Saturday, July 1, 2017

July 2017

Tuesday July 18, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus.)

In the news tonight: New Haven man’s court date draws supporters, police; Bridgeport, Stamford ranked among worst small cities for first-time home buyers; Long Island parents raise diploma criteria concerns with Regents chancellor; and, Northeast E-ZPass border fight means higher out-of-state tolls for New Yorkers

One of two local African Americans who were arrested in a violent incident in New Haven on July 8 went to court on Monday. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there.

DraMese Fair was arrested at a counter-protest of an advertised rally of white supremacists. While some protesters assaulted a handful of so-called Proud Boys, Fair says he did nothing wrong.

He was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer. He was maced and had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital. “I was brutalized, I was targeted, I was assaulted, I was degraded, I was embarrassed, I was hurt.”

At his appearance on Monday, about 20 supporters showed up along with an equal number of cops outside the courthouse. He goes back to court August 1, after his lawyer has a chance to review several videos of the incident. Fair said he would not take a plea deal:  “I’m not gonna plead guilty to nothing. So I asked either the charges get dropped or be put on the trial docket.”

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

A new report ranks Bridgeport and Stamford among the worst small cities for first-time home buyers.

The report released by personal finance site WalletHub compared 300 cities, including large, midsize and small, for affordability, real estate market and quality of life. According to WalletHub, small cities have 150,000 people or fewer.

The site ranked Bridgeport at 94th among the 140 small cities in the report, and number 212 overall. Stamford ranked number 81 in the small city category and 176 overall. While Stamford scored low for affordability and its real estate market, it ranked 25th for quality of life. 

Newsday reports:
Roughly 25 Long Island parents traveled to Albany Monday to talk to the New York State Board of Regents Chancellor about more high schoolers at risk of not receiving diplomas. 

Their major concern is students struggling with the state’s recently strengthened Regents exams won’t meet minimum scoring requirements and receive high school “commencement that credentials” rather than diplomas. Chancellor Betty Rosa promised to look into it.

Of the nearly 185,00 students who completed high school statewide during the 2015-16 school year, roughly 3,300 received commencement credentials.

In a statement, State Education Department officials said they are discussing possible development of alternative assessments based on students’ completion of projects rather than Regents exams.

Albany Times-Union reports:
E-ZPass users traveling the Northeast will see a variety of fees depending on which state they are driving through and where they register their transponder.

Thanks to what’s best described as a vehicular border war, states seem stuck in resolving this dispute. As it now stands, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine charge higher E-ZPass rates for out-of-state motorists.

AAA Northeast President and CEO Mark Shaw said motorists could theoretically purchase E-ZPass transponders for each state they travel through, but that’s “impractical and burdensome.’’

New York State Thruway Authority suggested doing just that if drivers want each state’s lower toll rates. The authority eliminated the discount for non-New York accounts in November.  AAA had sent a letter to the Thruway Authority, urging it to reconsider.

Monday July 17, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst.)

On the news tonight: no Connecticut budget vote yet; Nutmeg State workers voting today on concessions deal; rimaries for Suffolk Legislature and Town Supervisors; and, Long Island Railroad's Summer of Hell continues.

CT Mirror reports:
The Connecticut House of Representatives won’t be voting on a new, two-year budget when members return to Hartford on Tuesday. The speaker of the House hopes to have a new budget enacted by July 31.

Lawmakers have been gridlocked for months over how to close huge projected deficits that analysts say will run $2.3 billion, or 12 percent, this fiscal year, and $2.8 billion or 14 percent in 2018-19. Legislative leaders had hoped to take action Tuesday because one major question surrounding the budget would have been answered at that point.

Unionized state employees are expected late Monday to complete balloting on a tentative concessions deal negotiated by the Malloy administration and by union leaders.

The deal, which includes wage freezes, furlough days, higher employee health care costs and increased pension contributions, is projected to save $1.57 billion across this fiscal year and the next combined.

