Friday, January 2, 2015

WPKN LOCAL NEWS

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WPKN Local News is prepared from several sources including CTNewsJunkie.com, CTMirror.org, EastEndBeacon.com, SoutholdLocal.com and  RiverheadLocal.com. 

Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin, Nadine Dumser, Mike Merli, Kristiana Pastir, Scott Harris, Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus. 

If you are interested in joining our volunteer news team - while working at home - send an email to:

eastendnewsteam@yahoo.com

January 2015

JANUARY 22: (Thanks to WPKN volunteers  Nadine Dumser, Mike Merli, and Scott Harris)

In the news tonight: Governor Malloy is preparing a second round of emergency spending cuts; Good government groups marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling, praise Connecticut’s public campaign financing law; New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was taken into federal custody this morning on corruption charges and an eighth-grade science teacher will be the first Long Island educator to “opt-out” of administering state mandated common core testing.
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Governor Malloy will order his second round of emergency spending cuts as the current fiscal year’s budget deficit reaches a new high, approaching $121 million dollars.

The Connecticut Mirror reports eroding tax receipts and other revenues increased the need for further cuts beyond those in 2014. In addition, likely cost overruns in various agencies have grown by another $50 million. Most overspending involves Medicaid.

The governor is working to reduce any further deficits since state law requires the deficit to remain below $175 Million. That amount is 1% of the total state budget this year. Cities and towns will likely not be spared from this round of state budget cuts. The rising economy has not eased the state’s budget crisis as Malloy had predicted during his re-election campaign last year.

Existing law gives the state’s chief executive discretion to reduce most state agency budgets unilaterally by up to 5 percent.
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Several good government groups held a press conference in Connecticut’s Legislative Office Building on Tuesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, which has dramatically increased the amount of money spent on political campaigns.

Since Citizens United removed restrictions on corporate spending on elections, large donors are increasingly crowding out small contributors. The advocates called for overturning the Citizens United decision.

Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, said Connecticut has fared better than other states in part because of its program allowing candidates to qualify for taxpayer-funded campaign grants designed to eliminate the influence of contributors on elected officials. The program was adopted in response to the corruption scandal which drove former Governor John Rowland from office.

Cheri Quickmire of Common Cause Connecticut, encouraged the legislature to “fix” the flaws and gaps in the state’s public financing program, rolling back some of the changes that were made in  2013.  
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New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was taken into federal custody this morning on corruption charges, following a long investigation.

A federal complaint accuses Silver of running a corruption scheme dating back at least ten years, garnering him “approximately $4 million in payments solely through the corrupt use of his office.”

The 70 year-old Silver also reportedly made another $3 million exploiting referrals from doctors in asbestos cases.

In December, federal examiners investigated Goldberg & Iryami, a law firm that made payments to Silver which went unreported in his annual state financial disclosures.

That investigation originated with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission panel, that was later shut down.

Sheldon Silver’s arrest occurs as the legislature begins work on completing the state budget by March.
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Beth Dimino, an eighth-grade science teacher in New York’s Comsewogue School District and president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, will be the first Long Island teacher to “opt-out” of administering mandated state standardized common core tests this April.

Comsewogue Superintendent, Dr. Joe Rella, staunchly supports and respects her decision.
Dimino and other Common Core critics complain that teachers are not part of crafting the test, not permitted to view the whole test -- and not privy to test answers.

Dimino believes Common Core undermines the very ideals of high school education: preparing students for college and careers.

By refusing to administer the upcoming Common Core tests, Dimino is effectively risking her job for what she believes, and has implored other educators to do the same.

She’s also putting forth a proposal before the New York State United Teachers Federation in April, asking that all teachers who have school age children refuse to let them take the exams.

More than 20,000 Long Island students refused to take the common core tests last April.
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Wednesday, January 21 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Kristiana Pastir):

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s new storm water permit raises local budget concerns, the state gets mixed grades on tobacco report card, Governor Cuomo reveals infrastructure and transportation plans, and Long Island fishermen rally for man charged with overfishing.
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Municipal leaders want new regulations aimed at reducing storm water runoff pollution eased.

The Connecticut Post reports that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will scale back those new requirements after budgetary complaints from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities last month. 

The regulations would mean increased expenses by requiring more street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, leaf management, and monitoring storm water discharge.

Even if the DEEP revises those requirements, other provisions in its permit application still present as much as $100 million in new statewide costs, according to the municipal group’s press release.

Yet some environmental advocates think the regulations don’t go far enough. Connecticut Fund for the Environment legal director Roger Reynolds said it is premature to reject regulations not yet released.

A conference to discuss the status of the permit will be held February 5.
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Connecticut's tobacco policies earned the state mixed grades on the American Lung Association's annual "State of Tobacco Control" report card.

The report scores states in four categories: tobacco prevention-and-control-program funding, smoke-free air policies, tobacco taxes, and access to cessation services. Connecticut scored Fs in prevention-and-control program funding and access to cessation programs, but scored a C in smoking restrictions and a B on taxing tobacco.

About 15.5 percent of Connecticut adults smoke, which is lower than the national average of 18 percent. The report card praised some recent positive changes, including a 2014 bill making it illegal for those under 18 to purchase or possess electronic cigarettes.

Connecticut failed in tobacco control-and-prevention programs because it allocated only about $5.9 million in state and federal funding in fiscal year 2015, according to the report card. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends spending $32 million.

The state’s F in smoking cessation programs has several reasons, including spending only 18 cents per smoker on its Quitline services. The national average is $3.65 per smoker. One improvement has been Medicaid adding coverage of cessation counseling.
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On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo unveiled a new transportation plan, mostly concentrated in the lower part of the state.

The plan is to modernize both the city’s airports. Last year, the Governor’s Master Design Plan Competition led to his formation of a seven-member panel to advise himself and the Port Authority on the most effective redesigns.

