Thursday, August 3, 2017

August 2017

Thursday August 31, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers, Nadine Dumser, Thomas Becker, John Ianuzzi, Lee Yuen Lew, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut elected officials call on lawmakers to end state budget stalemate; Connecticut senators will support aid for relief after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas; New York State senators hold hearing on tick-borne illness; and, Governor Cuomo seeks to expand addiction treatment and recovery services in New York
CT News Junkie reports:
Two dozen local elected officials came to the state Capitol Wednesday to beg state lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to solve the budget stalemate quickly.

Executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, DeLong said: “We’re here as a group of people saying we have to be able to survive this thing and make the state economy grow.” CCM wants the ability to eliminate some of the 1,300 unfunded state mandates and they want the ability to diversify their tax base.

Len Fasano (R-North Haven) said: “It was always Malloy’s goal to push more burdens onto Connecticut municipalities which will result in property tax increases.” A spokesman for Malloy, Chris McClure said: “The administration is acutely aware of the dire situation some towns and cities will face if the state continues without a budget.”

Legislative leaders were meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the various proposals.
CT Mirror reports: 
Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are ready to bury the hatchet and help Texas Republicans who opposed Superstorm Sandy funding five years ago.  In 2012 Congress approved a $60.4 billion package to provide relief to states hit by Sandy, but not without struggle. 

Aid requested by former President Obama was cut by the GOP-controlled Congress. Then several senators, including Texan Ted Cruz tried to block the bill, suggesting it was loaded with gifts for various lawmakers’ “pet projects.” The Sandy relief bill did not make its way through Congress for approval until early 2013. 

Senator Blumenthal said it is ironic Texas now needs help, but he would back a bill pushed by the Lone Star State’s congressional delegation to help those hurt by Harvey.  Lawmakers from New York and New Jersey say they will support the aid package as well. 

Hurricane Harvey is now considered the most expensive storm in U.S. history.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
Ticks carrying a potentially fatal disease have been detected this summer for the first time in Saratoga County in New York State.  Health officials said in testimony to a New York State Senate subpanel on Tuesday that the Powassan virus was found in 22 of 2,700 ticks that were collected.  

A 74-year old male resident of Gansevoort, a hamlet in Saratoga County, was killed by this disease in June.  
Health officials caution that there is no cause for alarm because so few ticks carrying the disease were detected.  

Byron Backenson, who heads the State Health Department’s Vector Surveillance Unit, said: “The state has found Powassan virus in ticks in other counties in the past, and it did not correlate to more people getting sick.”  

The findings were presented to the subpanel as part of a larger investigation into other tick borne diseases, such as Lyme, which affects up to 8000 New Yorkers a year.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
The Cuomo administration announced two actions Tuesday intended to expand addiction treatment and recovery services in New York. 

First, the state is requesting proposals for organizations interested in running Open Access Centers. The centers would immediately assess people who suffer from substance abuse and connect them to addiction recovery services quickly. Nine centers throughout the state would be open 24/7.

The second proposal involves the state seeking information on the development of two pilot recovery high school programs. Recovery high schools are exclusively for students who have struggled with addiction to alcohol or drugs, have gone through treatment, and want to stay clean.

These schools are being promoted for expansion as the state deals with an epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse that has resulted in a rising number of deaths in recent years, including among young people. 
Wednesday August 30, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Liz Becker and Keith Golgot)

In the news tonight: insurers have until September 15 to decide to join Connecticut health plan; Connecticut questions Sessions over Sanctuary City Policing Grant Ban;
Long Island immigrant minors moved from California high-security facility; and, Planned Parenthood opposes New York constitutional convention 
CT Mirror reports:
The two remaining insurers on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange now will have until September 15 to decide whether to continue selling plans through the exchange’s individual marketplace next year. The date had been September 8.

The state Insurance Department is reviewing requests from the two insurers still on the exchange – ConnectiCare and Anthem – for double-digit rate increases next year. The department’s decision on whether to allow those increases is expected to influence whether either will return.

Access Health CEO Jim Wadleigh said: “It provides the carriers with the time they need to decide if they’ll offer plans for 2018 and allows our organization to prepare the best way possible for the upcoming open enrollment period, which begins on November 1, 2017.”
On Tuesday Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to clarify new rules requiring that those seeking federal policing money certify they are cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

In July, the Justice Department said it would withhold Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, usually the largest source of federal criminal justice funds for local and state governments, if a jurisdiction prohibited local officials from communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or if a city or state blocked ICE from interviewing jail inmates.

Jepsen told Sessions the new rules “are in some ways vague and uncertain as to what may be required of grant recipients.” He also said Connecticut is in compliance with federal immigration law.

Governor Malloy has declined to consider Connecticut a “sanctuary” state, saying that would make Connecticut a target of the Trump’s administration’s hardline policy against undocumented immigrants.
As reported by Newsday:
Probation officials in California’s Yolo County said they have moved immigrant minors from Long Island out of the high-security facility where they were in detention. They cited insufficient evidence of accusations of MS-13 gang affiliation.

The report follows complaints from immigrants, their attorneys and advocates on Long Island about immigrant teenagers being wrongly accused of gang involvement and targeted for deportation. 

The action is part of a joint operation involving the Suffolk County Police Department and the Homeland Security Investigations arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officials with those agencies have touted a crackdown on the MS-13 gang, which has been linked to brutal assaults and killings in Suffolk County in recent years.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini, interviewed by Newsday on Tuesday, stood by his department’s work. He said: “Anyone that we are detaining as MS-13 is MS-13 and certainly presents a danger to the community  . . . Short of a criminal charge, it is better to remove these people from Suffolk County than do nothing.” More than 70 individuals with gang connections have been targeted for deportation over the last several months.
On Tuesday, we reported that the New York organizers of January’s Women’s March on Washington are backing a constitutional convention in 2019 in order to preserve abortion rights in the state.

Governor Cuomo had proposed that the legislature pass a constitutional amendment to do the same.  It would need to be passed twice by two consecutively elected legislatures before it can go on the ballot.  

But, as reported by the Albany Times-Union, Planned Parenthood’s New York organization is among a broad coalition opposing a convention. They support the legislative process and fear that conservatives could wrest control of a convention and push for constitutional provisions they don't support.

If voters decide this November to hold a convention. delegates would be selected during the 2018 election and  a convention would be held in 2019. Any constitutional amendments would go before voters during that year's election.
Tuesday August 29, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, John Iannuzzi, and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s The Flying Yankees assist in Texas;  Moody’s says Malloy’s newest order is “credit negative” for municipalities; rally to support Long Island Guatemalan immigrant facing deportation; and,  New York women's organizers push for constitutional convention
CT Mirror reports: 
The 103rd Airlift Wing of Connecticut’s National Guard deployed yesterday to assist in providing relief as Texas faces catastrophic flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey. 

According to Governor Malloy, eight Connecticut airmen and a C-130 Hercules cargo plane were sent to help in supply efforts. Malloy thanked the guardsmen for taking on this mission. 

Recalling Hurricane Sandy, the governor said: “We know what it’s like to experience extreme weather events, and how vital it is for local and state governments to work together and provide assistance.”

Connecticut volunteers with the Red Cross, and Stamford-based nonprofit Americares are also is participating in the relief efforts.
CT NewsJunkie reports: 
A Moody’s Investor Services analyst says Governor Malloy’s revised executive order to reduce municipal aid by $928 million is “credit negative for Connecticut local governments.” 

The August 18 order reduces Education Cost Sharing grants by $557 million, eliminates $182 million in PILOT funding, and reduces smaller municipal revenue-sharing grants by approximately $131 million. This would go into effect October 1 if no state budget passes by then.

Moody’s analyst Joseph Manoleas wrote: “The projected cuts will likely force municipalities to take emergency action through supplemental tax hikes or mid-year expenditure cuts.” He added that the median fund balance for municipalities across the state is lower than the national average, which would make using reserves a challenge. 
Newsday reports: 
Immigrant advocates and labor union members will rally today in downtown Manhattan with relatives of a Guatemalan immigrant who is a longtime Long Island resident and being held for deportation after his regular check-in with immigration authorities. 

A union spokesman said they are calling for the release of Eber Garcia-Vasquez, who came to the United States illegally in 1988 and works as a plant maintenance mechanic with a medical waste company.