Voting by up to 40,000 eligible unionized state workers will end today on the tentative concessions deal reached in May with Governor Malloy. Malloy says the concession package would save $1.57 billion over the next two fiscal years combined, if unions accept benefits and wage concessions. 

The plan would freeze wages for each of the next two fiscal years. Employees, most of whom are working this fiscal year under contracts that expired in June 2016, also would forfeit any retroactive pay hike.

The cumulative three-year wage freeze would provide nearly half of the total projected savings. Workers would receive 3.5 percent base pay hikes in 2020 and in 2021, and also would be eligible for step increases.

In return for these concessions, the state would extend its worker benefits contract — which otherwise would expire in 2022 — until 2027. Unions that grant wage concessions also would be largely exempt from layoffs through the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Newsday reports:
Challengers have filed to run primaries in three battleground districts in the Suffolk County Legislature and for Supervisor in two towns.

In the 11th district, Michael McElwee of West Islip, is challenging GOP designee Steve Flotteron of Brightwaters. In the 6th District, Republican challenger Frank Vetro of Miller Place will challenge GOP designee Gary Pollakusky of Rocky Point. The winner will face incumbent Democratic Sarah Anker of Mount Sinai in November.

Democratic Legislator Monica Martinez of Brentwood faces a primary for her 9th District seat from Angela Ramos, the wife of veteran Democratic Assembyman Philip Ramos, who in the past backed Martinez. In Huntington, Darryl St. George, a Northport High School teacher, will challenge Democrat Tracey Edwards for Town Supervisor.

In Southampton, environmentalists are backing Fred Havemeyer, a former town trustee from Bridgehampton, against incumbent Jay Schneiderman, an Independence Party member who is running as a Democrat.

The second week of the Long Island Rail Road’s “summer of hell” continues today, after a surprisingly smooth first week. The LIRR began running reduced rush-hour service to Penn Station last week as part of the summer long Amtrak infrastructure renewal project at Penn Station. 

The project means that at least three of the Manhattan transportation hub’s 21 tracks are out of service until about Labor Day. Governor Cuomo dubbed the period a “summer of hell” for LIRR commuters.

Because of low ridership last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority trimmed bus service for LIRR riders. The agency has reduced departures and discontinued service from three of its eight pickup locations, all in Nassau County. Buses serving the five remaining park-and-rides will run every half-hour into and out of Manhattan.

Amtrak says repairs were running a little bit ahead of schedule last week and work will be finished ahead of Labor Day.

Friday July 14, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: Malloy recognizes his budget proposal is out of balance; SoConn Gas files for three years of rate increases; Congressman’s Office Hours Create Frustration; and, PSEG LI offers to bury some of Eastport’s power lines

The CT Mirror reports: 
Governor Malloy’s administration conceded this week that the governor’s proposed budget has some holes.

The proposed cost-saving measures, largely involving staff reduction and closing and consolidating facilities, would require layoffs prohibited for four years under the concessions deal pending before state employee unions.

A combination of shrinking revenues, surging retirement benefits and other debt costs means state finances, unless adjusted, are projected to run a 12-percent deficit this fiscal year. The gap grows to 14 percent in 2018-19.

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat, said Senate Democrats are aware of the imbalance in the Malloy plan. Looney added that the Senate has incorporated these projections into their work on a balanced budget.

Connecticut Post reports:
Southern Connecticut Gas filed to increase its residential rates next year by 1.9 percent monthly on average, and even further the two following years. The company agreed to freeze its distribution rates from 2015 to 2017 as part of a merger deal.

The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority must approve the rate request. Hearings for public comment are scheduled for September 7 in Bridgeport and September 12 in New Haven.

SCG wants to increase rates $3.44 a month on average next year; $4.49 a month in 2019; and an additional $2.94 per month in 2020.

