Tuesday, January 2, 2018

January 2018

Thursday January 18, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: In Connecticut: landmark education ruling overturned; legislators alerted to hospital appeals; In New York: no State consensus on ‘New York’s plastic bag problem’ and law enforcement cracks down on ATVs on Long Island
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Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The Connecticut state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Connecticut’s education system is imperfect, but not unconstitutional.

The decision may signal the end of 12 years of litigation over whether the state has been providing enough funding for its poorest school districts. The justices overturned Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukwasher’s ruling.

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding which brought the case against then-Governor M. Jodi Rell and worked for years to get it to trial, was deeply disappointed with the decision.

James Finley, chief consultant for the group, said, “CCJEF believes a case of this landmark magnitude should not be left dangling on such a close vote but requires instead the kind of clarity for the future of the State’s educational system that only a new trial and a definitive majority can establish.”
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Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director sent legislative leaders a letter yesterday to let them know most of the state’s hospitals are appealing the rate changes. The hospitals claim the 32 percent increase for inpatient services and 6 percent for outpatient services “failed to correct the fundamental deficiencies” in the underlying rate methodology.

The rate increases are on top of over $1.5 billion in annual rates paid to hospitals include more than $823 million in inpatient fees and $731 million in outpatient charges.

At an event in Manchester yesterday, Malloy said he didn’t know how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would handle the latest development.
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Denise Civiletti reports for Riverhead Local:
The Plastic Bag Task Force created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last March to develop a statewide plan and legislation for “New York’s plastic bag problem” failed to reach a consensus. 

No single approach is advocated in the 24-page report,disappointing Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, who said: “It is the long-held position of the environmental community that a successful solution must include a fee component on all single-use bags. Improving recycling will not achieve this effect.”

Merchants have opposed plastic bag bans but support the NYC law allowing them to keep the five-cent fee. Cuomo blocked the “deeply flawed” law and its “$100 million bonus to private companies [that] is beyond the absurd.”  

The law, adopted by Suffolk County in 2016, took effect on Jan.1.  It requires retail stores to collect the five-cent fee that they then keep. Southold, East Hampton, Southampton and Patchogue are among those enacting the ban. Stores failing to comply with the county law face a $500 fine per occurrence.
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Beth Young writing for East End Beacon reports:
For 15 years, a game of cat-and-mouse has been played between illegal All-Terrain-Vehicle Drivers and law enforcement in the Central Pine Barrens of Long Island. 

“ATVs tear up trails, scare hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers,” said Suffolk County Park Ranger Arthur Pendzick.  In addition, he said: “High tension power lines are beginning to lean because of erosion caused by dirt bikes and quads.”

Although legal to purchase, ATVs are prohibited by law on public lands in Long Island.  ATVs are usually not registered or insured.  Mr. Pendzick leads a multi-agency ATV Task Force which patrols the 100,000 acre region twice a month and must observe ATV drivers in the act in order to issue a citation.  “Ninety percent of suspects flee when they encounter law enforcement,” he said, “those who don’t, simply face fines and impounding of their ATVs.”

The public can assist the Task Force by calling 1-877-BARRE to report illegal ATV activity in the Pine Barrens.
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Wednesday January 17th, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Michael Zweig and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: calls for an override to Governor Malloy’s Medicare veto; Connecticut’s fiscal growth slows as competitiveness diminishes; Connecticut joins New York in net-neutrality effort; Cuomo delivers a $168 billion state budget proposal
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Ken Dixon reports for CTPost: 
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) has called on fellow lawmakers to override Gov. Dan Malloy’s veto of a bill aimed at restoring income thresholds for more than 100,000 participants in the Medicare Savings Program, calling it “unsurprising, but unfortunate."

Malloy’s veto message, issued in the face of overwhelming votes, came as the state got word that tax revenue has failed to meet projections by $260 million, adding to the estimated $220 million shortfall in the state budget. 

Prior to Malloy’s veto on Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), noted that the decreasing revenue picture will hasten the need for legislative leaders to agree on further budget compromises, including a plan to fund the Medicare Savings Program when the next fiscal year begins on July 1. 
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Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie reports:
Connecticut’s economy dropped from 8th most competitive all the way down to 43rd in 2016, and now a group of business execs have made it their mission to navigate out of the state’s fiscal mess. 

The 14-member emergency task force, formally called the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, is expected to deliver their recommendations to the legislature by March 1. 

Because the Beacon Hill Institute rankings paint a gloomy picture for the state, the task force will focus on only the most important structural problems, beginning with the unfunded state and teacher retiree pension systems, followed by issues related to “fragmented” public services and the exodus of high net individuals.

The task force will look at review the state’s aging and bankrupt transportation system and encourage millennials’ return to Connecticut cities.
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Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post reports on Tuesday, Connecticut joined a multi-state effort to appeal the FCC’s recent rejection of so-called net-neutrality rules.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has said the failure of Congress to assure consumer access to the Internet exacerbates the need for he and other attorneys general to act. 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading the efforts of 20 states and the District of Columbia calling the Commission’s recent action "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”  A petition has been filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Last month, the FCC board’s five-members repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order, which had prohibited the blocking of content, as well as so-called throttling practices of internet service providers, to retain open access for consumers, a move Attorney General Jepsen says must be “overturned” because it lets providers discriminate against content, and even charge higher rates to content providers and consumers.
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Matthew Hamilton and Rick Karlin report in the Albany Times-Union that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has delivered a $168 billion state budget proposal. 

