Sunday, February 4, 2018

February 2018

Wednesday February 28, 2018 (Thanks to volunteer Michael Zweig, and WPKN Reporters  Melinda Tuhus and John Iannuzzi)

In the news tonight: Anti-violence community groups join to hold a vigil in the Elm City;
On heels of Olympic gold in Curling, sweeping gets a boost in Bridgeport; New York Civil Liberties Union denied request to keep donors names withheld; Stony Brook liberal arts dean stepping down amid budget woes
Several dozen people came out Tuesday night for a vigil to remember the seven people murdered in New Haven last year and the two killed so far this year. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:
The vigil was organized by two anti-violence community groups, Ice the Beef and BlackNHV. One speaker expressed the often-heard frustration that thousands of mostly people of color are killed every year, but not in mass shootings, and their deaths seem to elicit no compassion or response from elected officials.

Ratasha Smith, founder of BlackNHV, said in a phone interview after the vigil: “Guns are a problem across the nation, whether you’re black, white or otherwise. And I really commend Dick’s Sporting Goods this morning. They are taking automatic rifles off their shelves.”

Vigilers read the names of those who died in New Haven, the 26 children and educators who died in the Sandy Hook shooting, and the 17 who died two weeks ago in Parkland, Florida.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
Last week the US Men’s Olympic Curling Team won Gold for the first time ever, and that has been good for business locally at the Bridgeport based Nutmeg Curling Club. Craig Doucette is Club President:

Doucette tells WPKN News an effort has been made to attract students and young people based locally to the sport of Curling.

The next Open House at the Bridgeport based Nutmeg Curling Club will be held Sunday March 18 at 1PM and all are welcome. 
Rick Karlin of the Times Union reports: 
The New York Civil Liberties Union has been denied a request to keep the names of its donors secret. The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics by a 6-5 vote on Tuesday denied the request for waiver, stating the request failed to differentiate between the threats aimed at the NYCLU and the American Civil Liberties Union, the parent organization which also has a New York office.

The JCOPEhas added a mechanism in which groups can request concealing donor names if supporters were likely to face harm due to their financial support. The National Institute for Reproductive Health received a temporary donor shield in 2013, but this exemption has since expired.

The NYCLU suggested that harassment including vandalism, threats and abusive letters have gotten worse since Donald Trump was elected president. 

No organization that files with the Commission is currently exempt from naming their donors.
Candice Ferrette reports in Newsday that Stony Brook University’s College of Arts and Sciences Dean Sacha Kopp announced on Monday that he will resign his position, effective July 1, as budget cuts and liberal arts program changes continue to roil the 25,000-student public campus. 

The College faces a $4.1 million budget deficit, part of a larger $35 million projected funding gap for the whole university. 

Kopp drew ire last spring from some students and faculty after deciding to suspend admission into the theater arts, comparative literature and cinema arts departments, and the consolidation of several language disciplines. Hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students and professors participated in a March for Humanities on campus last May. Protests continued through the year. 

More than 50 of the university’s most prominent professors with the rank of “distinguished faculty” voiced their “profound concern” with the state of their university, calling the moves “exceptionally alarming.” Thanks to volunteer Michael Zweig, and WPKN Reporter Melinda Tuhus.
Tuesday February 27, 2108  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editor Michael Zweig and others)

In the news tonight: Connecticut unions rally for collective bargaining; Connecticut park supporters wary of budget language; Judge tosses one felony charge against ex-Cuomo aide; Riverhead proposes tougher town codes for snowstorms
Christine Stuart reports for CT NewsJunkie:
Unions in Connecticut rallied across the state Monday morning while the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Illinois child-support specialist Mark Janus vs. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus sued the union for taking $45 from his paycheck each month, even though he declined union membership. 

Public employee unions worry that a ruling in favor of Janus may limit their ability to collect dues that would be used for collective bargaining. 

Connecticut labor unions rallied on the steps of the Connecticut Supreme Court building in Hartford Monday to show their support. 

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, an education coordinator for AFSCME Council 4, said collective bargaining is part of Connecticut’s fabric “and that’s not going to change any time soon.”
Jack Kramer reports in CT NewsJunkie that advocates for the recently approved Passport to the Parks program, which charges Connecticut residents a $10 two-year fee and gives them free parking at state parks and beaches, want to make sure the money is being used appropriately.

Appropriations Committee Co-Chair Senator Cathy Osten said that it is the committee’s intent to have the funds raised for the parks and beaches be spent for the parks and beaches.

Testifying before the Appropriations Committee, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee tried to allay concerns that money collected from the program would be used for other reasons.

“It is important,” he said, “to invest in and maintain our parks, and the new Passport to the Parks program helps to provide a consistent funding stream to support them…. When people visit our state parks they also visit local restaurants, farms, and shops.”
Priscilla DeGregory and Bruce Golding report for the New York Post:
Joseph Percoco scored a minor victory Monday at his corruption trial, when the judge tossed one of the seven felony counts against the former aide to Governor Cuomo.

Manhattan federal Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed a charge of “extortion under color of official right” based on allegations that the former Cuomo confidante used his government post to shake down $35,000 in bribes from two execs at a Syracuse development company.

But the judge’s ruling left intact six other charges related to the alleged payoffs from COR Development Co. and about $280,000 in bribes Percoco allegedly accepted from an exec with Competitive Power Ventures.

Percoco and his three co-defendants all declined to take the witness stand before the defense rested its case Monday. Closing arguments were scheduled for today and Wednesday, with deliberations to follow.
Denise Civiletti for Riverhead Local reports:
Riverhead officials have proposed town code changes to address continuing problems during and after snowstorms, and set a public hearing for March 20.

Those code changes would increase penalties for ignoring town directives in a snow emergency, for failing to move parked cars off town roads, and for failing to keep sidewalks unobstructed by snow and ice.  A motorist driving on a closed road would be guilty of a class B misdemeanor, as would anyone with a car parked on a town road after a winter or snow emergency has been declared. 

Other proposed code changes detail sidewalk-clearing responsibilities, and makes a separate, additional offense for each day a violation continues. The penalty amounts for first, second and third offenses were all increased last April to $2,500. 

While enforcement has been difficult due to the town’s limited resources to prosecute, officials hope stiffer fines will inspire more universal compliance.
Monday February 26, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson, Lee Yuen Lew and WPKN reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: DMV fees to boost funding for CT state parks services; Intersectionality the theme at Livable World Hartford teach-in; Suffolk top cop nominee says she has MS-13 plan of attack;
Suffolk County Water Authority wins state nod for dioxane treatment at one well site
Due to a new $10 fee on two-year motor vehicle registrations named "Passport to Parks", Connecticut DEEP officials plan to reopen closed campgrounds, expand lifeguard coverage, and hire more seasonal workers.

Residents are being charged the extra fee for all their registered vehicles and will be able to access state parks for free. Connecticut's seniors and disabled veterans will have to pay the new fee, despite already having free park access.

Lawmakers plan to divert $5 million of the money generated from the fee to the state’s general fund. The Connecticut Forest and Park Association is worried because there is no provision to actually appropriate funds for the parks. 