This would generate an additional $19.2 million in revenue over three years. SCG states its current rates are insufficient to generate a “fair return” on operational costs.
------------------------------------------- reports:
Fifty constituents of Republican Lee Zeldin, who represents eastern Long Island in Congress, showed up last Thursday for Zeldin’s “mobile office hours” at Stony Brook University’s Southampton Campus.

Most of the constituents wanted to talk about health care and Zeldin’s support for the Republican attempt to repeal ObamaCare. One of these, Julie Penny of Sag Harbor, is a breast cancer survivor and grandmother of an autistic child. She said she has a personal stake in the health care battle that prompted her to seek a meeting with Zeldin.

Another constituent, Karen Spano of East Quogue, a health care professional, registered her indignation that in seven years of clamoring for the repeal of ACA, Republicans never thought up a viable alternative.  She also voiced an impression of the fruitlessness of the office hours that became a resounding refrain among nearly all of last week’s participants.

Only a few of those got to talk with the Congressman.

Newsday reports:
At a Brookhaven Town Hall meeting Thursday, PSEG Long Island officials offered to bury a portion of a controversial new power line in Eastport. This came the morning after a raucous meeting of protesting residents.

It is still unclear as to who will pay for removing the 80-foot steel poles and burying an unspecified portion of the new line. State Senator Kenneth LaValle said neither Eastport residents nor LIPA ratepayers should get stuck with the bill given the utility’s failure to provide proper notice and public hearings.

Residents at the Wednesday night meeting also raised aesthetic and safety issues about the new poles. PSEG has said burying the entire 7-mile power line would cost $42 to $63 million.

The county does not have the authority to direct the project.

Thursday July 13, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne, Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut jumps ten spots in CNBC Business rankings; Governor Andrew Cuomo signs legislation to promote growing hemp industry in New York; and, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli releases a new tax reform analysis.

Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Connecticut jumped ten spots in the CNBC survey of “Top States for Business in 2017.”

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D–Berlin) posted a link to the survey on his Facebook page Wednesday morning with a note saying:  “We are making progress – while not perfect, our great state has a lot going for it…”

The survey shows Connecticut jumped from 43rd in 2016 to the 33rd spot in Wednesday’s survey.

The CNBC Survey scores all 50 states on more than 60 measures of competitiveness.

Albany Times-Union reports:
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Wednesday that is aimed at promoting the growth of industrial hemp in New York. 

Hemp is derived from the same plant as marijuana but has a low level of THC, the chemical that gets users high. Nonetheless, efforts to grow the plant for use in textiles, food supplements, biofuels, and even building materials have long been hampered by anti-drug laws.

The bill formally adds hemp to the state's list of agricultural commodities, which gives it the same protections as any other crop, as well as creating a hemp advisory panel.

The state is also investing $10 million to boost industrial hemp research and economic development opportunities. Cuomo says that hemp holds great potential for New York's agricultural and biotechnology industries.

Albany Times-Union reports:
The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the Federal tax code could cause New Yorkers who itemize to lose up to $67 billion worth of deductions but may also lower the overall tax burden on lower-income salaries.  New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said the proposed changes would be “devastating.”  

An analysis released recently by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli showed that loss of the ability to deduct state, local, property, and school taxes would primarily impact downstate taxpayers. Upstate taxpayers would benefit because the changes include doubling the standard deduction.  

Other proposed changes, like reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to three, with rates of 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent, could benefit New Yorkers currently in the top tax bracket, but the impact is unclear since the administration has not specified the income thresholds.

Wednesday July 12, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker.)

In tonight's news: Naval War Games Planned for Local Waters; Connecticut’s budget saga continues; New Haveners want to turn closed school into arts center; and, New York’s Industrial Development Authorities examined.

The online blog ECO-RI reports:  
Live weapons and full sonar will be used in coastal, inland and offshore  areas of New York and New England in 2018, if a proposed Navy war exercise is approved. The Navy intends to fire missiles, rockets, lasers, grenades and torpedoes, detonate mines and explosive buoys, and use all types of sonar in a series of live war exercises in inland and offshore waters along the East Coast.

