Monday, June 3, 2013

June 2013

Friday, June 28

Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed two bills Wednesday, including one which would have asked four lawmakers to serve on the state’s Sentencing Commission.

The bill would have added the co-chairs and ranking members of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee to the Sentencing Commission, a 23-member group that evaluates the state’s criminal sentencing laws and makes recommendations to the governor and the legislature.

Malloy says adding lawmakers to the group would be inappropriate and  the statute defines the commission as a criminal justice agency, which is different than most commissions and task forces.
The governor vetoed another bill Wednesday, which would have changed how bail bonds are administered and how the state regulates bail bond agents. Malloy objected to a provision which would have negated the bail consequences of skipping a court appearance, if the accused appeared in court within six months.

Malloy, a former prosecutor, said the legislation would render required court dates in bail bonds “effectively meaningless.”

The US Women's Open Golf Championship is being held this weekend at the Sebonack Golf Course in the Shinnecock Hills area of Southampton.

Members of the Shinnecock and Unkechaug Indian Nations staged a protest Thursday on the main highway through Southampton, across from the Shinnecock Hills Golf Course. They say their ancestors graves were desecrated for golf.

WPKN's Tony Ernst was there and recorded these sounds:

"I am Rebecca Genia from the Shinnecock Indian Nation. We are here today to bring awareness to the general public that the golf courses on which they play golf, Sebonack, Shinnecock Hills golf course are on desecrated graves of our ancestors. Human remains have been dug up to play golf.

We still have 16 human remains of our ancestors that need to be re-buried where they came from- in Sebonac and Shinnecock Hills."

"My name is Harry Wallace. I'm an elected chief of the Unkechaug Indian Nation and a member
of the Inter-tribal Historic Preservation Taskforce. We're here to support the Shinnecock in their protest against the use of burial grounds as a golf course to play in this tounament.  It is well documented that the human remains were pushed aside so that they could construct a golf course here to play in the Shinnecock Hills."

Rebecca Genia says that 16 sets of human remains were un-earthed in 1902 when the Shinnecock Hills course was built.  They are stored in New York at the Museum of Natural History.  She expects they will be returned soon.  Now that the tribe is recognized by the federal government pressure has been put on museums to return  native remains and artifacts.

Southampton Town still has no law regulating what happens when native remains are discovered. As a result, if graves were un-earthed when the Sebonack course was built recently, Genia says “the tribe would have been the last to know”


Policy cancellations in the homeowners insurance market on Long Island have been on the rise over the past five months, according to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. The Senator says the region is seeing the fallout from  Superstorm Sandy.

Homeowners have not been able to renew their homeowner policies and instead have had to go on the “excess lines” market, where premiums are priced higher — in many cases two to three times higher.

Schumer wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding the issue. He expressed his concern regarding the ongoing withdrawal of major insurance carriers from the Long Island market. Schumer specifically mentioned that “three major carriers on Long Island, Allstate, State Farm and Liberty Mutual, are refusing to write new polices and increasingly declining to renew existing policies.”

Carriers who do sell flood insurance have no financial exposure with the policies because they are backed by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. The companies merely receive “generous fees” for selling the policies, according to the senator's press release.
But Michael Barry of the Insurance Information Institute says the the companies still have administrative costs for FEMA flood insurance.
Representatives of all three companies say they are still writing policies on Long Island.

Thursday, June 27

Residents of the Hill neighborhood of New Haven had a chance Tuesday night to give their input into a massive development project slated to connect the Hill with downtown. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports

Several dozen residents gathered at Hill Central School to hear the city's planning team and its consultants lay out three variations of the proposed plan. It includes affordable housing, businesses and a realignment of city streets. Then they broke into small groups and made lists of their top priorities, like a pharmacy, a grocery store, and more walkable, bikeable streets.

Leslie Radcliffe has lived in the Hill for 40 years. She raised the issue of the area’s current isolation:

"I think people want to make sure there is connectivity between the existing areas and this new development and the downtown area; it’ll connect commercial, residential, retail and other uses."

The area to be developed runs from Union Station to medical area, including Yale New Haven Hospital. 

Sarah Raven lives in the Hill, but not in the section that’s being redeveloped, and she was concerned about being left out. 

"Who from my part of the neighborhood is going to be able to go there if safety and security is still a problem for them? If neighborhood cohesion is still a problem for them? Are they really going to trek from where I am all the way up to this area to take part in these things they say are wonderful?"

This meeting was part of the ongoing Hill-to-Downtown Planning Study.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Southampton’s Sustainability Plan continues to face opposition from a vociferous group of anti-government activists, the Southampton Press reported Wednesday.

At a recent meeting, skeptics blasted Southampton Town’s plans to incorporate sustainability considerations into its Comprehensive Plan. The update would aim to increase energy efficiency and protect the town’s natural resources. 

But opponents paint it as a legislative effort to impose new controls on property rights—from landscaping to water usage. Realtor Jim McLauchlen called the plan “extremely dangerous,” joining some dozen others who were vehement against proposals to reduce carbon emissions, target development density around hamlet centers and curtail water use.

They dismissed changes to the plan made in recent months intended to emphasize
that the update, and the Comprehensive Plan itself, are just guides for future legislative steps, each of which would have to stand on its own merits before it could become law.

However, at this third meeting about the sustainability plan, for the first time the number of supporters for the plan equaled or even outnumbered those who objected to it. And several Southampton residents have speculated whether the opponents are being organized by an outside group, noting the use of what appear to be scripted phrases common to organizations like the Koch Brother’s sponsored Americans For Prosperity.

Town Planning Department officials submitted several pages of responses and explanations of parts of the plan that came up during previous public discussions. The full text of the responses are available at Town Hall or on the town website.
Suffolk County will conduct ground spraying to control mosquitos this evening, weather permitting.

Treatment with the pesticide Anvil is planned between 6 and 10 p.m. on Fire Island. 
The pesticide Scourge will be used from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. to treat parts of East Patchogue and North Shirley. 

On Wednesday, Suffolk County's salt marshes were sprayed. 

The county claims the pesticides have "no significant human toxicity, but the EPA has officially stated that no pesticide can be considered safe. 

Anvil and Scourge are pyrethroids that affect the central nervous system and have been linked with liver and thyroid problems. They can also interfere with the immune and endocrine systems. 
Anvil contains an estrogenic compound which can affect the reproductive health and endocrine systems of animals and humans. 

Scourge contains a compound that is classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen. 

The county advises that children and pregnant women avoid exposure when possible by steering clear of the area during and for at least 30 minutes after spraying, but other experts warn that toxic compounds may persist for many hours or even days.

Among the "common sense steps" the department suggests:
-- Close doors, windows and air-conditioning vents during and for 30 minutes after spraying;
-- Bring indoors laundry, children's toys, pet food and water dishes;
-- Cover ornamental fish ponds.

The county's spraying information hotline is 631-852-4939.  
Wednesday, June 26

PTR, a Bristol-based semi-automatic weapons manufacturer announced its intention Monday to leave the state in response to the sweeping gun control legislation passed by the  General Assembly in April. 
The legislation made the sale of PTR’s guns illegal in Connecticut. 

PTR currently employs 42 people In Connecticut, but the company will move to Aynor, South Carolina where will employ 140.  

In a press conference on Monday, with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, PTR CEO Josh Fiorini said, ““We were forced into this position by a government that preferred easy political points and pandering to actual improvements in public safety... we had to choose between our home and business.”
Fiorini said that the final decision was given to his employees. He said because PTR manufactures a unique type of rifle, retaining employees that already knew how to build it was “crucial” for a smooth transition.
Connecticut State Senator Jason Welch, a Bristol Republican, whose district includes PTR’s current factory, said in a press release Monday that PTR’s decision was “unfortunate but understandable.”
A pay boost is coming next week for nearly 90 non-union state-appointed officials and tens of thousands of unionized state employees.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes explained that the group of non-union employees have not received raises since 2008 and a 3 percent cost of living increase for these employees will cost less than $250,000 a year.  The raises for the union employees were negotiated as part of the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition agreement finalized in 2011. 

State agency commissioners, deputy commissioners, and senior staff in the governor’s office and the Office of Policy and Management are not included in the non-union group of employees who will be getting raises.