One budget highlight would allow businesses to assume their employees' income taxes as a payroll tax to counter recent federal tax changes that cap state and local tax deductions for individuals at $10,000.  Payroll taxes remain fully deductible.  Another proposal would allow people to make deductible "charitable donations" to their local school districts in lieu of school property taxes. 

Cuomo stressed that the plans are complicated, and it's not even clear if they are workable.
Budgeted spending on state agencies remains basically flat while school aid and Medicaid spending increase. No layoffs are planned; savings would come via attrition. 

Cuomo also wants to raise $1 billion in new revenue through such things as a tax on opioid prescription drugs and broadening the existing Internet sales tax. 
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And finally, this weekend Women will march in Hartford and New York City to celebrate women and the women’s rights movement. 

The 2018 Women's March on New York City will be held on Saturday, with a 1 PM start at 72nd and Central Park West. The Women's March on Hartford will step off on Saturday as well, starting at Corning Fountain, 21 Capitol Ave.  More information is at womensmarchalliance.org  
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Tuesday January 16, 2018  (Our thanks to tonight’s volunteers Trace Alford, Danniella Tompos, and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport school board wants event security, not the bill; opioid distributors sued by New Haven ask for dismissal; Hofstra receives federal grant to study beachgrass survival; Islip Town wants to lease 1,500 more acres for shellfishing
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Linda Conner Lambeck at the Connecticut Post reports: 
Bridgeport school board members are exploring ways to stop footing the bill for police coverage of district sporting events. Members would like the city to cover those. Police officers supplement school security guards already assigned to those events.

The board cut school police officers from its budget two years ago to save $500,000. The district’s school resource officers come from a federal grant awarded jointly to the police department and school system.The school district still gets billed for police coverage at after-school events, primarily for athletics, adding up to $100,000 annually.

At the suggestion of the district calling for police on an as-need basis, school police and security supervisor Sergeant Angelo Collazo warned that the response time would depend on what else is happening in the city.

The full board will review the matter at its January 22 meeting. 
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Jack Kramer at CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Earlier this month, three pharmaceutical opioid distributors asked the Superior Court to dismiss the City of New Haven’s lawsuit accusing the companies of indirectly shipping “suspicious” quantities of opioids into the city.

New Haven sued the three distributors and a handful of opioid manufacturers in October, accusing them of working to deceive doctors and patients about the addictive risks of opioids and their appropriateness for chronic pain management. The lawsuit seeks compensation for “exorbitant” costs for social services and increased expenditures for additional first responders.

New Haven’s lawsuit is similar to litigation filed in August against those drug makers by 17 other communities, including Bridgeport, Fairfield, Milford, North Haven, Newtown and Shelton. 

In its motion to dismiss, lawyers for the three distributors state: “Alleged injuries are too indirect, remote, and derivative as they relate to the distributors’ alleged conduct.” 
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Stefanie Dazio reports in Newsday that Hofstra University professor Javier Izquierdo has received a $476,000 federal grant from the National Science Foundation to identify and study the microorganisms that help — or impede — beachgrass survival in the dunes along Long Island’s South Shore.

The beachgrass anchors the fragile ecosystems found on the dunes, which act as the first line of defense for South Shore communities during major weather events like superstorm Sandy. 

The grant funds stipends for students’ summer research through 2020. Izquierdo said the goal is to determine if certain microbes can be introduced to support struggling beachgrass plants. If that’s the case, their research could save municipalities millions of dollars in dune replenishment costs.

The team is currently working with several municipalities, including Oyster Bay and Babylon towns, Fire Island and Long Beach. They plan to share their findings and also do educational outreach. 
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Valerie Bauman reports in Newsday that Islip Town officials are seeking state approval to vastly expand shellfishing revival efforts in the Great South Bay. The town currently leases 125 acres of town-owned underwater land to shellfish farmers, and wants to expand that program by more than 1,500 acres.

Islip’s bay-bottom initiative was launched in 2012 to help bring back the region’s shellfish industry, support local farmers, and improve water quality in the bay. The town says it has a waiting list of about 120 shellfish farmers interested in leasing parcels. The town charges $750 per acre, per year. 

The state Department of Environmental Conservation needs to give final approval. 

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Monday January 15, 2018  (Thanks to volunteer news editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson, Lee Yuen Lew and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

On tonight’s news: Sandy Hook report released; Dan Drew, Liz Linehan End Campaign;
Keith Ellison addresses Democratic activists in New Haven; New York Lawmakers Urged to Confront Corruption
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For the Harford Courant, David Altimari and David Owens report:
A Connecticut State Police after-action report concluded many people, including civilians, had access to Sandy Hook Elementary School in the hours following the 2012 shooting, and this led to contamination of the crime scene.