Part of this modernization would include building an AirTrain, which would link the subway and Long Island Rail Road to LaGuardia Airport. 

Additionally, the governor wants to build new Metro North stations in the Bronx, and expand existing parking in Ronkonkoma and Nassau on Long Island, and Tarrytown in Westchester.

The governor also hopes to expand high-speed ferry service, with possible new routes to LaGuardia, Westchester, and Long Island.

The state is working on building the new Tappan Zee Bridge, insisting that, for now, there will be no toll increases on the Thruway.

The bridge construction, and most of the other statewide transportation projects, will be funded in part by $5 billion won in financial settlements. 

The airport projects will be funded largely through public-private partnerships.
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About 100 Long Island fishermen and women packed a Hampton Bays dock Monday to support a man they say was charged wrongly with overfishing and faces jail if convicted.

The rally followed a DEC enforcement action last week against Hampton Bays fisherman Bill Reed, who was charged with overfishing when he returned to New York with 700 pounds of fluke. Though based in New York, Reed has a New Jersey fluke license, requiring that his catch be landed and processed in that state. But doing so would have required steaming 17 hours to New Jersey in high winds and icy conditions, he said.

His boat encountered bad weather 50 miles from Long Island and he made a decision to return home, but now faces fines and jail time for the charge of having 630 pounds over the New York state limit of 70 pounds.

Southampton attorney Daniel Rodgers who is representing Reed, called on Governor Cuomo to disband the Department of Environmental Conservation's marine enforcement division and for DEC Commissioner Joe Martens to step down.
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 Tuesday January 20 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Mike Merli):

In tonight’s news, 23 more Connecticut officials sign public information pledge; Sandy Hook Advisory Commission nears completion of its two-year task; Governor Cuomo unveils new anti-poverty plan; and New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says Special Ed providers are shortchanging special needs children.
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Since November, at least 23 more elected officials have signed the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information’s pledge.
The pledge asks officials to stand against the weakening of the state’s public document disclosure law, and to also require public hearings during any attempts to change the law.

Before the election, 37 candidates had signed the two-part pledge. On January 8, the day after the start of the new legislative session, the non-profit re-issued the pledge and garnered 10 more signatures.

This month’s signatures came from officials representing Danbury, East Hartford, Manchester, Middletown, New Haven, Norwalk, Torrington and Waterbury.
In total, 23 incumbent officials have signed the pledge since November: 19 Democrats and four Republicans.

Governor Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman are the most recent officials to sign the pledge.
CCFOI President James H. Smith said, “It is heartening to see so many of the people’s representatives stand up for the people’s right to know.”
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The Sandy Hook Advisory Comission will complete its report next month after two years of work. The report is expected to contain a strong recommendation for a ban on certain types of firearms.

The commission was created by Governor Malloy shortly after the Sandy Hook school shootings on December 12, 2012. It is comprised of experts in the fields of education, mental health, safety and law enforcement.

Members of the commission met on Friday to consider re-approving an interim proposal to prohibit the sale of any gun that can fire more than ten times without having to reload. Members seemed to agree to keep the recommendation, and there was a sense of wanting to send a strong push for gun control.

Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute for Living, said, “…We’ve spent two years looking at the mental health aspects of this. The relationship to mental health issues is minimal and pales to the relationship to these weapons.”
The commission hopes to have its final report to Governor Malloy by Valentine’s Day.

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Newsday reports Governor Cuomo has unveiled an anti-poverty plan that would raise the state minimum wage to at least $10.50 per hour, cut taxes for small businesses, give some college graduates a respite from paying back school loans for the first two years, and pump millions into the state's emergency food programs.

The governor will formally present his budget Wednesday in his State of the State address. The legislature has until April 1 to approve it.

Cuomo also wants to cut overall small-business taxes from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent and create a new "chief small business officer" post to help streamline government licensing and permitting procedures. 

He proposed spending $400 million to provide more shelter for the homeless and additional rent assistance subsidies. 

Cuomo has also allocated $4.5 million to stock the state's eight regional food banks. “Long Island Cares'” three food banks, which also help supplement other food pantries on Long Island, received $250,000 last year from the state. If approved, the food bank would receive an additional $100,000. 

Also proposed is a new agency that would coordinate nonprofit groups, helping them network and get federal grants. 
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New York state comptroller Tom DiNapoli says Special Ed Providers are shortchanging special needs children:

Audits of these special education providers across New York State have uncovered a disturbing pattern of mismanagement that cost taxpayers nearly $42 million in the last decade, including $20 million in 2014 alone, according to a report released last Monday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

The State Education Department (SED) reports that 81,000 preschool students with disabilities receive Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services in New York annually at a cost of more than $1.4 billion to the state and localities. Unlike in other states, preschool special education services in New York are predominantly provided by for-profit and not-for-profit private contractors, rather than the school districts themselves. SED, which approves providers to operate in New York, reimburses providers for eligible costs. There are currently about 320 approved private preschool special education providers in the state.

DiNapoli said, “Taxpayers rightly expect that the State Comptroller’s office will hold those doing the people’s business accountable. As we continue to audit these providers, it is my hope that we will see a significant change in how these providers operate”.
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 Friday January 16 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin and Kristiana Pastir).

In the news tonight: Connecticut transportation panel advises fix-it first approach, state deficit rises with falling fuel tax revenue, New York Attorney General proposes strengthening data security law, and landmark Sag Harbor bookstore building is for sale.

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A new report from the Connecticut Public Transportation Commission recommends that the state make a few targeted improvements in transit bus service, but mainly put funds toward shoring up existing highways and transit systems rather than initiating new projects, according to the Hartford Courant.


According to the report, hundreds of bridges need repair and the state has done too little routine maintenance of its highways, bridges and rail system.