Barnes wrote in a June 24 memo to the Governor’s Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian, “Note that other state employers —the higher education units and the legislative and judicial branches — have been briefed on our intentions and will implement parallel adjustments.”
Following the passage of his LIPA restructuring bill Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo presented an “agreement in principle” to LIPA and the Town of Huntington that could end their tax battle outside the courts.

LIPA wants to reduce the taxes the power plant pays to the school district and town by about half over a 10 year period.

Assemblyman Andrew Raia of East Northport said that Cuomo’s deal would forgive the $171 million in back taxes LIPA claims it's owed by the Town, and a new reduced assessment of the Northport plant would be determined.

The school district has a two percent per year tax cap on spending. Raia said “They could possibly pierce the cap if they could make the argument to the taxpayers but there's no guarantee that that will happen."

Cuomo is also granting a four month period in which the town and LIPA can try and negotiate a better deal. If they cannot agree they will be back in court.

A final federal environmental report released Tuesday recommended that Plum Island be sold to a private party. The island off Orient Point on Long Island contains an animal disease research lab.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to replace the facility with a new research lab in Manhattan, Kansas.

The federal report offered three options: 

(1) turning the government testing laboratory into a private research facility or business park; 
(2) selling the island to a housing developer,
or (3) making it into a nature preserve.

The report said further environmental review and cleanup would still be needed before it's sold to a private individual.

Representatve Tim Bishop of Southampton said the report shows that the Plum Island lab should be re-used for research and the island’s undeveloped areas should be preserved.

Adrienne Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said that selling such a precious resource to a private developer is reckless and imprudent.

Southold Town created new zoning for the island, which would prevent single-family homes or commercial businesses from being developed there. Local real estate experts said there would be demand for the island.

Tuesday, June 25

Starting on July 1 Connecticut drivers could pay as much as 51 cents per gallon in state taxes on gasoline - an increase of 6 cents.   

There will also be an increase in the tax on diesel fuel of about 3.7 cents per gallon.

In total, the two increases are expected to bring in about $60 million a year.

Republican lawmakers held petition drives at gas stations Monday seeking to pressure legislative Democrats and the governor into canceling the gas tax hike.  

Democrats point out that a majority of Republican lawmakers voted for the gas hike in 2005. That includes House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney. 

But both McKinney and Cafero said at a press conference that 2005 was “a different time," when employment was higher and the economy was much better than it is now. The money was supposed to go to transportation, but now the gas tax fund is being raided to pay for general operating expenses. 


There are more than 337,000 people without health insurance in Connecticut, and a new marketplace for buying coverage called Access Health CT plans to enroll 100,000 of them in the next year.  

So Access Health -- the state's health insurance exchange, created as part of the federal health reform law -- is undertaking a major marketing campaign. 

It will include broadcast advertising in English and Spanish, newspapers, billboards, and posters in convenience stores, and other businesses. 

The message will be: Federal health reform is happening. There’s a new way to buy health insurance. Many people will qualify for federal subsidies that will make their coverage less costly. And you might be one of them. 

The advertising campaign will be supplemented with an in-person strategy that will include knocking on 120,000 doors, twice.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman leads the exchange's board. She said, “We will be touching into all neighborhoods. The campaign will attempt to dispel some myths around the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, such as the belief that it has been repealed. 
Years of complaints about odors, dust and noise at a compost and mulch facility in Yaphank are set to be mitigated under an agreement that would enclose and seal off large portions of the operation.
Long Island Compost Company has reached an agreement with the Department of Environmental Conservation and citizens groups to invest millions of dollars in the new facility.

The plan includes construction of an anaerobic digester to seal off the dust, odors and noise of the composting operation on the 62-acre facility.  

Trucks coming and going at the Horseblock Road facility would be air-locked to prevent odors and material from escaping while en route, and roads will be paved to eliminate dust.

The agreement includes new limits on the amount of mulch stored at the facility, a major source of complaints. 

On Tuesday, the New York State Department of Environmental Protection announced its first-ever waterway access site to the Peconic Bay. 

It is the Hashamomuch waterway access site on Old Main Road in Southold.

The 3.2 acre waterfront parcel -- where the now-shuttered Old Barge restaurant is located -- will provide a public boat ramp, a wash-down station, and a canoe and kayak launch.

The purchase of the parcel was funded with a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as a donation from the owners of the parcel, the Reiter family.

The Reiters sold the property to the state at below the fair market value of $2 million.

D-E-C Regional Director Peter Scully announced over $950,000 in recreation improvement projects for Suffolk County.  These are funded by the New York Works II program and the Environmental Protection Fund.

Approximately $200,000 of those funds will be used to design the Southold boat ramp site.  $750,000 will be used for a canoe launch in Riverhead,

Monday, June 24

Governor Dannel Malloy signed an executive order today taking the unusual step of creating the Office of Early Childhood. The General Assembly failed to pass a bill creating the new office before the close of the session. Instead of leaving $360 million dollars allocated in the budget hanging in legislative limbo, Malloy’s executive order provides a  temporary solution, expediting payment to many providers. 

The executive order created a “coordinated system of early child care and education” by July 1 with the funds allocated for the office. The legislation creating the office sought to streamline the funding and state services currently offered by four state agencies.  


Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Murphy has urged a different path from the one President Obama seems ready to pursue in supplying arms to the Syrian rebels. 

The Democratic senator released a letter last week saying "if the U.S. wants to get involved in Syria's sectarian civil war, there are better ways to do it than providing small-arms that will do nothing to shift the balance of the conflict." 

He said instead the U.S. should increase humanitarian aid both inside and outside of the country, improve the conditions in refugee camps and help other nations bear the burden of displaced persons. He said that the U.S. should accept some of those refugees. 

Senator Murphy said the U.S. "should not intervene militarily in Syria, given the severely fractured state of the opposition, the risk of arms falling into the hands of Al Qaeda, and the potential cost to the U.S. in terms of dollars and reputation." 

He is concerned about “shipping arms to rebels fighting alongside terrorist organizations we've fought against in Iraq and continue to do battle with around the globe." 

Murphy called for a full debate in Congress about our nation's role in Syria. 

He is circulating a petition urging President Obama to obtain Congressional authorization before sending arms to Syria.

The Long Island Power Authority's relationship with a Chicago-based consulting firm has been referred to federal prosecutors by the state commission investigating the utility.  

The Moreland Commission was tasked by the governor in November with investigating the response of New York's power utilities to Hurricane Sandy.

According to the Commission:

LIPA paid $28 million in fees to Navigant Consulting, Inc. between 2008 and 2011,

Navigant had a "deep involvement with almost every aspect of LIPA's business" since 2007.  The firm was reimbursed for "exorbitant and non-work related expenses," including travel to N.Y. by out-of-state consultants and excessive lodging costs at New York hotels.

Navigant's consultants billed LIPA at $300 to $500 per hour. 

Its invoices sometimes did not contain a clear description of services rendered.

The commission also found "a disturbing revolving door practice between Navigant and LIPA staff that could breach state ethics law,"  

Some of LIPA's employees formerly worked at Navigant on the LIPA contract and some of LIPA's former employees are now contractors with Navigant.

Michael Hervey, former LIPA chief operating officer and acting chief executive officer, now works for Navigant.  

The commission also cited improperly calculated power delivery charges and accounting practices that led to LIPA overcharging its customers millions of dollars.

LIPA’s management will be replaced \in January 2014 when a plan approved by the legislature last week puts New Jersey’s PSEG in control of Long Island’s power grid.
The East Hampton Town board is seeking a federal grant to bury power lines serving Montauk, according to Newsday. The power lines are carried atop utility poles lining the Napeague Stretch on Route 27. The poles are frequently struck by speeding cars. 
The roadway is only a few feet above sea level and portions regularly flood during storms.

The Town hopes that placing the power lines underground, they would not be susceptible to storm damage.

The grant program was set up to protect infrastructure in danger from storms. 

The Town is still undecided about how it will pay for its portion - one-fourth of the $8 million cost -  of the project. 
The deadline to file for the federal funding is July 5. 
Friday, June 21

Several dozen Connecticut residents with overlapping interests in climate change and labor issues -- including many coming from a faith perspective -- gathered at a Meriden church Wednesday night to explore commonalities as well as differences. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

The focus of this meeting of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs was on Governor Dannel Malloy's plan to greatly expand the use of natural gas for heating homes and businesses, replacing even more polluting oil heat. 