One of Garcia-Vasquez’s U.S.-born children petitioned for him to become a legal resident in 2012. His attorney said he has reported regularly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s while continuing to live, work and grow roots in the United States. He married a U.S. citizen last month.

Co-workers, union members, advocates, church members and local officials are all are expected to join the demonstration outside ICE’s New York headquarters.
Albany Times-Union reports: 
New York organizers of January's Women's March on Washington are backing a constitutional convention in 2019, calling on Governor Cuomo to do the same. 

In a letter to the governor, Forward March NY noted Cuomo's proposal to pass a constitutional amendment to codify the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade abortion decision into state law.

Forward March NY wrote: "In light of this, the only way to protect women's rights in this state is to put
the power back into their hands. You can do this by endorsing and fully supporting a 'yes' vote for a constitutional convention when it appears on the electoral ballot this coming November."

Voters will decide this November whether to hold a convention. Delegates would be selected during the 2018 election. A convention would be held in 2019. Any constitutional amendments would go before voters during that year's election.
Monday August 28, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: Joe Ganim’s new clean-government argument;  debate over prescription drug pricing moves to the states; new solar power installations plummet on Long Island; and, Northwell Health drops out of the insurance market 
The New Haven Independent  reports:
Joe Ganim says that to limit the corrupting influence of big money in elections, Connecticut should make it easier for convicted felons, including him, to qualify to run for state office using public dollars.

After seven years in prison for accepting kickbacks as Bridgeport’s mayor, Ganim was re-elected in 2015.  Now he is running for the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor. He wants to run “clean” by qualifying for nearly 8 million dollars in public matching money. 

As a convicted felon he is barred from the funding. He is suing the state to overturn that rule. Ganim said: “We believe in second chances…the opportunity to rehabilitate,” and argued that widening the public-financing pool can bolster democracy by helping “candidates who have good ideas go out and talk about it.”

Ganim is open to looking at new revenue options including tolls, legalized marijuana, and taxing capital gains. 
CT News Junkie reports:
With Congress mostly paralyzed, the debate over how to lower prescription drug prices is moving to the states.  Earlier this year, Connecticut passed bipartisan legislation that eliminates the “gag clause” that prevents pharmacists from sharing price information with their customers.

At the moment a pharmacist can’t tell a customer that if they paid out-of-pocket without using their insurance the drug would be cheaper. Currently, the pharmacies are pocketing the difference between the price of the drug and the prescription co-pay the customer is being charged. The new law goes into effect on October 1. 

Maryland and Vermont also passed legislation aimed at lower prescription drug prices. The Vermont law seeks to bring more transparency to pricing and the Maryland law aims to stop generic drug price gouging. 

Drug companies filed a federal lawsuit in July claiming Maryland’s first-in-the-nation measure is unconstitutional and vague. 
The number of new residential solar-power installations on Long Island so far in 2017 has declined by more than 50 percent compared with the same period in 2016 as national companies have fled the market.The number of residential solar installations declined to about 3000 for the first six months of this year, compared with about 6,700 in the same period last year.

That’s according to figures from PSEG Long Island, which oversees the programs for the Long Island Power Authority. 
Mike Voltz, of PSEG, blamed this year’s tumbling sales on a sharp drop-off in aggressive promotions by solar leasing companies, combined with the end of the state’s solar rebate, and an increase in interest rates. Voltz said commercial systems are seeing an uptick as home systems recede. 

LIPA last month awarded contracts for 20 megawatts of commercial rooftop solar for 31 Long Island locations. It also contracted for more than 58 megawatts of solar in Calverton. About 40,000 of LIPA’s 1.1 million customers have rooftop solar.
CareConnect, the insurance subsidiary of Northwell Health, will shut down and withdraw from the state insurance market in 2018, according to Newsday. Its 126,000 policyholders will remain covered while they transfer to new health providers.

Northwell’s decision to end CareConnect underscores uncertainty and instability in the health insurance marketplace.  The company cited the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act.

CareConnect never received $150 million from the federal government in risk-corridor payments, intended to cover losses incurred by insurers during the Affordable Care Act’s first three years when rates were intentionally kept lower. 

Northwell has joined a class action suit to force the federal government to pay. The company will assist the more than 200 Care Connect employees to find other suitable positions within the health system. Northwell Health operates 21 hospitals in New York. It has $11 billion in annual revenue.
Friday August 25, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport school district feels pinch of Connecticut’s budget woes; 
Long Island scientist challenges Congressman Zeldin; and, two key staffers at Northport VA get reassigned to the Bronx
Connecticut Post reports:
The state’s budget crisis has led Bridgeport school district to cut many of its reading coaches. The district has some of the state’s worst reading scores. School board finance committee chairman Howard Gardner called the situation impossible at a Wednesday meeting where that and other cuts were announced.

The district’s chief operating officer Marlene Siegel said $8.1 million needs to be cut just for the district to reach the same $244 million operating budget it had last year. Governor Malloy’s executive order would eliminate a $6.6 million priority grant that the district counts on for programs such as all-day kindergarten, summer school, and in-school suspension.

A counter budget plan released by Democratic lawmakers this week restores much of that priority grant.

The committee will recommend to the full board that it explore legal options against charter schools over the district’s requirement to pay transportation and special education costs. 
According to Newsday: 
Elaine DiMasi, of Ronkonkoma, a former physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said Thursday she will run for Congress in the 1st District, becoming the second Democrat to enter the 2018 race.

DiMasi said that if elected, she will focus on climate change, workforce development and infrastructure improvement. She is a Bernie Sanders supporter and says: “Progressive solutions are possible.”  She made no mention of incumbent Representative Lee Zeldin, the Shirley Republican, who won his second term last year by 18 percentage points.  Zeldin is a Trump supporter who favors scrapping ObamaCare, but supports some environmental measures affecting Long Island Sound.

The 1st District, which extends from Smithtown and Islip to the east end, long had been considered among the nation’s most competitive, before Zeldin’s convincing victory last fall. 

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher of Setauket also has announced her candidacy. Others who have expressed interest in the Democratic nomination include Independent Assemblyman Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor and Working Families Party County Legislator Kate Browning of Shirley.
Newsday reports: The chief of the medical staff and the director of nursing at Northport’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center have been reassigned to the Bronx. This makes for the third shift in leadership at Long Island’s chief veterans care facility this year. VA’s regional office spokesman Peter Potter said these reassignments are temporary measures necessary to provide expertise as the VA develops new health programs at its New York-New Jersey facilities.

Northport’s top executive, Philip Moschitta, announced his retirement earlier this year and shortly after the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a field hearing at Northport because of a string of problems.

Foremost was the discovery of particulate contaminants in ventilation systems that forced the hospital to close its operating rooms for four months in 2016 and to redirect emergency surgeries to VA facilities in Manhattan. 

Potter said the two recent reassignments are unrelated to any problems at Northport. He said: “In no way should these changes be viewed as punitive or a demotion by any means.”
Thursday  August 24, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut advocates call for tax increases on the wealthy and corporations; Connecticut regulators ask insurance companies to assume federal subsidies disappear; New Milford man dies of tick-related disease; and, Suffolk County receives a $1.1 million grant to improve East End police communications.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:A group calling themselves the “All Hands on Deck” coalition would like to see the General Assembly raise revenue on wealthy individuals and corporations.
At a Legislative Office Building press conference yesterday, they called on lawmakers to increase the income tax on the top income earners a half percent, and reduce corporate tax expenditures by 10 percent. They call for a penalty on large employers who don’t pay their employees $15 an hour. They want to expand the sales tax base, legalize marijuana, tax sweetened beverages, and institute tolls.

Ann Pratt, of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, said they will continue to put out the message that there are people in the state who want these revenues to increase. The coalition estimated that raising the income tax a half percent on households making more than $500,000 would bring in about $217 million per year.

Legislative leaders are expected to meet again on Monday to discuss their budget proposals.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The Connecticut Insurance Department told the two insurance companies that submitted insurance rates for 2018 that they could submit a supplemental rate assuming the Obamacare subsidies would be eliminated. 

ConnectiCare Benefits has said it would do so. Anthem Health Plans did not respond to requests for comment.

