Saturday, June 3, 2017

June 2017

Thursday June 29, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: insurance giant Aetna announces its move from Connecticut to New York City; New Haven climate activists hold side-walk teach-in; New York for-profit colleges want in on tuition discount program; and, the New York State Assembly passes Omnibus bill.

Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Insurance company Aetna announced today it would be leaving Hartford, Connecticut to re-locate to New York City, a move they say will happen sometime “late in 2018.”  

In making the announcement, Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini sent an ominous warning to Hartford about what the future holds, while praising New York City as “a knowledge economy hub, and a driver of the innovations.”

In a public statement on the company’s website, Bertolini explained: “Aetna’s long-term commitment to Connecticut will be based on the state’s economic health. The company remains hopeful that lawmakers will come to an agreement that puts Connecticut on sound financial footing, and that the state will support needed reforms to make Hartford a vibrant city once again.” In their statement, the company also said that the move will have “minimal impact on Aetna’s Connecticut-based associates.”

Aetna is the second big name company in the past two years to announce it would move its headquarters from the mostly suburban state of Connecticut to a more urban setting. General Electric announced it was leaving Fairfield for Boston in January 2016.

Volunteers with the New Haven Climate Movement held a sidewalk teach-in about the need to mobilize an emergency response to the climate crisis. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:
During a sunny lunch break on Chapel Street, volunteers talked with passersby, handed out information, and collected signatures on a big banner that said “Climate Change is an Emergency. Mobilize now!”

Jamie Wetmore explained the group’s vision: ”I think the largest scale changes do need to come from government. I think at the individual level there’s definitely a lot you can do, such as switching over to public transportation, eating less meat, getting renewable resources for your house, but if the government ensures that it can happen, it’ll enforce it a lot more.”

She added that it’s important to contact elected officials at all levels with ideas of how to respond to the climate crisis, even though the president is trying to move the country backwards.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
New York’s for-profit colleges are waiting to find out if they will be able to offer students a discount on tuition through a new state program, designed to make college more affordable. 

The Enhanced Tuition Award program was adopted with the 2017-2018 state budget in April in response to concerns that free tuition to the state’s public institutions would put its private institutions at a competitive disadvantage.

Under the program private colleges that agree to match the state’s contribution would be able to offer eligible students a $6,000 discount on tuition. But the state’s for-profit colleges were left out of the equation.

A new bill that passed the Legislature this month and is now making its way to the governor’s desk would correct that, expanding the definition of “private college” to include both for-profit and non-profit institutions. The governor’s office is still reviewing the bill, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
The New York State Assembly approved after midnight on Thursday morning a catch-all Omnibus bill that contains some contentious elements. News of the deal began trickling out after 8 p.m. Wednesday, but by then the Senate already had adjourned. The Senate is poised to return Thursday to finalize it.

The legislation will extend for three years sales taxes in more than 50 counties, extend for two years mayoral control of New York City schools, rename the Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo and provide a financial incentive package for the Vernon Downs racing and harness track upstate.

Interestingly, it includes legislative language that goes along with a constitutional amendment to create a 250-acre forest preserve land bank to allow for certain public utility projects. The Assembly also passed that constitutional amendment overnight, meaning it has been cleared by two consecutively elected Legislatures and is ready to go on the November ballot.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers.)

In tonight’s news: Governor says he’ll rule by executive order without a Connecticut budget;  UConn considers a $1.3 billion budget; Riverhead’s Enterprise Park Land Sale under Scrutiny; and, compensation for Long Island workers whose jobs went to India.

CT News Junkie reports:
Democrats in the legislature were unable to come up with a two-year budget deal to close a $5.1 billion budget deficit.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said he’s not interested in approving a temporary budget solution or in signing onto Governor Malloy’s so-called mini-budget solution that would help fund government services for about 90 days until legislative leaders can reach a two-year budget deal.

Aresimowicz said he would have trouble getting enough members to the state Capitol Thursday to vote on a mini-budget. Malloy said doing nothing will make things worse.

July 1 is the start of the new fiscal year and without a budget in place Malloy said he’s left with no choice but to operate state government through executive order.

CT Mirror reports: 
The University of Connecticut’s governing board is considering a $1.34 Billion budget for the fiscal year that begins Saturday.  Uncertain state funding and labor costs, however, could punch it full of sizable holes. 

The budget would increase spending $9.4 million over this year and $20 million over last year. Nearly all of the increased spending will be funded by increases in tuition.

Enrollment is to remain essentially flat with about 23 thousand undergraduate students. The number of full-time faculty would increase by 20. No employees will receive pay raises.

Spending on financial aid would increase under the new plan, but at a slower pace than increases in tuition. No decision has yet been made on how many students would benefit from discounted or free enrollment.

Newsday reports:
Questions revolve around the sale of the remaining 2,300 acres of the 2,900-acre EPCAL property in Riverhead town to Calverton-based Luminati Aerospace. Several Democratic candidates for Riverhead Town positions cited questions over the deal’s execution and the company purchasing the property.

They said they felt the board hadn’t done enough research and vetting of Luminati before signing a letter of intent with the company to buy the property in March. Among the issues they cited was Facebook Inc.’s recent pullout from backing Luminati in the property deal, and two senior officials leaving Luminati between late last year and March. 

Luminati officials did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The Riverhead News-Review reported today that Luminati Aerospace CEO Daniel Preston has liens totaling more than $55,000 against him and his company for construction work done at the Enterprise Park at Calverton and other properties according to Suffolk County records.

Newsday reports:
According to recent government records, Software giant CA Technologies Inc. laid off more than 100 employees at its Islandia office in late 2015 and shifted their work to India.

The state Department of Labor, in a petition seeking federal retraining funds for the affected workers, said they were let go in December 2015 and worked in the design and development of company software. CA, a publicly traded company, has an office in Hyderabad.

A company spokesperson confirmed the layoffs on Tuesday but declined to provide details. She said those laid off were “a select, small number of employees whose jobs were impacted in 2015.” CA says the company has “over 1,000” employees in Islandia, and 11,000 worldwide. 

The company employed 1,800 on Long Island in 2013. CA reported a profit of $755 million for the year ended March 31 on revenue of $4 billion.

Tuesday June 27, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Senators hold healthcare hearing in New Haven; Malloy and unions reach wage, benefit agreement; East Hampton loses appeal to Supreme Court to reduce airport noise; and, Cuomo raises prospect of new property tax if Medicaid cost-shifting amendment passes.

Last Friday, both U.S. Senators from Connecticut, Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal, held a hearing in New Haven’s aldermanic chambers that attracted more than 200 people, who had plenty to say about the Republicans’ effort to replace Obamacare with Trumpcare. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:
Blumenthal told everyone they were part of the team to try to defeat the plan in the Senate. Murphy said the Senate Republicans’ plan, drafted by an all-male team in secret, was “evil.”

One of those who testified was Lynne Ide from the Universal Health Care Foundation. She was wearing a cape, covered with photos of Connecticut residents. She explained where they came from: “ And we had hundreds of people send us their selfies to hang on a clothesline and demonstrate all the people whose lives are on the line with the decision that’s going to be made in the senate, and we cannot back down.”