The state's AFL-CIO endorsed the plan for the jobs it will create, but many environmentalists oppose increasing dependence on any fossil fuel, and point to research showing that gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may create even more climate-disrupting greenhouse gases than coal due to leakage of methane.

But everyone at the meeting agreed that the goal is to move to cleaner energy while providing good jobs.

John Humphries convened the forum and spoke afterward.

Malloy's plan would build 900 miles of new gas mains for 90,000 customers in the state.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.


Good news for Connecticut taxpayers: The Office of Policy and Management reports that the state will end the fiscal year with a 236 million dollar surplus.

About $221 million of the surplus will be used to balance the 2014-15 year budget and the remaining funds will be transferred to the Rainy Day fund. The balance of which will be $109.2 million as of June 30th.

Estimated revenues are being revised upward to $57.9 million over previous projections. 
Spending has dropped off by a total of $98.7 million since the beginning of the year. Most of the savings are attributed to the December deficit mitigation, the January hiring freeze, and other budget belt-tightening measures. 

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo will certify the budget numbers on July 1. 

Newsday reports: The State Assembly and Senate early this morning approved Governor Cuomo's bill to reform the Long Island Power Authority. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 63-0. The Assembly vote was 103-34 in favor. 

The bill would give near total control of the LIPA system to PSEG while reducing LIPA to a skeletal staff and cutting its board to nine trustees from 15. It establishes a new Department of Public Service branch on Long Island and paves the way for refinancing around half of LIPA's $7 billion debt.

Not everyone was happy with the LIPA plan.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor, an Independent, criticized the rush to get it passed just one month after it was introduced. He noted that no one has seen the pending PSEG contract  and that the bill does not have proper oversight to protect ratepayers.

Republican Assemblyman. Andrew Raia of Huntington saluted Cuomo for "a very good first offer" on a tax settlement in his district, but said he wouldn't vote for the bill because he didn't have a settlement in hand. He noted LIPA has sued his district seeking $171 million in taxes. Negotiations to settle the tax issue continued through most of Thursday. It wasn't clear this morning if a resolution had been reached.

The New York State Senate approved a bill today designed to fast-track development proposals at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, known as EPCAL. 

It would create a generic environmental impact approval for new development in an area of over 2100 acres. Normally, each individual development application would potentially need to conduct a separate environmental study.

The bill, which still needs to be signed by the governor, establishes a generic environmental impact study, or GEIS, at the outset, to cover all possible development proposals that meets a re-use plan agreed upon by the town, county and state.

Any fully engineered development proposal for within the area covered by the study will be guaranteed approval within 90 days of the application being filed. If an application isn’t approved in that time frame, it will receive a default approval.

Thursday, June 20

A top federal transportation safety official said Wednesday a damaged rail joint ignored by Metro- North could have contributed to the May 17 derailment near Bridgeport. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman testified at a Senate Committee hearing chaired by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. 

Blumenthal pressed Hersman to say an unsupported joint bar “was very likely the cause of the derailment.” Seventy-two people were injured in the accident, some of them severely.

An estimated $4.5 billion backlog in critical repairs need to be addressed in the near term, according to  Connecticut Department of Transportation officials.


As Connecticut’s shoreline braces for a hurricane season forecast to be one of the worst in years, it is still digging out from the damage of previous storms.

Along entire stretches of coastline in Fairfield and Milford, rows of homes are boarded up, some marked for demolition with thick red paint. 

These coastal neighborhoods are also busy with construction activity. Workers are raising and expanding existing homes, or building large, taller homes in the place of old ones. 

The interweaving of tearing down homes and rebuilding, or simply building anew, tells the story of neighborhoods in transition.

The severe damage from storms, coupled with new federal regulations that require many shoreline residents to raise their homes at a cost of $100,000, will push many residents out. 

Ken Lee, of Fairfield Beach  said “I know a number of people who had to move after living here, virtually 30, 40, 50 years, just because they couldn’t afford to rebuild.”  

Governor Malloy’s office has proposed spending about $30 million to help people who suffered storm damage to repair and elevate their homes.

A bill that would allow the Montaukett Indian Nation to petition New York State-for recognition was passed by the legislature this week and went to the governor for signature. A spokesman said the governor would review the bill.

A 1910 state court ruling declared the tribe effectively extinct and paved the way for the strongly disputed transfer of thousands of acres of tribal lands to private hands in East Hampton Town. The Montauketts and historians have consistently rejected the legality of those transfers.

But Long Island University emeritus professor of history, Dr. John Strong, who wrote a history of the Montaukett’s, told WPKN News that the legislation does not provide for transfer of land back to the tribe.

Strong says that the legislation requires the tribe present the same documentation that would be required for federal recognition - which could make the process difficult. 

Other Long Island tribes were recognized by the state since they had government to government relations with the prior colonial authorities - as did the Montauketts.   

State recognition would allow the Montauketts to receive state health and education programs.

Montaukett Sachem Robert Pharaoh, of Sag Harbor, whose family has led the Montauketts for centuries told Newsday: 

"We only want to be able to re-establish ourselves here and keep our culture and ways of life alive …We are looking to work with people rather than against them." He said the nation wants to build a museum and cultural center in Montauk, with its own funding.

A Nesconset lawyer filed suit against the Town of Brookhaven and the Central Pine Barrens Commission for $20 million dollars over alleged violations of the Pine Barrens Act. 

The state law was passed in 1993 to protect the region's 100,000-acre pine forest and nearby drinking water aquifer by severely restricting development. The law is supposed to compensate landowners in the core of the pine barrens by allowing them to sell development credits for designated areas where development is permissible elsewhere in the region.

But attorney Richard Scheyer said the town's anti-development stance has rendered the credits virtually worthless and is seeking compensation for pine barrens credit holders." 

An attorney for the Town of Brookhaven said the lawsuit was liable to be dismissed and said the town will vigorously defend the action.
Wednesday, June 19

With hurricane season under way, Governor Dannel Malloy announced that a 2-day storm preparedness drill will be conducted statewide on Thursday and Saturday.

It will be directed at improving communication between utility companies and government. 
The Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security will direct the exercise.  About 150 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities will participate, as well as the state’s utility providers. 

Since 2011, the president has declared emergencies five times in Connecticut as a result of destructive storms. Hundreds of thousands of residents were without power for over a week from storms like Irene, the Halloween snowstorm, and Superstorm Sandy. 

The state’s two largest electricity providers have been working with companies across the country to establish a new framework for utilities to deal with catastrophic events.

This year’s exercise will simulate a severe ice storm in western Connecticut. In addition to power restoration, utility and municipal crews will brush up on road-clearing operations. Towns will also practice setting up local operation centers and emergency shelters.


Governor Malloy and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty claimed victory Tuesday over some major energy policies approved by the legislature this year, from changing the state’s mix of renewable energy sources to expanding the use of natural gas. 

In the process, they engaged in some heated debates with environmentalists and other New England governors who largely opposed how they changed the state’s renewable portfolio standard. 

Heating oil dealers who opposed the move to natural gas for home heating were able to eliminate Malloy’s proposal to provide a $500 tax credit for residents who bought a new furnace to convert their homes from oil to natural gas. 

The three natural gas companies in the state submitted their expansion plans Monday to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. The companies want to connect 280,000 customers to natural gas over the next 10 years and they need the state to approve a new rate plan to finance the project.
Newsday reports: 

As the New York legislature works toward closing by Friday, two bills would bring potential business and tax receipts to Long Island. 

Long Island would get video slot machine parlors with up to 2,000 terminals under a gambling-expansion deal being finalized.

The gambling plan would also include four upstate casinos, Long Island likely would get two video slot facilities, each with a maximum of 1,000 machines.

Off-track betting corporations in Nassau and Suffolk would operate the video slot machine centers.
But voters would have to approve any expansion of non-Indian-run casinos in the state in a referendum.
With time running down in the state legislative session, Cuomo had proposed authorizing four upstate casinos and giving them a five-year exclusivity period before any other casinos could be built in the state.

There's also a deal for the governor’s tax-free zones to attract businesses tied to universities, The tax-free proposal, originally centered upstate, would include New York City and the Island.