In May, Anthem Health requested an average 33.8 percent increase for individual health insurance plans both on and off the exchange. ConnectiCare Benefits has asked for a 15.2 percent average rate. Those rates are currently under review by the Insurance Department.

The Insurance Department has until the end of the month to set rates for insurance companies participating in Access Health CT., Connecticut’s insurance exchange.  
The Danbury News Times reports:
An increasingly common tick-borne disease took the life of a New Milford man this month. Health experts warn that more cases are likely as tick populations flourish in New England.

Michael Yoder died Aug. 8 of liver and kidney failure after a severe case of babesiosis, according to the state medical examiner’s office. He was 55. Yoder’s wife, Wendy, said her husband was an avid gardener and that she regularly helped him check for ticks, but neither saw any sign of a tick around the time he fell ill. For weeks, he had exhibited signs of a persistent stomach bug, and then of more severe symptoms, but by the time he was diagnosed the disease was irreversible.

Babesiosis is caused by a single-celled protozoan somewhat like the organism that causes malaria. It invades the red blood cells, and in extreme cases can cause anemia so severe that organs fail. Reported cases are on the rise in the state and nationally, and though the 
disease is rarely fatal it can put people in the hospital for days.
The Suffolk Times reports:
Suffolk County has received a $1.1 million state grant that officials say will benefit police and emergency service departments on the East End by improving emergency radio communications.

New “inter-operable communications sites” will be built in Greenport and Southampton, and eventually in Montauk, according to County Executive Steve Bellone. The sites will provide East End police, fire, and emergency service agencies with additional radio coverage during emergencies.

The grant was administered by the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
Wednesday August 23, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Liz Becker, Keith Golgot and John Iannuzzi.) 

In the news tonight: Connecticut budget negotiations continue; some districts hit hard by education cuts; Federal Lawsuit filed over death of Riverhead Jail inmate; and New York Teachers Call Latest Test Scores “Meaningless”
CT News Junkie reports:
Democratic legislative leaders said they expect to release a budget proposal Wednesday that includes a sales tax increase from 6.35 percent to 6.85 percent.  The proposal still doesn’t have the full support of the Senate Democratic caucus or Governor Malloy. It’s unlikely to win any Republican support either.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides said: “Tax increases are not something we are interested in at this point in time.”  House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a Berlin Democrat, said the budget they will release Wednesday is a starting point for negotiations.

Republican legislative leaders said they would revise their budget proposals to reflect the $1.57 billion labor concession package, adopted on a mostly party line vote in July. A budget vote isn’t expected until the week of Sept. 11.
Connecticut’s most impoverished communities may have been spared by Governor Malloy from losing their largest education grants, but money for things like after-school programs, reading tutors, and English classes for foreign-speaking parents, are still on the chopping block. 

Bridgeport stands to lose an estimated $8 million this fiscal year – a 3 percent cut in education aid. Hartford and New Haven could each lose an estimated $7 million. However, Malloy maintains he will shield the 30 lowest performing school districts in Connecticut from $550 million dollars in cuts to the state’s $2 billion dollar Education Cost Sharing grant.  

A Hartford Superior Court Judge ruled last September that Connecticut’s method of distributing local education aid is irrational and violates the state Constitution. The state Supreme Court will hear an appeal of that decision next month.  

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding says judicial action is necessary to ensure the state meets its constitutional responsibilities to all public school students. 
Newsday reports: 
Suffolk County correction officers punched, kicked and stomped on an inmate at the Riverhead jail who later died from his injuries, according to a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed last month. 

The lawsuit filed in Central Islip federal court on July 26 by Valerie Wright of Queens says Wright’s brother, Andre Seabrook, was assaulted in June 2015 by several sheriff’s officers. The complaint says that Seabrook was paralyzed from the waist down and died from his injuries six weeks later. 

The lawsuit, which seeks $2 million, claims the alleged assault resulted from a sheriff’s office culture and policies that tolerate the use of excessive and deadly force against minority inmates. Seabrook was African-American. Suffolk County, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and unidentified officers are named as the defendants. 

Seabrook’s death was reported to the New York State Commission of Corrections, which found that it did not warrant fuller investigation. 
New York News Connection reports: 
The latest New York State standardized test scores for third- through eighth-graders improved slightly in both math and English, but  only about 40 percent of students were rated proficient.

Carl Korn, chief press officer for New York State United Teachers, said the scores are "virtually meaningless."  Korn says “they're rooted in the Common Core standards that are no longer being taught and they're the foundation of a teacher evaluation system that has been totally discredited."

There is a moratorium on the use of standardized test scores for evaluating both teachers and students through the end of the 2018-19 school year. Korn says the over-reliance on standardized testing and a 'test-and-punish' agenda is what has fueled the strong opt-out movement in New York, where 20 percent of New York's students have boycotted the standardized tests.

The New York State Board of Regents will consider a new evaluation system soon. The union wants to see the current system repealed. 
Tuesday August 22, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Senator calls Malloy’s executive order illegal; Connecticut officials to fight New York dredging lawsuit; phone scam targets Long Island Latinos; and, Southold Town’s Orient Historic District boundaries are incorrect
CT Mirror reports: 
Connecticut Senate Republican leader Len Fasano wants the State Attorney General’s legal opinion on Governor Malloy’s recent executive order that dramatically realigns municipal aid. Without a budget, Malloy continues to run the state by executive order. Fasano questions the legality of the order released Friday.

If the state doesn’t have a budget by October, Malloy would cut or reduce grants to school districts, except to the 30 lowest performing ones. He also is reducing property tax relief grants for cities and towns.

Fasano contends that Malloy’s order violates statutory mandates and requires legislative approval. Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said, “The executive order will continue to be adjusted in the future to address statutory requirements for the current fiscal year.”
Connecticut Post reports: 
Connecticut officials will fight a lawsuit filed by New York State to block dumping dredged sediment at a new Long Island Sound underwater disposal site.

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sued the Environmental Protection Agency to overturn the designation of an open water disposal site off New London. Governor Cuomo claimed it will harm the Sound and violates a 2005 agreement to reduce or eliminate dredged material disposal in the Sound.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said: “Open water disposal is safe and will not harm the wildlife or the water quality of the Long Island Sound.”

The new disposal site is located within Connecticut waters and near Fishers Island in New York State.
Riverhead Local reports: 
A new phone scam targets Long Island Latinos. Individuals pose as lawyers, or similar, and demand payment through gift card codes and wire transfers.

Southold Anti-Bias Task Force co-chairperson Sonia Spar said the scam has focused on Spanish-speaking immigrants who are undocumented and speak little to no English. 

East Marion, Greenport and Riverhead residents have reported this scam to police, but Spar added that many other Latino residents have fallen prey but not reported it for fear of being reported to immigration authorities.

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said: “Police officers will never delve into their immigration status, they will be treated strictly as victims of a crime.”
The Suffolk Times reports: 
The Orient Historic District is considerably larger than Southold Town thought. Historic Preservation Commission members said the town has been relying on incorrect maps that leave about 50 parcels out of the district. Commission member Robert Harper said the commission should have reviewed at least six properties that filed applications for alterations or new structures.

This came to light after new commission member Ted Webb asked for the Orient Historic District boundaries, leading commission vice chairwoman Anne Surchin to the New York State Historic Preservation Office. She found simplified and incomplete district boundaries on its website, which the town had used. 

The properties left out include homes, vacant land and farmland that were within of the district’s boundaries when it went into the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It includes the Orient wharf.

Surchin said not all of the omitted parcels or structures are considered historic or landmarked and will be treated differently than such places within the district. 
Monday August 21, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson, Neil Tolhurst and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Day 52 of the Connecticut Budget Impasse; Connecticut doctors speak  out on the Affordable Care Act; many New Yorkers opting out of Obamacare and Hamden restaurant picketed over wage theft 
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The state’s small Democratic majority seems to be considering adopting a budget on their own. Republican legislative leaders said it’s not because they haven’t been trying to be part of the process, and they are willing to continue the conversation.

The two parties hold an equal number of seats in the Senate, but under the historic power sharing agreement finalized last December, only Democrats may call the Senate into session.
Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Friday, a budget that “my caucus is pretty comfortable with,” will be ready for Republicans to review by Tuesday. 