Senator Blumenthal said he would wear the cape on the Senate floor before the vote to demonstrate his constituents’ opposition to the bill. The vote is expected later this week.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

CT NewsJunkie reports:

Governor Malloy and Connecticut union leaders announced Monday that they had signed off on the various wage agreements and changes to health and pension benefits. 

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, or SEBAC, negotiated the 34 contracts for wages and working conditions.

The deal shields state employees from layoffs through 2021 and extends the health and retirement benefits through 2027. The plan also freezes wages for the next three years, but allows for a 3.5 percent increase in pay in 2020 and 2021.

Union votes on the agreements should occur by mid-July. Then, if approved, the legislature can approve the deal.

Newsday reports:
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied East Hampton Town officials’ petition to overturn a lower court ruling that nullified airport curfew laws.

Town officials wanted to reinstate the curfew prohibiting all flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and noisy aircraft flights between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. from May 1 to September 30 at East Hampton Airport.

In November 2016, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had repealed the curfew law after Friends of the East Hampton Airport sued the town.

About 15,000 takeoffs and landings occur at the airport every year between June 30 and September 30. During that time last year, 24,309 complaints were made about aircraft noise.

Albany Times-Union reports:
Governor Cuomo on Monday warned of the need for a new $2.3-billion tax if an add-on to federal health care legislation is signed into law.

The bill would require New York State to absorb county Medicaid costs beginning in 2020. In a letter to Congress, Cuomo wrote that state taxpayers will face a ‘“Faso-Collins Federal Tax’ added onto local property taxes’ if the provision makes it into law.”

Cuomo named the tax after Republican Representatives John Faso and Chris Collins who are behind the Medicaid cost-shifting effort. They argue that relieving counties of the Medicaid burden would allow county officials to reduce property taxes.

The governor has threatened to sue if the cost-shifting requirement becomes law.

Monday, June 26, 2017  (Thanks to volunteers Thomas Byrne and Neil Tolhurst.)

In the news tonight: still no Connecticut budget; Shared Solar for Connecticut; Long Island Muslims welcome support at Eid holiday fest; and, Brookhaven Town website hacked by ISIS group.

CT News Junkie reports:
An agreement about how to balance Connecticut’s budget was still missing last Thursday. 

An idea floated was an increase in the state sales tax from 6.35 percent to 6.99 percent. The revenue generated from the increase, estimated at about $466 million, would then go to cities and towns to help them offset their contributions to the teacher retirement system.  

In order to receive the funding, local boards and councils would have to vote to endorse the idea. But Senate Democratic leadership said a sales tax increase was not part of their discussion.

With Governor Malloy threatening to veto any resolution the legislature passes to keep government going in the absence of a state budget agreement, Democrats, who hold a slim majority in the House, are being encouraged to adopt a two-year budget.  But the Governor said he would veto any short term spending plan the General Assembly passes. 

CT News Junkie reports:
The advocacy group, Vote Solar, says Connecticut is missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity, and thousands of construction jobs, that could be generated by allowing the development of Shared Solar.  

Shared Solar generates electricity from solar panels installed on several acres of land. The power produced is shared by several residential and business users who are involved in building and investing in the solar array.  

The legislature approved a Shared Solar pilot program but the state missed its own deadline in awarding a contract. 

Vote Solar says that Shared Solar programs are being run successfully in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Newsday reports:
Dozens of Long Islanders gathered outside a Selden mosque Sunday to express solidarity with Muslim residents celebrating Eid al-Fitr, an important holiday in the Islamic faith. 

A group of residents have been attending these events, which they call silent vigils, on the last Sunday of the month ever since President Donald Trump was elected. Organizer Ruth Cohen of Lake Grove, promised to continue with the monthly vigils outside the mosque, the Islamic Association of Long Island, until she saw lasting change and a shift in the national dialogue.

Members of the mosque said they were grateful for the community’s support in a tense climate characterized by Trump’s proposed revised travel ban of six Muslim-majority countries and hate crimes across the country.

The vigil coincided with the end of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims, and the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr festival.  An estimated 80,000 Muslims live on Long Island. About 1 percent of the U.S. population is Muslim.

Newsday reports:
Brookhaven officials disabled the town's website Sunday to determine whether it had been accessed by a pro-ISIS group. Team System Dz posted on its Facebook page that it had hacked the town's website and those of several Ohio state government departments, including the office of Gov. John Kasich. 

The messages, including: “You will be held accountable Trump, you and all your people for every drop of blood flowing in Muslim countries,” were printed in black and white.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine commented “all of America is at risk when you can cyberhack a government.” Town officials haven’t confirmed the website was attacked, but shut it down as a precaution.

The Team System Dz’ pro-ISIS page was hidden within the town’s existing web pages.

Friday June 23, 2017  (Thanks to volunteers Trace Alford, Gretchen Swanson and Melinda Tuhus.)

In tonight’s news: proposed bill would take Connecticut’s Greenbank concept national; New Haven workers picket over compliance with union contract; New York State leaves Nassau and Suffolk sales taxes in limbo; and disability benefits for volunteer firefighters with cancer passes New York legislature.

The Connecticut Post reports:
A push is under way to create a national version of Connecticut’s Greenbank to fund clean energy ventures. On Thursday, Connecticut's U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, and other lawmakers announced a bill that would create a national entity to loan billions of dollars to companies that want to convert to solar, wind or other forms of carbon-free power.

Connecticut’s Greenbank has leveraged $170 million in initial public financing into $1 billion worth of green projects. Connecticut Greenbank projects include the world’s second largest hydrogen fuel cell park in Bridgeport and a carbon-free Newtown factory.

While outlining the legislation, Mr. Murphy said: “Some country is going to be the beneficiary of the millions of green jobs [now available] and right now it’s not going to be the U.S.” 

The proposed legislation comes as President Donald Trump pulls out of the Paris climate accord and guts environmental regulations.

Unionized workers at a New Haven plant that manufactures fabric coatings picketed yesterday to pressure their new employer to honor a key provision in their existing contract. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
The local company, formerly known as Uretek, was bought by a Swedish multinational, Trelleborg, in 2014 shortly after their current three-year contract which expires June 30, was signed.

The union, UNITE HERE Local 151, represents almost 100 production workers at the plant. Union official Frances Boyes said the union wants the next contract to maintain a key element that says the company can sub-contract work, but only if the plant is fully supplied with work.

“When this was a stand-alone company, that wasn’t such a controversial idea, but now we’re part of this giant corporation with manufacturing facilities all over the globe, and they’ve explicitly said that there’s particular product lines in this facility that they can make cheaper in southeast Asia.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Newsday reports:
New York lawmakers rushed to pass hundreds of bills on the last day of the state legislative session, including several key pieces of legislation affecting Nassau and Suffolk counties, but left them in limbo over millions of dollars in local sales taxes.

Legislators adjourned without renewing sales tax authorizations for Nassau, Suffolk and 51 other counties. The issue became entangled in negotiations about a law to renew mayoral control of New York City schools.

The authorizations, a major revenue source for the counties, expire at the end of November. Renewal is worth roughly $300 million each to Nassau and Suffolk.