The areas where the weapons and sonar may be deployed encompass the entire New England coastline, including civilian ports, bays, harbors, airports and inland waterways. The dates and exact locations haven't been released. 

An environmental impact study of the war games was released June 30.  Risks to sea life include entanglements, vessel strikes, ingesting of harmful materials, hearing loss, physiological stress, and changes in behavior.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 19 from 4 to 8 pm in Providence at the Hotel Providence. 

Tuesday, with the General Assembly one week away from its latest budget deadline, Connecticut lawmakers remained gridlocked over how to close a projected $5.1 billion deficit. The challenge of closing deficits ranging from 12 to 14 percent of annual General Fund spending has perplexed state officials for months.

Governor Dannell Malloy, who is running state finances by executive order, said, “We think it is time for the adults to get in a room together, to negotiate and to get the job done.” 

But House Republicans had their people listening intently to their proposal, including four moderate Democrats who sat among the GOP as the budget proposal was discussed. One of these, Jonathan Steinberg, of Westport, said: “I’m tired of talking about Democrat or Republican budgets. It’s time we had a budget for the people of the of state of Connecticut.” 

Neighbors in New Haven, who are hoping to turn a closed school into a community arts center, painted murals on the wood covering the windows last weekend. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
Dozens of children and adults painted in the outlines drawn by a Mexican muralist who is related to one of the key organizers, Fatima Rojas. In a three-hour meeting last week, people contributed ideas to be depicted on each of the panels that ring the historic building. They represented peoples who have lived in Fair Haven over the centuries, starting with the indigenous Quinnipiacs, Rojas said: “We are representing unity, diversity and the different cultures in Fair Haven.”

In an effort to drum up support for their hoped-for center, other images represented the arts, she added: “So we have like the visual arts, music, theater, dance.”

Residents are hoping the city will agree to their proposal. Their next step is to organize a concert on the platform facing Grand Avenue. 

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

New York News Connection reports:
The billions of dollars spent on Industrial Development Authorities in New York are not creating measurable benefits according to a report from the Authorities Budget Office. The report found significant problems at many of the 578 public authorities in New York. 

The authorities work outside the state budget process to spur economic development. But Alex Camarda, senior policy consultant for Reinvent Albany, says the authorities have no direct impact on private-sector job growth.

The three counties with the highest number of projects approved by local authorities showed growth in private-sector employment, but at levels below the state average. While authorities get money from the state, they also can issue bonds and currently have a combined total debt of almost $270 billion. 

Tuesday, July 11 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.) 

In the news tonight:  Connecticut opioid crisis shows no signs of slowing; animal advocates challenge Connecticut’s dog death penalty; Southold Town committee identifies top priorities for land preservation; and, SUNY proposal to allow charter schools certify their own teachers raises debate.

CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner James Gill told first responders and community providers on Monday that accidental drug intoxication deaths “are not decreasing.”
Doctor Gill was a featured presenter at a summit on the opioid epidemic organized by Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal. 

The medical examiner told the audience that the state is seeing two to three accidental overdose related deaths a day, sometimes five or six. While his office hasn’t compiled firm statistics for the first half of 2017, Gill said nothing has indicated that the opioid crisis is slowing. Accidental drug intoxication deaths in the state over the past five years have spiked each year with more than 2.5 times as many deaths in 2016 than in 2012. 

The senators will send recommendations outlining areas in Connecticut in need of federal support and reform to President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.  

Hartford Courant reports:
Several Connecticut dog owners filed a lawsuit claiming the state has violated their rights by holding animals deemed dangerous for years on what’s essentially a canine death row. A federal judge heard arguments Monday.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status and an injunction to prevent the destruction of any animal under a disposal order while the court decides if the state law is constitutional.
Attorney Thompson Page argued the state has no standards for determining when an animal should be euthanized, and it’s an unreasonable seizure of property.