Last week the association’s executive director urged the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to postpone taking the $5 million from the parks until there’s a better idea of how much can be generated and how much the parks will actually need. 
A teach-in for a Livable World and calling for Climate Justice Now! Filled the auditorium of a community center in West Hartford on Saturday. Intersectionality – or good old-fashioned solidarity – was the theme of the day. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports.
The event was organized chiefly by 350 Connecticut and the Sierra Club. 350 organizer Chris Gavreau laid out the vision of a climate movement that works alongside other movements to represent the vast majority of people.

“A majority movement would have to admit the role of the Pentagon in stoking fossil fuel wars and spreading environmental destruction; a majority movement must be fortified by the powerful moral legacy and combativity of the civil rights and African- American movements for self-determination; of the vigor of the youth from Black Lives Matter. It must have the power of organized labor. It must have the imagination and grit of the immigrant rights movement.”

Gavreau went on to state the importance of allying with women and gender non-conforming people.
Speakers included climate leaders from national NAACP, an international labor group, a representative from a Puerto Rican activist organization, and more.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Nicole Fuller reports in Newsday:
In January, Suffolk Police Commissioner nominee Geraldine Hart took a trip to El Salvador, the Central American country where the deadly MS-13 gang reigns. 

She was accompanied by a delegation of local authorities, including Richard P. Donoghue, the newly named U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, officers from the Nassau and Suffolk police departments and the State Police.

Hart said the trip revealed “tremendous opportunities for intelligence sharing and collaboration. That information is key to bring back here to Suffolk County. That’s one area that I really want to make sure is open because that intelligence can help us on the ground here. They’re very open there to collaboration and working together.” 

She wants to work closely with authorities in El Salvador to help fight MS-13’s activities in the -----------------------------------------------------
Emily C. Dooley of Newsday reports:
The Suffolk County Water Authority is the first supplier in New York to get state approval to use new technology that removes the probable carcinogen 1,4-dioxane from drinking water.

The approved technology used ultraviolet light and an oxidizer to break down 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Used as a solvent stabilizer, the manmade chemical is also present as a byproduct in many personal care products and has been found in trace amounts throughout Long Island’s drinking water supplies. 

SCWA Chairman Jim Gaughran said treatment would be activated at the Commercial Boulevard well site in Central Islip as soon as possible. The SCWA last year estimated installing dioxane treatment could cost $500,000 to $900,000 per site, depending on conditions. 

Rich Humann, president and chief executive of H2M Architects + Engineers said: “With the state approval, other districts could be beginning to plan for their own projects, knowing that a drinking water standard could be on the horizon. The process is set. It’s really going to be about the dollars.”
Friday February 23, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: Connecticut legislators put casino expansion back on the table;
Bridgeport wants parades to pay for police overtime; Long Island FBI official nominated for Suffolk County Police Commissioner; EPA grant to help Long Island school buses go electric
Mark Pazniokas reports for The CT Mirror:
Members of a state legislative committee Thursday resurrected the issue of whether the state should be open to competition for a commercial casino in Bridgeport, as proposed by MGM Resorts International. On the final day for approving concepts for consideration in the General Assembly’s upcoming session, the Public Safety and Security Committee voted to override Senate co-chairs who had tabled the idea by adding casino gambling to the panel’s agenda.

Currently, the state’s casino industry is limited to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, which received exclusive casino rights in return for sharing 25 percent of gross revenue from slots profits with the state. The tribes run Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, respectively, and have a joint venture in an East Windsor casino to compete with MGM’s new construction in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts.

Governor Malloy has consistently opposed any gaming proposal that would endanger the profit-sharing deal. MGM says a Bridgeport casino, close to the New York market, could produce as much revenue for the state as the two tribal casinos. 
Brian Lockhart for Connecticut Post reports:
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration wants parades held in the city to pay half of the money spent for police overtime patrolling the routes.

Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez says that, in the past, the city paid for police overtime. But, now, he says: “There’s no money.” The police commissioner expects to end the fiscal year $2 million over the $5.2 million overtime budget.

City Hall sent out invoices to last year’s parade and event organizers. Some have paid, while others have refused. Former State Representative Christopher Caruso, a Columbus Day Parade organizer, says: “For the city to try to get money from those organizations is unheard of.”

Councilwoman Jeanette Herron hopes a meeting can be arranged between parade organizers, the Ganim administration and council members. Bridgeport is not alone in asking its parades to pay for police coverage. New Haven does as well. 
The Suffolk Times reports:
Top officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Long Island office Geraldine Hart will serve as Suffolk County next police commissioner. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced her nomination Thursday. If approved by the county legislature, Hart will be the first woman to hold the position.

When Hart starts in mid-April, she will fill the position left vacant when Timothy Sini took office as the Suffolk County district attorney. 

Hart has served with the FBI for 21 years, and as the agency’s senior supervisory resident agent on Long Island since February 2014. In that role, she supervised the Long Island Gang Task Force and led the first multi-agency MS-13 Intelligence Center.

Hart said: “I am extremely optimistic about the future of the Suffolk County Police Department and what we can accomplish together.” 
Joan Gralla reports for Newsday: 
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant will enable Long Island to replace or retrofit diesel school buses with all-electric models. The agency said its $246,000 award will reduce harmful air pollution and improve air quality.

In a statement, the EPA said exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can worsen existing heart and lung disease, especially in children and the elderly.

Neither the agency nor the national School Transportation Association, which will receive the funds, were immediately available to offer details on how many electric buses would go into service, at what cost, and at what locations.
Thursday February 22, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers editor Mike Merli and reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: four Northeastern states create a new regional gun safety coalition; Meriden, Connecticut City Council passes resolution in support of undocumented resident; Long Island teen at center of class-action suit on detention of immigrant minors; North Fork neighbor network commits to being ‘present’ for undocumented residents
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Absent federal action on guns, the governors of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island said they’re going to improve their data sharing in order to limit the number of firearms getting into the wrong hands.

The governors whose states are connected by Interstate 95 said the guns make their way up from the Southern states along what’s been dubbed the “Iron Pipeline.” They are purchased in southern states with weaker gun laws and brought back to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The new agreement the four states signed would increase the amount of data they share.
It comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s meeting with survivors of gun violence and a CNN Town hall in Florida – the scene of the most recent school shooting that left 17 dead.

The agreement inked Thursday would also create a joint task force to trace and intercept illegal guns. 
The city council of Meriden passed a resolution at its Tuesday night meeting in support of an undocumented woman who has lived in town for years and is facing deportation. 

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Nelly Cumbicos has a U.S. citizen husband and son. She is a law-abiding, tax-paying resident of Meriden and her supporters are outraged that she faced deportation without ever having her day in court. They rejoiced earlier this month when Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, issued a stay of deportation so her lawyer could continue working on her case. They were outraged again when four days later ICE reversed itself and again ordered her removal, saying it had reinterpreted its rules.

Miguel Castro is a city council member who drafted a resolution with bi-partisan support asking ICE to reconsider its order of removal. “So we were able to pass that tonight, unanimous, giving the mayor instructions to send this letter to ICE with regards to this content.”