Residents at the Foxwoods senior community in Calverton -in Riverhead Town - are walking around their backyards in shock over the breadth and extent of land clearing on an adjacent 41-acre site where a shopping mall is being built. 
Contractors have clear-cut the formerly wooded acreage behind their homes and have begun installing a six-foot fence along the property line.

Residents had circulated petitions against the original plan for a 500 thousand square foot retail center when it was first proposed. Among their concerns was the location of a fueling facility for the Costco retail business. The area, which once was home to farm fields, already has numerous giant shopping malls  The developers plan to add six more big box stores if they are able to obtain farmland development rights for the rest of the site.

The Costco site was the former home of a manufacturing plant for a defense industry electronics contractor, Hazeltine Corporation. There were some lingering environmental contamination issues at the site before it went to Costco.

Tuesday, June 18 

Monday marked 42 years since President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs, June 17, 1971. A coalition of groups brought several dozen people to gather outside New Haven City Hall to call for its end. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there.


Organizer Barbara Fair with My Brother's Keeper said the war on drugs is the new Jim Crow, quoting a book by Michelle Alexander that traces the racist origins of the drug war.

Tisa Wenger teaches at the Yale Divinity School and chairs the Anti-Racism Task Force at the Unitarian Society of New Haven. She said African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately targeted for arrest, prosecution and imprisonment on drug charges, even though the amount of drug use is about the same across all races.

They said it's time to end what they called "America's longest war."

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
On Monday officials broke ground for a project that is at the heart of a restructuring of downtown New Haven. 

Alexion Pharmaceuticals will occupy a new, 11-story building at 100 College Street, built inside Route 34 between College and York streets 

The building marks the first phase of Downtown Crossing, the city’s effort to stitch back together neighborhoods torn apart by an urban-renewal-era highway to nowhere.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano welcomed Alexion back to New Haven. It had originally started in a business incubator at Science Park. Governor Dannel Malloy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal were also on hand, celebrating what Alexion promises will be the creation of at least 200 new jobs when the project is complete.

The Albany Times-Union reports:

Opponents of the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydrofracking rallied Monday at the Capitol, attracting more than 2,000 to hear a renewed call for a ban on the process.

Singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant led members of the crowd in a rewritten rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." 

It’s chorus: 
"New York is your land, New York is my land/From the Southern Tier to the Catskill Mountains/From the Susquehanna to the Hudson Valley/New York was made to be frack-free."

watch and listen:

Brad Gill of the pro-fracking state Independent Oil and Gas Association said
"Celebrities coming to Albany to lobby do little to advance thoughtful discussion about the merits of an issue"

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has been writing regulations that would guide hydrofracking if Cuomo allows it to proceed.  The DEC is waiting for the reports on the potential health impacts of fracking, which is in turn waiting for status reports on a number of studies. 

Democrats in the state Assembly and Senate have backed bills imposing a moratorium on the technique, but those measures are opposed by Republicans who control the Senate along with four Democrats.


At a Greenport Village Board work session Monday evening, Mayor David Nyce continued his push to construct an eco-friendly energy park at Clark’s Beach.

The mayor requested  the village board’s approval to apply for the project’s first preliminary planning grant from the Regional Economic Development Council.
The grant would fund a study to measure the feasibility of building the proposed solar and wind-generating system on 8.7 acres of village-owned property on the Long Island Sound. 

The plan calls for wind turbines and solar arrays, generating two to four megawatts of electrical power, which the mayor says could make the village energy independent and stabilize residents’ electric bills.
Greenport operates its own power utility and supplies power to village homes and businesses at a cost about half that paid by Long Island Power Authority customers. 

The Village currently buys hydro-power on the open market. During peak power demand the village purchases additional power at a higher cost. The locally generated power would replace some of the purchased power at a cost savings.

Monday June 17

Economists at the University of Connecticut have recommended looking at instituting a statewide property tax to close a more than $1 billion funding gap in the state’s mandated education cost sharing formula. 

They pitched that idea in their quarterly “Connecticut Economy” report  released late last week. 
In the report, economist Stan McMillen weighs several options including increasing the state sales tax to 8.3 percent or hiking the income taxes by 14 percent. 

McMillen also discusses enacting a statewide property tax to pay for education. Other states in the region, like Vermont and New Hampshire, have instituted such a tax.

McMillen says fully funding education will make Connecticut more competitive in attracting business. Its worst-in-the-nation achievement gap between African American and white students is well known in other states.

Steven P. Lanza, executive editor of the report, said a property tax would be a more predictable source of revenue than increases in the sales tax or income tax. 

Attorney General George Jepsen announced Thursday that he will appeal the 2nd Circuit Court decision by a three-judge panel in favor of state employee unions whose members were laid off by former Governor John Rowland. Jepson is a former chair of the state Democratic Party and former labor lawyer.

Jepsen says he will seek the review in light of the potentially significant fiscal consequences for Connecticut taxpayers.” 

Labor organizations and state employees filed suit in 2003, claiming that the unionized workers were targeted for firing.

At stake in the lawsuit are damages for the 2,800 state employees. The 2nd Circuit also found that Rowland and his budget chief, Marc Ryan, could be held individually liable for damages in the suit.

The lead negotiator for the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, Daniel Livingston, expressed disappointment with Jepsen’s decision to appeal. He said, referring to Rowland, "When a governor punishes people because of the group to which they belong …he or she violates our Constitution’s most cherished provisions." 

The Supreme Court has 90 days to decide whether it will take the case.

Federal agents raided a dozen 7-Eleven stores on Long Island Monday morning including those in Cutchogue, Sag Harbor, and Greenport as part of a nationwide immigration and identity theft investigation. 

Five franchise owners were detained. Indictments say owners of the raided franchises helped traffic in workers from Pakistan to work in their stores.”

The targets on Long Island are also charged with making more than $150 million by cheating the undocumented employees out of much of the salaries they were entitled to and profiting by running their stores illegally.

The defendants allegedly equipped their employees with more than 20 identities stolen from United States citizens. The indictments say the employees were forced to live in unregulated boarding houses, in effect creating a modern day plantation system."

Newsday reports: 

Lawmakers are scrambling to rework a Long Island Power Authority restructuring bill  before the legislature closes on Thursday. 

Under the plan proposed by Governor Cuomo, PSEG, a New Jersey company, which was already set to take over management of most of LIPA operations in January, would increase those duties to include budgeting, power management and planning, storm preparedness and green-energy programs.  
Lawmakers say the bill has a real chance of passing.

Among the issues that remain on the table are:

* clarifying the oversight role of the state comptroller in approving the $4 billion-plus PSEG contract, 

* making sure Long Island's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs are continued, 

* exploring ways to ensure that some antiquated power plants are overhauled rather than retired.

One major sticking point will be what to do about the hundreds of millions of dollars LIPA pays each year in taxes on its own properties, such as substations, and National Grid plants. 

Last week Huntington Town leaders circulated a petition requesting that any LIPA legislation include a provision to drop LIPA's tax challenges to power plant assessments LIPA currently pays $73 million annually to the Town. 

A Cuomo administration official said, "We're having conversations to resolve the tax issue" on four power plants, including Northport, Port Jefferson and Island Park.  

Friday June 14 

Six-months ago today, 20 first-graders and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.
On Thursday Democratic leaders and the White House, rallied around dozens of family members and friends of the victims who had travelled to Washington to present the case for gun control.

The Newtown families and their allies have become a lobbying force on Capitol Hill, calling for tougher gun laws. But despite their efforts this week not one vote was turned. Nevertheless the Newtown families vowed not to quit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he’d bring back a bill that failed in the Senate in April if supporters could find the 60 votes needed for approval. The bill would expand FBI background checks of prospective gun buyers.
Supporters are just four votes shy. But those votes have proved tough to get because the issue of gun control continues to be radioactive on Capitol Hill.  Some lawmakers declined to meet with the Newtown families. Others offered up their staff instead.

Obama and Biden plan to hold a gun control summit at the White House next week to help keep up the pressure on Congress.
The federal Housing and Urban Development department allocated $72 million in Community Development Block grants to help Connecticut rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. But before receiving the money, Connecticut was required to submit a plan on how the state would use it.

The Malloy administration submitted its plan just under the wire this week. 