Democratic Legislator DuWayne Gregory of Suffolk said the loss of that revenue, on top of an existing budget shortfall, could mean draconian cuts to services and massive layoffs. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is hopeful. He said: “We expect the state to act in the near future to protect important services and programs.”

Riverhead Local reports:
A bill passed by The New York State Legislature would provide volunteer firefighters who develop certain forms of cancer with enhanced disability benefits.  Recent studies link higher cancer rates to firefighters due to carcinogenic substances burning in an interior fire. 

Volunteer firefighters who meet certain criteria will be eligible 
for disability benefits, either a lump-sum payment of $6,250 or $25,000, depending on severity. 

In the case of total disability, the volunteer firefighter will be eligible to receive a monthly payment of $1,500 payable up to 36 consecutive months. In the case of death, the volunteer firefighter’s family will be eligible for an accidental death benefit in the amount of $50,000.

If signed into law by the governor, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.


Thursday June 22, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser.)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport Mayor denied state election funding; Connecticut Congressmen call for additional submarines; New York State Assembly approves Montaukett Nation recognition; and, New York State and union reach contract agreement 

The Connecticut Post reports:
State elections watchdogs, as expected, on Wednesday made Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s bid to run Connecticut more challenging. The state Elections Enforcement Commission unanimously voted to reject Ganim’s request to lift a ban barring public officials convicted of crimes related to their office from participating in Connecticut’s Citizens’ Elections Program, which would provide State money for his campaign.

Ganim says he will likely take the matter to court. The mayor served seven years in prison after being found guilty in 2003 of racketeering, extortion, bribery and other charges while he was mayor. He waged a successful comeback in 2015. 

He is raising money for re-election in 2019, and is also “exploring” a gubernatorial bid next year.  He holds his first gubernatorial fundraiser Thursday evening.

Raising campaign money would be easier for Ganim if he could, under the 2005 Citizens’ Elections Program, agree to contribution and spending limits in exchange for state money. 

Proponents of nuclear-powered submarines are asking for an increase in new Connecticut -built sub construction.The House Armed Services Committee plans call for Electric Boat in Groton to build an additional sub in each of the years 2020, 2022 and 2023.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Groton) said the ramp-up in submarine production is a response to Navy concerns that the retirement of older submarines would leave U.S. forces short of sea power.  Courtney said: “The Navy can barely deal with the under-seas fleet from China and Russia right now.”

Both Connecticut Senators have approved expansion of the fleet. In a joint statement issued in December, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, said: “Supporting our submarine fleet is not only critical to naval preparedness, but to jobs and economic growth in our state.” The cost of a single nuclear sub is from four to six billion dollars. 

The New York State Assembly has unanimously approved a bill that would restore official recognition to the Montaukett Indian Nation. 

A 1910 state court ruling declared the tribe effectively extinct and paved the way for the strongly disputed transfer of thousands of acres of tribal lands to private hands in East Hampton Town. The Montauketts and historians have consistently rejected the legality of those transfers.

27 reports that the bill must still be considered by the State Senate. The legislation does not provide for transfer of land back to the tribe. It must be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo who has opposed recognition of the tribe in the past.

State recognition would give the ancestral members of the Montaukett tribe access to state health care and education programs but would have no impact on federal aid programs or economic benefits, such as gaming.  

The Times Union reports:
The Cuomo administration and the Civil Service Employees Association reached a tentative five-year labor contract Tuesday. Representing more than 60,000 state government employees, CSEA has been without a contract since their last agreement expired at the end of March 2016.

The previous contract was enacted under the threat of extensive layoffs as the state was emerging from the 2008 financial crash and recession. It included givebacks--two years without raises, followed by 2 percent annual increases.

Both the Governor’s administration and the CSEA believe that the present contract agreement is fair for workers and taxpayers alike, with a comprehensive health insurance program, as well as fair pay increases.

The contract must now be approved and ratified by CSEA members; authorizing legislation is expected to be passed before the end of the legislative session.

Wednesday June 21, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: the state of Connecticut will use Rainy Day Fund to close shortfall; Connecticut attorneys seek to take Social Services Department back to court; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders reach “Buy American” deal; and, Child Victims Act dies in New York State Senate.

CT News Junkie reports:
The state of Connecticut is expected to end the 2017 fiscal year with a $107.2 million shortfall, according to a monthly budget report from Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes. The deficit is an improvement over last month’s projections and will be closed with money from the Rainy Day Fund.

Connecticut is expected to balance its budget by the end of the fiscal year. The legislature was able to take some action to reduce the size of the deficit by moving $93.4 million to the general fund from off-budget accounts. At the same time, revenues improved by about $54.3 million and spending was cut an additional $67.9 million.

CT News Junkie reports:
Last week, attorneys in a class action lawsuit asked the court to extend the consent decree with the Department of Social Services (or DSS) for two more years because they say the state is again falling behind in processing Medicaid applications.

Under the court order that expires on July 1st, DSS was required to process 92 percent of all Medicaid applications. But that hasn’t happened.

Long-term care cases are now processed timely in 88 percent of the cases, but since August 2015, through January 2017, DSS has not achieved full compliance in any month for the timely processing of long-term cases, attorneys for the lead plaintiff in the case say.

The Albany Times-Union reports: 
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have reached an agreement on a “Buy American” bill that would require the use of American-made structural iron and steel for all surface road and bridge projects. The program would apply to contracts worth $1 million or more, according to the bill.

The legislation would require that the entire manufacturing process for those items occur in the United States unless it can be proven that using American materials would result in an unreasonable cost increase, or the materials are needed for an emergency project. 

If passed, the bill would go into effect April 1 of next year and apply to any contracts after that date. 

Several state departments would be subject to the program, including the state Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the State University Construction Fund and Dormitory Authority. 

The Albany Times Union reports:
After leaving the governor’s office on Tuesday afternoon, New York State Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan said the Senate will not take up the Child Victims Act. The bill would have extended the time during which young victims of sexual abuse could bring a case against their abuser.

It passed the Assembly and has the support of the governor, but Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein has a bill that is slightly different than the one pushed by the Assembly and the Governor.  Klein said: “It’s under discussion, but the Senate is not going to be taking that bill up.”

Legislative leaders were continuing to discuss mayoral control of New York City schools and the role of Charter schools in the city.

The legislative session was expected to end today.

Monday June 19, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Neil Tolhurst, Thomas Byrne, and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: 
Governor Dannel Malloy lowers flags to honor fallen Connecticut sailor; new survey finds Connecticut struggling to fill jobs in the energy sector; New York State Assembly may take up bill that could scuttle solar farm plans; and, ride-sharing services like Uber get support from Suffolk County.

Yesterday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy said that he is directing state and U.S. flags in Connecticut to fly at half-staff in honor of Ngoc T. Truong Huynh of Watertown, a U.S. Navy sonar technician killed in the collision between the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and a container ship in Japan.

The 25 year-old from the Oakville section of Watertown was one of seven sailors killed.

CT News Junkie reports:
A new survey finds that there is a growing demand for energy-related jobs in Connecticut. The survey also finds business leaders in the energy sector struggling to fill entry-level positions due to a lack of qualified candidates.