It remains to be seen whether the immigration system will heed the community support for Cumbicos and grant her due process.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
Victor Ramos reports for Newsday: 
The detention of an immigrant teen from Long Island is at the center of a new class-action lawsuit lodged against the federal government and a shelter contracted to hold minors in immigration cases.

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on Feb. 16 challenging “the government’s prolonged detention of immigrant children across New York State” for minors who have been placed under heightened supervision. The federal government and its contractor have not filed responses.

The Salvadoran immigrant, identified as L.V.M. in court filings, was among several teenagers who told Newsday last summer that they had been falsely accused of gang affiliation at Bellport High School. L.V.M. was initially suspended from school under allegations that he flashed gang signs at another student, a charge he denied.

The plaintiff, now 17, was placed in detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in July and remains in custody. 
Denise Civiletti reports for Riverhead Local:
A new network is emerging on the North Fork to provide support to local undocumented immigrants and their families. 

North Fork Rapid Response Network has been organized by Long Island Jobs with Justice, a largely faith-based movement. Volunteers offer to accompany undocumented immigrants to court proceedings and other official encounters. “Accompaniment is first and foremost an act of love and solidarity,” said Richard Koubek, Long Island Jobs with Justice community outreach coordinator. “It is to demonstrate that the individual is part of our community fabric.”

Additional support comes from a rapid response program developed by Long Island Jobs with Justice which maintains a hotline (516-387-2043) for reports of ICE activity and trains witnesses to be physically present to watch and document that activity.

“Sanctuary is more than hiding people in a church. Sanctuary is being present for them,” Koubek said. That’s what accompaniment and rapid response are all about … It is to demonstrate that the individual is part of our community fabric.” 
Wednesday February 21, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Michael Zweig, Ramzi Babouder-Matta, and Alyssa Katz and reporter Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Connecticut classmates call on Congress to adopt stricter gun laws; a public hearing about potential transportation cuts in Connecticut; Southold Town Seeks Genetic Shellfishery Testing; doctors gather to discuss opioid crisis at Stony Brook Southampton’s Parrish Hall
The Connecticut Courant Reports: 
High school students in Connecticut are joining classmates around the country to press Congress to adopt stricter gun laws with a new sense of urgency after 17 people were killed at a Florida high school last week. 

Teens are organizing largely through social media and have already formulated plans for vigils, marches and two nationwide school walkouts. Such events are also planned for in memory of Sandy Hook and Columbine.  

The grassroots organizing by students has given gun violence prevention advocates a renewed sense of vigor. Congress has failed to act on gun legislation in the wake of any previous mass shooting. 

A national Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday found support for stricter gun laws with a 66-31 percent margin. There was also a near 100 percent support on background checks for all gun sales. 
Tuesday evening in New Haven, the CT Dept of Transportation held the first of seven hearings around the state on proposed service cuts and fare increases on buses and trains. 
WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus was there:
The DOT is proposing 14 to 20 percent fare increases and drastic cuts in service, eliminating train service from New York City to Danbury and Waterbury and slashing Sunday service on Shore Line East, among other changes.

Lisa Brayer was one of many speakers who said the DOT should increase fares if necessary, but don’t cut service: “Service reductions would basically cut off people’s ability to do what they need to do.”

Rodney Slaughter, manager of parking and transportation at Yale New Haven Hospital, said the hospital already heavily subsidizes employees’ train fares in an effort to prevent them from driving in, usually alone, but he added: “I just don’t understand how we can raise fares but then lower service and expect to generate more income.”

He predicted the changes would send many of them back to their cars.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News. 
Beth Young reports in that Southold Town, with some of the most extensive and productive creek networks on the East End, hopes to add genetic testing to its arsenal of tools to understand bacterial pollution. 

After years of training citizen water testers to sample water to meet DEC protocols, Southold Town Trustees and the Southold Town Shellfish Advisory Committee are approaching Suffolk County for $12,000 to fund the use of genetic testing to find the source of bacteriological contamination in four North Fork creeks: 

The first is a tributary of Hallock’s Bay in Orient, where a large-scale animal agriculture operation has been proposed. Also included are East Creek in Cutchogue; a manmade freshwater pond off of Silveremere Road in Greenport; and the site of a six-million oyster aquaculture operation in Orient Harbor. 

The town proposes using genetic sampling and using tracing dyes to determine the source of the contamination.
East End Beacon Reports: 
Doctors gathered to discuss the opioid crisis at a forum at Stony Brook Southampton’s Parrish Memorial Hall on Feb. 8th. They shared many stories of their frustrations with medical treatment practices and with insurance companies that do little to help patients find alternative methods of controlling pain besides prescription painkillers.  

The forum was organized by the Southampton Town Opioid Addiction Task Force’s Medical/Treatment subcommittee. Southampton Hospital Director of Medical Education Shawn Cannon Cannon called for a groundswell of public pressure for changes in addiction treatment like the ones around breast cancer in the 1970s and AIDS in the 1980s.  

Southampton Town’s Opioid Addiction Task Force’s next event will be a youth forum on March 23rd, and then a second public forum on April 11th at Southampton High School. The group is also planning a community vigil at Good Ground Park in Hampton Bays on May 12th from 6 to 8 p.m. 
Tuesday February 20, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Thomas Byrne, and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: stricter absentee ballot guidelines for Bridgeport elections; Connecticut prison birth sparks investigation, new legislation; Suffolk County legislator proposes temporary ride-sharing ban; North Fork teens to serve on real Youth Court cases
Brian Lockhart for Connecticut Post reports:
Complaints about how absentee ballots are collected and accepted have left a Bridgeport city council primary without a winner since September 12, and may affect other elections. 

A Connecticut court ordered two re-votes in the North End City Council primary after finding that absentee ballots were accepted without postmarks and a candidate used police to collect ballots.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Belllis set strict guidelines for the second re-vote scheduled for April 10. Candidates running in the primary for Bridgeport’s Democratic Town Committee want the same strict guidelines applied to their election on March 6.
The guidelines detail how to deliver and collect absentee ballots, and how to request a police officer to pick up an absentee ballot.

Town Committee contender Donna Curran said, “It makes no sense to have strict ballot safeguards in place for the … council primary but not impose those same guidelines on the town committee races.”
Andrea Sears reports for Connecticut Public News Service:
Prisoners’ rights advocates are calling for new legislation to protect inmates’ health, safety and human rights after a woman gave birth in a Connecticut prison cell. Officials at Niantic’s York Correctional Institution have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding last Tuesday’s birth. 

ACLU of Connecticut director David McGuire joined with prison reform and reproductive rights groups in calling for the state to address what he said is a long-standing issue.

Two employees of the University of Connecticut Health's Correctional Managed Health Care unit have been told not to report to the facility until the investigation is completed. The healthcare provider is responsible for medical care for people serving time.

State officials have hired an expert to review 25 cases involving medical care problems in the prison system. 
Valerie Gordon at 27 East reports:
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming has proposed a temporary ban on ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. At a recent public hearing, Fleming said these services offer “undeniable benefits” but require more regulation. 