Animal owners have 14 days after a destruction order to request an appeal hearing before the State Department of Agriculture’s Animal Control Division.

State agriculture commissioner Steven Reviczky said his department provides extensive training to animal control officers. He said he also supports legislation that would shift the decision in life-or-death appeals to the courts. 

Albany Times-Union reports:
A last-minute proposal allowing some charter schools to hire uncertified teachers with as little as 30 hours of classroom experience has spurred debate between state education officials and advocacy groups.

In a July 6 emergency meeting, the SUNY board of trustees’ charter school committee approved granting high-achieving charter schools the power to develop their own teacher certification requirements. A 45-day public comment period follows.

The proposal drew criticism from the state teachers unions and the state Education Department. United University Professions president Frederick Kowal said: “It sends a terrible message to New Yorkers, who want the best teachers in their children’s classrooms, not educators who enter the profession by a short cut.”

Charter school advocates argue the proposal would help schools struggling to find quality teachers who are certified in New York.

The Suffolk Times reports:
New guidelines put forth by Southold Town Board’s land preservation committee rank farmland adjacent to already preserved farmland as the highest priority for preservation. 

The committee also recommended the Town Board set aside $2.5 million to preserve as much of this top-priority farmland first.

Town land preservation coordinator Melissa Spiro said the proposed priority rankings would be formal guidelines to the Town Board but not part of the Town Code.

Monday July 10, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst.)

In tonight's news: Day 7 of the 2017 Connecticut Budget Impasse; Bridgeport clergy set to meet with Chief over police killing of youth; New York State Re-districting agency questioned; and, Long Island Railroad service disrupted for the summer.

Connecticut News Junkie reports:
On Friday legislative leaders and Governor Dannel Malloy hit Day Seven of The 2017 Budget Impasse, all wanting to reach an agreement, none presenting a clear path forward. 

Malloy told reporters that Senate Democrats don’t agree with Democrats in the House and Senate Republicans don’t agree with Republicans in the House. Malloy said: “Nobody is agreeing with anybody at the moment.” 

The governor is opposed to leading the budget with tax increases, including the House Democrats’ proposal to raise sales tax by 0.64 percent.  House Democrats want to run their budget on July 18. Senate Democrats already have an outline for a budget. 

House Republicans are holding a budget forum on July 11. Senate Republicans have had their proposal ready since --------------------------------------

The Connecticut Post reports:
On Wednesday afternoon representatives from Congregations Organized for a new Connecticut, a group of 25 church, synagogue and mosques leaders, will meet with Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez.

The police department is working to address one of the criticisms stemming from the May 9 shooting by police of teenager Jayson Negron — that his lifeless body was left in the middle of Fairfield Avenue for about six hours.

Capt. Roderick Porter wants to purchase four large specialty screens to create a wall around the inner parts of a crime scene. They protect evidence and give dignity and respect to victims. 

David McGuire, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said: "It makes perfect sense to not have the body of someone recently killed just sit out there for hours. That was an issue that really upset the community." 

Newsday reports:
Extensive track repairs that partly shut down Penn Station are affecting Long Island Railroad commuters this summer. The work started this weekend and will be complete on September 1.

Transportation officials are relying on a web of alternatives to move the masses — from express buses and ferries to diverting trains to other subway-linked terminals. Officials are urging the commuters to stick with mass transit and not drive, to keep from creating massive traffic backups. 

During the repair work, LIRR service will be reduced by 20 percent between 6 and 10 a.m. and 4 and 8 p.m. 

The railroad will run extra off-peak trains, trains with additional cars, trains re-routed to stations where riders can transfer for free to subways, and provide ferries and express coach buses at no additional cost. 

The Albany Times Union reports:
Every decade, New York state redraws its legislative and congressional districts in a process that critics have derided as skewed toward incumbents and majority parties.