The report noted: “Other individuals, uninvolved CSP command staff, members of outside agencies, and dignitaries were allowed into the school over the next several days, disrupting processing of the scene by detectives, potentially risking scene integrity, and unnecessarily exposing personnel to the disturbing scene.”

Also critiqued were improperly worn bulletproof vests, how victims’ families were notified of their child’s death, and how the crime scene was handled. The report also highlighted what the police did well, including the establishment of a family liaison program with individual troopers assigned to assist each victim’s family.

Questions were raised about why the report took five years, an unusually long time, to be released but these were largely left unanswered.
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According to Christine Stuart reporting for Connecticut News Junkie:
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew and his running mate, Cheshire state Representative Liz Linehan, ended their campaign for governor and lieutenant governor. They cited fundraising difficulties.

One of the first candidates to announce last year, Drew struggled from the start.  Last September, he was criticized for sending letters to the homes of town employees. The state Election Enforcement Commission is investigating that matter. The Middletown Common Council approved an investigation into a gender discrimination complaint and he recently lost his seat on the local Democratic Town Committee.

In the past quarter, Drew raised over $91,000 and received over $37,000 in individual donations, but most of that money has already been spent.

Drew and Linehan said in a statement: “Ultimately it became very difficult to raise the required funds to qualify for public financing.”
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Keith Ellison, a representative from Minnesota and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, spoke in New Haven on Saturday to a packed room of activists eager to change the party’s trajectory.
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WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
Congressmember Keith Ellison said the party’s focus on just winning elections and not winning the argument about how to concretely improve people’s lives led to disaster. “Do you know we have lost over 1,000 seats across the country in terms of state legislative seats, governorships and things like that? How did we get here? The answer in just a few words is, we’ve failed to do community organizing and grassroots engagement.”

He said under new leadership the party is doing that grassroots work in connection with lots of other groups that may or may not identify with the party, such as labor unions and Indivisible groups around the country.

Ellison was and is a big supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. He noted that in 2016 the Clinton wing of the party had put its “thumb on the scale” in the primaries to get an unfair advantage at the convention, but said since then the two wings have worked together to create a unity document and level the playing field.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
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From Andrea Sears reporting for the Public News Service:
Government watchdogs have repeatedly dubbed New York as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. As more New York state elected officials face federal charges, good-government watchdog groups are urging the governor and lawmakers to institute reforms.

At least six former New York public officials are scheduled for trial or retrial in the first six months of this year. At least 33 New York legislators have left office for corruption-related issues in the past 18 years.

Priscilla Grim, communications and marketing manager for Citizens Union, says lawmakers in Albany have done little to stop public corruptions. Grim’s group and others have launched a Restore Public Trust campaign, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to adopt a package of reforms. Grim says: "We're really looking for basic accountability, we're looking for transparency, we're looking for strict pay-to-play restrictions on state vendors.”
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Friday January 12, 2018 (Thanks to volunteer news editors John Iannuzi, Trace Alford, Michael Zweig and Anthony Ernst)

On tonight’s news: Connecticut sees Reduction in Incarceration Rates for Women; transgender woman claims harassment at Suffolk jail in lawsuit; 17 with suspected MS-13 ties indicted on Long Island; Brookhaven planners OK scaled-down solar project in Mastic
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Newsday reports:
A transgender woman has filed a federal lawsuit against Suffolk County seeking at least $1 million. The woman claims she was harassed, molested and denied hormone medication while detained in the County Correctional Facility.

Alyssa Giordano filed the lawsuit Wednesday alleging she was housed in a male unit of the jail, despite an order from a Suffolk County judge that she be housed with women. In the lawsuit she claims she was “subjected to weeks of mistreatment by the Correctional Facility and its staff.”

The suit alleges that Suffolk County has a policy, pattern or custom “to treat transgender inmates differently” from non-transgendered inmates, and “to disregard the gender of transgender individuals when making housing placement decisions.” David Shanies, Giordano’s attorney, says “Suffolk County has a shameful history in its treatment of transgender inmates and a change is needed.” 

The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages and an injunction to force county officials to “implement policies and procedures necessary to protect the constitutional rights of transgender inmates.” Suffolk officials could not be reached for comment. 
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Newsday reports that what started as an ordinary drug-trafficking investigation developed into a probe that delivered “another heavy blow” to MS-13’s infrastructure, authorities said Thursday. 

They cited the arrest of the gang’s East Coast leader, a $1 million heroin seizure and the foiling of murder plots involving a Long Island clique of the syndicate. Law enforcement officials also charged another defendant in the July machete slaying of Roosevelt teenager Angel Soler.  All those arraigned pleaded not guilty.

Law enforcement officials said the gang’s two local cliques operated in towns including Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, Uniondale, Glen Cove, Greenport and Central Islip.The eight defendants who appeared for arraignment ranged in age from 17 to 29, and all but one had Long Island ties.

The Nassau Police Department and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force also took part in the probe with Nassau County’s District Attorney. 
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The Brookhaven Planning Board on Monday approved a scaled-down solar project for land in Mastic. The approval gives the go-ahead for development of 40 acres within the 100-acre parcel on Moriches-Middle Island Road to begin.