Governor Malloy said the Democrats’ drafts for balancing the budget would require raising $1 billion in revenue. Previously, he had said he would veto a budget increasing taxes by $1 billion.  Malloy has been operating Connecticut through executive order since July 1. 
Currently the state faces a $3.5 billion, two-year budget deficit.
According to CT Mirror, Connecticut's State Medical Society is unenthusiastic about Republican congressional leaders' proposals to change the Affordable Care Act and their attempts to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

The Society's members, who are many of the state’s doctors, think those proposals would have resulted in large numbers of new uninsured patients.

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, president of the society, says Obamacare has serious problems that Congress should try to fix and not scrap a system that has been in place for years. And he wants Congress to listen to the doctors.
More than 400,000 tax filers in New York state failed to obtain health insurance in 2015 — and many were required to pay a tax penalty of at least $325 under the federal Affordable Care Act, according to new IRS data reviewed by The New York Post.

Records show that about 405,000 New Yorkers paid a combined penalty of over $186 million under the Act in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. That number accounts for more than 4 percent of the state’s 9.6 million tax filers.

The penalty for non-compliant individuals jumped to at least $695 for filers for both 2016 and 2017.
New York state regulators recently raised insurance premiums for consumers in the individual market by 14 percent for 2018, the second year, following a 17 percent increase for the current year.
Supporters of immigrant workers who claim they had their wages stolen rallied on Friday outside the Townhouse Restaurant in Hamden. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:


A total of six workers – some with many years’ experience at the restaurant – were fired when they complained. Their supporters have demonstrated several times outside the restaurant on busy Whitney Avenue.

John Lugo with Unidad Latina en Accion was one: “I think it’s like different organization that are really upset about the treatment these workers received while they were working in this place.”

They claimed to work about 70 hours a week and were never paid for overtime. The owners of the restaurant came outside but declined to make a statement, since the terminations are being litigated.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Friday, August 18, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Democrats’ new budget to increase sales tax;  New Haven Police Chief hears community’s concerns; and. New York State sues EPA over Sound’s dumping site 
CT News Junkie reports:
Democratic legislative leaders said their newest budget proposal will raise the sales tax, but not as high as their previously proposed 6.99 percent.

Without a two-year budget in place, Connecticut continues to run by executive order. The Democrats’ latest proposal will be released publicly next week. Senate President Martin Looney said it most likely will expand the sales tax base. The 1 percent local sales tax option for food and beverages remains.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said it is a 70/30 budget. He said: “Seventy percent of it will be things that we can live with…and 30 percent will be things we don’t necessarily like.”
Dozens of community members gathered with the New Haven Police Department Wednesday evening for a two-and-a-half-hour dialogue that was civil but impassioned. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
Residents aired their grievances about police brutality, implicit bias, and other issues as Chief Anthony Campbell listened and responded. When they asked about guidelines or regulations regarding police behavior, the answer was always that police have a lot of discretion, and the police union is also very powerful. Many attendees were frustrated by those remarks.

Toward the end some solutions were offered. State Representative Robin Porter said she introduced a bill in the last legislative session regarding accountability for the use of excessive force, something Campbell had supported. State Senator Gary Winfield urged the chief to come to the capitol to testify when it’s raised in next year’s session.

Organizer Barbara Fair said she was pleased with the turnout and the discussion: “I just want us to be able to be a whole city with our police department working together, and if that can possibly happen with us sitting down talking, talking about the things that we go through, they talk about the things they go through, and somehow we just respect each other’s humanity.”

Another session is scheduled on August 31.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Riverhead Local reports:
New York State filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s designation of a third permanent open water disposal site in eastern Long Island Sound. The new site could accept tens of millions of cubic yards of dredged sediments. The Sound already has two permanent disposal sites.

The state argues that EPA’s December 2016 designation of the new site, within 2.3 nautical miles of Fishers Island in Suffolk County, violated the Ocean Dumping and the Coastal Zone Management acts and asks the court to vacate the agency’s decision.

Governor Cuomo called the designation “a major threat to a significant commercial and recreational resource.”
Thursday August 17, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

In tonight's news: 
Middletown Mayor calls rally against hate on the steps of Connecticut’s capitol; Connecticut sees slight loss of jobs in July; New York State tells insurers they must cover claims for transgender patients; and Governor Cuomo closes animal shelter loophole.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew gathered about 75 people today on the steps of the state capitol in Hartford to denounce President Donald Trump’s comments following the events in Charlottesville.

Drew told the crowd: “There can be no equivocation. There can be no hedging. If there is, we do ourselves and all of those we care about a disservice by pretending that what’s happening now, and who’s doing it, is something other than what it actually is.”

Drew continued: “This is a moment of hate, led by a man of hate,” he said to applause. “The President of the United States, by making the moral equivalency between the Nazis and the Klan members in Charlottesville, and the people standing up for justice, did us a great disservice.”

He said the president revealed himself not just as someone who condones white supremacy, “but as someone who is himself, a white supremacist.”
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Connecticut lost 600 jobs in July though its unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5 percent, according to survey data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (or BLS).

June’s originally-released job gain of 7,000 or 0.4 percent, was revised downward by 1,400 to a 5,600, or 0.3 percent, employment gain in non-farm employment.

The BLS reports that Connecticut had about 1,692 million non-farm jobs in July. The number of the state’s unemployed residents fell by 513, while the number of residents employed grew by 776.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
New York’s Department of Financial Services notified health insurance companies Wednesday they may not deny a claim for a medical service simply because it is not usually provided for the gender with which a patient identifies.

Instead, DFS instructed insurers to request additional information before, for example, denying a claim for a Pap smear in a male-identifying person or a prostate exam for someone who identifies as female. Representing health insurers, Leslie Moran of the New York Health Plan Association said such denied claims would be rectified by the appeals process.

According to Chelly Hegan, president of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, most of the denied claims reported by 10 percent of 115 transgender patients were reversed.  While applauding Gov. Cuomo for recognizing that “gender is not binary,” she cautioned that making people “jump through hoops” discourages them from seeking basic preventative care.

The Cuomo administration has further ensured medical care access for transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers through a 2014 directive to cover gender-related surgery, therapy and treatment and a 2016 Medicaid revision covering these services to minors.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
A loophole exists in which animal shelter operators avoid regulations or inspections by declaring the shelters as non-profits. To fight that, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Monday to crack down on unscrupulous practices in this industry. 

The bill requires incorporated animal shelters, rescue organizations, and other non-profit entities that transport or offer animals up for adoption in New York State to register with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, subjecting them to state regulation for the first time. 

Current law authorizes the oversight and regulation of municipal animal shelters. However, humane societies are exempted, thereby allowing unscrupulous businesses that sell animals to take advantage of this provision. They administrate as not-for-profit humane societies to avoid the stringent requirements set forth in New York’s pet dealer regulations. These owners then seek to sell pets as quickly as possible and house their animals in unsafe and unsanitary conditions without adequate food or care. 

The new law amends that loophole. Not-for-profit entities will now be subject to greater oversight and compliance. They must satisfy all documentation and vaccination requirements associated with the import of pets into the state for purchase.

Wednesday August 16, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Liz Becker, Keith Galgot and Gretchen Swanson.

In tonight's news: Connecticut to continue funding pre-K expansion despite lack of budget; high-speed-rail-plan through Fairfield County won’t happen; New York Governor calls for extending hate crimes legislation; and, FBI Man Joins Southampton Town staff 
The Connecticut Mirror reports:
24 school districts were notified Friday the state will pay for preschool programs it has historically funded. With no state budget in place, uncertainty had surrounded whether district leaders would receive funding as promised when they expanded or opened new preschool classrooms over the last two school years.

Bridgeport, Wallingford, West Hartford and Windsor each have four preschool classrooms funded under the grant. West Hartford and Windsor are also opening additional classrooms. 

Budget struggles have plagued Connecticut’s long-term initiative to move closer to offering universal access to high-quality preschool. State officials reported in 2015 that over 10,000 children from low-income families — nearly one-third of poor students — cannot afford to enroll in a high-quality preschool program. 

$3.3 million will be provided for 45 classrooms to enroll 665 youngsters, mostly from low-income families.
The Connecticut Post reports:
Local leaders say a plan to install a high-speed rail line slicing through Fairfield County neighborhoods will likely never become a reality and should be ditched in favor of improving the existing tracks. 