The report also recommends that legislators swiftly regulate Internet-based ride share services such as Uber and Lyft to provide better protections for riders.


Various communities and planning regions want more roads, new bus service and streetcar systems, but the commission advised Connecticut to stick to a "fix it first" philosophy to get its existing infrastructure into good condition.


Governor Malloy's administration is expected to consider the recommendations while refining the large-scale, long-range transportation proposal that it has drafted.


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Connecticut's budget deficit nearly doubled over the last month amid a fuel-tax slump, reports the Connecticut Post.

The state reported a monthly drop of $39.3 million in fuel tax revenue. Added to the $31.6 million deficit reported last month by Comptroller Kevin Lembo, the deficit is now $70.9 million.


Minority Republicans blamed the deficit on a poor December holiday sales season, but state officials suggested it’s from falling gas prices and the decreasing tax revenue.


Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration said Thursday it will deal with the deficit in the short term and in the governor’s new two-year budget proposal.


In a longer-term projection, drops in fuel and cigarette taxes and the continued falloff in slot-machine revenue will be offset by a half-billion dollar increase in income taxes, according to new state estimates for the two-year budget that starts July 1.

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman proposed legislation Thursday that he says would make the state's data security law the strongest in the country and require "unprecedented safeguards" for personal data, according to Reuters.

The proposal would broaden the scope of information that employers and retailers have to protect and require stronger technical and physical security measures. It would also expand the definition "private information" to include email addresses and passwords, biometric information and health insurance details.


Companies are currently not required to report a data breach if it is limited to the theft of email addresses and passwords.


The proposal also would incentivize businesses to comply by offering some protection from liability in lawsuits if they can show they took steps to protect private information.


According to a report by Schneiderman last summer, about 22.8 million personal records of New Yorkers were exposed in nearly 5,000 data breaches between 2006 and 2013, costing public and private sectors in the state more than $1.37 billion in 2013.

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An historic commercial property in Sag Harbor, home to the venerable Canio’s Books, is for sale.


Douglas Elliman Real Estate has listed 290 Main Street for $2.9 million. It contains the tiny bookstore and 3 residential apartments. 


In a November 2014 article the New York Times observed that "less than a decade ago, five bookstores contributed to the literary mystique in Sag Harbor.”


Among those five, only Canio’s Books remained.


Canio Pavone started the tradition of bookstore readings when he opened the store in 1980.


The readings, some recorded for WPKN's monthly "East End Ink" include the voices of poets, novelists, biographers and humorists. 


Each February neighbors gather for a reading from the works of Afro-American writers. 


A traditional marathon reading of Moby Dick, after a hiatus of several years, is scheduled for late spring,    


Co-proprietor Kathryn Szoka, who with partner Maryann Callendrille, took over the store from Mr. Pavone in 1999, told WPKN news: 


 “Canio's is committed to staying in Sag Harbor, preferably at 290 Main Street. We recently signed a multi-year lease and are reaching out to community members to help create a way to further secure Canio's place in the Sag Harbor community.” 


The artist April Gornik, of Save Sag Harbor, a group committed to preserving the identity of the community, told the Times:


“If Sag Harbor lost Canio’s, it would lose a big chunk of its soul".

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Thursday, 
 January 15 (thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli):

In tonight’s news, Connecticut legislators debate gun regulation; local municipalities hire Washington lobbyists; and a couple decide not to build on site of a former slave’s home they demolished in Southampton Village

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So far this session, Connecticut lawmakers have proposed nearly a dozen bills related to firearms. Some of the bills push for more regulation, while others call for an easing on restrictions.


One popular bill filed by Rep. Mary Fritz (D-Yalesville) would remove firearms from recipients of a temporary restraining order. The intent is to protect the person from filing the order from having to wait for a hearing where a judge would decide to remove the weapons, particularly in a domestic violence situation.


Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-Canton) is involved with similar legislation, though it would differ from the Fritz bill in that it would allow a person to transfer their firearm to someone else, rather than having the state remove it from them.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott) seems to be leading the push towards de-regulation. Sampson has proposed legislation that would eliminate the 2013 gun law, protect people using deadly force to stop home intruders, and legalize the carrying of firearms in public parks by permitted gun owners.

Sampson has also called for an income tax credit for residents who purchase gun safes, as well as a bill that would prevent towns or the Governor from being able to limit gun possession “during a civil preparedness emergency.”

In addition, Representatives Doug Dubitsky (R-Chaplin) and Livvy Floren (R-Greenwich) have proposed bills that would affect permits. ???
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Despite tight budgets, gridlock in Washington and the end of earmarks for local projects, Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, and other Connecticut municipalities continue to hire Washington lobbyists to represent their interests.


Some, including the group Americans for Prosperity, have criticized local officials for using taxpayer funds to lobby Washington, arguing that the public already pays Congress to keep their interests in mind. 


But the perceived benefits seem to outweigh the criticisms. “The reason they hire lobbyists is the same reason everybody else does,” said Sunlight Foundation Senior Fellow Bill Allison. “Washington is a very complicated place.”

New Haven has hired two lobbying firms to look out for its interests in Washington. 

The city spent about $120,000 last year to hire Williams & Jensen and Tremont Public Advisors to lobby on transportation and economic development issues.


There are registered Washington lobbyists for Bridgeport, Middletown, Stratford and Stamford, too, although in most cases they did little or no work last year, other than helping in some grant applications.

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As reported by Newsday:

In May, despite a campaign led by historians and members of the local black community, Southampton Village officials approved the demolition of the nineteenth century home of freed slave Pyrrhus Concer.

Owners David Hermer and Sylvia Campo destroyed the home in August with the intent of building a new house on the site.


Months after the demolition, the Brooklyn couple has decided not to build, and is now looking to sell the East End property.


The couple is asking $5 million for the land at 51 Pond Lane, which they paid $2.75 million for in 2013. 