The pine barrens expansion law, vetoed by Governor Cuomo last month, would have preserved the Mastic property and another 1,000 acres around the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant. 

MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, called the board’s decision “appalling.” The civic association is suing to block the solar array, saying it failed to comply with a new Brookhaven Town code.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine, had been negotiating with Cuomo’s office to work out an offer to preserve the 100-acre parcel and give the developer alternative space on the town landfill to build its project. Romaine said his staff was meeting Thursday with Cuomo’s staff in Manhattan to continue talks. 
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Thursday January 11, 2918 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Ramzi Babouder-Matta, Thomas Byrne, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s Republican candidates for governor engage in second debate; Connecticut sees enrollment gains in its health insurance exchange; New Suffolk School Board to decide district’s fate this month; and Peconic Bay Power Squadron to offer boating safety course next month
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Yesterday, nine Republican gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut tried to separate themselves from the pack during the party’s second debate. The issue of electability and what it means to be a Republican in Connecticut took center stage.

The participating candidates included Fairfield attorney Peter Lumaj; former Trumbull Mayor Tim Herbst; Senator Toni Boucher (from Wilton); Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton; Representative Prasad Srinivasan (from Glastonbury); Stamford’s chief financial officer Mike Handler; Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti; Westport tech consultant Steve Obsitnik; and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.

In order to participate, candidates had to have raised more than $75,000. Several of the candidates on stage have already surpassed the $250,000 threshold to qualify for public financing.
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Three months after President Donald Trump declared the death of the Affordable Care Act, United States Representative Joe Courtney was on the House floor pointing to enrollment gains in Connecticut’s health insurance exchange as evidence the Affordable Care Act is stable and growing.

Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, enrolled 114,135 individuals in private health insurance plans during the latest open enrollment period – nearly 3,000 more than a year ago. Courtney said the increase occurred despite serious headwinds from the Trump administration, which had shortened the enrollment period and reduced advertising.

The lawmaker pointed to a report in The Hill, which found that insurers who decided to stick with the Affordable Care Act after a tumultuous 2017 are likely to have a relatively profitable year thanks in part to higher-than-expected enrollment.
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The Suffolk Times reports:
The existence of a school district on Long Island is in doubt as the school board deals with dwindling school population and increasing costs.

The New Suffolk school district, located on the North Fork of Long Island, has just 15 students in grades K – 6, and has five full-time staff members, two classroom teachers, two teaching assistants, and another teacher who was dismissed in 2015 but was recently awarded reinstatement with back pay costing the district over 300,000 dollars.

The school district has three choices, according to school board president, Mr. Tony Dill: keep the school open with three full-time teachers, keep it open with two full-time teachers, or send the students to neighboring schools districts such as Mattituck-Cutchogue or Southold.  Should the 111-year old school remain open, residents should expect significant tax increases, staffing cuts, and a restructuring of curriculum.  “They’re all bad choices,” said Mr. Dill.

The school board makes its decision on January 31.
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Riverhead Local reports:
Next month a four-session Coast Guard-approved boating course is being offered by Peconic Bay Power Squadron, which is Eastern Long Island’s local unit of the United States Power Squadrons. Called “America’s Boating Course,” it will be held on four Tuesdays in February at Southampton Senior Center, located at 25 Ponquogue Avenue in Hampton Bays.

America’s Boating Course is approved by New York State for compliance with the state boater education law. The law requires all operators of mechanically propelled vessels in New York Waters born on or after May 1st, 1996 to have a boating safety certificate.

Material presented will cover boating law, safety equipment, safe boating practices, navigation, boating emergencies, personal watercraft, charts, GPS, trailering and much more.

Students must be at least 10 years of age on or before Feb. 27th to register for the class.
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Wednesday January 10, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Liz Becker)

In the news tonight: hike in fees and reduction in service could be a reality for Metro North Commuters; Council members to Bridgeport Mayor, “pay up”; sudden loss of legal status spells high anxiety for thousands of L.I. families; and, New York lawmakers stick to the script ahead of session  
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Connecticut Post reports: 
Metro-North commuters are facing a 10 percent fare hike this year and reduced service to cover ongoing shortfalls in transportation funding from the General Assembly. 

Bus fares would increase 25 cents, weekday off-peak rail service would be reduced on the Shore Line East, Danbury, Waterbury and New Canaan branch lines, and weekend service on those lines would be eliminated. Transit districts would see a 5 percent reduction in funding. 

Jim Gildea, president of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, said: “These increases and service reductions fall squarely on our state legislators and all commuters need to rise up and remember this on Election Day. Commuters will not forget.” 

DOT did not respond to questions about whether officials would cancel the proposed rate hikes if the General Assembly authorized sufficient funding. After holding public hearings, DOT currently decides whether to raise fares. 
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Should Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim pay the city back for his use of a taxpayer-funded police detective while campaigning for governor? Several City Council Members say yes. 

Freshman Councilwoman Maria Zambrano Viggiano, co-chair of the budget committee, said it would be a gesture of good faith to residents. While many Council members are considered “Ganim Supporters” the consensus seems to be taxpayer-funded police should not be with the mayor during those times he is campaigning for higher office. 