The high-speed rail plan calls for new rail segments through Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Norwalk and Westport, departing from the existing Metro-North tracks to avoid the New Haven Line’s slowest area.

Stamford Mayor David Martin said: “… the investment we need is in Metro-North or we’re going into a decline over a long period of time.”

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and state Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker told concerned local officials that the plan to realign the tracks from New Rochelle, N.Y., to Greens Farms in Westport will likely never happen.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he will push to add inciting to riot and rioting that targets a protected class of people to the state hate crimes statute, a response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.  

Dubbed the Charlottesville Provisions, penalties would be increased, and rioting would come with stiffer felony penalties, while inciting to riot would become a felony.

Cuomo also called for extending human rights law protections to public school students so that the state Division of Human Rights would be able to investigate bullying, harassment or other discrimination by students. Cuomo said: "Our diversity is our strength and this legislation will help protect New Yorkers and send a clear signal that violence and discrimination have no place in our society.” 

Lawmakers are not set to return to the Capitol to act on legislation until January. 
Newsday reports:
An FBI agent will lead Southampton Town’s new public safety and emergency preparedness department as part of efforts to strengthen code enforcement.

Steven Troyd, who has worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 28 years, will take office next month and oversee the departments of code enforcement, animal control and fire prevention. The departments have lacked oversight while reporting to the town attorney’s office.  

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman says the town has enacted strong codes to protect our quality of life that need to be vigorously enforced. Troyd will also coordinate with Schneiderman’s office to handle emergency management.

Schneiderman said he plans to hire another code officer next year to boost enforcement of housing code and environmental regulations.
Tuesday August 15, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: New Haven climate group raises awareness; Sikorsky sued over small-business contracts; New York ups penalties for crimes at community centers; and,
Riverhead hospital to expand addiction outpatient services
Late last week, interns with a local climate group hit the streets of New Haven to raise awareness of climate change. They handed out information and used a public address system to attract attention. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Eliza Renn is working this summer with the New Haven Climate Movement. When asked if she thought most people understand whether the warming of the planet is a big problem, she replied emphatically: “No, I don’t. I think most of the people we talked to recognize that it’s a problem, but a lot of people I don’t think can gauge how huge of an issue it is, just because they don’t see it.”

Many of the worst climate-related disasters have hit poor countries that contributed least to the problem, while others have hit other parts of the U.S., like the drought in California or flooding in Louisiana. But a few years ago the Connecticut shoreline was hit by two massive storms, Irene and Sandy.

Also, a recent report shows that summers have definitely grown hotter in New England over the past 30 years.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
CT Mirror reports:
The American Small Business League is suing the Pentagon and Sikorsky for information about the defense contractor’s hiring of small and minority businesses as subcontractors. It claims that for decades the Pentagon has falsified the volume of subcontracts awarded to small businesses.

In April 2014, the league filed a freedom of information request for Sikorsky’s annual report. The business league argues that Sikorsky, which participates in a Defense Department program aimed at promoting small businesses, has no competitors for its Pentagon business.

Sikorsky initially declined to provide the information, but was forced to under federal judge orders. Sikorsky then submitted heavily redacted files and appealed the judge’s order. A December trial date has been set.

Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson said the company’s small business plan “is competition sensitive.” 
Albany Times-Union reports:
Governor Cuomo signed legislation Monday that adds community centers to the list of public places where carrying out certain crimes can face stiffer penalties. 

The bill now makes it a misdemeanor to make a false bomb threat at a community center, which is punishable by up to a year in jail. 

The legislation was proposed in response to recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers, and Cuomo’s signing comes days after violent clashes in Virginia at a white supremacist rally. 

Cuomo said in a statement: “…by signing this measure, we will give law enforcement more tools to prosecute hatemongers and treat these crimes with the seriousness they deserve." 
East End Beacon reports:
Eastern Long Island Hospital’s addiction rehabilitation service program has received a $1.6-million state grant to expand its outpatient services in Riverhead. The hospital will add a women’s sober house along with mental health and primary care services.

Quannacut Outpatient Services Director David Cohen estimated that they have 300 active patients as of early August, a number that has steadily grown since the outpatient clinic opened in 2001.

Cohen said the reduced stigma around mental health and substance abuse disorders is encouraging people to seek treatment.
Monday August 14, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Hazel Kahan and Neil Tolhurst)

In tonight's news:  Connecticut School funding worrying superintendents; Bridgeport’s 9 City Council primaries are ‘democracy at work’; and, Demonstrators Stood Against Racism Throughout Connecticut and Long Island Sunday
With no state budget in place, and $506 million slashed from the state’s primary grant to education in Gov. Malloy’s “mini budget,” school superintendents are approaching the 2017-18 school year with uncertainty and anxiety.

The mini-budget would strip districts like Fairfield, Milford, Monroe, Shelton and Trumbull of all their Education Cost Sharing funding. It has districts like Torrington pushing back the starting day of school from Aug. 30 to after Labor Day. Others are putting off new hires, laying off staff and trying to figure out how to make payroll in the fall without a reliable cash flow.

Without a new budget, Malloy announced last week he is prepared to reshuffle the distribution in favor of the state’s 30 lowest performing districts which are the ones in most need. With no true funding formula in place, Malloy said it would at least honor the constitutional requirement in terms of funding.
Bridgeport’s Democrat voters have abundant primary choices this summer. Seventeen candidates have successfully forced primaries in nine of the city’s 10 council districts. Each district is represented by two council members, with the winners moving on to the November general election ballot. 

The Democratic Town Committee’s late July nominating convention revealed friction as six council incumbents were rejected for re-election. Post-rejection, they moved on to collect signatures to compete in individual September 12 primaries in their neighborhoods in Districts 135, 136, 137 and 138.

Relative newcomers are contesting the 132nd District, political veterans made the ballot in the 133rd and a six-way race is taking place in the138th.

Ernie Newton is eyeing a 139th District council seat after losing two elections.  The former City Council President and state legislator who went to prison for corruption in 2005, said of the primaries: “I think what you’re seeing is more people wanting to be involved in the process. It’s democracy at work.” 
Demonstrators against racism, responding to events in Charlottesville, Virginia met throughout Connecticut and Long Island on Sunday, including 300 on the New Haven Green.

Demonstrators from the Sag Harbor area met at the nearby Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center to join up with a celebration of Bridgehampton Day in the largely African-American neighborhood. Participants stressed the need for black–white unity in the face of organized racism.

Bridgehampton Child Care Center Director Bonnie Cannon talked about the events In Charlottesville: “It looked like a time back in the sixties.  It went against basically everything that we stand for and everything that we are, and so we just want to come together, right now.”

“Kathy Engel – I'm here because what has been has once again elevated and escalated to an extreme point - which doesn't mean that hasn't been before - but now we have an administration that is giving license to extreme actions of white supremacy and xenophobia and every form of bigotry - and we have to stand together.”

“My name is Carol ..and I live in Sag Harbor and I have my little sign: which says Trump Denounce Racists or Resign.  I think that says it.”

“I'm Bert .. I'm totally upset about what happened in Charlottesville, but I'm more upset about the reaction of our President and our leaders.  As Ben Franklin says: ‘We have to hang together or we will most surely hang separately.’ ”
Friday August 11, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut budget cuts could cut into school mental health services; Bridgeport Sound Tigers oppose Harbor Yard conversion; Riverhead developer gets additional tax breaks; and, North Fork school officials call new e-cigarette ban a “good step”
The CT Mirror reports:
With no state budget, many Connecticut school districts may have to cut back on recently expanded mental health services.

The state made significant investments in those services, specifically in identifying and treating victims of trauma, after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. 
But without an adopted budget, Governor Malloy is running the state under executive order, which has cut funding to school-based health centers.

Many districts, such as Bridgeport, rely on state-funded grants to run mental illness and trauma programs, and are left unsure about continuing those initiatives.
Connecticut Post reports:
Bridgeport Sound Tigers owner Jon Ledecky claims Mayor Joe Ganim’s plan to turn the Ballpark at Harbor Yard into an amphitheater would violate the hockey team’s operating pact with the city. On Monday, Ganim’s administration announced that former Sound Tigers owner Howard Saffan and concert promoter Live Nation would replace the Bridgeport Bluefish as Harbor Yard’s tenants.