On January 8th, the Southampton Village board voted to refund the couple $18,750 in building permit fees.


Georgette Grier-Key, director of the Eastville Community Historical Society, said, “It really is a slap in the face…it’s just shocking that they demolished American history for profit.”


Grier-Key argued that the building permit fees should not have been refunded, but rather put towards building a replica of the historical home. 


Village administrator Stephen Funsch maintains that the fees Hermer and Campo paid “cover the cost of the building inspector to make sure the building is built properly,” and he insisted the money was justly refunded to the couple.


Pyrrhus Concer was born in 1814 and freed from slavery at 21. He is said to have been the first African-American to travel to Japan, and he later operated a ferry across Lake Agawam in Southampton. 


His headstone reads: “Though born a slave, he possessed virtues without which kings are but slaves.”

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Wednesday January 14 (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Anne Murray):


 In the news tonight, a dramatic drop in Connecticut’s juvenile prison population, new safety issues are found at the Millstone power plant, the Stony Brook and Southampton Hospitals merger is approved and Governor Cuomo proposes a property tax credit that would save thousands for those who earn less than $250,000 per year.

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State officials say Connecticut's prison population reached a 16-year low at the end of 2014 and was highlighted by a dramatic drop in the number of young adults entering the system for the first time.


Mike Lawlor, the governor's undersecretary for criminal justice policy, said the drop in the prison population since 2008 has been about 17 percent, down from 19,438 inmates.

As of January 1st there were 16,167 inmates in the system, down from 16,594 a year ago.

The last time the year-end numbers were lower was on January 1, 1999, when there were 16,104 inmates in the system.


Lawlor credited reforms in the system that allow most 16- and 17-year-olds to be treated as juvenile offenders and avoid prison.  School-based programs, designed as alternatives to expelling high-risk problem students, have allowed offenders to finish high school.


It costs about $45,000 a year to house an inmate in Connecticut.  The cost savings to the state have been significant, though officials have not yet crunched those numbers.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission found problems related to unspecified safety issues during a Nov. 24 inspection of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant.

The Day of New London reported that one finding, which related to security requirements at Millstone, was of "very low" safety significance and the other was of "greater than very low" significance.


The issues, which are not subject to public disclosure, are related to security systems and procedures.


Spokesmen for the NRC and Millstone, which is owned by Dominion Resources Inc., said Tuesday the problems were corrected immediately.


The NRC may determine that additional inspections, regulatory actions and oversight are warranted.


Millstone is already under increased NRC oversight until June 30 due to a finding of a failure to promptly identify and correct repeated problems with a feedwater pump that is part of the reactor’s safety systems.

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The State University of New York board of trustees' unanimously approved the merger between Stony Brook University Hospital and Southampton Hospital on Tuesday


Stony Brook and Southampton announced their intent to merge in October 2012 and said the East End hospital will operate under Stony Brook’s hospital license. The deal still must be approved by the state Department of Health, the attorney general's office and the state comptroller's office.


State Sen. Kenneth LaValle told Newsday that the merger will erase the East End’s “medically underserved status."


The approval may help Stony Brook in its separate talks with Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport.  They are in merger discussions with both Stony Brook and the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today rolled out an ambitious and progressive property tax plan that officials said would save thousands of dollars for overburdened New Yorkers who earn less than $250,000 per year.

The plan, which Cuomo announced at Hofstra University, is expected to be a central component of the governor's joint State of the State and budget address on Jan. 21 in Albany, according to Newsday.


Cuomo is proposing an income tax credit for households making less than $250,000 but pay property taxes at or above 6 percent of their income.


The recurring tax credit, which is also open to renters, would operate on a sliding scale -- the less you make the higher the potential credit -- with a maximum benefit of $2,000 per household.


The governor said the flight of young people and of businesses is attributable to high taxes, and that the property tax is the highest tax in New York.

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Tuesday,  January 13(thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli):  


In tonight’s news, unionized Connecticut engineers hope to make new changes to the state’s transportation system; Governor Malloy’s team works to bring Tenet Healthcare back to the bargaining table; a Rokonkoma developer faces a lawsuit over a solar panel contract; and a public education rally brings hundreds to the Capitol in Albany.

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The union representing Connecticut’s engineers is pushing for its members to lead the Governor’s proposed changes to the state’s transportation system.


CSEA-SEIU Local 2001 released Department of Transportation reports from last fall that reflect engineering and inspection work done by private contractors was 36 to 52 percent more expensive than the same work done by state employees.


The union believes these reports prove what they have been saying for years. 


In a letter last week to DOT Commissioner James Redeker, Union president Stephen Anderson and local 2001 engineers bargaining unit president Travis Woodward wrote, “We are using expensive contractors to do the state’s work because we can’t hire more people. And we can’t hire more people because the state is simultaneously dealing with a budget deficit caused in part by wasteful practices.”


During his campaign last fall for re-election, Governor Malloy announced that this year’s budget would include 103 new full-time positions in the DOT. That number includes 66 engineering positions.


However, nonpartisan analysts predict a $1.3 billion deficit in the next budget, and some critics of the Governor argue that his past efforts to deal with the deficit included heavy restrictions on new hiring.

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On Monday, Governor Malloy wrote a letter to Trevor Fetter, CEO of Tenet Healthcare, asking he again consider acquiring five struggling Connecticut hospitals.


Talks had broken down last year with the Texas-based company, after the state’s conditions of regulatory oversight posed an issue.


In the letter, Malloy expressed his concern for the community of Waterbury, home to two of the five hospitals in consideration. The hospitals are St. Mary’s and Waterbury Hospital, along with Bristol Hospital, Manchester Memorial, and Rockville General in Vernon.


The Governor’s team has been in talks with Tenet ever since they withdrew their application. He hopes to keep the dialogue going, and believes it will be possible to find a solution to satisfy all parties involved.