According to the 2017 Survey of Connecticut Energy & Energy Efficiency Workforce Needs, over half of the business leaders polled, or 57 percent, said they have trouble finding qualified entry-level workers, for HVAC and plumbing jobs, in particular.

Of those surveyed, 73 percent said a lack of required technical skills and certifications was among the biggest obstacles, and 45 percent cited basic career skills like teamwork, communication, and problem solving as barriers.

The survey was commissioned by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (or DEEP), and developed with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s Education & Workforce Partnership. The survey was sent in April to 820 business leaders, of which 62 responded.

Newsday reports:
The New York State Assembly is considering a bill today that would preserve land that was otherwise intended to be used to collect solar energy.  A bill to expand the Pine Barrens designation to include hundreds of acres in the villages of Shoreham and Mastic would prevent National Grid, which owns the land, from constructing a 72 megawatt solar farm.  

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine said: “These lands should have been included in the original Pine Barrens designation.” The Citizens Campaign for the Environment differs, saying the benefits of green power far outweigh the negative effects of industrial or housing development for which the land is currently zoned.  

Public hearings are scheduled by the Department of Public Service to review plans by the Long Island Power Authority to shut down power plants and increase investment in green-energy sources such as wind power.

The hearings are scheduled for Wednesday at the William H. Rogers Legislative Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown at 1 p.m. and at 6 p.m.  

The Suffolk Times reports:
Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are set to legally begin in Suffolk County starting June 29. County Executive Steve Bellone announced the county's participation in statewide regulations outlined in the state budget adopted in April. 

Ride-sharing was previously limited to trips originating in New York City.

Local officials on the North Fork expressed support for ride-sharing saying it would provide transportation options for visitors and locals, cut down on drinking and driving, and offer another way for people to get where they need to go in an area where public transportation and traditional cab service is limited.

Friday June 16, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Trace Alford, and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s House Speaker chooses Golf over a Budget Meeting; Non-Profit Community says budget delay will hurt Connecticut residents; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduces Child Victims Act bill; and, New York’s Ethics Committee meets for the first time in years.

CT News Junkie reports:
Republican legislative leaders are crying foul over House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz’s decision to go golfing earlier this week, while they were meeting with Governor Dannel P. Malloy to discuss how to resolve a $5.1 billion deficit over the next two years.

Senate Republican President Len Fasano said if Aresimowicz wasn’t able to come to the hour-long meeting due to a scheduling conflict, then he should have said something.

Aresimowicz was at the Italian American Golf Tournament at Tuxis Golf Club in Farmington on Tuesday and did not attend the noon meeting in Malloy’s State Capitol office.

In his absence, he sent House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, a Hartford Democrat, and two other staff members.

CT News Junkie reports:
Connecticut’s Community Nonprofit Alliance members, who provide services to some of the state’s neediest residents, are concerned about what happens with their contracts if legislative leaders and Governor Dannel P. Malloy can’t approve a budget by the end of June.

The state spends about $1 billion a year on contracts with nonprofit providers who provide mental health, disability, and basic needs services to thousands of Connecticut residents.

In the past, failure to agree on a budget during the regular session has put funding for these organizations in jeopardy.

A recent survey of Alliance members found that cuts and delayed payments will destabilize the state’s health and human service delivery system and leave some of the state’s most vulnerable individuals without support.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
On Wednesday Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced his own version of the Child Vic-tims Act to New York State Legislature, mirroring his proposal on bills that are already being pushed in both Assembly and Senate. Advocates are continuing to press the Senate to take up this legislation before session end on June 21.

Under current law, the five-year statute of limitations clock for felony sexual abuse crimes starts ticking when abuse victims turn 18. Child Victims Act proposes to change that age to 23. It would also extend the statute of limitations for civil cases to age 50, and create a one-year period for past victims whose time period to bring a lawsuit has passed, to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser.

Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, is offering a different version of the legislation. Proposals remain under review. 

The Assembly passed the Child Victims Act last week.

The Albany Times-Union Reports:
Yesterday, the New York Senate’s Ethics and Internal Governance held its first public hearing since June, 2009. The chamber had not held a meeting in the last eight years as its leaders were toppled by corruption charges. During the long-awaited meeting, Senator Mike Gianaris (D-Queens) proposed that the committee recommend the Sen-ate only grant legislative stipends to senators holding “specific positions enumerated” in the state law.

Though not explicitly stated in the law, Senate Republicans and the IDC leadership sti-pends augmenting lawmakers’ base pay—known informally as “lulus”—can also go to the vice chairs on committees where the actual chair is not taking the payment. Since 2016, eight members of their governing coalition, including five Republicans have re-ceived the payments. 

Payment documents sent by the Senate Republicans to the state comptroller’s office had identified those people as committee chairs, not vice-committee chairs. An investi-gation by the state attorney general’s office and the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office is reportedly underway.

While the measure did not pass, it did force senators to vote on the record on the controversial matter. With only days left in this year’s legislative session, it’s unclear when the committee will meet again.

Thursday June 15, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Melinda Tuhus.)

In the news tonight:  Sheff Plaintiffs To Judge: Stop State From Weakening School Desegregation; Governor’s Conference on Criminal Justice attracts protesters; Suffolk County Bonds downgraded – Democrats call for pay freeze and health plan contributions, Republicans for union concessions. 

The Hartford Courant reports:
Attorneys who filed the Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation case 25 years ago, were back in court Wednesday, asking a judge to block what they say is the state's effort to weaken school-desegregation efforts in Hartford.

State officials say the current desegregation plan serves too few Hartford children, and are pursuing a change that would make some magnet schools less integrated, but would open more seats for the black and Latino city children the suit was intended to help. 

Attorney Martha Stone, who represents the Sheff plaintiffs, told Hartford Superior Court Judge Marshall K. Berger that the state's plan will "tear apart the structure" of the region's desegregation efforts developed through repeated negotiations with the state - following the state Supreme Court's 1996 ruling that Hartford schools were unconstitutionally segregated.

Under those agreements, a magnet school is deemed to be integrated if no more than 75 percent of its students are black or Latino. But with a short-age of white and Asian applicants at some schools, operators have adopt-ed a lottery that gives a boost to white suburban applicants. Some schools have left seats empty rather than admit minority children.

Governor Malloy and his wife Cathy held a conference on Re-imagining Justice this week in Hartford.  People who have experienced the criminal justice system first hand but were not included, marched in a protest organized by the NAACP.  

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports: 
The two-day conference featured experts from around the country discussing issues such as community re-entry after prison, the treatment of juveniles and bail reform. 

But marchers said the real experts – formerly incarcerated people and their families -- had been left out of meaningful participation, even though a few formerly incarcerated individuals did participate in one or two panels. Protesters marched wearing t-shirts that proclaimed: “Nothing about us without us.” 

One of them was Jennifer Nash-Jones, originally from Middletown and now living in New Haven. She served a five-month sentence in Niantic and felt she and others like her had valuable experiences to share:  “I think they should have some say from both sides – the formerly incarcerated and the government. I think we should all be involved, as a team.”

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News

Newsday reports:
Standard & Poor’s has downgraded Suffolk’s bonds from A to A-. S&P says the county is unlikely to generate enough in budget surpluses to build significant reserves over the next four to five years.