The last redistricting ended in 2012, and the years between then and the 2020 federal census — which will provide fresh demographic data before a new round — would arguably include a lot of downtime for the task force that was once assigned to do the work.

Yet records show the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Appointment maintains a large and expensive staff, even though its power to draw district lines was taken away by a constitutional amendment passed three years ago. 

Between October 2015 and September 2016, nearly $1.5 million was spent on staff and other expenses by LATFOR. But the office has not issued a news release in five years and its website provides no information on any work unfolding there now. 

Friday July 7, 2017  A Local News special (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Hazel Kahan.)

In the news tonight:
Interview with Beth Youngpublisher of East End Beacon, based on The New Pioneers of SEPA Mujer, a story about Latina women on the East End, reported by Jo-Ann McLean,, July 6, 2017

Thursday July 6, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s Secretary of the State declines President Trump’s request for voter information; Connecticut advocates say political climate is contributing to LGBTQ discrimination; a Connecticut man drowned in the Long Island Sound near Plum Island; and, Suffolk County officials schedule public meetings to discuss shared services initiative.

Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she’s concluded that complying with a request for information from President Donald Trump’s commission investigating the integrity of the 2016 election “is not in the best interest of Connecticut residents.”

Merrill, who at first said she would supply any publicly available data to the commission, sent a letter on July 2 to Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, to let him know that the request was “overly broad and required the sharing of Connecticut residents’ personally identifiable information for the vague purpose of ‘analyzing vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.’”

Kobach, whose commission was created by an executive order in May, sent a letter to 50 states last week requesting voter data. 

Merrill is not alone in her skepticism of the presidential commission. CNN reported that 44 states and the District of Columbia have refused to provide certain types of information to the election integrity commission.

Connecticut News Junkie reports:
It wasn’t necessarily a call for more legislation yesterday, but it was a call to action at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

At a press conference yesterday following the suicides of one gay and two transgender teens over the past three months, LGBTQ advocates and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal called on Connecticut residents to intervene if they witness bullying. Blumenthal said there is an old adage that says: “Nothing is needed for the triumph of evil except for good people to do nothing.”

In March, Blumenthal introduced legislation called the National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equity (NO HATE) Act. The bill would improve the reporting of hate crimes and provide funding for states to establish hate crimes hotlines. The legislation would also allow judges to sentence those convicted under federal hate crime laws to community service or education centered on the community targeted by the crime. 

Blumenthal cited the rescission of Obama-era guidelines related to transgender students within the U.S. Department of Education as one of the reasons they need to remain vigilant.

Southold LOCAL reports:
A 63-year-old Connecticut man drowned in the Long Island Sound near Plum Island Tuesday.  According to his wife, Harold T. Calkins, 63, dove off his anchored boat, got caught in the current, and was unable to make it back to the vessel.

Calkins, of Stonington, Connecticut, was transported by the Coast Guard to Eastern Long Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The death is being investigated by Southold Town Police detectives and Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office but does not appear criminal in nature.

Suffolk Times reports:
Suffolk County officials have scheduled a series of public meetings to discuss a shared services initiative aimed at streamlining bureaucracy and finding savings among local municipalities, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Wednesday in a press release.

An upcoming meeting will be held Monday, July 10, at 6pm at Southampton Town Hall.

The state’s Countywide Shared Services Initiative was signed into law earlier this year, requiring county, town and village officials to vote on a plan that proposes new inter-municipal services that would save tax dollars through coordinated actions, officials said.

Meetings will be held July 10 at 11 am at East Hampton Town Hall; July 11 at 1 pm at Babylon Town Hall; and July 18 at 6 pm at Huntington Town Hall.

Wednesday July 5, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker.)

