Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September 2013

Friday, September  20

As the Connecticut’s new insurance marketplace prepares to begin selling coverage in less than two weeks, officials are still waiting to find out which doctors, hospitals and other health care providers will accept the health plans being offered.
Besides price, the lists of doctors and hospitals that take each insurance plan will be among the only differences between the insurance plans offered to customers of the new marketplace.  The state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health, requires that the insurers’ networks be substantially equal to the networks used for their largest commercial plans.

Each insurer offering coverage through Access Health must sell plans with a set of standard benefits and cost-sharing requirements, allowing customers to compare equivalent plans by price and providers covered. Insurers can also offer additional plans with different features.
Three insurance companies will sell plans through Access Health’s individual market: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, ConnectiCare and HealthyCT, a new nonprofit insurer. Anthem and HealthyCT will also sell insurance through Access Health’s small-group market, as will UnitedHealthcare.
Patient advocates say it’s important to measure not just the total number of providers participating in each insurer’s exchange network, but whether they’re accepting new patients and whether their patients can get appointments.
The provider list is expected to be available in searchable form by Oct. 1, when customers will be able to shop for health plans through Access Health.

And New York's health benefit exchange also opens Oct. 1 for enrollment. Newsday reported that uninsured individuals and small businesses will not only have more insurance choices than currently on offer, they'll have new kinds of choices.
Three brand new health insurance companies will be plying their wares to the estimated 150,000 Long Islanders expected to enroll in the exchange.

They are North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, which is the first major health system in the state to form its own insurance company; Oscar, founded by three young, tech-savvy Harvard Business School graduates frustrated by their health insurance bills; and Health Republic, a new type of nonprofit health insurer -- created by the federal Affordable Care Act -- that will be directed by its customers.

Researchers at the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis found that if the state released half of its $6 billion in unissued bonds, its economy — the only one in the country to shrink in 2012 — would improve.

They say if the state Bond Commission approved $3.1 billion in borrowing, then it would bring state employment back to its 2010 levels. The numbers would be even higher if some of the borrowing was able to generate federal matching funds for  construction projects.

The report found it would increase aggregate employment from 16,000 to 28,000, and double or triple the rate of growth.
Researchers say the state should score the projects based on their impact both in the short and long terms.

The report claims  “Buying school buses or building new schools has little or no long-term benefit; while improving highways and mass transit, have long-term impacts,” 

Some the the investments researchers praised in the report include the genomic research lab being built at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.  

New Haven has joined other municipalities in introducing a new prescription discount card, hoping to help the non-insured and the underinsured, including immigrants.

The Connecticut Council of Municipalities has teamed up with a company called ProAct, Inc to create a prescription discount card that could save residents an average of 45 percent on many medications and cover their eyes, ears, and even their pets.
The card can be used instead of a regular insurance drug card if it gives a better deal.  It can be used not only in Connecticut but also across the country. 
The savings come because ProAct has a bulk purchasing deal with pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. 
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said the cards will be mailed to every resident in the city, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The card’s discounts are also available to pet owners who can use the cards to get cheaper drugs for their dogs and cats.
If you don’t receive a card you may go online and print your own at proactsavings.com.
The program is in essence paid for by the pharmaceutical companies who will sell more prescriptions. There is no paperwork and no cost to municipalities. 
The discount card is available in New York State – but apparently – not yet in Suffolk County.

Thursday, September 19

Governor Dannel Malloy announced Wednesday that the first $5 million in state funding for school security systems is headed to 169 schools and 36 school districts seeking to improve their facilities following the Sandy Hook School shooting. 

The state will use $15 million in bond funds to reimburse local districts by the end of the calendar year. Another $6 million in bond funds will be found so that all 604 schools requesting funds will get some help from the state Bond Commission.

The money will help local schools install surveillance cameras and bullet-proof glass  and replace outdated buzzer and school entry systems.
The grants ranged from $3,000 for one school in Southington to close to $66 thousand for five schools in New Haven, and to over $1 million for 23 schools in Bridgeport.

The schools won’t be allowed to use the money to pay for armed guards in schools.

The initial funding was made possible by the gun control legislation passed in April. 

The administration declined to provide a list of schools that will receive the funding, citing an exemptionto the Freedom of Information Act since that disclosure may put students in danger because receiving the grant means the school is unsafe and in need of greater security.
But the administration opted to disclose a list of school districts receiving the funding.

Overall employment in Connecticut declined in August by about 6,000 jobs, but most of those jobs were in local government, according to the Labor Department.

Private sector jobs in Connecticut grew by 2,300 and unemployment remained unchanged at 8.1 percent.

An estimated 7,500 or 4.7 percent of the jobs lost in August were in local government.

Governor Malloy said the numbers released Thursday demonstrate continued private sector job growth.

