Saturday, July 1, 2017

July 2017

Monday July 31, 2017   (Thanks to volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst.)  

In tonight’s news: third Indian Casino bill goes back to Legislature; Navy seeks tool to detect devastating mineral in concrete; President Trump urges Suffolk police to get tough; and, new New York law changes how accused are ID’d in a trial.  
Gov.  Dannel Malloy signed a change to the contract with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal leaders on Thursday that gives the Indians exclusive rights to a third casino. 

During a ceremonial bill signing in the Capitol Malloy said the House and Senate will have to vote again on the deal, which will then be sent to the federal  Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Malloy and tribal leaders expect for the new memorandum of understanding to be ratified within 45 days, allowing the joint venture to finally build a new $300-million casino in an attempt to compete with the billion-dollar "MGM Resorts gambling palace" scheduled to open this fall. MGM Resorts says they intend to pursue all legal avenues because they believe MGM should have had a chance to bid on the rights to a third casino.
The Connecticut Post reports, the U.S. Navy is working to develop a new high-tech gadget for quickly identifying the presence of pyrrhotite, or iron sulfide, in concrete.

Pyrrhotite naturally reacts over years with water and oxygen, causing damage to concrete—the same problem that's plaguing thousands of Connecticut homeowners with crumbling foundations.

The Navy has selected three companies to begin developing a portable device or test kit to analyze pyrrhotite in damaged concrete structures and loose aggregate. The companies received funding for the first phase of development: testing whether their proposed technologies can detect pyrrhotite in a controlled environment, which should take six months.

Prototypes are to be developed by the end of the second phase, about two years. If a company makes it that far, the third phase involves commercialization.
Newsday reports:
President Trump came to Brentwood Long Island Friday, a town hard-hit by gang violence. He described some Long Island neighborhoods as “blood-stained killing fields” that are “under siege” and suggested that police treat suspects rougher.

Addressing a group of Suffolk police at the Brentwood Campus of Suffolk Community College,Trump said: “Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head — the way you put the hand over — like don’t hit their head, and they’ve just killed somebody.....‘You can take the hand away, okay.’”

The Suffolk County Police Department later released a statement that said: “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.”

Suffolk’s former top uniformed officer, James Burke, is serving a federal prison sentence for beating a suspect and orchestrating a cover up.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
A courtroom identification is not the first time a victim or witness has named the suspect for police but it’s likely the only ID a jury in New York has seen or heard — until July 1.

A New York State law that took effect this month allows the admission as evidence in a trial the photo array a crime victim or witness was shown in the hours or days after the offense, even years later.

Michael Green, the executive deputy commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services says: “The first identification is most reliable….It’s ultimately safeguarding the rights of the accused.  One of the sources of wrongful conviction is misidentification.”
Friday, July 28, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s budget standoff to take a big toll on communities; DEEP says it’s impractical to close sandbar at Milford’s Silver Sands; Trump’s Long Island visit draws rally against his immigration policies;
and, South Fork towns now offer grants for septic upgrades.
CT Mirror reports:
As Connecticut starts its second month without a budget, the financial toll on cities and towns will top $100 million. Governor Malloy’s administration confirmed Thursday that, absent a budget, it will not release the $78 million in sales tax receipts to communities as part of a revenue-sharing program.

The budget standoff already cost municipalities $30 million in road repair grants for July. If it continues until September 30, the state will also withhold property tax relief grants, which sent $182 million to communities last fall. 

Malloy is seeking significant cuts to local aid to minimize tax hikes. Additionally, he wants to redistribute municipal aid to help Connecticut’s poorest school districts but doesn’t want to use taxes as the chief means.

Democratic leaders said if funds for poor school districts must be found by cutting grants and trimming social programs, then the odds of passing that budget are slim.
Connecticut Post reports:
A spokesman for Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said it’s not practical to permanently close the sandbar at Milford’s Silver Sands State Park following a recent fatality.  On July 21, two adults were swept away from the sandbar. One was rescued by a boater, the other was found dead after two days of searching.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said: “There’s significant signage out there warning of the dangers from the tide...It’s not really practical to patrol that…to keep people off the sandbar.”