It proposes spending $30 million in grants to those whose Sandy-damaged homes were not covered by insurance or money received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Second homes would not be eligible for the grants, and applicants could earn no more than 120 percent of an area’s median income. Connecticut’s Department of Housing would administer the new homeowner grant program.
But the Malloy administration has asked HUD for $15 million immediately, a fraction of the $72 million allocated to the state, in the hopes that receiving the money in stages will help them extend a two-year deadline for spending it.
HUD now has up to 45 days to approve or reject Malloy’s plan.

Just three weeks after the funds became available, the $50,000 that Southampton Town set aside to incentivize homeowners to upgrade their septic systems has been snatched up.

Councilwoman Christine Scalera reported Thursday that funds are exhausted now that 16 homeowners received rebates. 
The rebate program is aimed at reducing nitrogen pollution in local waters by replacing or upgrading obsolete septic systems.  

The cash was available on a first-come, first-served basis, providing a 50 percent rebate for the total upgrade cost, and an extra 10 percent to homeowners within 200 feet of a water body. 

Scalera said she is seeking other funding sources and grants to replenish the rebate program, though she believes a regional approach to water quality issues is necessary.
 ------------------------------------------------- reports:

A bill proposed by Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski would set aside 50 percent of the county’s drinking water protection program sales tax revenue for farmland preservation. An additional quarter-percent sales tax funds the water protection program in Suffolk.

Krupski says farmland must compete with open space, pine barrens, wetlands, woodlands and hamlet parks for diminishing revenues. 

Setting aside 50 percent of the drinking water protection program money would help guarantee that agriculture remains a viable industry, 

Environmental activist Richard Amper of the Pine Barrens Society disagrees. 
Amper says the proposal is illegal since the county charter and the referendum authorizing the tax prohibit segregation of funds for one use."

But Krupski told Riverhead Local that the county attorney approved the bill from a legal standpoint. …”What I'm trying to do is preserve farmland and open space and if we don't do it, the development pressure is going to fall on the East End” 
Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joseph Gergela [gur-JEL-a] said the farm bureau supports the measure.
Gergela said. “Open space, once preserved, is taken off the tax rolls and doesn't provide jobs in the same way that agriculture does, It becomes public land to be maintained at public expense.

But Gergela said the real problem is the relatively small amount of state funding for farmland preservation - $13 million out of Governor Cuomo’s $140 billion budget. 

Krupski's bill is the subject of a public hearing at the legislature's next general meeting on Tuesday, June 18 in Riverhead.

Thursday June 13 
The U.S. Senate’s failure to even open debate on strengthening gun background checks in April has prompted another trip to Washington by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The group will be launching a 25 stop -100-day bus tour that will start this Friday from Newtown where many will be gathering for the six-month anniversary of the December 14 school shooting.

Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said 40 percent of gun transfers take place every year with no background check.

John Feinblatt, chief policy adviser to Mayor Bloomberg, said anytime Congress votes down a bill that has the widespread support of the public, there is going to be “outrage.”

Feinblatt said 6,000 people have been killed by guns since the Newtown school shooting, so that means that by the end of the bus tour those numbers will have increased by another 3,300.


The State Board of Education plans to review the suspension and discipline policies of two charter schools run by Acheivement First which manages the majority of charters in the state. The Board will decide this month whether to renew the contract for their Hartford schools.

The discipline procedures Achievement First Hartford Academy outlined in the manual for their charter schools -- “If in doubt, send them out” -- have led to twice the rate of suspension of elementary and middle school students than for students attending traditional public schools.

The State Department of Education reports that one in two students who attend the middle school in Hartford will be suspended at some point during the year.

6,500 students are enrolled in charter schools across the state. 

The majority attend one of the nine schools operated by Achievement First in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.

Dacia Toll, the co-president of Achievement First, said "We admit suspension rates are too high. That's the bottom line."
The Connecticut Department of Revenue Services announced Wednesday that the diesel fuel tax would climb 3.7 cents per gallon on July 1, from 51.2 to 54.9 cents. 

The state already has the highest diesel tax rate in the nation.
Newsday reports: East Hampton officials hope to cut down on noise complaints about helicopters coming into the town-owned airport in Wainscott by spreading takeoffs over two routes.

Last year, almost all the helicopter traffic arriving and departing the airport followed the same routes, creating large clusters of complaints from Noyack, Sag Harbor, North Haven and the North Fork towns of Southold and Riverhead.

The traffic used to come and go over Jessup Neck in the Sag Harbor area, west of the airport. Now it will only come in that way according to airport manager James Brundige.

One new route will go out from the airport to the northeast. The other will go south over the Atlantic Ocean.  Helicopter pilots will have the space to increase altitude and cut down on noise impact.

An informal agreement on the new departure routes was worked out among pilots, supervisors from several East End towns and East Hampton officials. 

It also calls for pilots to fly at 3,500 feet as they approach and leave when feasible, although individual pilots will have the final say, based on safety considerations and the weather.
State Senator John Flanagan, an East Northport Republican, recently sponsored a bill that would require chemical testing of drivers suspected of being impaired by drugs or alcohol when a car accident results in serious injury or death. 

The bill would also allow the accident’s occurrence to be sufficient for establishing reasonable cause.  Law enforcement can then immediately administer the test if the driver consents, or upon obtaining a warrant or court order if the driver refuses or is unable to consent.

Under current law, chemical testing is permitted at the discretion of law enforcement following an accident but it is not required. Additionally, law enforcement needs to establish reasonable cause to order a chemical test.
The bill has passed in the senate and was sent to the assembly for further action.
 --------------------------------------------------Wednesday, June 12

The Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut released the results of a survey last week that showed Connecticut manufacturers predict a bleak outlook for the state’s economy and the health of their industries. 

Manufacturing has quickly become the focus of economists and politicians throughout the country, citing the industry as a crucial component of making a successful comeback from the recession.

When the New England Economic Partnership released an economic forecast three weeks ago, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said that NEEP had good reason for focusing on manufacturing.

“When you have a service-based economy, you’re not really generating anything new. It’s just money trading hands,” said Joseph Brennan, Executive Vice President of Policy for the CBIA, adding that this is why a healthy manufacturing industry, where thing are created rather than traded, is an essential component of overall economic health.

In March, Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut President Frank Johnson set about conducting a survey of Connecticut’s manufacturers to “learn more about how [they] are faring and what challenges they face.”

Johnson said what he found surprised him.

Of the 204 respondents, about 86 percent said economic conditions are “fair” or “poor,” and 69 percent said they thought conditions would either stay the same or get worse.

What was even more surprising to Johnson was the number of manufacturers who said they’ve been tempted to expand or relocate to other states, and most cited “government attitude” as the reason.

Johnson said. “A lot of people who watch what the General Assembly does and what they consider see that every legislative session they bring up issues like rolling back workers’ compensation, raising health care costs, raising the minimum wage,”  “It’s a continuing practice of the General Assembly to increase costs on businesses.”

According to the survey, a majority of Connecticut manufacturers report having been recruited to relocate or expand to other states, and half say they have considered doing so. The top five states recruiting Connecticut manufacturers are: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Georgia.

South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Virginia are some of the states manufacturers have considered for relocation or expansion. Twenty-five percent cited government attitude as their main reason to flee, followed by 24 percent who cited operating costs and 16 percent who cited tax structure.

NEEP reported last month that about 2,600 jobs were lost in the state’s manufacturing industry last year. MAC’s survey indicated downsizing has occurred as a result of overhead costs, particularly increased healthcare costs for employees.

78 percent of Connecticut manufacturers have had difficulty finding qualified employees. At the same time, 58 percent said they hadn’t taken advantage of state hiring programs, which help pay employees to train for at least the first six months.

Companies are not necessarily looking for employees with a college degree, but want employees with problem-solving skills and a science and technology background, who will show up to work every day, Johnson said.

Last week when U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy announced his plans to launch a compact to guide Connecticut’s congressional delegation on policies to bolster the state’s manufacturing industry, John Harrity of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists said part of the problem is that manufacturing isn’t marketed as a viable job opportunity to those who are qualified.
As reported in Newtown Patch: 

U.S. Representative Elizabeth introduced legislation Tuesday  thatwould give preference to defense contractors who make financial or in-kind donations to support rebuilding schools following violent or traumatic incidents.