Ledecky cited a “noncompetition” section of the Tigers’ contract, and claims the Tigers had been given until the week of August 14 “to address in writing ... whether and under what circumstances the Sound Tigers could accept the ballpark conversion.” The Sound Tigers play in Webster Bank Arena, next door to Harbor Yard.

State Senator Ed Gomes, whose district includes the arena and ballpark, and state Representative Chris Rosario have expressed concerns over Gamin’s announcement.
City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer emphasized they haven’t finished negotiating the deal, and any final arrangement would not violate the Sound Tigers’ contract.
Riverhead Local reports:
Despite sharp criticism by community members, the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency Monday increased tax benefits for the Marriott Residence Inn planned on Route 58.

The IDA granted developer Lee Browning’s application for a nearly $215,000-increase in sales tax exemptions. Browning will now save almost $1 million in sales and compensating use taxes on purchases associated with developing the Residence Inn. This also comes after the IDA approved a 10-year real property tax abatement in 2015, worth about $580 million over 10 years.

Browning told the IDA board his costs had increased by about $5 million. South Jamesport resident Larry Simms, an outspoken opponent of IDA tax abatements and exemptions, said “a hotel owner who decides to build a bigger pool and a fancier bar …and who budgeted badly, doesn’t deserve yet another $215,000 in taxpayer help.”
The Suffolk Times reports:
North Fork school administrators praised Governor Cuomo’s recent ban of e-cigarettes on all school grounds statewide. Cuomo passed the legislation two weeks ago, coming at a time of rapidly increasing e-cigarette use. According to the New York State Department of Health, e-cigarette use among high school students practically doubled from 2014 to 2016.

Many local districts already have policies in place banning e-cigarettes, but still applaud the governor’s efforts. Shoreham-Wading River school district superintendent Gerard Poole said: “I’m happy the governor took that step to protect the health of our students.”
His district has banned e-cigarettes for years now.

Poole added: “I’m not sure if the government mandate impacts us too much, but I welcome it as a good step. It sends a good message of the dangers of e-cigarettes to kids.”
Thursday August 10, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunter Mike Merli.)

in tonight's news:,Connecticut’s surge in ticks continues; Senator Richard Blumenthal argues that Trump should use sanctions and not weapons against North Korea; New York State rule requires feminine hygiene products for female detainees;  ACivil Service Employees Association ratifies a new five-year contract with the state of New York.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:  In the words, of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, tick-borne diseases “are becoming an epidemic” in the state of Connecticut.

Yesterday, Blumenthal and Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Director Dr. Theodore Andreadis, held a press conference to urge residents to be vigilant about protecting themselves, their children, and their pets from ticks. Blumenthal said: “This year will be the worst ever. The numbers of bites and infections are rising.”

Blumenthal and Andreadis said that Connecticut is seeing a surge in ticks infected with not just Lyme, but Babesiosis and Powassan and other serious diseases.  They said one of the biggest areas of concern is that not only are the number of ticks being tested by the agricultural station continually increasing, but also increasing is the percentage of ticks testing positive for Lyme and other diseases.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States and can cause severe damage to joints and the nervous system.
Connecticut News Junkie reports: 
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said yesterday that President Trump should spend his time “enlisting our allies to help impose strict sanctions” against North Korea, instead of waging an escalating war of words.

Blumenthal, who was the subject of scathing criticism from Trump earlier this week, said the President took the wrong approach with his statement that North Korea would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continued to threaten the United States.

Following Trump’s “fire and fury” comment, North Korea’s state-run news agency, KCNA, said yesterday it was “examining the operational plan” to strike areas around the United States territory of Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles.

Specifically, the statement mentioned a potential strike on Andersen Air Force Base, designed “to send a serious warning signal to the U.S.”
The Albany Times-Union reports:
Executive Branch members of the Civil Service Employees Association have ratified a new five-year contract with the state of New York that provides for annual 2 percent raises, among other benefits.

An agreement between union leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration was struck in June. The previous contract expired in March 2016.

Governor Cuomo called the contract “a fair deal for New York and for more than Governor Cuomo called the contract “a fair deal for New York and for more than 60,000 hard-working public servants that are the backbone of state government.”
Wednesday August 9, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker.)

In tonight's news: Senator Blumenthal offers law to block sale of Plum Island; Connecticut Congressman Proposes Carbon Tax to Pay For Nation’s Infrastructure; New York state program offers up to $40 off ; and, Brookhaven National Lab plans layoffs 
The Connecticut Post reports: 
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced new legislation to permanently protect the environmental integrity of Plum Island Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the New London Maritime Society.

Blumenthal, along with Senator Chris Murphy, and New York Senators. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats  are seeking to permanently repeal the law requiring the General Service Administration to sell the island to the highest bidder. They say that Congress mandated the sale in order to help pay for construction of a new bio-lab in Kansas. Blumenthal says that legislation since then successfully included money for the lab, so the sale of the island is no longer necessary,” 

In 2002, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center was transferred from the United States Department of Agriculture to the United States Department of Homeland Security. Since then, local officials, some federal lawmakers and dozens of environmental groups have been trying to block the sale, saying that the island offers a diverse wildlife and ecosystem and a critical habitat for migratory birds, marine mammals, and rare plants.
Connecticut U.S. Representative John Larson has an idea about how to solve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and he wants to create a carbon tax to pay for it.  On Tuesday, he announced the “America Wins Act,” which he will introduce when Congress reconvenes in September.

The legislation taxes greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and is expected to raise $1.8 trillion over 10 years. The tax would get passed along to consumers, so there would also be a carbon tax rebate of about $800 billion.

Larson has plans to transform Interstates 84 and 91 in Hartford into tunnels. He said this proposal is not part of the “America Wins Act,” but could be funded under the legislation if it’s adopted by Congress. 

Larson plans to bring U.S. Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania to Connecticut next month to review these plans. Shuster is chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
New Yorkers buying naloxone to reverse an overdose of heroin or another opioid can now receive up to $40 in copayment assistance for the medication, due to a state program going into effect Aug. 9. Individuals do not need to register for the Naloxone Co-payment Assistance Program, but are advised to find information at pharmacy counters or at Naloxone also remains free through opioid overdose prevention programs.

In the spring, addicts and their families were having a hard time finding adequate supplies of naloxone through programs that offered it for free.  Without insurance, two doses of naloxone nasal spray costs $145 at a local pharmacy, while one with two doses of injectable naloxone costs just under $45.

The product has been in high demand amid an epidemic of heroin and opioid use. The antidote, often referred to by the brand name Narcan, can revive people on the brink of death.
Newsday reports:
Brookhaven National Laboratory plans to reduce its workforce by 6.5 percent, or 175 jobs, over the next few months, by offering voluntary buy-outs to its staff, mostly in support roles. The research institution in Upton will offer buyouts to about half the staff as part of a “voluntary program” that BNL said isn’t related to President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget. 

The Lab says that if not enough volunteers come forward, forced layoffs might be necessary. 
BNL currently has about 2,700 employees; of which 40 percent is support staff.

Earlier this year, President Trump proposed cutting $3 billion from the energy department budget next year. BNL received more than $537 million in 2016 from the department. It also faced budget cuts under President Barack Obama.
Tuesday August 8, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford)

In the news tonight: Connecticut municipal lobby disagrees with House Democrats’ sales tax plan; Bridgeport’s Harbor Yard to end Bluefish baseball, start concerts; Southampton’s new counterterrorism unit to carry rifles; and, college program for New York State inmates gets funding boost
The CT Mirror reports: 
Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Executive Director Joe DeLong described the House Democrats’ plan of boosting the sales tax to aid cities and towns as flawed. 

In an effort to end the budget gridlock, House Democrats recently proposed a two-year budget centered on raising the sales tax rate from 6.35 percent to 6.99 percent. The plan also would place a 1-percent sales tax surcharge on restaurant patronage and hotels.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, or CCM, recommended canceling various sales tax exemptions and raising the rate to 7 percent, with proceeds going to cities and towns. The CCM would also amend some collective bargaining rules, which drew criticism from labor groups. 