According to State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., the proposed ban aligns with legislation he’s co-sponsoring that would require the 4-percent local tax on ride-sharing revenue to be funneled to Suffolk County and invested in the county’s public transportation system.Thiele says the MTA currently receives all of the proceeds, amounting to roughly $24 million annually.

Fleming said her intention is not to ban ride-sharing completely. She said: “It’s my hope that a compromise can be reached so local government can ensure that the companies are operating in a way that’s beneficial for everyone.”

Uber spokesperson Danielle Filson argued that the proposed ban is a disservice to their riders and local drivers. 
Nicole Smith reports in the Suffolk Times that a new Southold Town Youth Court will open next month. The Court involves students in grades 9 through 12 from schools across the North Fork, who will try cases with real defendants charged with real offenses, including trespassing, larceny, or making graffiti, as referred by school districts and the police department.

Youth Court members will act as judge, jurors, and attorneys for both prosecution and defense, learning about the justice system. Sentences the Court hands out — which can include community service, serving as a juror for other cases, or writing letters of apology — must be carried out, said Youth Court director Lynn Nyilas.

One benefit for Youth Court defendants is that their files are sealed after they complete their sentences. Once they turn 21, those records are destroyed, so mistakes won’t follow them as they apply for jobs and pursue educational opportunities.

Teenagers interested in joining can contact Ms. Nyilas at

Monday February 19, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson, Tony Ernst and Lee Yuen Lew)

In the news tonight: Gov. Malloy Refuses To Approve $30 Million To Towns For Road Repair; Waterbury fish farm prepares for 1st harvest of sea bass; East Hampton Vigils for Florida victims and connects with Sandy Hook families; New Real Estate Fee Would Aid First-Time Homebuyers
Christopher Keating reports for the Hartford Courant:
Mayors and first selectmen from all 169 cities and towns are calling upon Gov. Malloy to release $30 million in road-repair funds as the pothole season approaches this spring. Facing other cuts in state aid, some towns have cut programs or issued supplemental tax bills to local property taxpayers.

The towns need the money in the short term as the second half of $60 million they were promised for local road repairs.  According to Betsy Gara, executive director of the Council of Small Towns: “Towns have to go out to bid and enter into contracts now to begin to move forward with projects in the spring …The uncertainty regarding whether the grants will be released is forcing towns to defer needed road maintenance projects, which will lead to higher repair costs down the line.’’

In order to pay for improvements, Malloy has proposed installing electronic driving taxes on Connecticut's highways and increasing the gas tax by seven cents per gallon over four years.
Andrew Larson reports in Republican-American:
In Waterbury, Connecticut, the largest saltwater fish farm in the country is preparing for its first harvest this April. 

Ideal Fish began growing fish last year and now has a population of 150,000 European sea bass, expected to reach 300,000 by June. The fish, known as branzino, arrive as fingerlings, shipped from hatcheries in the Mediterranean, and mature in massive fiberglass tanks. They will be a farm-to-table product sold directly to high-end grocery stores and restaurants, on consumers’ plates less than 24 hours after harvest. 

Ideal Fish CEO Eric Pedersen said most European sea bass is raised in crowded, bacteria-infested cages, and about five days old by the time it reaches consumers in the Northeast. Ideal Fish grows in a state-of-the-art facility engineered to suit the species’ needs.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary plans to work with the school system to arrange tours for students to learn about sustainable fishing.
The East Hampton Star reports:
Saturday evening in East Hampton Village about 75 people stood vigil for the victims of last Wednesday’s Parkland, Florida high school shooting. 

Organizer Neil Hausig told the East Hampton Star that the group gathered primarily to honor the victims, but the vigil was also a first step in setting up a coordinated lobbying effort for tighter gun regulations. 

Some of the organizers have trained with family members of Sandy Hook victims on how to be effective advocates for school safety and gun control and will use this training to aid them in their appeals.

Speakers at the vigil included Mayor Paul Rickenbach Jr. as well as organizers Jerry Mooney and Mr. Hausig.
Jamie Bufalino reports for The East Hampton Star:
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. has introduced legislation to help make housing more affordable for low and moderate-income residents of East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead, and Southold by establishing a fund to provide loans to first-time homebuyers.

Money for the fund would be generated by adding a half-percent surcharge to the region’s real estate transfer tax. Houses valued at $1 million or less on the South Fork and Shelter Island would be exempt from the tax, and those valued at $750,000 or less would be exempt on the North Fork. The surcharge would generate about $15 million to $20 million a year, which would be used to provide loans for up to 50 percent of the purchase price. 

Eligibility includes being either a resident of or an employee in the towns, income eligibility and a limit on the purchase price of a house. 

The loan plus any financial gain would come due when the house is resold. Proceeds would be returned to the fund. 
Wednesday February 14, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Melinda Tuhus, Michael Zweig, Ramzi Babouder-Matta, and Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight: potentially damaging cuts could be coming for LIHEAP; supporters attend a hearing in Hartford on the Education Equity for Undocumented Students bill; Governor Malloy voices support for bill that provides financial aid regardless immigration status; N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo proposes voluntary payroll tax to avoid federal tax
Peter Urban of DC News Junkie reports:
Low-Income families in Connecticut and across the country will find it harder to heat or cool their homes as a result of President Trump’s budget announced on Monday.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, is currently budgeted at 3.4 billion dollars and provides financial assistance to over 110,000 families in Connecticut and over six million families nationwide.  The President wants to cut funding to zero and eliminate the program because of fraud and abuse.

Reaction has been swift and bi-partisan.  Representative Rosa DeLauro called the proposal “perhaps one of the most heartless cuts in the budget” and that “we have a moral obligation to ensure our citizens do not die in their homes because they cannot afford energy.”  Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said in a letter signed by 45 other Senators including Republicans: “Affordable access to home energy is a matter of health and safety.”

The President has argued recently enacted disconnection policies preventing utility companies from shutting off energy supplies during extreme freezing or heat conditions are reason enough for eliminating the program.
An all-day hearing on Tuesday brought students, education professionals and elected officials out in support of House Bill 213, the Education Equity for Undocumented Students bill. WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus attended the press conference at the Legislative Office Building.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus attended the press conference at the Legislative Office Building:
All college students pay into the fund that provides financial aid for higher education, but undocumented students can’t access the funds. This bill would remedy that.

Rep. Gregg Haddad, co-chair of the Higher Education Committee, said he was moved by the testimony of many of the so-called Dreamers.  He added: “This is very frustrating for me as a legislator, to sit through a public hearing and hear unanimous testimony in support of a bill only to face opposition inside the legislature for that same bill. We need to figure out a way to speak to those folks who are reluctant to support this and figure out why they’re unwilling to say so publicly and yet withhold their votes when it comes time to vote on this legislation.”

His committee co-chair, Sen. Beth Bye, suggested the reason opponents won’t go public is that the current process is patently unfair and they don’t want to be seen supporting it.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
 The office of Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy reports in a press release: Both the Governor and and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman have provided written testimony to the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee in support of House Bill 5031, which will allow students receive equal access to financial aid regardless of their immigration status.