The language comes as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, and would give preference to defense contractors who make financial or in-kind donations to support rebuilding schools following violent or traumatic incidents.

Esty said in a statement released by her office Tuesday: "This amendment is another opportunity for my colleagues to help ensure that Sandy Hook Elementary School students, and school children in every community across the country that has faced unimaginable tragedy, have the support they need to continue their lives and to heal...." 

"The tragedy in Newtown has touched people across the country, and as a nation, we have a solemn obligation to do all we can to help this small, brave community. I’m going to continue to fight to ensure that the Newtown community has the support they need to construct a new school, heal, and continue their lives."

Last week the state of Connecticut pledged up to $50 million toward the reconstruction of Sandy Hook Elementary School, expected to be built on the site of the old school at 12 Dickenson Drive in Sandy Hook.

In the meantime, Esty and other members of congress have been busy with legislation to open even more pathways to funding for schools like Sandy Hook. 

In May, Esty and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy introduced a bill to allow schools to apply for rebuilding funds through the SERV (School Emergency Response to Violence) program. The SERV program awarded the Newtown public school district $1.3 million in May to support immediate recovery actions following the shooting.

The Esty Amendment could reach the House floor for debate this week if the House Rules Committee makes it in order.

A vote to put $400 million toward a new Department of Homeland Security facility in Kansas, eventually replacing Plum Island Animal Disease Center, passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate.

Citing the price tag as currently over $1 billion, Southampton Representative Tim Bishop said the National Bio-Agro Defense Facility is not needed.

Supporters of the Kansas facility have said that Plum Island Disease Center is obsolete and has reached the end of its life. The NBAF would replace Plum Island, which does not contain the necessary biosafety level to meet NBAF research requirements.

Bob DeLuca, President of Group for the East End, has stated that attempts to tie the sale of Plum Island with funding the cost of the NBAF should be severed, calling the idea a “very dangerous course of action.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said that the construction of the NBAF does not mean that Plum Island, if sold, cannot remain as a science lab. Southold has pitched zoning that would keep the labs zoned for research and over 600 remaining acres as conservation land.

On April Fools’ Day, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement saying they would release a slew of meat allergy-inducing ticks across the Northeast. The purpose was to get people to go vegetarian. Although PETA sent out its statement in jest, some people didn’t find it too funny.

Easthampton allergist Erin McGintee said that she’s seen at least 70 cases of the allergy on the East End. Bites from the Lone Star tick, named for the white spot on the females’ backs, are leaving some people suddenly allergic to red meat.

Southampton landscape designer Tony Piazza stopped eating red meat after finding himself in the Emergency Room more than once. 

Piazza, who is regularly bitten by ticks, noticed that the reaction occurred every time he ate red meat for dinner. 
Tuesday, June 12

A drastic cut in money for two environmental energy funds was partially restored at the very end of the legislative session last week. Five million dollars originally taken from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was restored, and another $5 million from the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, or CEFIA, will be restored in the second year of the two-year budget just passed. 
That still cuts $19 million from CEFIA funding.  Mark LeBel, energy fellow at the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said in a press release, "It’s extremely disappointing that this fight over funding had to happen at all. Dollars invested in these funds are returned to the economy many times over, so it is counterproductive to balance the budget in the short term by taking money from them.”   
Gov. Dannel Malloy on Monday vetoed a bill that would have required the state to establish standards for the spray polyurethane foam insulation industry. 
Richard Beyer of East Lyme, a homeowner whose complaints about the industry led to the bill, had told lawmakers that an insulation job left his 120-year-old family home reeking of acrid fumes that burned his eyes and affected his lungs. 

The bill was passed unanimously by the House and Senate. The state Department of Public Health opposed the bill. They warned legislators that “developing standards for installing the foam insulation for the entire industry is beyond the resources and area of expertise of the department”.

In his veto message Malloy said a better approach would be to encourage credentialing and training installers in accordance with industry standards developed with federal worker safety and environmental agencies. But Beyer, the affected homeowner, said those standards are insufficient. He added that he's been told it would cost $150,000 to restore his home. 


Newsday reports: The Long Island Association, the island’s the largest business association has taken issue with elements of Governor Andrew Cuomo's LIPA restructuring bill including its failure to address LIPA's high property taxes and its call for a much smaller LIPA board.

The LIA, recommended that the bill increase the LIPA board to seven members from Cuomo's planned five, and appoint the new board in July rather than December.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, said the LIPA bill would remove crucial checks and balances on utility operations. 

Separately last week, the Suffolk Legislature's LIPA Oversight Committee passed a resolution opposing the bill, saying the decision is too important to rush into by June 20.

Cuomo's proposal would give PSEG, the New Jersey-based utility, nearly complete control of the Island's electric grid. It  would place PSEG under control of a state regulatory board, refinance LIPA's debt and freeze electric rates for three years.

The LIA said it would object to any reduction in efficiency and renewables programs and they said property taxes on local power plants are too high. 

Cuomo's staff said it is working to address the property tax issue, including finding a balanced approach to lowering them that doesn't impact local school districts.

Huntington and Northport officials are urging the public to petition Governor Cuomo and state legislators to include language resolving the assessment challenge on the Northport Power Plant in pending legislation to restructure LIPA. 

Since 2010, LIPA has filed litigation seeking over $270 Million in refunds from the Town. If successful, the Town claims real property taxes in the Town would increase by over 15 percent and taxes in the Northport East Northport School District would increase by almost 60 percent.  

Monday, June 10

Hundreds of people in need of dental care attended the sixth annual Connecticut Mission of Mercy free dental clinic in Bridgeport over the weekend. 

Beth Carter, from New Rochelle waited overnight in the rain to be seen, and said cheerfully, “It’s never too far to come and get the things you need.” 

About 1,500 people, including dentists and hygienists came to volunteer their services. 

Dentist Lauren Consonni of Farmington said,"Everyone is very appreciative and very happy. … The amount of need is incredible."  

One man said having missing teeth was interfering in his search for a job. Others have suffered in pain for years because they couldn't afford a dentist. 

There are roughly 500,000 to 600,000 Connecticut residents without dental insurance. About a thousand of them came on each of the two days the clinic operated, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in free care.

Several women leaders held a press conference today at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, and to call for more equality when it comes to pay between women and men. 

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

President John F.Kennedy signed the law on June 10, 1963, to address what he called the "unconscionable practice" of paying women less than men for doing the same job. But Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro noted that the disparity, while shrinking somewhat, still exists, and she's introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which she said would put teeth into that 50-year-old law. It amends the Equal Pay Act to hold employers accountable for discriminatory practices and puts an end to pay secrecy. That means that employers can't retaliate against an employee who discusses their salary with someone else.

Delauro: "Profound consequences on women's economic security... Women are more likely to file for bankruptcy… and while we live longer than men we receive less income from Social Security because of the lower wages we earn over a lifetime of work .."

Women overall now make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, while African American women earn 64 cents, and Latinas earn 55 cents.

Governor Dannel Malloy has created an Equal Pay Task Force to look into pay disparity in the state.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
A New York Civil Liberties Union report released Thursday found Blacks in New York State are nearly five times more likely to be arrested on low-level marijuana possession charges than whites, The disparity is much wider in the state’s most populous counties.

The report, analyzed FBI data from 2001 to 2010. 

In Suffolk County, where Blacks make up only 7 percent of the population, police were four times more likely to arrest blacks for marijuana possession in 2010. 

For every 100,000 people in the county, Suffolk Police arrested 1,055 blacks and 251 whites on marijuana charges.

A Suffolk Police department spokesperson told Patch:

"The Suffolk County Police Department does not arrest any person based on race, ethnicity or religion," "The Department focuses its law enforcement efforts in communities that experience increased criminal behavior. These communities tend to have a higher minority population which results in a higher number of minority suspects but also minority victims." 

The state Assembly passed a bill last month that would lower the penalty for public possession of less than 15 grams of pot from a misdemeanor to a violation. But state Senate Republicans opposed the proposal.

Newsday reports that Senator Charles Schumer is pushing for Long Island MacArthur to become an international airport.

At a news conference today the New York Democrat urged U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow a customs facility to be built there so it can provide international flights.