That came after legislative and county executive budget aides had forecast the County faces a shortfall of about $165 million heading toward introduction of the 2018 budget.

Bellone and Democratic legislative leaders put forward a “fiscal accountability plan” requiring 221 appointed aides making more than $75,000 a year to accept a one-year pay freeze and requiring exempt and elected officials to pay a 15 percent share of health insurance.

However, legislative minority leader, Republican Kevin McCaffrey of Lindenhurst, called on Bellone to ask public employee unions and lawmakers of all parties to “share the pain” and develop ways to restructure county government.

Wednesday June 14, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: a new report shows high cost of health insurance has caused some in Connecticut to drop coverage; Connecticut Department of Social Services telephone wait times increased to 54 minutes; latest census data puts New York at top of school spending list; and, New York legislators are supporting bills that would limit solitary confinement and reform the parole board.

CT News Junkie reports:
The more than 99,000 residents enrolled through Connecticut’s insurance exchange have a better track record of paying their first month premium than consumers in 39 other states served by HealthCare.Gov.

In Connecticut, 96 per cent of customers who purchased their insurance through Access Health CT paid their first monthly premium this year.

Two reports released Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that as of March 15th, of the 12.2 million people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.Gov, about 1.9 million consumers failed to pay their premiums and don’t have insurance.

The training of 860 Connecticut state Department of Social Services eligibility workers has increased telephone wait times for low-income residents seeking benefits from the state to an average of 54 minutes.

According to CT News Junkie, that 54-minute average wait time includes clients who hung up the phone. There is no data available on the abandoned calls. The Department of Social Services is taking the new data in stride.

On average in April, the Department of Social Services Benefits Center received 156,000 calls during business hours. One hundred thousand additional calls that month were transferred to the center. Another 24,000 clients walked into one of the benefits centers seeking help in April.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
 At a cost of $21,206 per student, New York spends 86 percent more than the national average on its schools, according to the latest Census report, which was noted by the fiscally conservative Empire Center.

The figures are for the 2014-2015 school year and were part of the Census’ Annual Survey of School System Finances.

When it comes to pay and benefits of those working in the schools, New York spends more than twice the national average per student, at about $14,750 per pupil, or more than double the national average of $6,900, according to the data.

New York also exceeds neighboring Northeastern states when it comes to school ex-penditures.

Legislators in New York State are supporting two bills that would limit the use of solitary confinement in prison and reform the parole board.  

A recent New York Times article found that thousands of people in NY prisons are in solitary confinement in any given day and that some people have been held in confinement for months, years, even decades.  International norms have established that solitary confinement beyond 15 days amounts to torture.  

A bill in both the Assembly and the Senate would limit the use of solitary confinement to no more than 15 consecutive days or 20 days total in any 60-day time period.

Another bill would require the appointment of parole commissioners that better reflect the diverse communities that the prisoners come from and set a new standard for early release that takes into consideration the risks and needs a prisoner presents to the public.


Tuesday June 13, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport Mayor prepared to sue over access to public campaign funds; Connecticut DMV will now mail driver’s licenses to help prevent fraud; two Long Islanders sue MTA over LIRR breakdowns and delays; and, Suffolk County appeal’s State Supreme Court’s overruling of farmland rules. 

CT Post reports: 
Bridgeport mayor Joe Ganim is poised to sue the state if he’s declared ineligible for public financing for a prospective 2018 gubernatorial run. The state Elections Enforcement Commission will give its final ruling June 21, and is expected to rule against him.

Ganim faces a likely disqualification because of his felony conviction for public corruption during his first stint as mayor of the state’s largest city.

The thrust of the mayor’s potential lawsuit would be that the prohibition violates his First Amendment and equal protection rights. Ganim stands to lose $1.4 million for a possible primary and $6.5 million for the general election if he’s the nominee. 

Ganim’s action would likely go to federal court because of the constitutional questions, with the state attorney general’s office having to defend the commission.

CT Post reports:
Beginning today, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles will start phasing in a new program to mail all drivers' licenses and ID cards from a central facility. No longer will new licenses and ID cards be handed to someone at the DMV office.

The program will help reduce the risk of counterfeit licenses and ID cards. It also enhances the security of customer identities and reduces opportunity for identity theft.
The switch follows a U.S. Department of Homeland Security directive and is part of the Real ID Act of 2005. Twenty-five states already use central issuance.

As of now, motorists must still bring their old licenses and have a picture taken at the DMV. People will keep their expired license and receive a temporary paper card until the permanent one arrives in the mail within 20 days.

The phase-in starts in the Willimantic office and continues during the next month at all DMV offices and participating AAA offices. 

Newsday reports:
Two LIRR commuters have filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, alleging that repeated train delays and equipment breakdowns constitute breach of contract.

The suit charges that Long Island Rail Road failed “to provide passengers with any semblance of comfort or safety.” It also alleges that train delays and cancellations caused overcrowding and dangerous situations.

The suit seeks class-action status for anyone who had a monthly pass in May. The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages and legal fees.

Attorney Paul Liggieri, who filed the suit for two commuters, said taking the MTA to court is “the only way the MTA is going to answer for anything.” MTA Board member Mitchell Pally said the agency is doing its best to fix the system and a lawsuit won’t change that. 

Riverhead Local reports:
Suffolk County is appealing a State Supreme Court judge’s decision that county officials say jeopardizes the farmland protection program. The judge threw out county law amendments passed in 2010 and 2013 allowing farmers to build farm stands, greenhouses, barns and processing facilities on land from which the development rights had been purchased under the Suffolk County’s farmland preservation program.

County officials say the judge’s ruling leaves farmers in limbo. And according to County Legislator Al Krupski, the uncertainty has caused landowners to reconsider joining the preservation program.

Krupski said: “The best remedy now is to go back to the rules before the amendment in 2010… The judge was confused between the open space program and working farm preservation.” 

The program, created in 1974, has preserved more than 10,750 acres, at a cost of more than $260 million. The funding comes from a special quarter-percent sales tax approved by voter referendum.

Monday, June 12, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne, Neil Tolhurst and Mike Merli.)

In tonight’s news: Pentagon wishlist includes additional Connecticut-built hardware; pro- and anti-Muslim rallies held Saturday in Waterbury; under NY law, private schools don’t have to report sex abuse — but that may change; and, Southold looks for options to limit helicopter noise

CT mirror reports: 
The Pentagon has given Congress wish lists totaling more than $30 billion in additional weaponry not included in the President’s budget.That would substantially boost the number of Connecticut-built Pratt and Whitney engines and Sikorsky helicopters purchased this year. And Rep. Joe Courtney, the 2nd District Democrat says more Groton-built nuclear submarines are needed as well.

Courtney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Navy’s budget was not adequate to the service’s needs, funding fewer ships than President Obama’s budgets. 

President Trump boosted the defense budget by $30 billion to $603 billion. But the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corp have asked for hardware totaling about an additional $30 billion more.

Connecticut Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he would advocate for two additional helicopters on the Marines’ unfunded request list.

The Waterbury Republican-American reports: 
Opposing chants rose across downtown Waterbury Saturday morning during concurrent demonstrations: one against Sharia Law, and one organized in a show of support for local Muslims.