The Connecticut Post reports Councilman Peter Spain emailed a proposed resolution to the council requiring Ganim not only fully reimburse the city for campaign-related expenses, but also provide monthly reports on the use of police drivers “reflecting location, event and hours.” 

The budget committee met on Monday, nearly a week after Ganim and his driver, Bridgeport Detective Ramon Garcia, were stopped by a state trooper in Southington for speeding. 
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Riverhead Local reports: 
Termination of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation will affect 16,200 of Long Island’s El Salvadoran immigrants. 

Signed into law 27 years ago by Republican President George H.W. Bush and approved for El Salvador in 2001, this was intended as a temporary solution without possibility of permanent residency or citizenship. TPS is scheduled to end by Jan. 9, 2019. 
Immigrants and their advocates argue that the earthquake conditions of 2001 have been replaced by the existential realities of poverty, lack of infrastructure and gang violence affecting the country today. Carlos Reyes who came to the US 24 years ago asks: “[But] how can I go back to El Salvador? I don’t know how to function in a country that is dominated by violence and gangs.” 

Now, immigrant advocates say, is the time for Salvadorans to take advantage of the “orderly transition” provided by the 18-month delay to either leave the country or reach out to immigration experts for immigration remedies. 

A meeting of the National TPS Alliance will take place on Friday, at 7 p.m. at 238 Horton Avenue in Riverhead to talk about TPS.
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Lawmakers in New York have no plans on “rocking the boat” this legislative session. 
Facing a $4 billion-plus deficit and re-election campaigns, elected officials in the capital are sticking to familiar scripts this year. 

Albany Times-Union reports Assembly Democrats on Monday focused on social issues such as gun control and protecting immigrants, as well as fixing the New York City subway system. 

The next day Senate Republicans rolled out their priorities which include protecting existing tax breaks for homeowners and wage earners including a middle-class income tax cut that takes effect this year. An estimated 4.4 million wage earners could save about $250 each this year, with that amount rising to $750 when fully phased in by 2025. 

This cut is separate from the federal tax cut that Congress passed in December.
For their part, New York State Democratic lawmakers called for the criminal justice reforms as well as tougher gun control measures such as a complete ban on bump stocks that can convert some rifles into automatic weapons.
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Tuesday January 9, 2018  (Thanks to volunteer editors Trace Alford and Danniella Tompos)

On tonight’s news: Connecticut tax receipts are up; Legislature reverses cuts to Medicare; Malloy nominates first gay Supreme Court chief justice; loss of Salvadorans would have negative impact on Long Island; and, the search for a Suffolk Police commissioner 
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The Connecticut Post reports:
Connecticut collected $900 million in personal income taxes in December and January. The amount was unexpected and could be a sign the state’s economy may be improving.  
Governor Dannel Malloy calls the news “very promising” for the state but warned that the General Assembly must resolve a more than $200 million deficit in the current two-year budget.

The collected taxes include normal estimated payments, one-time payments based on repatriation of foreign profits and accelerated payments that would normally have been received later in January or in April.

If the one-time revenues are used to rebuild the state’s rainy-day fund the governor says his administration will have given Connecticut residents and businesses the fiscal responsibility they have been demanding. 
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The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Monday to reverse health care program cuts affecting as many as 113,000 seniors and the disabled. The House of Representatives voted 130-3 to adopt the measure late Monday morning, and the Senate passed it 32-1 early in the afternoon.

But Governor Malloy — who has pledged to veto the measure — and others insist that the means used to restore $54 million to the Medicare Savings Program worsened the already deficit-plagued state budget.

Legislative leaders of both parties spoke about the need to take care of people who need the most help. Several legislators said they had been inundated in recent weeks with phone calls and emails 
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CT Mirror reports: 
Justice Andrew J. McDonald was named Monday by Governor Malloy as his choice for chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.  McDonald became Connecticut’s first openly gay justice when he joined the court five years ago.

McDonald was a legal advisor to Malloy when he was Stamford’s Mayor. He would be the first openly gay chief justice in any state. The appointment must be confirmed by the legislature. 
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Newsday reports:
Thousands of Long Island residents from El Salvador must either leave, seek lawful residency or fall into illegal status after the Trump administration terminated their Temporary Protective Status (or TPS) Monday.

Patrick Young, program director at the Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead and Brentwood, said previous administrations had considered “the conditions of chaotic violence in El Salvador” when they extended TPS.

Young said El Salvador “has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world and you are now going to be deporting people who have lived in this country without any criminal background … to a country where their lives will be in grave danger.” 

Young and other advocates are also concerned about the impact of the decision on Long Island’s economy and the fate of U.S. citizen children of affected families. If Salvadorans stay past the deadline, Young said: “Many will go from being productive taxpaying homeowners to standing in street corners waiting for whatever job they can get in landscaping …Their children will now fall into the care of the government, instead of the care of their parents.” 
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Suffolk County has received resumes from more than 100 candidates for the job of commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, the 11th largest department in the nation.
A seven-member committee has begun the process of winnowing down the unexpectedly large number of contenders for the $171,000-a-year job overseeing a department with a $521 million budget and 3,400 employees.