The half-mile-long sandbar connects Silver Sands to Charles Island, a wildlife sanctuary.  At low tide, beachgoers can walk to Charles Island, but DEEP advises against that. Signs warn against going on the sandbar when water covers any part of it.
President Trump visited Suffolk County Friday to talk about his immigration policy.  A Thursday White House statement said Trump will ask Congress for 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers; a substantial increase in immigration judges; expedited removal of Central Americans; and legislation to punish sanctuary cities.

The president visited the Suffolk County Police Academy in Bay Shore and the Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. 

This morning, according to Newsday, more than 30 people, led by immigrant and civil rights groups, protested outside the Suffolk Police Department’s Third Precinct in Bay Shore. They said police cooperation with ICE agents has contributed to families being torn apart and the further breakdown of community and police relations. 

A group of more than two dozen community organizations organized a rally across the street from the Brentwood campus at noon. In a statement they said the President was using local tragedies, such as the murder of local youth by members of the MS-13 gang, for political gain—and particularly to fuel his hateful, anti-immigrant agenda.
East End Beacon reports:
As of July 3, Suffolk County offers grants of up to $10,000 for homeowners to install new nitrogen-reducing wastewater systems.

East Hampton Town is also crafting a rebate program, using Community Preservation Fund money, with a public hearing scheduled for August 3. Southampton Town is working on a program that would give grants of up to $15,000 to eligible homeowners. A public hearing will be held August 8. Both towns are also drafting new local laws requiring nitrogen-reducing septic systems on new construction.

Suffolk County announced July 11 that 165 homeowners had already applied for the county program, with nine approved in the first eight days.

Nitrogen-reducing systems typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000. A typical new conventional septic system would cost about $8,000.

Thursday July 27, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne, Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight:  undocumented Norwalk resident Nury Chavarria granted emergency stay of deportation; draft of Connecticut’s new Comprehensive Energy Strategy released;  Governor Cuomo signs new law allowing New York campers to use bug spray; and, the Peconic Estuary could get new federal funding.
The New Haven Register reports:
Nury Chavarria, who was on the verge of being deported to Guatemala last week, was granted an emergency stay yesterday. The 43-year-old mother of four was told late last month to buy a one-way ticket to Guatemala, a country she has not seen in 24 years.

Student lawyers at the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at the Yale Law School filed a motion for a stay before Immigration Judge Phillip Verillo, and another motion to re-open Chavarria’s case. Within an hour, Judge Verillo found the argument so compelling that he granted Nury the emergency stay.

Chavarria had decided that she could not leave her four U.S. citizen children behind, and had taken up sanctuary at a church in Fair Haven, Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal.

The Norwalk resident appeared in public yesterday for the first time since she took sanctuary and thanked those who came out to demonstrate support for Chavarria and similarly situated immigrants in Connecticut.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Connecticut’s draft of its comprehensive energy strategy didn’t go as far as some environmentalists would like. The plan does increase the state’s mandate to purchase energy from renewable sources like solar and wind, to 30 percent by 2030. 

The original energy strategy done four years ago targeted the purchase of renewable energy at 20 percent by 2020.  According to officials at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (or DEEP), the state is currently close to 16 percent.

The new draft 2017 Comprehensive Energy Strategy released yesterday focuses on decreasing carbon emissions to advance the state’s climate goals; increasing supplies of renewable energy; expanding energy efficiency initiatives; supporting the modernization of the electric grid; and, lastly, accelerating strategic electrification of transportation services. Groups backing more environmentally friendly energy usage don’t believe the report goes far enough in pushing clean energy.

DEEP has opened a 60-day comment period on the draft study, which will run through September 25.
The first public meeting will be held August 14 at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic.
Albany Times-Union reports:
The next time a mosquito buzzes your camper child he or she can now reach for the bug spray instead of a doctor’s note – legally at least.  

On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that allows children in summer camp to carry and use bug spray with parental permission.  The law clears up some regulatory confusion whereby campers could use sunscreen with parental permission but needed a doctor’s note to use insect repellant.
The Suffolk Times reports: 
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced Monday that federal funding for the Long Island Sound Program and the National Estuary Program, which funds the Peconic Estuary, has been added to the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year did not include the National Estuary Program, which supports 28 estuary programs nationwide. 

Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which advocated for L.I. Sound Program funding after the presidential budget blueprint was released, hailed its inclusion in the appropriations bill. CCE and more than two dozen Long Island Sound stakeholder groups headed to Washington D.C. and met with members of Congress to lobby for the 
estuary program.  