In his letter, Malloy wrote, “Based on these conversations, we can find a settlement that will be beneficial to your company, as well as the state of Connecticut, Waterbury residents, and Waterbury hospitals.”


Denise Stromstad, president and CEO of Waterbury Hospital, is hopeful that Tenet will come back to the bargaining table. 

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EDF Renewable Development, of California, is filing suit against Tritec Real Estate, over its attempt to stop installation of solar panels at the Ronkonkoma railroad station.


EDF had won a LIPA contract to install solar carports at several locations throughout Suffolk County.   


The lawsuit alleges that Tritec, developer of the competing hub project, pressured county officials to withhold permits for the solar panels at the station.


This suit against the Ronkonkoma developer comes after a similar suit was filed against Suffolk County, for allegedly breaking their $123 million contract with EDF.


EDF believes that Tritec tried first to persuade then Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to block the project. When that didn’t work, Tritec allegedly pressured new Executive Steve Bellone in 2012, and this time they were successful. 


In the lawsuit, EDF is seeking $12.5 million in costs, and $5 million in punitive damages.


The company has already completed solar panels at six other locations in Suffolk County, and has now sold its stake in the project. The railroad station carports represented about one-third of the contract.

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Labor leaders and public education activists rallied hundreds of people at the Capitol in Albany Monday afternoon. They called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers to close what speakers described as a growing gap between affluent and poor school districts.


Speakers included Andy Pallotta of New York State United Teachers, Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers. 


The central theme of the rally was that government funds for education are being allocated to wealthier school districts, while lower-income districts are being ignored.


However, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo said, in effect, that the state is already trying to address the issue. Rich Azzopardi said, “The fact is New York spends three times as much per pupil in high-needs districts than it does on low-needs districts, and that funding has only increased over the past four years.” 


Budget Division data shows that state aid per pupil in high-needs districts has increased from $9,035 in the 2010-11 fiscal year to $9,626 in the current year, a gain of about 6 percent. 

In low-needs districts, per-pupil state aid has gone from $3,084 to $3,371, an increase of nine percent, or about $287. 
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Monday, January 12 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Scott Schere and Melinda Tuhus): 


In the news tonight, a co-conspirator of former Governor John Rowland is sentenced;  in Connecticut where tobacco use is high,  little of tobacco settlement money is funding smoking reduction programs; a Long Island politician gets a nice pension on top of his two current jobs; and two brownfield sites on Long Island are among 13 in the state to receive clean-up funds.   

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Brian Foley, a nursing home owner who illegally bankrolled former Gov. John G. Rowland’s consultant work on his wife’s congressional campaign, was sentenced Friday to three years of probation and three months in a halfway house for misdemeanor crimes.  Federal Judge Janet Bond Arterton factored Foley’s eventual cooperation with federal investigators into her sentence. He must also pay fines and costs of about $40,000.  Foley’s wife, former candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley, has pleaded guilty and Rowland has been convicted on related charges.

Foley paid the former governor through his company, Apple Rehab, and his lawyers drafted a sham contract representing Rowland as an adviser to the health care company. At Rowland’s trial, Foley testified that he hired Rowland to lend his political expertise to his wife’s campaign. He paid Rowland $35,000 through the nursing home company.

Foley addressed the court for more than 15 minutes, saying he was blinded by his desire to help elect his wife to Congress.


During Rowland’s trial Foley admitted to illegally contributing more than half a million dollars to his wife’s campaign. 


Linda Wilson-Foley pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges early last year. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday and prosecutors have asked for a 10-month prison sentence. 

Rowland’s own sentencing hearing was delayed indefinitely this month due to arguments by Wilson-Foley’s lawyer. 
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The latest report on how well states are funding tobacco prevention and cessation efforts has Connecticut ranked 29th in the nation. 


John Schachter, director of communications with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says Connecticut will take in more than a half-billion dollars in tobacco tax and settlement revenue this year, but will spend less than one percent of that money -- just 43.5 million -- to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting. He said as a result, the state’s youth smoking rate is still high at 13.5 percent, and tobacco-related illnesses are costing the state 5,000 lives a year and over $2 billion.


The report points to Florida as an example other states should follow. Schachter says the Sunshine State cut its high school smoking rate in half from 15 percent to 7.5 percent by adequately funding tobacco prevention through a voter-approved ballot initiative.

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The Suffolk Times reports: The 75-year-old State Senator Ken LaValle is one of more than 15 elected officials in New York State who will be receiving a pension, as well as a salary while they continue to work. This is legal, according to state law. Mr. LaValle’s annual salary is $79,500 and he receives an additional $25,000 as chairman of the Senate Majority Conference.  He is also an attorney in private practice in addition to his senate job. The senator says he’s taking the extra money for his family, and added that he does not consider it “double dipping.”

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The Department of Environmental Conservation announced on Friday that thirteen municipally owned brownfield sites across New York will receive $8.4 million in NY Works II funding to cleanup and remediate the sites for redevelopment. The sites are part of the state's Environmental Restoration Program (ERP).  


Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Martens said, "The cleanup and restoration of brownfield properties such as these are critical to safeguarding public health, protecting the environment and developing community assets that energize the economy and quality of life".  DEC received thirteen applications and determined all are eligible for funding. DEC will use the NY Works II funding to complete the thirteen ERP remediation projects. 

Municipalities and DEC will enter into agreements so DEC will undertake the remediation work directly with the municipality paying ten percent of the project costs. The remediation projects include the 546 Hempstead Turnpike Site in Nassau County and the Ronkonkoma Wallpaper site in Suffolk County.
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Friday January 9 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin and Kristiana Pastir):


In the news tonight: Malloy wants to widen I-95; Connecticut lawmakers propose a task force on hoarding; new test shows contaminants above state limits around Islandia  homes; and East Hampton extends deer hunting season.