In their testimony they wrote, “Let us be clear – many of the students we are talking about are just as American as our own children.  By definition, their parents brought them to our country when they were under the age of 16, but often they came as infants. They don’t speak another language or know another nation. Connecticut is home to them, often indistinguishable from the way individuals born here consider our state home…”

In 2011, Governor Malloy signed legislation ensuring in-state tuition for undocumented students. In previous years, the Governor and Lt. Governor have supported similar efforts to extend financial aid to all students.
Michael Gormley reports in Newsday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday proposed an optional payroll tax to be paid by employers as a way to shield some higher-earning New Yorkers who also pay high local property taxes from paying more federal income taxes under the new federal tax law passed in December.

The new law provides tax breaks to corporations, the wealthy, and most middle-class families. But to help pay for lost federal revenue, the law also caps the deductibility of state and local tax on federal incomes taxes at $10,000.

Cuomo’s proposal also creates two, state-operated charitable organizations for school districts and local governments. New Yorkers would receive an 85 percent tax credit for their payments as an incentive to join the system, state budget director Robert Mujica said. Overall, Cuomo’s proposal would benefit workers by reducing the amount of income that would be subject to federal income taxes.
Tuesday February 13, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Trace Alford and Michael Zweig)

In the news tonight: offshore drilling proposal draws hundreds at Hartford hearing;
Connecticut lawmakers seek investigation of casino lobbying; Southold Town considering erosion tax district; Long Island’s sanctuary movement builds strength 
Andrea Sears reports for Connecticut News Service: 
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held a public hearing in Hartford Monday on a proposal to open 90 percent of the U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. 

Hundreds of Connecticut residents attended to speak out against the plan.
The proposal would include Atlantic waters vital to Connecticut’s economy.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore oil leases, has promised to keep the environment protected. However the Connecticut Sierra Club’s Martha Klein said concerns over the risk of spills have generated broad, bipartisan opposition. The process of deciding where to drill also is hazardous to marine life because seismic surveys use underwater explosions to map suspected oil deposits.

Public comment period ends March 9th.
Mark Pazniokas for the CT Mirror reports:
Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Representatives John Larson and Joe Courtney have asked the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General to investigate the department’s role in blocking the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes from developing a casino in East Windsor. The casino would compete with an MGM gaming resort in Springfield.

Authorization of the East Windsor casino depends on the Interior’s acceptance of an amendment affirming that the casino would not violate an existing deal where the tribes pay 25 percent of slots revenue from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

The Interior Department, after lobbying by MGM, declined to act on the amendment. The senators and congressmen say this violates the department’s “longstanding legal trust responsibilities regarding Native American Tribes.” 

MGM has said they could make more money for the state by opening a casino in Fairfield County.
Beth Young reports in the East End Beacon that representatives of Southold Town and Suffolk County are skeptical of playing the role of local partner in a $14.6 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to shore up Hashamomuck Cove.

Town Trustees oppose the plan, which Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Engineer Bill Hillman said would involve trucking in 218,000 cubic yards of sand in 7,900 full truckloads, each weighing 80,000 pounds, all rolling on local roads.  

The Town’s share would be $1.53 million for the initial cost, and then $546,000 for each renourishment.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell asked: “What role should the Town have in restoration of private property?”  He plans to meet homeowners soon to discuss forming a special taxing district so property owners would pay for the local share. The taxing district would require a public vote and enabling legislation from the New York State Legislature. 
Bart Jones at Newsday reports:
A sanctuary movement is gaining strength on Long Island as clergy and lay people pledge to resist federal officials trying to deport immigrants who live here illegally. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island has declared itself a “sanctuary diocese” and is prepared to give shelter in its 129 churches. The Setauket Presbyterian Church is the first house of worship on Long Island to individually designate itself a sanctuary.

Nearly a dozen self-described “rapid response teams” have formed throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. Its members are prepared to rush to the scene of Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions.

Opponents argue that granting sanctuary is itself illegal. Nassau County Civic Association vice president Barrett Psareas says: “They’re harboring criminals, even though it is civil.”

However, Long Island Jobs With Justice’s Richard Koubek says it is not illegal in New York as long as the house of worship notifies authorities it is providing sanctuary.
Monday, February 12, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Lee Yuen Lew and Gretchen Swanson)

In the news tonight: Four years on, Tesla still hoping for nod to sell cars in Connecticut; One of the Largest U.S. Carbon Emitters Commits to Lower GHG Emissions; Montauk’s downtown businesses should move inland, study says; new Suffolk sheriff won’t change policy honoring ICE detainer requests
Daniela Altimari reports for the Hartford Courant:
Tesla is making a renewed push to legalize its approach for selling its electric vehicles directly to consumers. The company has tried for three years, but failed to pass similar legislation.

Tesla is framing the proposal as a consumer rights issue, an environmental benefit, and an economic development measure that rewards innovation and could inject millions of dollars into the state’s economy. 

Tesla customers in Connecticut currently have to cross into New York to purchase the vehicles. The company says the state is losing about $5 million annually in sales tax revenue since buyers have the option of paying taxes on their vehicles in New York.Officials in Rhode Island recently granted the company approval, joining Massachusetts and New York.

The Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, which represents the state’s 270 new car dealers, has vigorously opposed the legislation in the past and intends to do so again this year, said Jim Fleming, the group’s president.
“New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that American Electric Power, one of the largest carbon emitters in the country, has adopted new, long-term targets for lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement's goals. As a result, the New York State Common Retirement Fund has withdrawn the shareholder request it had filed with the company.”
Vera Chinese at Newsday reports:
A series of studies unveiled Tuesday finds East Hampton Town must face issues, including rising sea levels, traffic congestion and workforce housing shortages, to maintain its status as a prized vacation destination. The studies were designed to boost the business districts in Wainscott, East Hampton, Amagansett, Springs and Montauk.

They recommend moving Montauk businesses farther inland from the beach. Areas prone to flooding include South Emerson Avenue, which features several motels. Steve Kalimnios, who would face relocation of his family-owned oceanfront hotel, suggested the town bring in sand.

The studies also recommend zoning and traffic flow changes; better wastewater treatment; and second-floor apartments in the commercial district. In Springs, the consultants recommend creating a “maritime walking district” linking the Paumanok Path hiking trail with the head of Three Mile Harbor.
Denise Civiletti and Maria Piedrabuena report for Riverhead Local:
Recently elected Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D-Lake Grove) will not change the county’s policy of honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. 

This means that an undocumented immigrant living in Suffolk who is arrested and eligible for release pending trial would, at the request of ICE, be detained in custody by the Suffolk sheriff until the deportation process begins. But holding someone on an administrative request from ICE is not the same as a warrant, civil rights advocates argue.

Patrick Young, special professor of immigration law at Hofstra University School of Law said: “It’s probable cause that they committed a civil violation [of immigration law] not a criminal violation.”

The question is whether constitutional rights are violated when local law enforcement agencies honor federal immigration officials’ detainer requests without a judicial warrant.
Friday February 9, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, Thomas Byrne, and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight: Connecticut, New York join lawsuit seeking Clean Water Rule enforcement; Malloy urges individual healthcare mandate in Connecticut; Cuomo supports itemized deductions of state taxes; Long Island’s call for local hearing on offshore drilling plan goes unanswered 
Andrea Sears at Public News Service reports:
Connecticut and New York joined eight other states and environmental groups in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce its own Clean Water Rule. \The 2015 rule describes which small streams and wetlands the Clean Water Act protects. Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his intention to repeal or replace the rule, delaying implementation another two years. 