About 50 of the resumes fit county criteria calling for candidates possessing “a high level of leadership, analytic and communication ability while demonstrating the highest level of integrity, vision and skill.” More than half the resumes appear to have been generated from recruiting firms looking to place clients.

The committee hopes to winnow the number of candidates to 25 within the next few weeks and then discuss with County Executive Bellone how many to interview. Bellone will also meet with groups interested in police issues to get their input
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Monday January 8, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Lee Yuen Lew, Gretchen Swanson, and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport Police to launch body, dash cams; lawmakers aren’t moved by Malloy veto threat; Court overturns New York medical marijuana companies’ bid to block new operators; LIRR riders brace for new round of Penn Station renovation
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According to Connecticut Post: 
By the end of January, at least 33 members of the Bridgeport Police Department will be patrolling the city with body cameras and dashboard cameras, Police Chief Armando Perez said Saturday.

Volunteers on the police force will participate in a 90-day pilot program, set to launch by the end of this month, to field-evaluate three possible vendors for body and dashboard cameras. One vendor is Taser, which carries Axon body cameras.

Perez did not estimate the total expected cost to implement the program, but said the department would be reimbursed by the state. He said: “We’re trying to mirror New Haven PD and the state.” New Haven uses Taser and rolled out its body cameras in November.

After the pilot program, Perez said, every Bridgeport Police car would be issued a dashboard camera and body cameras issued to all patrol officers, sergeants and specialized non-undercover units.
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CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Governor Malloy told legislative leaders he would veto their proposal to increase benefits for the Medicare Savings Program.

The bill details how lawmakers would find $54 million in spending cuts and savings to restore the program to its previous levels until July 1, 2018. That includes taking $19.3 million in savings from the teacher’s retirement account.

Malloy said he has already delayed changes to the program through executive action. He called the bill “posturing at best and bad budgeting at worst, and if it comes to my desk in its current form, I will veto it.”  However, both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders seem undeterred by the veto threat. 

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said lawmakers will convene today to pass the bill. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat, said there’s a “unified bipartisan consensus” for preserving the Medicare Savings Program. 
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Albany Times-Union reports: New York State's Medical Cannabis Industry Association suffered a setback late last month. A state Supreme Court justice dismissed its lawsuit to block health officials from doubling the number of companies permitted to grow and distribute medical marijuana.

A contention that the law enabling medical marijuana production in New York restricts the number of companies to five was rejected. The lawsuit argued that expanding the number of companies harms the fledgling industry and its patients who rely on medical marijuana for pain relief from debilitating conditions.

The decision appears to allow five additional state-approved companies to help grow operations and retail dispensaries, provided Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Justice Department does not follow last week’s memo calling marijuana a “dangerous drug” with action against states with legalized marijuana.

The plaintiffs are contemplating next steps.
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Newsday reports: 
Long Island Rail Road riders, who last summer weathered service disruptions due to major repairs at Penn Station, are bracing for a new round of renovation work that starts today and will last four months. Amtrak is reconstructing as many as three tracks at Penn Station that normally serve LIRR riders.

The LIRR has altered schedules to accommodate the work, diverting eight rush-hour trains that usually terminate or originate at Penn Station, to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn or Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens.

Amtrak said the new project would have far less impact on riders compared to the “summer of hell,” as dubbed by Governor Cuomo. But worries persist among riders and their advocates who note that this installment of the Penn repairs comes when fewer riders are on vacation and winter weather issues already stress the system. 

The project will have less construction hours, less track work and less trains out of service, but there will no replacement buses or ferries or fare reductions.
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Friday January 5, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: half of Connecticut hospitals face Medicare penalty; new education standards for Connecticut’s expelled students; new Long Island Railroad service for South Fork to start in 2019; and, a closer look at Cuomo’s 2018 policy plan
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Connecticut Post reports:
Fifteen of Connecticut’s 31 hospitals will lose part of their Medicare payments in 2018 as a penalty for having relatively high rates of patients who acquired preventable injuries and infections while hospitalized.

Bridgeport Hospital, the Norwalk Hospital Association and Yale New Haven Hospital are among the penalized facilities that will lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements this fiscal year. The fines are part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program.

Some hospitals in the past have claimed the ratings program unfairly disadvantages certain hospitals if they treat certain populations or are teaching hospitals.

Connecticut Hospital Association senior vice president for clinical affairs Dr. Mary Cooper says: “Connecticut hospitals have always been dedicated to providing excellent quality care to patients.” She recognizes “there is still work to be done.”
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The CT Mirror and Connecticut Post reports:
The state Board of Education unanimously approved new standards Wednesday that require school districts give expelled students more than just homework.  Districts are now required to provide students with access to programming comparable to a regular classroom setting during their expulsion. School districts must also address the issues that led to expulsion.

The state board expects enrollment in an education program run by the district or other provider will be necessary. Current state law requires an alternative educational opportunity, but does not stipulate quality.

Of the nearly 750 students expelled last school year, nearly half received only homework assignments; almost a quarter went into an alternative education setting; and 14 percent received tutoring. Nearly one in 10 received no education during expulsion.
The average expulsion lasted 115 days.