Schumer said bringing an international customs facility to the airport would attract new airlines and allow current carriers to provide international flights to destinations such as Aruba and the Bahamas.

MacArthur has seen a 46 percent decrease in commercial flights since 2007 because of the economic downturn.

Friday, June 7
The Connecticut legislature has adjourned. Here are the winners and losers this session in the area of environmental legislation according to CT

For a time, it looked as if the advocates for labels on genetically engineered foods would come up short on their wish for a second straight year. After the Senate passed a proposal they endorsed, the House passed a more restrictive version that they considered too weak. 

Advocates for GMO labeling made thousands of phone calls to Governor Malloy and House leaders, who had concerns about being the only state to require labeling.

Malloy and legislative leaders compromised, but it means labels on GMO foods could be a long way off. Four other states with a combined population of at least 20 million must pass similar measures.The agriculture establishment and biotechnology industry opposed the measure. Depending on what other states do, they might emerge as the ultimate winners.

The legislature unanimously saved from development more than 800 acres of farmland at the state-owned Southbury Training School. It will be kept in agricultural production by the Department of Agriculture. 

The Shoreline Preservation Task Force offered an array of bills recommended in the wake of Irene and Sandy. All passed largely intact. Most notable was a bill that allows the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to consider sea level rise in the criteria for infrastructure projects that use money from the Clean Water Fund. 

Environmentalists were unhappy with most provisions of two energy bills pushed by the governor. They said the legislation rolls back the state’s commitment to renewable energy because of the special status afforded large-scale Canadian hydropower. They criticized the energy strategy’s reliance on conversion to natural gas heat as reinforcing reliance on fossil fuels. The Malloy administration viewed the clean energy bill as a win for cheaper, cleaner energy, and as a way to reduce reliance on oil. 

The next state budget also takes away money that would normally go to the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority and funds that come through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for energy efficiency.
A document containing 87 employee Social Security numbers was mistakenly posted on a Brookhaven Town web site. Town officials say an investigation is underway to find and identify those people who downloaded the documents and those responsible for posting the information.  

The town attorney said the town is researching the 5 IP addresses that accessed the document over the five days it was online.

Meanwhile, the town is working with its insurance company to offer full credit monitoring to those affected. There were no reports of possible fraud resulting from the posting as of Thursday noon. 

The town's mistake in posting personal information was brought up at the June 4 town board meeting.

However, it wasn't the first time. 

Town officials found documents available on the town's website that contained 34 Social Security numbers posted since March 19, 2010.

Officials vow "immediate" changes are being made to the process of putting documents online. It has increased the number of personnel reviewing documents for security from one to three individuals, with the legal department having final approval. 


For four decades, Brookhaven Town officials have tried to devise a plan to protect the Carmans River watershed from overdevelopment.

Now Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine has a plan. It centers on buying and rezoning land near the ecologically sensitive river, which winds over 10 miles from Middle Island to Bellport.

The town plans to use money from a dedicated open space fund to buy and preserve land near the river   The core of the watershed, with the most restrictive limitations on development, will also be expanded. Town officials would also suggest that privately owned land in the core be rezoned to minimum 2 acre residential.
If successful, the plan will protect  about  1200 acres of public land and 500 acres of private land in the watershed. 

MaryAnn Johnston, chairwoman of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization's land use committee, said she wants more emphasis on water quality. Johnston said "The water quality standard is not workable at all”  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

National Transportation Safety Board confirmed today that an inspection of the track before the May 17 derailment and collision of two Metro-North commuter trains uncovered a damaged joint bar.  The damage caused the track to move at the point of derailment.

The NTSB said the crash injured 76 people and did an estimated $18 million in damage
A Metro-North spokesperson said the cost of the accident will be shared by the state of Connecticut, which owns the tracks, and Metro-North.

The NTSB also said the track on the New Haven line is visually inspected three times a week. The last inspection was performed on May 15 and the inspection found  indications of vertical movement of the track system at what preliminary investigations have determined is the point of collision. 
he NTSB did not indicate whether any repairs were done on the track after the May 15 inspection uncovered the problem. However, the NTSB has not concluded “what was the problem that caused the accident.”

The Connecticut Senate adopted a bill late Tuesday that would ensure the state pays its bills promptly – while shifting the cost of one of Governor Malloy’s biggest campaign promises onto Connecticut’s credit card.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 21-14 along party lines to approve a major bond package that includes $750 million in financing to assist the conversion of state finances to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or GAAP.
Unlike the modified cash basis system currently used, under GAAP, expenses must be promptly assigned to the year in which they were incurred.

Democrats in the Senate insisted the borrowing would force state government to face a problem it has long ignored.
But Republican senators countered that the state is running up $218 million in interest charges to cover a debt it effectively owes itself.

Republicans also noted that the measure delays the start of repaying this debt until after the first budget after the 2014 gubernatorial election.
If GAAP standards are used, state finances are deep in the red. State analysts recently pegged the GAAP differential at $1.2 billion.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.
Senior Cuomo administration officials presented new details of their plan to restructure the Long Island Power Authority at a public meeting Wednesday.  

The officials outlined terms of an amended contract with PSEG, the New Jersey-based utility scheduled to start operating the Long Island electrical grid in January. Larry Schwartz, secretary to the governor, said the synergies include cutting millions of dollars in LIPA's use of outside consultants and trimming staff of 60 people down to 20.

The amended contract would give PSEG nearly complete control as the Long Island Power Authority is reduced in scope under Cuomo's proposal. State lawmakers will be given copies of the so-called term sheet with PSEG within the next day.

Currently the LIPA grid is managed by National Grid. Don Daley of the union representing National Grid workers is concerned with the bill's lack of "commitment to maintain jobs on Long Island” 

Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing said the governor's staff planned to meet with union officials Friday to discuss the issues. " 

Others were concerned about oversight of LIPA contracts by the state. Some said the bill was heading toward approval too fast. 
Newsday reports: Governor Cuomo's new gambling expansion proposal focuses on upstate New York and does not include gaming on Long Island.

Cuomo’s proposal, unveiled Wednesday, would authorize three upstate casinos and give them a five-year exclusivity period before any downstate casinos could be built. 

The plan also would create new video slot machines facilities in Western New York if the state and the Seneca Indian Nation can't resolve an ongoing revenue-sharing dispute regarding the tribe's three casinos in the region.

The governor says his goal is to create "destination resorts" to boost tourism and jobs upstate. His proposal calls for a minimum $50 million licensing fee for each casino and a minimum of 25 percent of gross revenues. 

His proposal cuts out Long Island for now -- putting him in contrast to a plan advanced by Senate Republicans recently.

The GOP plan would authorize five casinos upstate and up to two new OTB facilities on the Island to host video slot machines.  


As families from Newtown watched, the Connecticut General Assembly approved a bill that exempts crime scene photos of murder victims, including the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook shootings.
With only four votes against, the bill passed shortly after 2 a.m. this morning. 

The new legislation prevents the release of any photograph or video recording that portrays the body of a homicide victim and prevents, for one year, the release of law enforcement audio recordings describing the bodies of children who are murdered. 

Though it will not restrict the release of 911 recordings, the bill will establish a task force to make recommendations about the “balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s right to know.” 

Senators Edward Meyer and Anthony Musto voted against the bill. 
Meyer said the “horrific crimes” were committed on public property and recorded by public officials and suppressing those recordings was not consistent with an open society.

House Democrats Stephen Dargan of West Haven and Peter Tercyak of New Britain also dissented.
Tercyak said, “…people of Connecticut deserve to have a voice in the conversation about this too. 
With relatively minor changes, the Connecticut Senate re-passed renewable energy legislation modified last week by the House.

The House amended the bill to add a fourth step to the energy procurement process. It guarantees that the Attorney General, Consumer Counsel, and Procurement Manager have exhausted all the Class I renewable options before the state purchases any large-scale hydropower.

For the first time, large-scale Canadian hydropower would count toward the state’s renewable energy goal.

The League of Conservation Voters says the state will be locked into environmentally damaging Hydro Quebec power.  Hydro will flood our energy market and damage the growing clean, renewable power industry in Connecticut.”