ACT for America staged a rally which organizers said stood against domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, child marriage and honor killings, which they said Sharia Law encourages. The group is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group. which tracks organizations it believes are racist or discriminatory.The Waterbury ACT for America protest echoed similar demonstrations nationwide Saturday. 

The city’s Muslim community held its own rally to protest what its organizers said was a complete mischaracterization of their religion.

The groups rallied in separate, fenced-off areas.There was little interaction between the groups, but at one point a person standing with the Muslims confronted the other side. He approached the ACT for America group holding a pitchfork in one hand and a noose in the other. Police arrested him after he poked a female organizer with a pitchfork. 

The Albany Times-Union reports:
When public school leaders believe a student has been sexually abused by a school employee or volunteer, reporting it to local law enforcement is required. But private schools are not required to report abuse allegations to authorities. 

That’s something advocates and lawmakers are hoping will change as a bill wends its way through the New York state Legislature this month.

Long Island Republican Assemblyman Dave McDonough, first introduced the bill in 2016. He says there are 492,000 children in New York private schools who don’t have this protection, but should.

Newsday reports:
The Federal Aviation Administration recently denied a petition to terminate the North Shore route for helicopters and instead use the South Shore route to or from East Hampton Town Airport. The route had sparked complaints about noise from North Fork residents.  

Southold Town officials believe a second petition would likely be denied. 
Instead they are considering other options, such as filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of the Town of East Hampton’s attempt to place curfews on its airport.

Town officials said they have support from First District Congressman Lee Zeldin, a Republican, who they said is looking into the matter from the federal level. 


Friday June 9, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight:  Anti-Muslim Rally To Be Met With Counter Protest Tomorrow Morning in Waterbury; Governor Dannel Malloy signs bill to further limit opioid prescriptions for minors; New York State lawmakers push for law ensuring state prisons offer visiting hours seven days a week; and, New York state begins accepting tuition-free applications for state colleges or universities. 

WTNH and The Waterbury Republican-American report: Waterbury, Connecticut could be thrust into the national spotlight tomorrow because of a rally organized by ACT For America, an organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group.

ACT For America has called for a National March Against Sharia, happening in cities across the country tomorrow, June 10th. Act For America believes that “Sharia Law” has allowed for atrocities to happen to women and others at the hands of Muslims. A counter-demonstration has been organized with members of Waterbury’s Muslim community and allies from around the state.

Responding to ACT For America’s statements about Sharia, Fahd Sayed, a Muslim activist based in Waterbury, explained: “Our community has no oppression towards any women. I believe ACT For America is nothing but a hate group…They’re holding an anti-Sharia rally which is really an anti-Muslim rally. They’re going to use a lot of propaganda that is not factual.”

Both rallies are scheduled to begin at 10am tomorrow, Saturday, June 10, 2017.“The March Against Sharia” will take place at 235 Grand Street, and the Counter-Demonstration, named “In Solidarity With Connecticut Muslims,” will be taking place at 267 Grand Street, in Waterbury, Connecticut.

On Tuesday night, Governor Dannel Malloy signed a bill that has, as a key component, reducing the maximum opioid drug prescription for minors from seven to five days. It had passed unanimously through the Senate only hours before, and previously had passed unanimously through the House.

The legislation was introduced by Malloy at the beginning of session. He described it as a continuation of the work underway to combat the opioid crisis in the state.

Besides lowering the number of days for which a minor can receive opioid prescriptions, the bill also increases security on controlled substance prescriptions by requiring scheduled drugs to be prescribed only electronically, which officials believe will cut back on the potential for prescription forgeries.

Additionally, the bill requires increased data sharing between state agencies regarding opioid abuse and overdose deaths.

According to The Albany Times-Union:
A group of New York lawmakers is pushing for a requirement that state prisons offer visitation hours seven days a week, which they say would codify a long-standing practice.  Currently, Department of Corrections has discretion on when to offer visiting hours, which vary. Visitation is available seven days a week at minimum and maximum security facilities, but only three days a week at medium security.

Assemblyman David Weprin introduced a bill that requires visitation be available every day at all prisons and allows inmates to maintain relationships with those on the outside who visit them.

One study found that inmates who received visitors in prison were 13 percent less likely to re-offend upon release than inmates who weren’t visited. 

The potential cost of all prisons offering visitation seven days per week would be minimal compared to the state’s large prison budget. Weprin said: “They can move money around. It’s very easy to find a couple million dollars in a $3 billion correction budget.” Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa wants to also reinstitute a state transportation program for those visiting prisons. She said, “These bills [keep] in mind those that are left behind when people are incarcerated.”

According to the Suffolk Times: 
Middle-class students who meet certain criteria can now apply to attend a New York state university or college tuition-free - but living expenses are not included. The state began accepting applications Wednesday for the Excelsior Scholarship, a program Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in April. 

Among the criteria determining if students are eligible is if their family’s annual income is below $100,000.The students must be enrolled in at least 12 credits per semester and complete at least 30 credits each year.

On Long Island, there are about 112 thousand families with college-age students, of which 55 percent may be eligible for the program.

Applications will be accepted through Friday, July 21. 

Thursday June 8, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Nadine Dumser.)

In the news tonight: what happens now with Connecticut budget talks; GOP Fails to force vote on Millstone Relief Bill; and, Suffolk County Republicans name candidates for District Attorney and Sheriff 

CT Mirror reports: 
With the regular General Assembly session over, and a budgetary nightmare just 23 days away, Governor Malloy and legislative leaders no longer can avoid one huge question: should they continue with bipartisan budget talks, or is it time for Democrats and Republicans to go their separate ways? 

Neither the administration nor top lawmakers mapped out a path Wednesday to a bipartisan solution to the $5.1 billion deficit plaguing the next two-year budget. Both sides acknowledged they have dug in along partisan lines on an issue - reducing labor costs - that doesn’t appear to accommodate middle ground. Democrat House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (D-Derby) thinks the Republicans want a wholesale change in collective bargaining. But Democrat, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, (D-Berlin) said: “Those (ideas) are off the table.” 

Officials have known since last November’s elections that the political numbers would be tight. What legislators didn’t know was that an already daunting deficit forecast would grow much worse because of eroding income tax receipts.

State finances, unless adjusted, will run as much as $2.3 billion in deficit next fiscal year and $2.8 billion in 2018-2019. Potential shortfalls of 12 and 14 percent are expected. Every budget proposal offered to close those deficits includes tax hikes while all officials say they want to minimize taxes.

A standoff over a bill sought by Dominion Energy to boost the profitability of its Millstone nuclear power station temporarily stopped business in the House of Representatives Wednesday, the final day of the legislative session. 

The deadlock was broken with an agreement to allow Republicans only a brief, symbolic debate about why they believe Dominion deserved passage of the legislation to preserve Millstone’s profitability, its high-paying jobs and its status as the state’s primary source of carbon-free electricity.  

Millstone provides about half of Connecticut’s electric power.
But there was no vote on the compromise legislation that passed the Senate, meaning it would die in the House.