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Governor Dannel Malloy said Thursday his new transportation vision includes widening I-95 from New York to Rhode Island, along with continuing his expansion of mass transit, according to the Connecticut Mirror.


In his first term, Malloy approved a bus-rapid transit system in the Hartford region and expanding rail service from Springfield through New Haven. The governor said this possible highway construction would not detract from mass transit plans. 


“Let me put it this way: It’s all of the above,” Malloy said in the first press conference after opening his second-term. “Because our problem is so large that no one part of the transportation plan will solve it.”


Malloy still needs to indentify specific projects, offer budget estimates and propose new revenue stream to pay debt service on this potential new transportation bond.


The governor intends to propose how to construct a “lockbox,” a mechanism for tying new transportation revenue to transportation spending.


Malloy is scheduled to meet Monday with mass-transit advocates.

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A group of Connecticut lawmakers -- prompted by a death last year in Cheshire and other cases in the state -- have filed a bill that would create a task force to study hoarding. They hope to identify potential solutions to the psychiatric disorder that affects 2 to 5 percent of the population.


It was one of the first bills submitted to Senate and House clerks in advance of the General Assembly’s 21-week session that began January 7.


Senator Paul R. Doyle, vice chairman of the law-writing Judiciary Committee, envisions a 10- to 15-member committee with a variety of expertise, from mental health professionals, to police and fire officials, and public health experts.


Westport-Weston Health District community health director Monica Wheeler said for the last two years, a local group that includes social service officials joined first responders in a Safe Homes Task Force.  She said a statewide task force seems like a good way to move the process forward.


Wheeler said. “It creates a real danger when a person has too much stuff in the house.  It's a danger to neighbors and particularly first responders in an emergency."

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Newsday reports that a second round of testing around Veterans Way in Islandia revealed soil contaminant levels exceed state standards.


Eight semi-volatile compounds – hydrocarbons that can cause cancer -- were found higher than Department of Environmental Conservation standards by three homes, according to Eric Arnesen, Nelson, Pope & Voorhis general project manager. The firm conducted the testing.


These compounds were also found under the pavement at the subdivision’s northern end.


A different company first conducted testing in May at the behest of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota during his investigation into illegal dumping. Toxins found then didn’t exceed state standards.


Those results came from boring samples as deep as 15 feet. The new samples -- following a DEC-approved plan -- were taken primarily by digging test pits at least 3 feet down.


Last month, six men and four companies were indicted on charges related to allegations of illegal dumping at four sites in and around Islip, including Veterans Way.


Nelson, Pope & Voorhis recommended additional testing. The DEC is reviewing a proposed work plan.

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For the first time, New York bow hunting season was extended for another month – ending January 31 -- and includes eight more days of hunting with firearms. This is meant to increase the recreational deer harvest and manage increasing deer populations in Suffolk County.


People can hunt on town-owned lands, and private property owners can hunt or allow hunters on their land as long as they adhere to state laws. Bow hunters need to be 150 feet away from any occupied structure, and at least 500 feet away when using a gun.


Because the extension to weekends wasn’t officially announced until December 23, the Town Board didn’t have enough time to hold a public hearing to consider restrictions. The town can be more restrictive than the state if its leaders think that’s best.


The season extension could give East Hampton Town some insight into how effective more hunting could be in controlling the deer population.

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Thursday Jan 8 (thanks to WPKN volunteers Nadine Dumser and Mike Merlli):

In tonight’s news, Connecticut Governor Malloy is sworn in for his second-term; U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal wants to pass new legislation to help prevent military and veteran suicides; U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin is sworn in by House Speaker John Boehner; and Suffolk County planning commissioners freeze the vote on a casino gaming application pending more detailed data.

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Governor Dannel Malloy began his second term as Connecticut Governor on Wednesday, making him the state’s 88th governor. 


Administering the oath of office was Andrew McDonald, the governor’s former legal adviser and the first gay justice to serve on the state Supreme Court.


Four years ago, Malloy was sworn in as the state’s first Democratic governor in 24 years.

Thinking back, Malloy admitted, “These four years now behind us were not easy.”
He referenced some of the difficult struggles the state faced in his first term, which included the tragedy in Newtown, and a $3.6 billion deficit when he took office.

Former governor Lowell P. Weicker, Jr., who faced a similar deficit when he took office in 1991, was in attendance.


Malloy’s wife Cathy spoke at the podium before her husband, telling the story of how they met as Boston College students in the 1970s.


Attorney General George Jepsen, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Treasurer Denise Nappier, and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill also took their oaths of office Wednesday. Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman was sworn in earlier in the day by Governor Malloy.

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U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal is seeking bipartisan support to pass a bill that would reduce the rate of military and veteran suicides.


Now that Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is out of office, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is Blumenthal’s first priority. Cockburn had blocked the bill, which provides for an independent and outside review of the Department of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention services, enhances both online sources and community outreach to veterans, and brings more psychiatrists to VA clinics and hospitals with tuition breaks.


The legislation is named after Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who was shot by a sniper’s bullet and awarded a Purple Heart for his service. Hunt suffered from post-traumatic stress upon his return and committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28.


“We need to hold the VA accountable. There needs to be stronger oversight,” Blumenthal said Tuesday at a press conference in Hartford. 


Every day 22 veterans commit suicide, but none of them “are destined inevitably to be victims of these inner demons. We can save them,” Blumenthal said.

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U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin took the oath of office on Tuesday, sworn in by Speaker of the House John Boehner.


Congressman Zeldin (R –Shirley) won a 1st District seat in November over six-term Congressman Tim Bishop (D – Southampton).


The congressman sent an email to his supporters on Tuesday, outlining some changes he hopes to make during his time in the House of Representatives.