The House of Representatives’ appropriations bill now includes $26.7 million for the national program, plus another $8 million for Long Island Sound objectives.

Wednesday July 26, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker.)

In the news tonight: Malloy orders study of Millstone nuclear power plant; Amtrak loses bid to operate new Hartford commuter rail; President Trump to speak Friday at Brentwood on MS-13 violence; and, as tide rises Southampton will elevate a coastal road.

Governor Dannel Malloy signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at resolving hotly contested questions about the economic viability of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station. Millstone presently generates about half of Connecticut’s electricity. Its supporters say it contributes to the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A lobbying campaign by Dominion Energy, Millstone’s owner, failed to convince legislators over the past two sessions that it needs more favorable rules governing the sale of electricity to keep the plant open. The company reiterated Tuesday it wants action in a special session this year, not recommendations for change in 2018. Malloy’s order sets a deadline of February 1, 2018.

In 2016 and again this year, the Senate passed legislation to stabilize Millstone’s profitability, but the House declined to take up the bill.

The legislative changes sought by Dominion would allow it to sell directly to consumers and to sign long-term contracts locking in prices as a hedge against daily market volatility.

Starting in May, commuters in the New Haven to Hartford corridor will have another travel option: a rail line offering 17 weekday roundtrips from New Haven to Hartford, and a dozen roundtrips between Hartford and Springfield. Reduced weekend service will be offered. 

The service will be marketed as The Hartford Line and operate over Amtrak rails. It will be operated by a joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, which was chosen over Amtrak and three other bidders.

Eighty percent of what the governor’s office says will be a $20 million operating budget will be covered for three years by the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.  

That program has also subsidized the CTfastrak bus rapid-transit service since it opened in 2015.

Newsday reports:
President Donald Trump will speak Friday afternoon at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, near communities rocked by MS-13 gang violence, according to two Long Island Republicans. Trump is scheduled to speak at the college's Van Nostrand Theatre at 1:30 p.m.   Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, would not say whether he planned to be with Trump on Friday. 

Immigration attorney Patrick Young, is Director of Legal Services at the Central American Refugee Center on Long Island and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University. 

Writing in the blog Young says: “President Trump will again travel to Long Island to exploit the tragedy of murders by Mara Salvatrucha. Although the speech is billed as being about MS-13, in the past Trump has used violence by the gang as a jumping-off point for much broadercalls for immigration restrictions”.

A coalition of groups is planning a rally at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood at Noon to protest Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. Details on the rally are still being worked out with Secret Services and the Suffolk Police.

Newsday reports:
Sections of Dune Road in Southampton Town that typically flood during high tide will be repaved to elevate the road above sea level. The $1 million paving project was delayed by one of the weather conditions it is designed to address: high tides and easterly winds.  It is expected to begin next week

The town board voted 3-1 to use unspent money from the town highway department’s paving budget to resurface a 2.5-mile stretch of Dune Road between the Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays and the Quogue Village line.

The road is used as a hurricane evacuation route.

Tuesday July 25, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Thomas Byrne.)

In the news tonight:  Connecticut legislature overrides Malloy on affordable housing bill: a Connecticut lawmaker questions legality of anti-Obamacare ads funding; new Montauk beach rental service charged with peddling; Coast Guard issues new water safety rules for paddlers

CT NewsJunkie and Connecticut Post report:
On Monday, Connecticut’s Senate and House rejected the governor’s veto of a controversial five-year plan for towns and cities to delay affordable housing projects. The bill affects six towns, including Fairfield, Stratford, Milford and Greenwich, and expands the types of dwellings counted toward affordable housing goals.

Currently law states that if a town’s housing stock has less than 10 percent guaranteed by a deed restriction, a developer can override local zoning to build mixed-income housing.  At least 30 percent of the new units must be affordable.

This has forced some Planning and Zoning Commissions to deny development permits that don’t contain affordable housing provisions because the town hasn’t reached that 10 percent threshold.

According to Representative Chris Soto, a New London Democrat, 138 towns and cities, or 80 percent of the state, have less than 10 percent affordable housing. 

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy believes the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the healthcare law may be illegal. In a recent letter to the Health & Human Services Secretary, Murphy and two colleagues requested information on the department's use of taxpayer funds to produce anti-Obamacare advertisements.