On tonight’s news: Connecticut will defend its education policy with the Federal Education Department; a constitutional convention for New York; and, New Affordable Housing for Huntington
CT Mirror reports:
Reviewers at the federal education department found the way Connecticut measures the performance of its public schools lacking and its plans to begin tracking the achievement of English learners vague. 

State officials must now decide whether they want to revise or defend Connecticut’s plan for complying with federal law before U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos officially considers whether to approve or reject it.

The federal education department found five areas where the state fell short including how the State grades schools – Connecticut takes student improvement into account in the school’s evaluation. Also, the Feds challenged the measurement of the achievement gap.

The state groups together all students with special education needs, English learners and those from low-income families. It measures their average performance to determine if intervention is necessary. And the Feds say Connecticut has no plan for tracking English language learners. Laura Stefon, of the state education department, said Monday “the state will provide clarification where necessary, make tweaks if appropriate, and respectfully disagree with the Feds where necessary.”

The Albany Times Union reports: 
Good-government and civic groups in New York are joining forces to press for a constitutional convention in 2019, with a vote on whether to hold a convention set for this November. One group, the Committee for a Constitutional Convention, boasts the support of former state officials including former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and former Gov. David Paterson.

The new coalition wants changes to the constitution including the creation of a public financing system for campaigns, election reforms like same-day registration, court reforms to make it easier to navigate the judicial system and the ability for local municipalities to exercise greater control over issues they traditionally need state authority to manage.

More than 100 groups have formed to oppose a convention.  New Yorkers Against Corruption, questions the cost of a convention — estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, and whether delegates would be the same political insiders who pull levers at the Capitol and just what amendments could come out of a convention process.

Newsday reports: 
An innovative solution that addresses a need for affordable housing for larger families in Huntington is now complete. Highland Green recently opened at One Strathmore Way in Melville. It’s Long Island’s first limited equity cooperative housing development, town officials said.

Limited equity cooperatives are designed to provide affordable homeownership to qualified, income-eligible residents by allowing them to purchase shares in the development for a minimal investment.  When the lottery was held last year, 171 people applied. All 117 units are occupied and there is currently a waiting list, town officials said. 

Ulysses Spicer, NAACP Huntington Branch past vice president in charge of the housing committee and current state conference secretary, said his group is pleased with the development. “We knew there was a great need for family units that were rentals,” Spicer said. “This was a winning agreement.” 

Tuesday July 4, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut American-Islamic group sues federal agencies for information; University of New Haven professor studies stevia as Lyme disease treatment; New Yorkers to vote on pension stripping, forest preserve in November; Brookhaven looks to new state laws to save horseshoe crabs

CT NewsJunkie reports:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Connecticut chapter, or CAIR-CT, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against three federal government agencies for their failure to turn over information on policies, communications, and statistics related to visa processing and screening.

The Latino immigrant group Make the Road New York joined CAIR-CT in the lawsuit, which names the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the State Department.

Represented by Yale University law students, the groups’ lawsuit seeks information from the federal government to get clarity about who would be impacted by any travel bans put into place. The groups suspect that the Trump administration has been accomplishing the same goals as a Muslim ban through informal means.

The Connecticut Post Reports: 
Research by a University of New Haven biology professor shows stevia as a possible treatment for Lyme disease. The work done by professor Eva Sapi and students in the university’s Lyme Disease Research Group still must be borne out by clinical trials, but looks promising.

They found that the most antibiotic-resistant form of the Lyme disease–causing bacteria increased in mass with individual antibiotics. But liquid, whole-leaf stevia extract reduced it by about 40 percent.

Their results were first published in late 2015 and the researchers have done several confirmation studies since then. Sapi says: “So far, we haven’t seen anything better.”

She emphasized that the results have not been proven yet. Her team is awaiting the results of a trial that involves combining stevia with antibiotics.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
The November general election ballot will feature two constitutional amendments. One deals with stripping convicted public officials of their pensions. The other would create a forest preserve land bank.