Large farms and real estate developers complain that the rule gives the Federal Government too much authority over large areas of both dry land and water.

National Wildlife Federation president Collin O’Mara countered that the rule allows for broad exemptions for farms, and that enforcement would improve drinking water quality for more than 100 million Americans and help increase fish populations. He added that the current administration should allow the Clean Water Rule to be implemented while the lawsuit works its way through the court system. 
Christine Stuart at CT News Junkie reports:
In his valedictory State of the State address, Governor Malloy called on lawmakers to pass legislation  that would require all Connecticut residents to purchase health insurance. The governor says health care is a fundamental right in Connecticut. 

President Trump and Congress recently repealed the individual healthcare mandate when it approved changes to the tax code last year. 

According to accompanying legislation, the penalty for not having health insurance in Connecticut would be $500 or two percent of an individual’s Connecticut adjusted gross income, whichever is greater.

If it passed, Connecticut would become the second state to have such a healthcare mandate. The first was Massachusetts. Seven other states and the District of Columbia are also considering individual healthcare mandates. 
Brendan J. Lyons for the Albany Times-Union reports:
Governor Cuomo’s budget director told a joint legislative panel Thursday that the administration supports a plan to allow New Yorkers to itemize deductions on their state income taxes. 

The plan, known as "decoupling," has received support in the Republican-led state Senate and many view it as a way to mitigate a new federal tax plan that caps itemized deductions of state and local taxes at $10,000. Senate Finance chairwoman Catharine Young, a Livingston County Republican and panel co-chair, said decoupling could save New Yorkers an estimated $1.5 billion. Less clear is whether the plan to overhaul state tax code will be completed by the start of the new fiscal year April 1.

The proposed tax changes also include Cuomo’s pledge to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal plan.
Denise Civiletti reports for Riverhead Local:
The Secretary of the Interior has not responded to calls from Long Island officials to move the public hearing on federal offshore drilling to a site on Island. The hearing, scheduled for February 15 in Albany, is on the draft plan to open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf for natural gas and oil exploration.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine reiterated his demand to hold the hearing on Long Island, which would bear the brunt of any impact of the offshore drilling plan.

Representative Lee Zeldin, a Shirley Republican, has spoken out against the proposal and signed onto a letter to Department Secretary Ryan Zinke asking for reconsideration of the plan. Zeldin held a press conference recently where he implored Zinke to remove New York’s waters from the drilling plan. Zinke has not responded.
Thursday February 8, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Thomas Byrne)

In the news tonight: Malloy Signs Order To Study 'Vote By Mail'; Suffolk DA announces new Gang Unit; Long Island officials call for local hearing on federal offshore drilling plan; Southold considers funding options for multimillion-dollar erosion control plan
Christine Stuart of CT NewsJunkie reports:
Governor Malloy has signed an executive order to study vote by mail. In a speech to the General Assembly Wednesday, Malloy announced plans to study whether Connecticut should allow voting by mail. He added he will try again to pass early voting, which the state’s constitution currently does not allow.

During his speech, Malloy said: “Let’s plan ahead. Let’s look at best practices around the nation for increasing voter participation.”

An effort to change Connecticut’s constitution to allow early voting passed the House last year, but failed to get called for a Senate vote.

Luther Weeks of CTVotersCount testified that contrary to the benefits, early voting decreases turnout. He said academic research has shown that early voting, including voting by mail, decreases turnout by three percent.
Nicole Fuller of Newsday reports:
Suffolk County’s new district attorney, Timothy Sini, announced on Wednesday the formation of a law enforcement team dedicated to the prosecution and eradication of gangs and gang members from the county.

The new Gang Unit, including a team of attorneys and investigators and a new Enhanced Prosecution Bureau at the district attorney’s office, will focus exclusively on prosecuting crimes committed by gang members, including members of MS-13. It will involve collaboration among local, state and federal agencies that will lead to their involvement in investigation, arrest, prosecution, imprisonment and even post-release supervision of gang members

The brutal killing of two Brentwood teens in 2016 has focused a national spotlight on MS-13 violence in Suffolk. Authorities say twenty-five people have been killed on Long Island by members of the gang since 2016.
Carl MacGowan of Newsday reports:
Long Island officials have asked the federal government to move a hearing on an offshore oil drilling plan from Albany to a site on the Island.

The February 15 meeting on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s proposal to expand drilling to as many as nine sites in the Atlantic Ocean, including two off Long Island, is the only scheduled hearing in New York.

Assemblyman Steven Englebright will co-host a separate state hearing on the drilling plan Wednesday in Smithtown and said the federal hearing should be moved to Long Island. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asking for the meeting to either move to Long Island or have a second one held on the Island.

Governor Cuomo has asked the federal government to remove the New York sites from the list, calling the drilling plan an “unacceptable threat” to the coastline.
Jean-Paul Salamanca of Newsday reports:
A Long Island town discovers it may be too expensive to fight Mother Nature.

Southold Town property owners and officials met Wednesday to discuss ways to finance the Town’s share of a federal effort to repair storm damage and begin erosion control for Hashamomuck Cove. The shoreline area is 1.5 miles long, has about 70 property owners and is subject to substantial damage during coastal storms.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deputy chief Stephen Couch said the restoration project would cost over 14.5 million dollars in federal aid but that the Town, or other local sponsor, would have to pay about 10 percent of the initial cost and the total cost of upkeep, estimated at about 5 million dollars.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he and other officials were wary of setting precedents for the Town paying for upkeep of private property. Property owners are considering taxing themselves to pay for the project.
Wednesday February 7, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Alyssa Katz, Michael Zweig, & Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: Malloy delivers State of State Address in Connecticut today; calls for “fairness”; 100th day since an Indonesian man took sanctuary in a Meriden church; banning “bump stocks” in Connecticut; Five Long Island Projects Get DEC Funds to Fight Southern Pine Beetle

In his final State of the State Speech, Governor Dan Malloy made a plea to the legislature to support “common sense” solutions based on “compassion, love and fairness.” Reporting for the Hartford Courant, Christopher Keating said Malloy also used the speech to cite the accomplishments of his administration, from gun control to affordable housing.

The Governor called on the legislature to improve paid sick leave laws, enhance environmental protection, improve access to affordable housing and expand gun control in Connecticut. What was not mentioned in Malloy’s speech: the state’s still-struggling economy, or how to make Connecticut more economically competitive.

The Governor struggles with low public approval ratings,(in fact according to a recent poll* Malloy is less popular than President Trump here in Connecticut). With that said, Malloy used today’s address to make it clear that he will not back down in his last year in office, and he intends to move forward on issues that he has long championed.
Last Friday marked the 100th day since an Indonesian man took sanctuary in a Meriden church, just before he was scheduled to be deported.  Supporters held a prayer service to make the occasion.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Sujitno Sajuti is a Muslim scholar who’s been in the U.S. for decades and who entered sanctuary in early November in the church – a converted farmhouse – where his wife stays with him. Maureen Muir is a member of the team supporting the elderly couple.

