Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday, March 21 2013

Connecticut’s budget forecast has improved over the past month, according to Governor Malloy’s budget director, Ben Barnes. He predicted that the state will end the year with just under a $34 million deficit, down from $56 million last month. The forecast includes the results of the December deficit mitigation and the hiring freeze instituted on Jan. 22, but it does not include the impact of federal budget cuts. The biggest boost came from a $30 million rise in collections from the inheritance and estate tax. The biggest deficiency is still the $255 million Medicaid account. However, Barnes’s projections have been far rosier than those of state Comptroller Kevin Lembo and the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis.

Big city mayors and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities continued to campaign against Governor Malloy’s proposed two year budget Wednesday. They called the governor’s proposal to scrap car taxes for most residents by 2015 “dead on arrival” in the legislature. Malloy’s budget called for eliminating the tax on motor vehicles valued at $28,500 or less. The proposal would reduce cities’ and towns’ revenue by as much as $700 million. Malloy called the car tax one of the most regressive state taxes. He said “You own a car in Greenwich you’re charged less than 11 mills. You own a car in Hartford you’re charged 75 mills. It makes no sense”
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said, “The car tax is a lousy tax. But you can’t just take $17 or $18 million out of our budget without a plan to replace that.” Finch said he would support a proposal to have a statewide tax rate for cars, but that any proposal should be phased in over time.

Advocates and opponents of a “right to die” bill testified at a hearing before the Public Health Committee in Hartford on Wednesday. The bill would allow doctors to prescribe, but not administer, lethal medication to a patient who is competent and terminally ill, with less than six months to live.

Supporters say it’s not an assisted suicide bill because the person would have to administer the medication to himself or herself. Supporters see it as a matter of compassion, individual choice, and a way to avoid suffering. Opponents see the potential for abuse, for people to be pressured into dying rather than being a burden, and for certain lives to be devalued, such as those with disabilities.

Southampton Town Police Officer Eric Sickles who was suspended by the Town Board last year was reinstated by the Board today by a unanimous vote.

Sickles was a member of the Town Police Department’s now-defunct Street Crime Unit, which conducted undercover drug investigations.
The officer is at the center of a controversy that also led to his commanding officer’s suspension plus a district attorney’s office review of more than 100 criminal cases — a review that has already resulted in at least three men’s convictions being thrown out.
Officer Sickles spent several months on medical leave related to a prescription painkiller dependency. Sickles was accused of working under the influence of a controlled substance between January 2010 and December 2011, sleeping on duty and failing to be fit for duty.

 New legislation approved by the Suffolk County Legislature would prohibit the sale of energy drinks at county-run parks and beaches to those under the age of 18, while also limiting direct marketing efforts of these products to minors.

The bill awaits the signature of County Executive Steve Bellone.
Concession stands at county-owned parks will be permitted to stock popular energy beverages, but not sell them to minors. Similar limitations will affect four county-owned golf courses.
Special event vendors that sell food or drinks at various summer events at county parks would also be prevented from selling stimulant drinks to those who are underage.
Business owners and others impacted by Hurricane Sandy have one week left to secure a disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.(SBA).
The deadline to apply for the 30-year loans of up to $2 million is March 29
To meet with an SBA representative, business recovery centers have been set up at Islip Town Hall and Copiague Public Library. More information is at (800) 659-2955.

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