The letter follows a Daily Beast report that Health &Human Services, or HHS, diverted taxpayer money allocated for Affordable Care Act promotion to fund a series of videos on social media that feature individuals who say they have been hurt by the ACA.

The senators’ letter claims the department may have violated several laws aimed at keeping federal resources nonpartisan. The senators wrote: “The ACA is the law of the land, and HHS officials have an obligation to uphold and implement it.”

Newsday reports:
A new app-based business in Montauk that allows beachgoers to rent umbrellas and chairs before going to the beach was charged with violating peddling laws.  The Town of East Hampton issued a summons to Hampton Beach Service co-owner Mark Ripolone for selling and delivering items on the beach. 

Ripolone said: “You’re not renting a chair. You’re renting our service.”  He said his service is not peddling because all transactions are conducted through an app before delivery. His employees also remain on the beach to pick up trash.

Deputy Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said: “We consider it peddling. Imagine what our beaches would look like if we allowed peddlers on the beaches. You probably couldn’t even put a blanket down.” 

The case was adjourned until August 21. Conviction could result in a fine of up to $500 and up to 15 days in jail.

The Suffolk Times reports:
The U.S. Coast Guard released new water safety guidelines for paddle craft. Guidelines include requiring paddlers to wear life vests and carry whistles or other sound-makers. At night or in low-visibility conditions, paddlers must carry a white light.  The Coast Guard also urges people to label their vessels with their name and two working phone numbers.

Safety personnel in Riverhead and Southold towns praise the new requirements and recommendations, noting increases in marine incidents. The majority of emergency calls are from small vessels because people go out unprepared.

According to the Coast Guard, the Northeast saw 28 paddler deaths in 2016, double the national average.

Monday July 24, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst.)

On the news tonight: are Bridgeport Police complying with the traffic stops law? Connecticut Legislature meets in veto session; land purchase increases size of Long Island Pine Barrens preservation area; and, New York will increase access to voter registration forms 

According to Connecticut News Junkie, the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy has no idea whether Bridgeport Police are complying with the law on traffic stops. 

The Institute monitors Connecticut police departments to see if minorities are disproportionately profiled. The Institute’s Ken Barone said repeated attempts to set up meetings with Bridgeport police have gone unanswered.

Bridgeport Police Captain Mark Straubel said Friday that the city not getting together with Barone’s team to go over the reports was a misunderstanding.
He said Bridgeport officials were in contact Friday with Institute officials to “do whatever we have to do to comply.” 

Part of Bridgeport’s problem, Straubel said, is they don't have an electronic record management system. Everything is handwritten.

Connecticut lawmakers returned to the Capitol today for their annual veto-override session to consider bills Governor Malloy vetoed this year.

One bill would give six towns, including Greenwich, Fairfield, Stratford and Milford an additional five years to adopt regulations aimed at increasing affordable housing requirements. Another vetoed bill allows for a fuel-cell and thermal loop project in Bridgeport. Lawmakers will also review the recent deal with state unions aimed at saving $1.5 billion during the two-year budget period and $24 billion over the next 20 years.

Last year, lawmakers overrode three bills, for the first time since Malloy’s 2010 election.

House and Senate members began the session Monday morning, then recessed for closed-door caucuses to discuss the potential overrides. 

Riverhead Local reports:
The state has purchased a 38-acre parcel in the Central Pine Barrens core preservation area in Manorville. The state acquired the land, located on the north side of the Long Island Expressway east of Wading River Road, for $945,000 from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. The site includes a four-acre pond and extensive freshwater wetlands in the watershed of the Peconic River. 

The property will become part of the Otis Pike Preserve and will be managed for its unique habitats and as an outdoor recreational resource for hunting, hiking and nature enjoyment. 

The site is classified as a “bog,” a unique type of wetland identified by its peat layer and specialized vegetation. In addition, state-threatened and rare plants have been documented, including rose coreopsis and star grass. 

New development within the preservation area is prohibited as a means of protecting the quality and safety of Long Island’s sole-source drinking water aquifer.

The New York Daily News reports:
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a series of steps today designed to make it easier for New Yorkers to register to vote. The governor signed an executive order mandating that every state agency provide voter registration forms to those they deal with and to offer help in filling them out.