Some superintendents and school boards lobbied against standards they consider too costly and restrictive. But no one testified against the proposed standards.
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As reported by Newsday, a new commuter train shuttling workers across the South Fork will be operational by spring 2019.  The service was announced Wednesday by Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

Two additional morning and afternoon Long Island railroad trains would run between Speonk and Montauk starting as early as the fall.

A growing “trade parade” of carpenters, landscapers and other workers traverse the single east–west highway during the morning and evening commutes.  Workers at schools hospitals and town offices report long commute times that the new service is designed to fix. Schneiderman said riders would pay very little for fares.

East Hampton and Southampton towns, perhaps with the help of state funds, would provide bus transportation from the train stations to work locations.
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Albany Times-Union reports:
As New Yorkers digest the headlines from this week’s State of the State Address delivered by Governor Cuomo, additional details from his agenda for 2018 have come forth.

On Wednesday the lead story following the Governor’s address had to do with ending cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. A closer review of Cuomo’s policy book for the new year suggests he wants to eliminate statutes of limitation for all sexually related criminal offenses committed against someone younger than 18. This was to happen in 2017 under the Child Victims Act, but Albany came up short.

Other items that in the policy manual that did not make it into Wednesday’s State of the State include reducing solitary confinement by 1,200 beds, cracking down on passing a stopped school bus, and extending the state’s autonomous vehicle testing program, which was approved last year. Currently, the program is set to expire later this year.
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Thursday January 4, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne, Ramzi Babouder-Matta, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: three Connecticut towns seek help after being shortchanged in the state budget; top school officials in Connecticut say there is no room for education cuts; polar plunge benefits Riverhead-based charity; and the SNAP system is back online following yesterday’s outage. 
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
When the Connecticut State General Assembly passed the new two-year budget in October and then tried to fix it in November, they failed to modify language that shortchanged Bridgeport, Hamden, and Torrington with respect to reimbursements for local car taxes.
Yesterday, the mayors of those three communities wrote a letter to the Office of Policy and Management (or OPM) explaining their predicament, which resulted from property revaluations that happened or were imposed after 2015 when the state first implemented its new supplemental car tax payment structure.

Based on the October agreement, there was $5 million allocated to offset the $10.59 million impact on the three communities, but OPM announced in November that it would not spend that money as part of “budgetary holdbacks.”

The three towns are hoping to meet with the Office of Policy and Management to discuss the distribution of the $5 million in the short-term and continue the discussion when the General Assembly reconvenes in February. 
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The Connecticut Mirror reports:
After being asked by Governor Malloy’s budget office to cut state education spending, Connecticut’s top school officials decided reductions are not possible. The education officials said they concluded that cuts would place the state in danger of violating federal laws, including those governing the education of students with disabilities. They added that state aid to local districts has already been cut enough.

In the bipartisan budget the legislature approved, it reduced education aid to middle- and high-income districts and shielded the 33 poorest districts from cuts.They also promised to follow a new formula that would increase education spending over the next nine years and direct it predominantly to the poorest districts.

In a letter to all state agency leaders, the governors’ budget office indicated big cuts will be necessary. The governor will release his budget recommendations on February 7th for the General Assembly to consider. 
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Newsday reports:
Colin Mather, owner of The Seafood Shop in Wainscott, has hosted the community’s New Year’s Day polar bear plunge into the Atlantic Ocean for 19 years. 

The event benefits charity annually, and this year Mather dedicated the plunge to Jean Lanier, a longtime customer of his who passed away this past July at 71. The proceeds went toward L’Arche Long Island, founded by Lanier. L’Arche is an international organization started in France that creates communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live together as peers. 

In December 2016, the L’Arche Long Island home opened Riverhead.
Kathleen Colon, administration manager and home life leader of L’Arche Long Island said of the organization: “We eat and live amongst each other. It’s just about making their world bigger.”

L’Arche Long Island was a passion Jean shared with wife Judith, who also contributed her time to the organization and was in attendance at the plunge Monday. 
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
People using food stamps were unable to make purchases for a short time on Wednesday after a system outage occurred that affected several states including New York.  

The cause of the outage is unknown and was limited to one company that helps the government process transactions made through the electronic debit card system for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Program or SNAP.  

The system was back online after about an hour, according to Anthony Farmer, a spokesperson for the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.  
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Wednesday January 3, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Danniella Tompos and Tony Ernst)

In the news tonight: nearly 8 years after being released from Prison, Bridgeport Mayor announces bid for Governor; debt from 2009 finally retired in Connecticut; Cuomo wants to end cash bail on lesser crimes; rush hour delays this morning leave LI commuters in the cold once again
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An ex-convict who mounted a political comeback with his 2015 election as mayor of Bridgeport filed paperwork officially today to run for governor.

Joe Ganim was convicted of 16 federal corruption charges in 2003 and sentenced to nine years in prison. Prosecutors said he steered city contracts to his associates in exchange for more than a half million dollars worth of bribes, kickbacks and other personal benefits.