She says of the gathering last week: “And it was really just to get everybody together and recognize that this has been a very long and difficult process for them. You know, the church is better than jail but it’s still a very restrictive environment for them.”

Sajuti is hoping for a stay of deportation, just as another Connecticut immigrant whose case was highly publicized was granted a stay on February 5.  Meanwhile, immigrant husband and father Joel Colindres was deported on January 31 after a hard-fought battle, and another immigrant remains in sanctuary in a New Haven church, where he’s been for the past 70 days.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
CT News Junkie Reports:
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and other legislative members plan to propose a legislation—following Governor Dannel Malloy's proposal—to ban bump stocks and ghost guns.

Bump stocks are after-market products that can be attached to a semiautomatic weapon to make it essentially a fully automatic gun, which is illegal in Connecticut. Ghost guns are partially completed weapons that do not meet the federal definition of a firearm and can be sold to anyone without a background check.

Under Malloy’s proposal, possession, and sale of rate-of-fire enhancements, including bump stocks, binary trigger systems, and trigger cranks will result in a Class D felony. Permit holders who possess rate-of-fire enhancements prior to July 1, 2020, will receive an infraction and be fined $90 for their first offense, and shall be charged with a Class D felony for any subsequent offense.

Massachusetts and New Jersey have enacted laws prohibiting the sale and possession of the devices. A little over a dozen other states are also considering bans on bump stocks.
Joan Gralla reports in Newsday that five Long Island projects will split a state Department of Environmental Conservation grant that tops $275,000 to thwart the southern pine beetle, which can kill trees in two to four months, officials said on Tuesday.

The beetles, which kill trees by digging into the bark and interrupting the flow of nutrients, first were found in Suffolk County in 2014. The DEC said the insects probably migrated north from the southeast as winters became milder. They do not attack hardwood trees.

The DEC-funded programs will ensure dead pine trees do not become hazards. They will also cut down infested trees and replant native pine trees. The DEC also is thinning pine forests, sometimes through burns, to keep the trees healthy.

The grants will help safeguard the tree canopy in the Central Pine Barrens, which in turn protects the Island’s sole aquifer, rare species, and recreation.
Tuesday February 6, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Michael Zweig, Trace Alford, and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut lawmakers renew carbon tax proposal; Connecticut lawmakers team up on push for casino; Long Island financial advisers say economy is strong despite Dow drop;  New York State Assembly passes Dream Act
Parker Fiske writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
A group of Connecticut lawmakers are again introducing a carbon tax, but they’re open to ideas about how to implement it.

Last year, they proposed a fee of $15 a ton on carbon pollution that would be levied on coal, oil, natural gas, propane, or any other petroleum products. It would also be levied on electricity generators that use fossil fuels. The bill died in committee after a public hearing.

It’s unclear how far the proposal may get this year, but it’s clear there won’t be any help from the federal government.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to replace the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s climate change regulation, which would have reduced carbon emissions from power plants.
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Lawmakers from Bridgeport and New Haven are teaming up to push their colleagues to open up the bidding process for a commercial casino in Bridgeport.

Last year, lawmakers approved a deal that would allow for the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribal Nation to get the required federal approvals to build a casino in East Windsor.That casino was supposed to head off traffic to the new MGM Resorts International casino opening this summer in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The bill being proposed by the Bridgeport and New Haven delegations would establish the first step in a two-step, competitive process that would direct the Commissioners of Consumer Protection and Economic and Community Development to solicit responses to an RFP for a proposed commercial casino gaming facility; evaluate the responses; and select a single, qualified responder for the legislature to consider.

The legislation is expected to be filed tomorrow when the 2018 General Assembly session opens.
Ken Schacter writing for Newsday Long Island reports:
Yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,175 points. Though it was the biggest point decline on record, the percentage change of 4.6. percent was not near the record decline.

The Newsday Long Island Index of the region’s largest publicly traded companies by revenue fell about 3.6 percent on Monday. That followed a 4.3 percent decline last week. The index is down about 5 percent for the year to date.

Craig Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services LLC, an investment and financial planning firm in Melville, says that investors who are saving for the long term should not abandon equities.He says the stock market should remain strong even though the era of ultra-low interest rates may be coming to a close with rising rates.

Douglas C. Manditch, chairman and chief executive at Empire National Bank, says the “market could be down because a lot of people think the market is a “little overpriced.” He does not see the decline as a “big threat.”
Brendan Lyons writing for The Albany Times-Union reports:
The New York state Assembly on Monday passed its version of the DREAM Act, providing college financial aid for children of undocumented immigrants.

Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie said "It is fundamentally and economically misguided to deny students who were educated in our state's public school system the tools they need to reach their academic potential and fully contribute to our state's economy."

Students would be eligible for general awards, performance-based awards, or the state's Tuition Assistance Program funds if they have attended an approved in-state high school for two or more years, if they graduated from such a school and applied to an in-state college or university within five years of receiving their high school diploma, if they received a qualified state high school equivalency diploma or were otherwise eligible for in-state tuition at SUNY, CUNY, or community colleges.
Monday February 5, 2018   (Thanks to WPKN volunteer editors Neil Tolhurst, Gretchen Swanson and Lee Yuen Lew)

In the news tonight: Connecticut congestion pricing could be November hot potato; auditors rip pay to departing CT state employees; 'Poor People's Campaign' prepares nationwide mobilization; Percoco misused outsized influence
Gregory Hladky reports for the Hartford Courant:
Connecticut’s option for implementing electronic driving taxes (known as tolls) to help fund transportation projects involves a congestion pricing system that charges drivers more during rush hours and less at off-peak times.

The state could bring in as much as $750 million a year in gross revenue  before expenses using congestion pricing, according to Transportation Commissioner James Redeker. That would mean taxing driving on every interstate and limited access state road, including routes 2, 8, 9 and the Merritt Parkway.

Redeker cautioned: “We would be the only state in the nation that tolled that much.”
Connecticut lawmakers have repeatedly rejected the idea of new electronic driving taxes, and the concept is expected to be a political hot potato for legislators hoping to get reelected in November. 
Eric Bedner reports for the Journal Inquirer that State agencies continue to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush-money payments to former employees to prevent them from initiating litigation or blowing the whistle, according to the annual state auditors report to the General Assembly.

The state auditors determined that certain payments made to departing employees were not in accordance with a settlement agreement entered by the attorney general on behalf of the agency or authorized by the governor.

Noting large payments made to departing state employees, many over $100,000, the report made specific note of payments to former Connecticut Lottery President and CEO Anne Noble. The auditors offered to assist the Legislature in protecting the state’s interest by providing third-party scrutiny.

Last year, state auditors conducted 29 audits of state and quasi-public agencies, making 398 recommendations of which roughly 43 percent have been implemented, according to the report.
Martha Waggoner reports in Albany Times-Union that the 'Poor People's Campaign,' the renewed version of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign to lift poor people, held its first national mobilization today, with events in 32 states and Washington D.C. 