According to the state Board of Elections, 16 different state agencies already make voter registration forms available. Cuomo’s executive order expands that to all agencies,

Cuomo also is creating a new voter registration task force made up of members of his administration to oversee the effort, including ways to create “secure” online voting registration systems in different state agencies, similar to the ones used by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In addition, Cuomo is directing the city and state university systems to investigate their own campus voter registration efforts in an effort to boost student voter registration numbers.

Friday July 21, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Tony Ernst.)

In the news tonight: Norwalk woman with deportation orders takes sanctuary in church; Connecticut private sector jobs rebound from Great Recession; PSEG gives final offer to bury controversial power line in Eastport; and, several tech companies leave Long Island, dropping out of Start-Up NY.

Connecticut Post reports:
Nury Chavarria, of Norwalk, had deportation orders to return to Guatemala Thursday, but she took sanctuary in a New Haven church instead.

Chavarria has four U.S. citizen children, ranging in age from 9 to 21. As their sole supporter, Immigration and Customs Enforcement had given her stays since 2010. But at her annual check-in last month, she was told to buy a one-way ticket to Guatemala.

Pastor Hector Otero opened his facility for Chavarria, making him the first pastor in the area to pledge short-term sanctuary to immigrants seeking to avoid deportation.

According to a New Haven Legal Assistance Association lawyer, churches can protect themselves from criminal liability by making their decision public and naming the individual. Under such a scenario, they are not hiding the person.

The CT Mirror reports:
Connecticut’s private sector appears to have fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008. The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that Connecticut added more than 7,000 private-sector jobs in June, on top of more than 5,000 in May. 

The state has regained 102 percent of its lost non-government jobs. The public sector still needs to add roughly 19,000 jobs for non-farm employment to return to overall pre-recession levels.

Despite job gains, unemployment rose from 4.9 percent to 5 percent. The number of workers entering or rejoining the workforce contributed to the increase.

Connecticut Business and Industry Association economist Pete Gioia said: “The June jobs report is solid—we’re on track for stronger performance.”

Newsday reports:
PSEG Long Island has made a “final” written offer to bury part of a controversial power line recently installed on tall steel poles in Eastport hamlet.

The utility’s vice president John O’Connell proposed burying the lines through downtown Eastport in a letter to public officials. It came two days after a raucous public meeting about the project. Public officials say the offer is not specific enough.

State Senator Kenneth LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele have requested more details. They also complained to the state Public Service Commission that the $31-million project was “undertaken without public outreach” and is “without regard to the character of the Eastport community.”

The PSEG letter stated that the company obtained “all required and applicable permits” and met “on multiple occasions” with Brookhaven Town officials. 

Newsday reports:
The state program Start-Up NY, which promises businesses 10 tax-free years if they move to a college campus and create jobs, is in trouble on Long Island.

According to a Newsday analysis, 15 of 28 local participants have dropped out or been removed from the program. All were technology companies. This gives Long Island a loss rate of 54 percent, more than double the statewide rate.

Among the 15 businesses no longer in Start-Up NY, two moved to big cities, two closed, and two were removed by the state for failing to file yearly employment reports.

Business experts and economic developers said Start-Up NY’s rocky start on Long Island raises questions about whether or not the area can grow small technology businesses. The region’s leaders are betting on this sector to fuel economic growth and jobs.

Thursday July 20, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne, Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

On tonight’s news: five disability advocates are arrested in Hartford protesting funding cuts; new poll shows Governor Dannel P. Malloy remains third most unpopular governor in the country; details for New York’s new paid family leave program released; and, Governor Cuomo seeks to investigate New York landlords discriminating against tenants.

Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Five disability advocates, three of them in wheelchairs, were arrested Tuesday after refusing to vacate the front of Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s office in an act of civil disobedience to protest funding cuts to programs for those in need.

After staging an hour-long sit-in, the five – Elanah Sherman, Melissa Marshall, Molly Cole, Elaine Kolb, and Gary Gross – were charged with trespassing by state capitol police. Malloy wasn’t in his office during the incident. He was in Bridgeport.

The arrest of the five came on a day when people with disabilities and their advocates took over much of the Capitol – holding press conferences, confronting legislators, carrying signs both inside and outside on the front lawn of the building.