Zeldin wrote, “I’m encouraged that my first week in office can give me the opportunity to pass the Keystone XL pipeline legislation, the Hire More Heroes Act, change the 30 hour work week under Obamacare to 40, and more.”


Those are just a few hot button issues Zeldin plans to act on.


The Congressman added, “2015 is a new year filled with new hope and opportunities. Let’s navigate this together to better our community, state and nation.”

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Suffolk County planning commissioners voted Wednesday to call a gaming application incomplete.


Off-Track Betting Corporation submitted the application for a 1,000 machine video lottery casino in Medford. The project has a proposed cost of $65 million. 


The commission’s 8-5 vote effectively freezes the county’s 45-day review period, until OTB provides more detailed data.


The commission is looking for environmental reports, as well as data on waste water levels, traffic flows and public safety, and parking issues.


Suffolk OTB President Phil Nolan admitted that the application is missing information, saying, “Obviously, there are issues to be resolved and we’ll do whatever it takes to complete the rest of the information so that it can be considered.”


Before the commission voted, members debated the plan with many strongly opposed and considering rejecting it outright.


Commission member Carl Gabrielsen called the plan a “legal parasite that is going to suck money from the community.”


Vice Chairwoman of the Board Adrienne Esposito added, “This is a 19th century site plan for a 21st century use.” She believes the casino, which would be open from 8 am to 4 am, “will degrade the quality of the community.”


Commission member Michael Kelly explained that the commission is limited to discussing (and voting on) the details of the plan with regard to county requirements, not moral or ethical concerns about how the property will be used.


The Brookhaven Town planning board is awaiting additional data and will have the final say over the plan.

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Wednesday January 7 (Thanks to WPKN Volunteer Anne Murray):


In the news tonight, tolls may be coming to Connecticut roads, a new report shows the poor pay higher taxes than Connecticut’s wealthier residents, treated sewage will irrigate a Riverhead golf course and environmentalists threaten to sue federal agencies over Plum Island.

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As the legislative session opened today the idea of adding tolls to Connecticut highways has become one of the top issues.


The Hartford Courant reports the idea has taken on new weight since both Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey say they are open to the concept. 


The exact framework for tolls hasn't been determined and will be shaped in coming months. Some legislators are against tolls, while others remain undecided until the details are fleshed out.


Tolls are among the issues to be debated in the new session. Others are transportation improvements, a huge projected budget deficit, the juvenile justice system and unmanned drones.


The deficit is projected at more than $1 billion in each of the next two years.

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According to a new report by the state Department of Revenue Services, Connecticut's poorest residents pay more than 20 percent of the state’s tax revenue, nearly double what high income earners contribute.


Some 725,000 households that earn up to $48,000 a year paid $3.5 billion to state and local governments, while the 4,000 households with incomes of more than $2 million paid just $1.9 billion.


DRS Commissioner Kevin Sullivan told the Connecticut Post the first-of-its kind study, mandated by state law, will be used by lawmakers to study taxation policy. 


Sullivan said it highlights the regressive aspect of the state’s sales tax, noting that people with lower incomes have a higher tax bite, while people with higher income have more disposable income after taxes.


The report also found that about 1.15 million households paid 44 percent of state and local taxes, while some 60,000 households with incomes of more than $287,000 paid just 25.5 percent of tax revenue.

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Treated effluent from Riverhead’s Sewer Plant will soon be re-used to irrigate the adjacent Indian Island Golf Course, owned by Suffolk County.


Sewer district superintendent Michael Reichel said the Town Board will sign an agreement with the county to allow the town to hook into the existing irrigation system on the golf course.


The cost is included within the $24 million upgrade of the town’s sewer system, which began last April and will be done in 2016, according to the Riverhead-News Review.


The project will reduce nitrogen loading going into the Peconic Estuary.

Nitrogen has been identified as one of the causes of surface water degradation, and has been blamed for algal blooms in the waters of the East End.

Officials expect about 350,000 gallons per day of effluent, commonly called “gray water,” will be diverted from the river, of the approximately 800,000 gallons per day that is discharged.

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Newsday reports that environmental groups trying to preserve Plum Island have threatened to sue the federal government if building restrictions to protect wildlife are not included in the plans to sell the land.


Save the Sound, Soundkeeper and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment say the island's 834 acres and waters are home to hundreds of flora and fauna species, including the Roseate tern, rare orchids and other species listed as endangered or threatened.


According to a notice of intent to sue sent this week, the General Services Administration, which is handling the sale, and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, violated the Endangered Species Act by not "sufficiently consulting" with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Maritime Fisheries 

Service.

The activists said this means the environmental impact statement in approving the sale of the island is "fundamentally flawed".


If concerns aren't addressed by March 9, the groups intend to sue in Long Island's federal court.

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 Tuesday, January 6 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin, Mike Merli, and Melinda Tuhus):


In tonight’s news, Senator Chris Murphy plans to reintroduce a jobs bill; Capitol security will be heightened for Governor Malloy’s inauguration; A new study in Islip tackles flooding issues; and Suffolk County considers preserving a 94-acre former duck farm.

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U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Monday he will again introduce a bill this year to pass legislation forcing the Defense Department to consider a project’s impact on American jobs when it awards contracts to manufacturers. 


Murphy said, “We should be using American taxpayer dollars to create jobs here in America rather than using them to create jobs overseas.” 


According to Murphy, about a quarter of the $700 billion spent on defense manufacturing over the past five years has gone to overseas manufacturers.


Presently, when awarding a contract, Department of Defense agencies are forbidden from awarding a bid to an American company because it would be better for the American economy. 

Jobs are not currently one of the factors the Defense Department is permitted to consider.

This bill would allow the military to weigh a project’s employment impact in addition to other factors like the cost or the quality of a bid. 


According to Murphy, the legislation, while opposed by the Defense Department, is supported by labor union representatives. Murphy currently has no Republican co-sponsors for the bill.