The bill would have allowed the state to change the rules for how Dominion sells power from Millstone in the state’s deregulated electric market. The utility claims it could lower electric rates and stabilize profits if allowed to bid against hydropower or sell directly to customers.It has suggested the plant could close if it became unprofitable. Some skeptical legislators want Dominion to share financial data to show Millstone’s fiscal state.

The Suffolk Times reports:
The Suffolk County Republican Committee named Ray Perini as its candidate for district attorney and State Senator Phil Boyle for sheriff. Mr. Perini was a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office before coming to the Suffolk DA’s office in 1976. Mr. Boyle has been a state senator since 2013 and was a state assemblyman from 1994 to 2012.  

They will face Democratic nominees Tim Sini, the Suffolk County Police Commissioner, for district attorney, and Dan Caroleo, a retired New York City police officer, for sheriff. 
Republican Perini has called for Sini to step down from his post as Police Commissioner since he says running for office would affect Sini’s job performance. 

The county’s major police unions have endorsed Sini, according to Newsday.

The incumbents — district attorney Thomas Spota and sheriff Vincent DeMarco — opted not to seek re-election this year.

Wednesday June 7, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: six activists for human services arrested at the State Capitol in Hartford; Bail Reform bill passes the Connecticut State Senate; Connecticut House of Representatives approves third casino; and, New York State Senate approves bill to raise the age for marriage.

CT News Junkie Reports:
Six Connecticut activists were arrested at the State Capitol on Monday, after singing, chanting, and demonstrating against what they believe are devastating cuts to human services proposed by the legislature.

The rally was led by Moral Monday Connecticut – a social and racial justice organization founded by Bishop John Selders of Hartford and other faith leaders from across the state.

Moral Monday Connecticut along with inter-faith clergy and labor, education, and advocacy group leaders, said they were calling on lawmakers to reject drastic cuts to human services and to embrace revenue options that will “create greater equity and justice.”

They called for extending the sales tax to services, increasing income tax on the wealthy and a fine for large employers who don’t pay at least $15 per hour. Those arrested were Bishop John Selders of Hartford; Kent Siladi of Middletown; Carleen Gerber of Lyme; Joshua Pawelek of Glastonbury; Michael Reardon of Glastonbury; and, Elizabeth Marie Alford-Harkey of Milford.

CT Mirror reports:
Bail reforms intended to ensure that indigent defendants are not jailed simply for lack of resources won final passage in the Connecticut State Senate early this morning with a 
29-7 vote.

Governor Dannel Malloy proposed sweeping bail reforms that would have largely eliminated a role for bail bond agents, but settled for a compromise that won bipartisan support and acceptance from the bail industry.

The package has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative Yankee Institute for Public Policy. It would make several changes to bail practices, including barring judges from setting cash-only bails and restricting judges from setting bail for misdemeanors in most circumstances.

The package is projected to save the state $30 million over the next two fiscal years.

CT Mirror reports:
Legislation that would allow the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans to jointly develop the state’s third casino in East Windsor passed a House vote Tuesday, after earllier Senate approval.  

A companion bill, drafted to attract some Democratic votes, expands the number of available off-track betting licenses from 18 to 24.  

Governor Malloy is set to the sign the bill. But Las Vegas gaming giant MGM, which will operate a casino in Springfield, is challenging the legislation in U.S. District Court. 

MGM says the legislature violated the Equal Protection and Commerce clauses of the Constitution by refusing to consider other suitors for the state’s first commercial gaming license.

The Albany Times Union reports: 
Yesterday, the New York State Senate approved legislation to raise the minimum age to marry to 17 years old.  The measure has the support of members of both the Assembly and Senate Majorities and the Governor.

Under current state law, children age 14 and 15 can be married if they receive parental consent and sign-off from a judge. Should the legislation become law, 17 year-olds would still need judicial approval to marry.

The legislation also provides instructions for what review a judge must conduct before he or she can OK the minor to be wed.

The bill that passed the Senate yesterday now awaits action by the Assembly.

Tuesday June 6, 2017     (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: police accountability bill fails in Connecticut House; legalization of marijuana in Connecticut hits snag; Connecticut and New York Senators take a stand for Plum Island; and, Southampton Village debate brings protestors. 

Hartford Courant reports:
A police accountability bill failed to pass the Connecticut House of Representatives Monday.

House Bill 6663 has been a priority of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. The bill would have established a five-day deadline for investigations into police use of force. If the use of force was not justified, the officer would be immediately suspended without pay until investigations were complete.

But a revised bill that went before the House extended the investigation time to 40 days and dropped the controversial proposal, opposed by police unions, to suspend officers without pay until all investigations were completed. 

Those changes, though, were not enough to overcome opposition. Immediately after the bill was tabled, several members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus walked out.
Island; and, Southampton Village debate brings protestors 

CT News Junkie reports:
After a failed attempt Monday night to call a vote on a revised, bipartisan recreational marijuana amendment, the state House of Representatives will debate and then table the issue.  House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said he doesn’t think the measure has enough support to pass, but wants it debated in case the state adds it to the budget. 

The bill still has bipartisan support despite the argument that broke out Monday between the bill’s lead Republican proponent and Democratic lawmakers.

House Republican Representative Melissa Ziobron said her Democratic counterparts crafted the amendment without her input. Ziobron said she found parts of the bill’s revised language troubling and would have objected if given the opportunity to share her opinion. She said: “For me to be left out of the process until the last minute is just wrong.”

The amendment has been modified to win Ziobron’s support, even though it won’t be called for a vote.

East End Beacon reports:
Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have joined the effort to decouple the proposed sale of Plum Island from the 2008 federal appropriations bill. 

The Senators wrote to the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee on May 30 seeking repeal of the mandate requiring the island’s sale.

The original bill had intended to use the sale of Plum Island to fund a replacement animal disease research lab in Manhattan, Kansas. But the lab has since received funding from elsewhere in the federal budget.

In their letter, the Senators say: “Plum Island and its boundless natural treasures must remain free from developers so they can instead be preserved for future generations.” 

27 East reports:
At a Monday night debate at Southampton Arts Center, one village trustee candidate drew protesters from all over the East End. Candidate Valerie Smith, who used a racial slur last year to describe a group in her Hillcrest neighborhood, addressed issues such as affordable housing, sewage treatment, garbage, and her use of the “n-word.”

Smith apologized for her words, saying: “They were directed at the young people that had been bothering me in my house for a long time. They were not directed for an entire race of people.”

Before the debate, several people from the community protested in front of the building. Shinnecock Indian Nation member Dyani Brown said: “I’m here to support this movement against hate.”

Deputy Mayor and mayoral candidate Richard Yastrzemski said Smith has both divided the community and brought people together. He said: “There were people at this debate that weren’t here before. It brought unity to this community.”

Monday June 5, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers, Neil Tolhurst and Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight: city officials cast a wary eye on Bridgeport's marketing plans; approval of Connecticut gaming expansion appears unlikely; New York Governor Cuomo acts to safeguard medical insurance; and, Huntington hiring more armed rangers to patrol town facilities and parks.

The Connecticut Post reports that city officials in Bridgeport are keeping a wary eye on its Mayor’s request for funds to market the city.  