The pension stripping amendment has received considerable attention amid scandal after scandal at the state Capitol. The amendment would allow a judge to reduce or revoke the public pension of any elected official, state official appointed by the governor, judge or certain other employees convicted of a felony related to their duties. If approved, the amendment would apply to crimes occurring after January 1, 2018.

The other amendment would create a 250-acre land bank that could be used for the construction of utility lines and bike paths along existing highway rights-of-way. It would also allow for municipal water and bridge repair, and road improvement projects in state forest preserves.

Newsday reports:
Brookhaven officials said state legislation extending state regulatory authority over horseshoe crabs might help save the prehistoric creatures from overharvesting.

The state Senate and Assembly passed a pair of bills requiring state environmental officials to cooperate with counties, towns and villages that want to ban catching horseshoe crabs on municipal properties. The bills require Governor Cuomo’s signature.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials said horseshoe crab populations on Long Island are relatively steady, but have declined in some areas.
Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine said the legislation would give horseshoe crabs “an opportunity as a species to survive.”

Monday July 3, 2017 (Thanks to volunteers Liz Becker, Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst.)

In the news tonight: Governor prepares Connecticut for Life without a budget; New Connecticut Laws Went Into Effect July 1; term limits for Huntington Town offices;
and, seaweed - a new harvest from East End bays

Governor Malloy urged legislative leaders to adopt a new budget as he signed an executive order Friday to begin managing state finances without one. Malloy repeated his warning that social services, aid to towns and most other programs would suffer significantly without a new budget.

Legislators have been gridlocked for months over how to close huge projected deficits. State finances, unless adjusted, are projected to run $2.3 billion in deficit in 2017-18, a shortfall of 12 percent. The potential gap rises to $2.8 billion or 14 percent in 2018-19.

Lawmakers have said they hope to avoid major tax hikes after ordering them in 2011 and 2015. 

Taxes remain a point of contention, as do proposed cuts to social services and municipal aid, as well as a tentative concessions deal between the governor and state employee union leaders.

CT News Junkie reports:
A dozen new laws went into effect on Saturday, July 1. 

One new law will prohibit judges from setting cash-only bail for misdemeanor charges unless it is a family violence case or the judge believes the individual is dangerous. In addition, it requires courts to hold a bail review hearing within 14 days of arraignment, instead of 30 days under current law.

It is estimated that the new law will reduce the pretrial population by 330 inmates or 10 percent and save the state approximately $31.3 million over the next two years. 

Other laws that took effect Saturday include the formation of a new task force to look at developing a universal preschool program, and authorization for the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to open a new casino in East Windsor.

Newsday reports:
Huntington Town Board member Gene Cook says it’s time to institute term limits for elected officials in the town.

Cook is asking for opinions on the issue and is even encouraging all Long Islanders to weigh in. He is drafting legislation to schedule an informational public hearing in September to discuss the issue.

There has been discussion over the years about whether elected officials in the town should be limited to eight years or 12 in office, and whether elected officials who do not make policy — such as the town clerk, receiver of taxes and highway superintendent — should be subject to term limits.

Terms are presently four years, and Cook was re-elected to his second term in 2015. Cook had considered running for town supervisor and has said he won’t seek a third term as a town board member.

According to the East End Beacon, bay farmers have begun harvesting seaweed on the East End. Farmed oysters have just begun to develop as a major industry and researchers are examining how to farm scallops.  Now seaweed could be the next thing on bay farmers’ plates.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE) began a pilot project last year, to grow saccharina latissima, or sugar kelp, on aquaculture leases throughout the Peconic Estuary.

Sugar kelp is a cold-water species and it grows even in the winter. Now it is in demand as a gourmet food. Chef Noah Schwartz of Noah’s in Greenport, known for using fresh, local ingredients, hosted a kelp dinner on June 23, prepared with CCE’s first harvest. 

A CCE spokesperson said: “There’s so much interest locally they can’t keep up demand.” 

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