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said some of his caucus members remain wary of the CCM proposal.
Connecticut Post reports: 
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and his staff have decided to end Bluefish baseball in the Ballpark at Harbor Yard and host live concerts instead.  During his first administration twenty years ago, Ganim had the ballpark built and brought in the baseball team. 

Developer Howard Saffan revealed Monday that City Hall selected his and concert promoter Live Nation’s proposal to turn the ballpark into a warm-weather amphitheater over a new contract with the Bluefish.

Saffan said they will pay for $15 million worth of renovations to the 5,000-seat ballpark, but anticipate a public/private financial arrangement with the city. Ultimately the City Council must approve the amphitheater deal.
Newsday reports:
Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said Monday his department has added a counterterrorism unit, allowing some officers to carry rifles at events.

Skrynecki said about 15 officers received special training to carry semi-automatic weapons, collect intelligence from other agencies, and scan a crowd to identify who might be hiding a weapon or explosive device. The department will also have bag checks at large events and set up barricades to prevent people from driving into crowds.

AR-15 rifles are already in every patrol car, but only specially trained officers can carry them. Skrynecki said the only additional costs may be for advanced training and overtime pay.

The police chief emphasized the initiative is “out of an abundance of caution” and there has not been any threat this summer. 
The Albany Times-Union reports:
Governor Andrew Cuomo's office announced a new program to provide college classes to New York state prison inmates. Prisoners can take classes toward an associate's degree, bachelor's degree or industry-recognized certificate.  

The College-in-Prison Reentry Program is funded by the Manhattan District Attorney's  Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, from criminal assets obtained by the DA's office. It will create more than 2,500 seats for college programs for inmates who have no more than five years left on their sentence. 

Classes will be provided by a mix of SUNY and private colleges at correctional facilities across the state. Degrees will be offered in various disciplines, including liberal arts, behavioral sciences and business management.

A 2013 Rand Corporation study found prisoners who participate in education programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison and 13 percent more likely to find work after their release.
Monday, August 7, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Gretchen Swanson and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: concession deal, but still no budget for Connecticut; Lyme disease vaccine fast-tracked for approval by the Food and Drug Administration; Yaphank to host one of nation’s largest fuel-cell power projects; and, Protesters Converge On Steven Schwarzman's Long Island Home
The Connecticut Mirror reports: 
Last week, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman cast the decisive vote to approve a wage and benefit concessions package projected to save the state $1.57 billion dollars over the next two years.The package is critical to shaping the Connecticut state budget – when the legislature can finally adopt one.

Republicans say the deal will be self-defeating and force Democrats to have to raise taxes, cut services and municipal aid, or both, to cover the remainder of a projected $5 billion deficit. 

Three Democratic senators had reservations and withheld approval of the deal until receiving some assurance that structural budgetary changes are forthcoming.
State agencies that deliver services to the needy are already painfully affected by the lack of a budget. The first cuts took effect last week.
A Lyme disease vaccine is being fast-tracked for approval by the Food and Drug Administration, according to Newsday. There is no human Lyme vaccine, although one is available for dogs. 

The vaccine, known as VLA15,is a product of French vaccine-maker Valneva. Valneva was authorized to move its research into the FDA's program called Fast Track. 

Long Island doctors and those in other regions infested with ticks said a Lyme vaccine would be a welcome addition to the medical arsenal. Lyme disease has increased dramatically because the number of people with Lyme disease and other tick-related illnesses has risen as the ticks expanded their range.

The expedited approach, such as the Lyme vaccine, means the FDA will accept less data for approval and that studies of the vaccine can continue after it goes on the market.
Newsday reports:
By 2018, Yaphank will host three fuel cell power plants producing a total of about 40  megawatts, after an award by LIPA. They will be managed by Fuel Cell Energy of Danbury which operates a 15-megawatt Fuel Cell plant in Bridgeport.  The arrays will produce more power than any other fuel-cell project in the U S.

Collectively, the fuel cells will be the largest renewable energy project on Long Island, in terms of megawatts. Currently, a solar farm rated at 32 megawatts at Brookhaven National Lab is the state’s largest. 

Fuel cells are considered a “green” energy, capable of earning renewable energy credits, because they turn natural gas and similar fuels into energy through an electrochemical process rather than combustion.

LIPA chief Tom Falcone says the fuel cells in Yaphank will defer the need for grid upgrades and save the authority some $76 million. 
------------------------------------------- reports:
About 35 protesters converged on the Water Mill Long Island home of Stephen Schwarzman on Friday afternoon. Mr. Schwarzman is the chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group and an adviser to President Donald Trump.


The protesters oppose President Trump’s tax reform plans 
and a plan to privatize infrastructure projects. They represent The Center for Popular Democracy, New York Communities for Change, the Strong for All Economy Coalition, and the Latino advocacy group Make the Road New York.


The group set up a makeshift toll booth at the gate in front of Mr. Schwarzman’s home to emphasize “how Trump’s tax and infrastructure plans will take a huge toll on communities of regular working people, and give special treatment—an EZ Pass— to the wealthiest Americans, like Schwarzman.”
Friday August 4, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s economic recovery leads to workforce changes; pilot program to speed up court cases in Bridgeport; New Yorkers' voter data headed to Washington; and, Southold Town considers how to spend affordable housing funds.
Connecticut Post reports:
As Connecticut’s economic recovery continues, major shifts are reordering its workforce.
According to the Department of Labor’s Economic Digest, health care and social assistance and government fields recorded the largest changes between 2015 and 2016. 

The health care and social assistance field added roughly 2,300 jobs last year, while the public sector dropped nearly 3,400 positions. Connecticut Business & Industry Association economist Pete Gioia said: “You’re seeing the impact of an aging population in a lot of cases.”

At the same time, layoffs and retirements have shrunk government employment rolls and manufacturing dropped more than 2,500 jobs last year. But the outlook for the overall economy has improved significantly. An increase of 7,000 jobs in June helped to finally offset all private-sector losses from the past recession.

Gioia said; “I think the industries that grew last year will continue to grow.”
Connecticut Post reports:
Thanks to a special $200,000 grant, Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice will start a pilot program to speed up the arraignment process at a busy Bridgeport courthouse. Officials also hope it will save the state money. 

In Connecticut, the accused often have their cases continued several times before they are resolved. While in other states, arrest cases go directly to the district attorneys who then decide whether to proceed with the charges.

The grant will allow Connecticut to hire a prosecutor and social worker to pre-screen low-level, non-violent cases before they go to court during the 12-month pilot program in Bridgeport and Waterbury.

Special Deputy Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Nemec has already begun the process in Bridgeport’s Golden Hill Street courthouse, which serves the Fairfield Judicial District.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
New York State’s Board of Elections voted Wednesday to provide some voter data — names, birthdates, addresses and voting history — to President Trump’s commission investigating voter fraud, despite Governor Cuomo’s vow not to comply. 

The Board of Elections said the commission’s request for the data was legitimate under the state’s open records laws. A spokesman said; “We had no lawful reason to deny it.” 

But New York will not give the commission all the data it asked for, which included private information such as voters’ social security numbers. 
In a statement after the BoE announcement,  the governor said the state will continue to deny requests for sensitive personal data about New York residents, which is protected under the law. 

Cuomo called the President's voter fraud commission “a politically-motivated organization seeking to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud.”
The Suffolk Times reports:
Southold Town has more than $400,000 earmarked for affordable housing, but the town’s Housing Advisory Commission hasn’t determined how to spend it. Commission chair Rona Smith said they are “holding out” in case the funds are needed for a larger rental unit development.

The money results from developers in inclusionary zoning areas opting to pay into an affordable housing fund rather than including affordable housing in their projects. 

Currently, an outside developer is considering a large project of affordable units. But, Smith said, the commission has considered other uses. She said the idea is to have a revolving fund for affordable housing initiatives.

Thursday August 3, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Mike Merli.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut gets mixed reviews for cancer prevention; new survey shows Connecticut’s budget situation is impacting consumer confidence; New York bill would allow cities to take fire insurance money from absentee owners; and, Suffolk County seeks $50 million to replace failing cesspool systems.
According to a new report released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (or ACS CAN), Connecticut is getting mixed reviews when it comes to supporting policies and passing legislation to prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer.

