis that has caused heroin deaths to triple in Suffolk County since 2010. 

The hotline launched today at 631-979-1700.