Poor people, clergy and activists plan to deliver letters to politicians in state Capitol buildings, including Albany, demanding that leaders confront systemic racism evidenced by  voter suppression laws and poverty rates. 

The campaign is planning a "season of direct action and civil disobedience." that begins on May 13 and continues through June 21, the anniversary of the slayings of three civil rights workers in 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  On the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination at a sanitation workers’ strike In Memphis, workers plan to walk off their jobs on February 12 to support higher wages and union rights, while protesters march to City Hall.

Rev. John Mendez of North Carolina said: "I've been waiting almost 50 years for this." 
Yancy Roy of Newsday reported: When Joseph Percoco called, the Cuomo administration jumped. Cuomo’s former longtime aide is accused of using his influence to reward campaign contributors with lucrative state construction contracts who paid him bribes in return.

Percoco is alleged to have conspired with two executives of Syracuse-based COR, and Connecticut-based Competitive Power Ventures, to help them win permits to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley. In building their case, prosecutors have sought to show jurors of Percoco’s outsized influence and bare-knuckled tactics.

Because the trial is ongoing, the governor has refused comment.  State Republican chairman Ed Cox has blasted Democrat Cuomo as “perfectly content” with “these blurred lines.” 

Cox  said: “Mr. Percoco had no business working on any official matters or keeping his state office after he left the state payroll…”
Friday February 2, 2018  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford and Danniella Tompos)

In the news tonight:  Connecticut comptroller predicts nearly $245 million deficit; Connecticut’s highest court denies education funding appeal; Brookhaven to sue LIRR for not adding rail crossings; Long Island to host public hearing on federal offshore drilling plan
Christine Stuart at CT NewsJunkie reports:
Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo estimates that the recently adopted state budget is almost $245 million in the red. In his monthly letter to Governor Malloy, Lembo says he believes the deficit is larger than the administration’s estimate because of legal settlements the state will have to pay. He adds that the deficit has also grown over the last month in large part due to reduced revenue available to the General Fund, which is down by about $16 million. 

Lembo writes that “aggressive savings targets included in the adopted General Fund budget will pose serious challenges.”

Legislative leaders from both parties met Wednesday and will meet again next week to discuss ways to close the current deficit.
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas for The CT Mirror reports:
The state Supreme Court denied a last-ditch effort by a coalition of parents, teachers and local officials to reconsider the court’s recent ruling that state education spending meets constitutional standards. The denial puts an end to a 12-year legal saga and leaves education funding decisions to the governor and Connecticut General Assembly.

The high court ruled 4-to-3 in mid-January that while many school districts struggle to help students overcome poverty, mental health issues, and other non-educational issues, doing so is not a constitutional obligation.

Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, writing for the majority, says: “It is not the function of the courts … to create educational policy or attempt by judicial fiat to eliminate all of the societal deficiencies that continue to frustrate the state’s educational efforts.” 
Carl MacGowan at Newsday reports:
Brookhaven officials plan to sue Long Island Rail Road, charging that the railroad failed to respond to calls for adding grade crossings in Shirley. Daily traffic tie-ups on William Floyd Parkway and nearby roads prompted officials last year to hold a public meeting where residents called for additional crossings.

Town officials say the hearing obligated the LIRR to consider new crossings. To date, LIRR officials have not complied.

In a statement, LIRR spokesperson Aaron Donovan says the railroad would not consider adding crossings “for safety reasons.”  Donovan adds: “The LIRR opposes the creation of new railroad crossings. In fact, the LIRR is working to eliminate seven crossing in Nassau County.

Town officials worry that the limited north-south access on the Mastic-Shirley peninsula could create a safety hazard if those communities had to evacuate. Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico believes grade crossings should be added at either Madison, Hawthorne or Roberts Streets, all east of the parkway. 
Riverhead Local’s Denise Civiletti reports: 
State lawmakers will hold a public hearing February 14 in Smithtown on the federal government’s plan to allow offshore natural gas and oil exploration in waters off the coast of New York. The hearing will focus on the impact on water quality, coastal management and fisheries, and the potential for increased oil spills and pollution if such drilling were permitted.

The Department of Interior wants to allow offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. territorial waters, outside a 25-mile coastal buffer. This implements President Trump’s order to broaden US domestic energy exploration. Federal officials say this will move the country from energy independence to energy dominance,

Governors along the East Coast universally oppose the plan which Governor Cuomo, called “yet another federal assault on our environment.”

A federal hearing is also scheduled in Hartford on February 13.
Thursday February 1, 2018 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Thomas Byrne and Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut customers pan Eversource rate request;
Connecticut lawmakers override Governor Malloy’s Medicare veto; New York educators pan Cuomo’s budget cuts; Suffolk County legislature to vote on sexual harassment resolution.
Jack Kramer writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
A month after the average Eversource customer saw their monthly bill increase $7, the utility is looking for another rate increase that would start this May.The Public Utilities Regulator Authority (or PURA) is holding a series of four public hearings on the latest rate request across the state.

Yesterday, about 50 New Haven area residents came to the Branford fire station to mostly pan the proposal in front of PURA representatives. There will be more public hearings throughout the state.

Consumers can also submit comments via email. Comments should reference Docket Number 17-10-46. 
Christine Stuart writing for Connecticut News Junkie reports:
As promised, the General Assembly on Wednesday voted to override Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of the funding needed to maintain benefits to the Medicare Savings Program. The House voted 131-4 and the Senate voted 30-1 to override the veto.
In his veto message, Malloy called the bill “wishful thinking, double-counting, and pushing problems off into the future.”  The override will only extend the current benefits until July 1.
In 2019, the program will fall short $130 million, if the same level of benefits are funded for more than 100,000 residents. 
Bethany Bump reports for The Albany Times Union: 
New York education leaders urged state lawmakers on Wednesday to increase support to school districts next year.
Governor Cuomo seeks to cap aid in the areas of transportation, building and BOCES, the regional Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says school officials across the state are very concerned about the governor's proposed 3 percent increase in school aid next year
The increase - $338 million - would barely enable districts to maintain services at a time when student needs and mandated costs for employee salaries, health care premiums and teacher retirements are on the rise.
Anytime a district builds a new school or renovates a building, it must gain voter approval and can count on a certain percentage of the cost being reimbursed by the state. Under the governor's proposal, these reimbursements would be capped at a 2 percent increase statewide. 
Rick Brand of Long Island Newsday reports:
 The Suffolk County Legislature will vote next Tuesday on a resolution requiring the County to track and publish sexual harassment complaints involving government officials and employees and disclose the source of settlement funds.

The resolution is one of a series of bills the County has taken to address sexual harassment.  Other bills addressed sexual harassment awareness training and distribution of materials on workers’ rights to new hires.

Said Legislator William Lindsay III, a democrat from Oakdale: “We have to be more proactive dealing with a problem that should not be permitted in our workforce.”

The resolution has bi-partisan support and is expected to pass. Republican legislator Tom Cilmi of Bay Shore said he “thoroughly backs the bill.” A spokesman for the Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, said the Executive also supports the bill.