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On Wednesday, the Connecticut State Capitol’s new security system will be employed during Governor Malloy’s inauguration, and during the commencement of the 2015 General Assembly.


The new security system will include 30 officers present to guide visitors safely and efficiently through the two designated entrances.


New metal detectors were installed last fall as well, though they are not considered a new security measure overall.


Police Department Public Information Officer Scott Driscoll said, “They have been around a long time.” Driscoll explained that state court buildings have already been using metal detectors.


However, encountering metal detectors may still be a new experience for visitors to the Capitol and Legislative Office Building, and “every available officer will be working” to help visitors, Driscoll assured.


Visitors may wish to allow extra time, as parking is limited in the Legislative Office Building garage. The governor’s inauguration, and the opening day of session usually bring many visitors to the Capitol.


Currently, the public may enter the Capitol only through the handicap-accessible entrance on the west side.  The Legislative Office Building has a public entrance on its west side, ground level.

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Officials in Islip are looking into solutions to the town’s longstanding flooding issues. Over the past twelve years, more than a dozen complaints have been filed by residents living on Cedar Avenue.


On December 16, Islip Town Board unanimously approved a $33,500 contract for engineering consulting firm, Savik and Murray LLP.


Beginning later this month, the firm will conduct a study to help solve the flooding problem.

The study is expected to include a map of watershed areas and elevations, and to determine the effectiveness of the current drainage system.

On completion of the study, Savik and Murray will most likely make recommendations to the town.


In addition to Cedar Avenue, the town of Islip is taking action in the flood-prone areas of Garretson Avenue, and Middlesex Avenue in Oakdale.   


Tom Owens, commissioner of Islip’s Department of Public Works, explained that flooding “is an issue in any area that is south of Montauk Highway…something that continually presents a challenge for residents and the Town.”                                         

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A 94-acre former Duck Farm named Broad Cove, adjacent to Indian Island County Park, could be preserved by Suffolk County as open space after the county legislature authorized an appraisal of the property last week. 


It’s considered a top priority for preservation by The Nature Conservancy. 


The property owner has submitted a letter indicating he is willing to sell the land for preservation. 

North Fork County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said he was the one who resurrected the effort to preserve the site, after a meeting with a resident about a proposed wetland restoration project at the adjacent Indian Island Park. 

Krupski said he believes the county will have to acquire the site on its own, as New York State and Riverhead Town have limited funds for acquisition.

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Friday January 2 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Paul Atkin and Kristiana Pastir):  


In the news tonight: Connecticut backs off stormwater regulations; Malloy names Jonathan Harris as consumer protection head; former New York Governor Mario Cuomo died Thursday; and Suffolk raises legal age for buying cigarettes to 21.

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On Tuesday, Governor Dannel Malloy named Jonathan Harris as commissioner of consumer protection. Harris, 50, of West Hartford is a lawyer and former state senator, who recently stepped down as the Connecticut Democratic Party’s executive director.


Harris will succeed the retiring William M. Rubenstein. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the General Assembly.


At consumer protection, Harris will lead an agency of more than 100 employees responsible for enforcing liquor laws and the implementation of a law allowing the limited production and sale of marijuana for medical purposes.


Malloy introduced Harris as his choice at a press conference. He praised the retiring commissioner for modernizing the Department of Consumer Protection and developing a regulatory structure for medical marijuana.


Rubenstein said the three of the four licensed producers of marijuana are operating, serving a relative small medically certified clientele of 3,500 customers.

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The state is backing off its proposal to impose strict new requirements meant to reduce pollution through stormwater runoff.


Earlier this month, local elected officials complained to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection about the “unfunded mandate” the new regulations would impose on municipalities. It would require increasing their local budgets to improve maintenance and cleaning of catch basins and streets.


DEEP officials said they are discussing with local leaders changes to language now in the draft permit and will circulate a revised version by January 26.


However, Connecticut Fund for the Environment legal director Roger Reynolds has said the permit doesn’t go far enough in making sure pollutants stay out of the waterways, and pointed out that managing stormwater runoff is a federal mandate under the Clean Water Act. Local elected officials complain that the state is trying to go further than the federal government requires.


A conference to discuss the status of the permit will be held February 5.

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Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who championed the power of government and liberalism to advance society with eloquence and compassion, died New Year’s Day in Manhattan. He was 82.


His death came hours after his son’s swearing-in ceremony to his own second term as New York's current governor.


Mario Cuomo, a Queens Democrat, served three terms as the state's 52nd governor from 1983 through 1994 and for years was the choice of top Democratic operatives to run for president or, later, to join the U.S. Supreme Court. 


He rose to power during an era of New York politics in the 1970s through '90s that Andrew Cuomo has called a time of giants, which included Governor Hugh Carey and New York City Mayor Edward Koch.


"Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service -- and we are better for it," said President Barack Obama in a statement.


Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer said Cuomo left an "indelible" legacy, adding, "He was a colossal political mind and represented the very best of public service."

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Yesterday, new legislation banning the sale of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and liquid nicotine to anyone under 21 in Suffolk County took effect.


In March of last year a measure to raise the legal age from 19 to 21 to buy cigarettes and other tobacco items passed the Suffolk County Legislature in a close vote.


Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski voted in favor of the legislation. He said, “All the scientific information supports that cigarette addiction starts predominantly at an early age. If you can keep cigarettes out of the hands of children, it automatically helps all of society. 


In addition, since 2009, it has been illegal to use e-cigarettes and similar products in public places where traditional forms of smoking are banned; anyone in violation can be fined a minimum of $300.


Classes will be given free in Babylon, Center Moriches, Bay Shore, Greenlawn and Coram to those trying to kick the smoking habit. Suffolk County’s “Learn to Be...Tobacco Free” program is supervised by a nurse practitioner.

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