Marshall, and the others arrested, faulted Malloy for not proposing what they termed a “moral budget.” They said the governor’s repeated position that he would not propose a revenue-based budget package to combat the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit was wrong and would inevitably hurt the state’s most vulnerable.

Connecticut News Junkie reports:
According to a new Morning Consult poll released on Tuesday, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy remains the third most unpopular governor in the country. 

Malloy maintained his 29 percent approval rating, which is the same as it was in April’s poll. This is an improvement from last year’s poll, which gave him the same approval rating, but landed him in the number-two spot.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the most unpopular governor this year, followed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

The poll was based on interviews with more than 195,000 registered voters across the United States from April 1 through July 10.

Albany Times-Union reports:
Beginning in January 2018, New York employees will be eligible to partici-pate in the state’s new paid family leave program. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “legacy” program is defined simply as this: If you need to take time off—for pregnancy, emergency child care, or a family member’s illness or call to active military service—the state program will provide for a weekly payment of a portion of the salary you would otherwise be earning for up to 12 weeks. However, the final regulations, released on Wednesday, are riddled with complexities. 

Details can be found on the NY State Workers’ Compensation Board website, under Paid Family Leave, or call the state's Paid Family Leave Helpline at 844-337-6303, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Landlords in New York City that discriminate against children may soon be investigated for violating the law according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.  

The New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that some landlords will not rent to tenants who have children. As a result, the Governor has directed the Department of Homes and Community Renewal to investigate. The Governor said: “Rest assured, New York will always stand up for renters and fight for their rights and protection.”  

The investigation will also target landlords that discriminate against tenants because of immigration status, national origin, ethnicity, and race.

Wednesday July 19, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker.)

in tonight's news: Connecticut State employees ratify concession deal; New Bridgeport East Side Housing; Long Island sales tax revenues are up while deficits remain; and, Islip Town Board approves first phase of giant  Brentwood project.

Unionized state employees have voted by a wide margin to ratify the concession deal negotiated by the administration of Governor Malloy. More than 80 percent of the votes cast favored ratification.

Now the focus shifts to a closely divided General Assembly, where Republicans say they will attempt to reject an agreement worth an estimated $1.57 billion over two years. 
Wage agreements are decided on a unit-by-unit basis. 

Those that agreed to the three-year pay freeze and three furlough days per worker the governor sought would be exempted from layoffs for the next four years. 

The Connecticut Post reports:
Crescent Crossing is a mixed income, partially government-subsidized development built atop the site of the former Father Panik Village in Bridgeport's East Side. Mayor Joseph Ganim was joined by Governor Malloy to celebrate its opening on Tuesday. 

The housing was initiated a few years ago under then-Mayor Bill Finch and continued under Mayor Ganim who had criticized the project during his election campaign.

It was the first of several proposed public/private partnerships aimed at replacing the Bridgeport Housing Authority’s aged properties with new, more secure, privately managed construction. And Crescent was also touted as key to rehabilitating the blighted East Side and a catalyst for the planned train stop nearby.

Crescent’s first 93 units have been leased, and leasing has begun for the 84 units making up Phase 2. A third of the apartments are set aside for tenants of Marina Village which is being torn down.

Newsday reports:
Sales tax collections in Suffolk and Nassau counties jumped in the first half of 2017, offering a bright spot as the counties struggle with budget deficits.  Suffolk’s sales tax revenues through June 30 climbed by about 4.1 percent, while Nassau’s increased by 2.6 percent.

A memo from Nassau’s Office of Legislative Budget Review attributed the increase to job growth, improving confidence in the regional economy and a strong housing market. 

However, the Suffolk Legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Lou D’Amaro (Democrat of North Babylon) warned that the county will still have to look at “meaningful reductions” in its 2018 spending plan, which will be debated in the fall. 

Suffolk faces a $160 million deficit without counting one-time budget measures such as borrowing. A Wall Street ratings firm downgraded the county’s bonds by a step in June.

Newsday reports:
The Islip Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the first phase of the Heartland Town Square, a massive mixed-use project for Brentwood. The project, a combination of offices, retail space and housing, will go up at the site of the former site of the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center. 

No public comments were allowed during the meeting but opinions from 144 speakers at a contentious April public hearing and more than 1,600 online comments on the project were submitted for the board’s consideration.
The first phase of construction will begin on a 113-acre portion of the site with the height of buildings limited to 10 floors. 

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.”