But one area that the state continues to get failing grades in is in providing funding for tobacco cessation programs.

Connecticut was one of only two states that put no money toward a tobacco prevention and cessation program in 2017. New Jersey was the only other state that failed to allocate any funds to their program.

Since the state has yet to adopt a budget for the next two years, it’s not too late for Connecticut to consider funding these programs. It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Connecticut spend $32 million on tobacco prevention programs.
Connecticut News Junkie reports:
According to a survey by InformCT, Connecticut residents are beginning to worry about how the lack of a state budget will impact their personal budgets.

The survey indicates that “it is possible the uncertainty of the state’s budget situation may be contributing to the decreased likelihood of purchasing.” Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that the state budget cuts would have some significant effect on their personal budgets.

The percentage expecting an impact on their personal budgets from state budget cuts grows as respondent incomes decrease. But the 505 residents surveyed are divided on how to resolve Connecticut’s two-year budget deficit. 
       •Fifty-eight percent of residents surveyed thought the     state should reduce spending and 45 percent thought the state should increase taxes on the top 1 percent of households. 
        •Another 15 percent thought the state should raise taxes on businesses.

InformCT is a public-private partnership between the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. and Smith & Company. This is the second year in a row the group has conducted the consumer confidence surveys.
The Albany Times-Union reports:
A bill awaiting signature from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo would allow municipalities to recover past-due taxes and other costs from fire-destroyed residential buildings by placing tax liens on insurance money.

Current law allows such action for commercial buildings, but has for decades kept offsite residential property owners outside its purview, allowing landlords to take fire insurance money while their lots fall off local tax rolls, and displacing former tenants.

The measure amends the law to include all properties except one and two family owner-occupied residences.
SoutholdLocal reports:
Suffolk County is seeking $50 million dollars in NYS economic development grant funding to help replace failing cesspool systems with advanced wastewater treatment systems in homes across the county.  The county estimates that 360,000 homes use septic systems and cesspools, which do not remove nitrogen from wastewater and pollute groundwater and surface waters. 

County Executive Steve Bellone maintains that protecting water quality with individual advanced wastewater treatment is crucial to Long Island’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry. 

The state-of-the-art wastewater systems typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000 to install. 

Suffolk now provides grants up to $10,000 to eligible homeowners to replace septic systems and cesspools and offset the cost of the new systems. Low-interest financing is also available to qualified homeowners to cover the remaining cost of the systems.
Wednesday August 2, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Liz Becker and Hazel Kahan.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut's mental health services in a bind; Malloy shifts State aid to poorer schools; Great South Bay algal bloom retreats; and, Stony Brook takes over Southampton Hospital. 
CT News Junkie reports: 
Without a state budget providers of mental health and substance abuse treatment, and organizations that service individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities are in a bind.

Starting Tuesday, nonprofit mental health providers who get their money from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services faced a 2.5 percent reduction in funding.  A five percent cut would force the closure of whole programs according to Heather Gates, president and CEO of Community Health Resources.

Those who deliver services to the developmentally and intellectually disabled population have already had to take one furlough day. The next mandated furlough day will be Aug. 23.

The state can now go ahead with privatizing some of those services. It currently can’t lay off the employees in the agency, but there are an estimated 947 vacancies in the department.

It could give some of its responsibilities to nonprofit providers. but there would have to be funding for those nonprofit providers. That would require the legislature to leave the money in the DDS budget.
CT Mirror reports:
Gov. Dannel Malloy said Tuesday he will use his executive authority to revise the executive order he signed on July 1, in order to shield poorer school districts from budget cuts.This will impose larger cuts on better-off communities. The order already had eliminated all education aid for 34 municipalities.

Malloy’s decision to use his executive order to implement his own education funding formula comes as a landmark school-funding lawsuit heads for the Connecticut Supreme Court. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a Berlin Democrat  said Tuesday, a redistribution of education aid will not get enough votes in his suburban-dominated chamber.

Meanwhile, educators are warning that the stalemate is putting them in a difficult position as the start of the school year approaches and many school districts have elected to lay off staff. Mark D. Benigni, Meriden School Superintendent said: “Our students are in jeopardy here. The state needs to figure this out.” 
Environmental authorities say brown tide, caused by harmful algal blooms that endanger shellfish and eelgrass, has cleared from the Great South Bay — for now.

Professor Christopher Gobler of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences classified this brown tide as “one of the longest” ever.  It first appeared in May, two months earlier than expected. 

Brown tide of this intensity has not appeared in the Great South Bay since 2008.  Cell densities peaked in early June at 2.3 million cells per milliliter. They are harmful to sea life at 50,000 cells per milliliter.

The blooms die off once extended hot weather sets in, but could return when temperatures decline in September or October. The high levels of organic or recycled nitrogen from septic systems and, to a lesser extent, fertilizers, are believed to be major contributors to the blooms forming. 
Stony Brook University said Tuesday that Southampton Hospital has officially joined the Stony Brook Medicine health system, after a process that has lasted nearly five years. The hospital has been renamed Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.

Stony Brook Medicine and the 125-bed hospital announced a letter of intent to merge back in October 2012. The deal required multiple state regulatory approvals.

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital expects to construct a new hospital on Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus. The new facility would replace its existing hospital in Southampton Village. The Hospital didn’t say how much it needs to raise in order to make the move, but they say it would be paid for privately.

Separately, Stony Brook also plans to open a cancer center on County Road 39 in Southampton by the end of next year.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers.)

In the news tonight: Connecticut passes $1.57 billion labor deal, focus now on budget; proposed Bridgeport thermal loop project stalled; New York Congressman’s proposed federal bill would void SAFE Act; Suffolk County Executive announces plan to share municipal services.
CT NewsJunkie reports:
Connecticut’s legislature passed $1.57 billion in labor concessions Monday, resolving about a third of the state’s two-year, $3.5 billion budget deficit.

Governor Malloy said the deal was “key” to help the state move toward adopting a state budget. He has been running the state by executive order the past month, and towns, cities and nonprofit organizations are feeling the squeeze.

The labor deal passed with only Democrat support. No Senate or House Republicans voted for the agreement. Senate Republican President Len Fasano said: “Rejecting this concessions deal would have left us more options to resolve our budget deficit together and protect all taxpayers.” Senate Democratic President Martin Looney said budget negotiations will be “difficult.” 
Connecticut Post reports:
Bridgeport and state officials want to salvage a proposal to pump industrial heat that would otherwise be wasted to downtown buildings, providing heating at a cheaper cost than natural gas. Developed by NuPower LLC, the Bridgeport thermal loop would use a network of underground pipes to capture and use heat from the Wheelabrator waste-to-energy plant, a proposed fuel cell and other sources.

However, Governor Malloy vetoed a recently passed bill that would have allowed the fuel cell to move forward. While the governor commended the project’s goal, he said it lacked adequate consumer protections or regulatory oversight.

Last week, representatives from both sides of the debate gathered at the governor’s office to figure out a way forward. State Representative Steven Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat, said: “We’re going to continue to work with the (Malloy) administration to refine legislation that everyone is fully supportive of.” 
Albany Times-Union reports:
Monday, U.S. Representative Chris Collins unveiled his Second Amendment Guarantee Act that would limit a state’s authority to regulate the design, manufacture, sale or possession of a rifle or shotgun. It does not cover handguns.

Collins says his bill would effectively repeal New York’s controversial SAFE Act gun-control law. 

Critics view the SAFE Act, which passed January 2013 following the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, as a ban on firearms that offer assault gun-style features. The law also limits the number of rounds that can be loaded into a gun.  

Collins’ proposed legislation would bar states from imposing stricter firearm regulations, or higher penalties and fees, than set by federal law. It also contains a clause that would nullify any state or local law violating its provisions.  
Newsday reports:
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Monday a draft plan to share services with towns and villages, estimating a savings of up to $37 million over the next two years.

The plan, dubbed Suffolk Share, aims to streamline local governments through increased cooperation at easing the property tax burden. 

Suffolk Share goes to the county legislature for public hearings before a final plan is adopted by September 15. 

Bellone said joint purchasing of equipment and goods could save $27 million for the county, towns and villages. The county could save another $10 million through sharing equipment, facilities and services. He said: “There’s a lot of upside potential, but it will all depend on participation.”