Mayor Joe Ganim is considering a run for Governor and city officials recalled the last time he was politically ambitious he spent millions of taxpayer dollars including TV commercials that ended with his name in large type.

Last month, officials approved only $175,000, a sharp drop from the millions allowed decades ago.  

Council President Thomas McCarthy said he would caution the mayor to be very careful about not crossing the line between using the marketing money to make it seem like he’s furthering his political career.

CT Mirror reports:
As the state legislature session winds down expansion of gaming in Connecticut is unlikely to be approved.  
Legislation that would allow the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans to jointly develop the state’s third casino in East Windsor passed the Senate earlier this month.

But House Democratic leaders, say they do not see the votes in the House to pass the Senate casino bill unless the Senate first passes a companion bill with sweeteners, such as a “boutique casino” in Hartford and slot machines at off-track betting facilities in Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury. 

That bill however is unlikely to pass the Senate, where some supporters of an East Windsor casino, including Republican Chris Davis of Ellington, whose district includes East Windsor, are opposed.  

Davis said he and other legislators see a satellite casino in the I-91 corridor as a limited expansion of gaming that competes for a share of gamblers who otherwise would go to the new casino in Springfield. But he is unlikely to support gaming in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.

The New York Times reports: 
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo  announced a series of steps today to safeguard insurance coverage against a possible repeal of all or parts of the Affordable Care Act by Congress.

The measures, taken via emergency regulations, will include requiring any private company doing business on the state’s insurance marketplace to guarantee the 10 essential health benefits required by Obamacare. 

The governor will also direct the state’s health department to block any company that withdraws from the exchange from participating in Medicaid or its children’s health plan.

In a statement, the governor said that “health care is a human right” and that he had also firmed plans to ensure contraceptive and abortion protections, as initially outlined in January.

Long Island Newsday reports: 
Huntington officials are hiring more armed rangers to patrol town facilities and parks. Their primary duties are to patrol town facilities, buildings and parks to enforce state and local laws and spot suspicious activity before it becomes a problem.

Town officials say it has been so successful that it’s being expanded. They want to increase the number to 10 to have more hours covered.

Joe Rose, Director of Public Safety, said they are looking for candidates who have peace or police officer status. Town officials said the expanded program would fill the open weekend shifts and then expand to coverage during the week.

Friday June 2, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: the Connecticut House of Representatives abruptly adjourned yesterday; The Connecticut State Senate Votes to Study Arming Police With Drones; and, Governor Cuomo Vows to Sign Executive Order Affirming New York State Climate Goals.

The Connecticut House of Representatives abruptly adjourned yesterday before 4pm following a closed-door caucus on electronic tolls. With five days left in the legislative session, the announcement left lawmakers and lobbyists scrambling for information and caused new concern about the fate of their pending legislation.

Through May 30, the House has passed 160 House bills and 30 Senate bills.  Over the last two days, the House has approved about 10 bills.

They were set to reconvene at 10am this morning.

The Connecticut State Senate voted yesterday to study the use of weaponized drones by law enforcement, weeks after an attempt to allow Connecticut police to be the first in the nation to use drones failed. The Senate voted 30-6 to have the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council, and the Chief State’s Attorney study by the end of the year how Connecticut law enforcement should proceed with the use of drones. The bill now heads to the House.

The Senate vote came weeks after a bill to allow police to use weaponized drones couldn’t make it through the Legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. That bill was amended to allow police to equip drones with lethal and “less than lethal” weapons, but it wasn’t enough to get the committee to debate it and vote on it.

North Dakota passed a law in 2015 to allow non-lethal weaponized drones. The bill had passed the Judiciary Committee 34-7 at the end of March. It would have increased the criminal penalty for civilians who weaponized drones. The bill also said law enforcement would only be able to use a drone if they obtained a warrant from a judge. Law enforcement opposed the later provision. 

The use of drones by police was also opposed by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to The Albany Times-Union, as President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Accord, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will sign his own executive order, “confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment and our planet.” Cuomo said: “The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change. New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change.”

In 2015, alongside Al Gore, Cuomo committed to help keep the earth’s average temperature from rising. Cuomo and 11 other governors previously penned a letter to Trump urging him not to pull out of the Paris accord.

Just before 5 p.m. yesterday, the governor’s office announced that Cuomo, along with Governors Jerry Brown of California and Jay Inslee of Washington, are forming a United States Climate Alliance, which will convene states that want to uphold provisions of the Paris Accord.

Thursday June 1, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker.)

In the news tonight: aHartford rally in support of criminal justice bills; Connecticut Republicans Push for More Labor Savings but are Rejected by Governor Malloy and Unions;
and, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles warns of e-mail ticket scam.
Dozens of supporters of two bills regarding criminal justice issues rallied at the Capitol building in Hartford wednesday evening. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there.

One bill would ban solitary confinement in prison for those with certain mental or physical disabilities. The other bill would seek to hold police officers accountable for excessive use of force by requiring they go on unpaid leave if a case continues to be investigated after an initial 40-day review.

Sen. Gary Winfield of New Haven spoke at the rally about the police accountability bill. "We’re concerned with public safety in the same way that any community is concerned with public safety. What we don’t want is public siege. We don’t want police who operate with impunity; we don’t want police who operate out of the character of what we think police should be."

Winfield says both bills have already been watered down considerably but he will push for them to proceed to a vote in the week that’s left in this legislative session, then continue fighting alongside the community to improve them next year.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Connecticut Senate Republicans said extending the labor deal another five years is not worth the nearly $200 million it will save the state. Instead, they called upon Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders to join them in making some of the changes to health and pension benefits statutorily.

Senate Republican President Len Fasano said Wednesday that he doesn’t doubt the $1.5 billion in concessions from state employees over the next two years, but he questioned the extension of the deal from 2022 to 2027 and whether that’s a benefit to the state. He said the legislature can make some of these changes without the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which is the group that negotiates with the governor over pension and healthcare benefits. Salaries are negotiated by individual collective bargaining groups.

The Republican proposal would replace overtime with comp time, eliminate two state holidays, increase the course load of UConn professors, prohibit any meal or clothing allowances, and eliminate all executive assistant positions.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy was quick to remind reporters that the deal he was able to negotiate with state employees, which still needs to be ratified by rank-and-file union members, was the best deal they were going to get.

The five-year deal Malloy struck would save the state about $708 million in the first year and $849 million in the second year. Republicans continue to say they would be able to get more through their proposal. They estimate their proposal would save $922.8 million in the first year and $1.16 billion in the second year.

Voting on the labor savings will happen over a period of weeks and may not end until July. However, lawmakers and Malloy have included the savings in their various budget proposals as they continue to address the $5.1 billion deficit projected for the state budget for the next two years.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles issued a warning today of an email traffic ticket scam that could lead users to unwittingly download a computer virus. Phony emails that claim to have been sent from the department are being sent around stating that users must pay a ticket within 48 hours or face license revocation.

The emails contain two links — to either plead guilty or refute the tickets, the email states — that actually direct recipients to a malicious download that could expose the user’s computer to a virus.

The Department of Motor Vehicles said recipients should delete any email that fits that pattern immediately, and should not click the links or forward the email.