Voicing his approval of the bill, Governor Malloy said, “By moving from dirtier, out-of-state bio-mass to cleaner hydropower, we will both improve air quality throughout New England and lower cost for consumers.” 
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and aides unveiled a sweeping “bill of rights” for women yesterday that would toughen laws against human trafficking, domestic violence, gender-based discrimination, and pay inequity.

But the Women’s Equality Agenda also includes language creating an affirmative right to abortion, as established by the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, before a fetus is considered “viable” or “when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health”  

Cuomo said the provision does not expand on current abortion rights. Opponents have said it is an expansion of current New York statute, which allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy only if it is necessary to protect the life of the mother.
Cuomo said. “The citizens of this state have a right to know where these elected officials stand.”

The Republican-controlled Senate must agree to bring a bill to a floor vote. Many of the 63-seat chamber’s 30 Republicans are not abortion supporters. Most of its 33 Democrats are.

The measure is expected to pass in the Democrat-dominated Assembly, but Cuomo said there was “no assurance” that it would pass in the Senate with the abortion provision attached.

Federal funding has been secured to start the beach rebuilding process on the South Fork, including 2.3 miles of beach re-nourishment in Montauk. The work is to start in 2014.  

Meanwhile,the town beach at Ditch Plain will remain closed to swimmers, with no lifeguards on duty, for the foreseeable future. Erosion has stripped away the sand on shore and underwater, leaving dangerous rocks as well as concrete building remnants.

The federal Office of Management and Budget approved $700 million of the $3.5 billion that Congress appropriated for construction projects in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy. It is part of the US Army Corps of Engineers Fire Island to Montauk work for 80 miles of coastline.
Also, the federal government will pick up 80 percent of any damage caused by a FEMA-eligible storm in the future. 

Tuesday, Jun 4 

The Connecticut State Senate early today passed a bill that would allow state political parties to make unlimited expenditures on Connecticut legislative races next year, weakening a campaign finance reform passed in 2005. 

That program created a system of public financing in which candidates for legislative and statewide office can obtain public grants – but only if they agree to spending limits ranging from little more than $15,000 for a state House race to $6.25 million for governor. 

The House passed the bill Saturday. Democrats sought the legislation in reaction to independent groups spending $500,000 to defeat a handful of Democrats in the closing weeks of the 2012 campaign. 

By beefing up the role of the parties, the legislature is seeking a counterweight to big money after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited campaign spending. 

But Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, as did the League of Women Voters, saying the new disclosure rules were confusing at best and, possibly, even weaker than existing law.  


The New Haven Board of Aldermen voted Monday night to sell two city streets to Yale University for $3 million. 

The 21 to 8 vote in favor came despite an upsurge of on-line and in-person protest, as many city residents were outraged that the city was selling pieces of its public space to a private university.  

Protestors objected to the deal in part because it does not guarantee that Yale will keep the streets open to the public. Aldermen in support of the deal said Yale will likely keep the streets open, and the city needs the $3 million to help close a budget gap in the current fiscal year. 

The permanent sale of a few blocks of High Street and York Street that run through the campus follows a 1990 deal in which the university paid the city $1.1 million and agreed to ongoing annual contributions. As a non-profit institution, Yale pays no property taxes on most of its buildings.

The Mashantucket Pequot’s Foxwoods Resort and Casino and a New York City developer want a piece of the gaming action in New York. 

Jeff Kay, chief operating officer of Muss development Corp., a New York City-based real estate firm and Scott Butera, president and CEO of Foxwoods were in Albany today to talk to elected leaders.

They are hoping to change New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's mind about phasing in casino expansion in New York with only one new gambling hall in the Catskills for the next five years.

Muss Developmnet owns 500 acres at the former Grossinger's Resort in the Sullivan County town of Liberty. The company recently joined with Foxwoods, with the understanding that if Muss' site gets approved for a casino, the management of the 
Ledyard, Connecticut gambling business would help create and operate a resort.

Muss is a generous donor to many New York politicians' campaigns, and contributed $21,000 to Cuomo's accounts according to the Albany Times-Union. 

Cuomo’s gaming plan would allow up to seven private casinos to augment the five operated by tribes. The first three new resorts would be sited upstate. 


Manufacturers of atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S., are pulling the product off Long Island according to the Riverhead News-Review.

Starting next spring, products containing atrazine – an herbicide commonly used to control weeds – will bear a label indicating they are prohibited for use on Long Island, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

Pesticide manufacturers, voluntarily decided to restrict the product’s sale. Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau says the pesticide is commonly used by Long Island corn and potato growers. Alternatives for atrazine are available.

The manufacturers’ decision follows years of debate concerning atrazine’s presence in 

Long Island’s groundwater. It is the third-most prevalent pesticide detected in the groundwater.

But the DEC reports the majority of those detected concentrations fell well below drinking water and groundwater standards.

A statement from the manufacturer, Syngenta, explained that the decision to pull atrazine 

followed the manufacturer’s involvement with the state DEC’s development of the Long Island Pesticide Use Management Plan, still in its draft stage.

Monday, June 3

The Connecticut House of Representatives approved a two-year, $37 billion budget by a 95 to 48 vote along party lines in the Democrat-dominated body.  It goes to the Senate for a vote on Wednesday.

The budget preserves the social safety net, education and municipal funding. It also moves over $6 billion in federal Medicaid reimbursements out from under the spending cap. 
Democrats argued that no other state includes federal revenue under its spending cap. Republicans who largely opposed the budget said it’s an unprecedented temporary fix in favor of political expediency. 

The budget cuts about $30 million from the Clean Energy Financing and Investment Authority and $5 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative account. The budget also cuts more than $76 million from the Special Transportation Fund.

A New Haven non-profit has become the area's first official "bicycle friendly business." Employees celebrated at a luncheon on Friday. WPKN's Melilnda Tuhus reports: 
Dr. Michael Sernyak is CEO of the Connecticut Mental Health Center, and also a competitive bike racer. He says he knows the value of cycling to both mental and physical health, so he applied for the center to be recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a bike friendly business, and was awarded Bronze certification.

 Among other things, the health center put in a shower and lockers and allowed employees to store their bikes inside. 

Sernyak says his staff of 500 addresses the physical and emotional needs of its clients.

Sernyak says when he first broached the idea two years ago of becoming bike-friendly, three staffers came out to a meeting. At the recent luncheon, there were about 40. They've gone on group rides and had guest speakers come in to promote bicycle commuting.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation’s shellfish hatchery will be rebuilt in a partnership with the newly formed Peconic Institute.  

The Peconic Institute is a new nonprofit aimed at making the East End a leader in the sustainability industry.

The hatchery, originally constructed by the Shinnecock Nation in 1978, suffered over time due to a lack of funding. 

The new building “will be carbon-neutral in the construction phase, low-carbon while in operation and energy independent during power outages”.

The Peconic Institute and the tribe will apply for federal economic development grants that could cover 100 percent of the project cost, estimated at $2.5 million.

Updating the hatchery, officials said, would provide construction jobs in the short-term, and in the longterm - shellfishing jobs to serve as a food-source and cultural activity. 


State Assemblyman Fred Thiele has introduced legislation which would permit local governments to create new municipal power companies.

Currently, local governments are blocked from building power systems that could compete with the Long Island Power Authority. However, utilities in Greenport, Freeport, and Rockville Center operate because they existed before LIPA was created in 1986. 

Disappointment with LIPA, provides a good opportunity to allow localities to run their own electric companies if their citizens so choose.

Assemblyman Thiele said “In the future, Long Islanders should have the ability to choose municipal power, if they believe it would be superior to the proposed near-privatization model currently under consideration”.
Newsday reports: Long Island Power Authority ratepayers will get a chance to hear from officials about Governor Cuomo's plan to overhaul the utility at a meeting Thursday in Wheatley Heights.
Senior officials from the Cuomo administration and the Moreland Commission -- which  reviewed LIPA's performance after superstorm Sandy -- and PSEG, the New Jersey company slated to run the Long Island power grid, will discuss the proposal. 
Reaction to Cuomo's plan, which would turn over most of LIPA’s operations to PSEG, has been mixed. Critics say it gives LIPA less oversight than currently exists. Proponents say the time is now to reform LIPA.

The Thursday meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Western Suffolk BOCES Conference Center, 31 Lee Ave., Wheatley Heights. Attendees are requested to send an email in advance to 

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