Surrounded by media and staff as he turned in the documents at the State Elections Enforcement Commission office in Hartford this morning. Ganim admitted “I am far from a perfect candidate: “I’m someone who has made mistakes in my life.” With that said, the Democrat mayor believes his successes in reviving Bridgeport, including attracting economic development and balancing the budget, would prepare him well for the governor’s job.

Ganim concluded: “When you get past the headlines and you get to the body of the story, I think it’s about my experience of leading the state’s largest city.” 
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CT News Junkie reports: 
Connecticut has finally paid off $950 million Dollars in Economic Recovery Notes it borrowed back in 2009, under then Governor Jodi Rell to close the budget deficit.

Approved by the Democrat-controlled House and Senate at the time, the move ultimately saddled Democratic Governor Dan Malloy’s administration with the responsibility of paying off the debt. The state ended up paying a total of $1.09 billion, which included $923.8 million of principal and $166.3 million in interest. 
Malloy said: “Completing payment on the Economic Recovery Notes closes a regrettable chapter in Connecticut’s financial history.”

The bonds were refinanced twice, once in 2013 and again the following year, lowering the interest costs from $170.1 million to $166.3 million and extending the repayment period by nearly two years. 
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Newsday reports:
New York Governor Cuomo has proposed to end cash bail for people arrested on misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges as part of a package of criminal justice measures, he announced as part of his State of the State address Wednesday afternoon. Cuomo also proposes to require faster disclosure of evidence favorable to the defendant and of witnesses’ criminal records. 

The Governor would also ban the seizing of assets of defendants - unless an arrest is made - as well as easing the re-entry of convicted people from prison to communities. Several of the proposals have been proposed previously by Democrats in the Legislature, but have been opposed by the Senate’s Republican majority. 
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Newsday reports: 
Long Island Rail Road commuters waiting in the bitter cold this morning were met with delays, cancellations, and diversions following an announcement at 6 AM of damage to the third rail in one of Amtrak’s East River tunnels. Frustrated riders at the Ronkonkoma LIRR station spent over an hour waiting for trains, crammed into a packed waiting room, until finally boarding extremely overcrowded rail cars. 

Newsday pointed out that just three days into the new year has brought three days of delays on the railroad. On Tuesday, service on the Port Washington Branch was suspended for several hours because of a broken rail at Plandome, and there were delays on Babylon Branch that began Monday, New Year’s Day, which spilled over to Tuesday.

Additional travel problems are possible next week when the railroad makes several schedule changes to accommodate Amtrak work at Penn Station. 
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Tuesday January 2, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Trace Alford)

In the news tonight: Husky B extended until February 28; Connecticut teacher pension changes costs state $20 million; Long Islanders get wage boost and more paid family care leave; Riverhead swears in first woman town supervisor
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CT NewsJunkie reports: 
The nearly 17,000 children in Connecticut with Husky B health insurance will have coverage through February thanks to a small amount of federal funding. 

The state’s Department of Social Services announced last week that it could extend coverage until February 28. It has previously announced the program would end January 31 due to lack of federal funding. Last month, Congress approved appropriations for an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program – HUSKY B in Connecticut. 

The Department of Social Services strongly encourages parents to schedule preventative medical appointments for their children and refill medication for chronic conditions. It’s unclear if or when Congress will reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
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The CT Mirror reports: 
According to Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier, shifting teacher pension contributions from state to employee responsibility will cost Connecticut just over $20 million. Teachers will contribute nearly $60 million more toward their pensions over the next two years while the state will reduce its payments by a matching amount. 

By teachers contributing more, however, the state owes larger pensions. That results in the state owing an extra $20.4 million, according to Connecticut’s actuarial consultants.
Nappier wrote in a memo: “Any increase in the unfunded liability…is a step in the wrong direction.”

Connecticut already has more than $70 billion in long-term, unfunded liabilities, including about $50 billion related to retirement benefits. 
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Riverhead Local reports: 
The minimum wage on Long Island for most workers, including farm workers, non-fast food service workers, and hospitality workers, increased to $11 per hour on January 1.
The minimum hourly rate for overtime — over 40 hours per week — rose to $16.50. 

Employers of tipped workers in the food service industry can claim a credit of up to $3.50 per hour but must pay the tipped worker no less than $7.50 per hour. Workers in the fast food industry will now be paid a minimum of $11.75 per hour, with an overtime rate of $17.63 for hours in excess of 40 per week. 

Also effective January 1 is a paid family leave policy that will allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a child or a sick spouse, domestic partner, parent, stepparent, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild. 
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Riverhead Local reports: 
Democrat Laura Jens-Smith was sworn in yesterday as the Town of Riverhead’s Town Supervisor. She is the first woman to hold the office in the town’s 226-year history. Jens-Smith also takes office as a minority party member on a board that has been all Republican since 2010. Councilwomen Jodi Giglio and Catherine Kent were also sworn in during the ceremony. 

The newly constituted town board marks the first time in town history that the Riverhead Town Board will have a female majority. In fact, Giglio, Jens-Smith and Kent are only the seventh, eighth and ninth women ever serve on the Riverhead Town Board. In brief remarks, Jens-Smith called for unity, cooperation and perseverance. 
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