Malloy said the drop was not unexpected because the school year was longer for many educators and teachers due to the winter storms.  He said the numbers may have also been artificially high in July because of summer employment, which ended in August when students went back to school.

In its 42nd month of recovery the state has averaged about 1500 new jobs per month since February 2010. The private sector has recovered somewhat faster adding on average about 1700 jobs per month. It has regained 71 thousand of the 114 thousand private sector jobs lost since February 2010.

The Suffolk Times reports: Lawmakers from New York and Connecticut have asked the head of the Office of Management and Budget, Sylvia Burwell, to sign an executive order to block the sale of Plum Island.
Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton joined New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney of Vernon in calling for the order.

They wrote that considering recent zoning restrictions placed on the island by Southold Town, a sale “would do virtually nothing to offset the cost” of a National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (or NBAF), which is slated to be constructed in Kansas.

Costs of the new facility have reportedly ballooned to $1.2 billion, up from an original $450 million estimate.

A Bishop spokesman said a high bidder with deep pockets could always challenge the town’s zoning.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said that the notions of selling the island and opening a new animal research facility should not be one in the same.Russell said. “The construction of the Kansas lab “doesn’t mean NBAF has to pursue all research under that one roof.”

Newsday reports: Suffolk County lawmakers have approved a bill authorizing the acquisition of two farms in Brookhaven Town under the county’s farmland protection program.
The legislature approved the purchase of 21-acre Hamlet Organic Garden in Brookhaven hamlet for $947 thousand from the Post Morrow Foundation, an environmental group. Known as the HOG farm, the parcel is within the fragile Carmans River watershed.
Lawmakers also approved buying a one tenth acre farm in Mastic Beach from its owners for $6,000.  Preservation of the farm, which is vacant, would help reduce the impact of flooding on nearby homes.
 A spokeswoman said County Executive Steve Bellone plans to sign the bills.

Wednesday, Septmber 18  

On Tuesday, a day after a gunman murdered a dozen people a few miles from the Capitol building, about 30 Newtown residents traveled to Washington, DC, to advocate for stricter firearm regulations.
Members of the Newton Action Alliance gun control group lobbied Congress to mark the passage of nine months since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when a gunman murdered 20 first graders and 6 educators on December 14.

In April, Newtown residents and families of the Sandy Hook victims lobbied Congress to pass a bill that would have expanded background check requirements for the purchase of guns. The bill was defeated in the Senate after it fell four votes short of the super majority it needed to pass.

In an interview on MSNBC, Senator Richard Blumenthal said he believed the shooting on Monday had an impact on lawmakers.
 “A number of my colleagues were clearly shaken by the physical proximity and the senselessness and randomness of this violence. . . . My hope is that this senseless killing will help us break through the gridlock that so obstructed us the last time we lost that vote in April.”
According to recent U.S. Census data, more people in Connecticut have health insurance, even with the unemployment rate still at 8.1 percent. 
Connecticut Voices for Children, a public policy think tank that analyzed the data attributed the improvement in the un-insurance rate to the success of state and federal policy reforms aimed at improving access.
Based on a two-year average, the number of uninsured decreased from 12.7 percent during 2009 and 2010 to 9.5 percent during 2011 and 2012. Among children under the age of 18, the average dropped from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent during that period.

Ellen Shemitz, executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children, said, “These trends demonstrate the success of Connecticut’s efforts to improve access to health coverage for Connecticut children and families, even as our economy is struggling to recover.”
Starting on January 1, 2014, regardless of employment status or pre-existing medical conditions, all residents will be able to purchase health insurance through an online marketplace called Access Health CT.  An estimated 100,000 to 130,000 Connecticut residents are expected to gain coverage.
Newsday reports The New York Board of Regents plans to require all high school students to complete a 1,250 word research paper in order to earn a diploma.

Details of the proposed essay requirement will soon be reviewed by educators statewide after a Board of Regents committee considered the proposal at a meeting Monday. Final approval of the proposal could come as soon as November.

The plan calls for the essay requirement to go into effect for students who begin high school next year. Students would be able to submit their research papers, which would require a minimum of four sources of information, at any point during their high school careers.

State education officials say the five-page research paper–which comes on top of numerous tests that require students to demonstrate writing proficiency–is meant for students to show they are ready for college or a career in a way that cannot be measured through shorter, more traditional exams.

The Long Island Power Authority’s residential solar rebate program, which provides grants to homeowners, will begin to process applications again next week.

New York State will provide $5 million in funding for the rebate program which was suspended last month after its budget ran out.
LIPA will begin accepting new applications again for its popular rebate beginning Sept. 23, after the state pledged the funding through the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency.

Tuesday, September 17

The Connecticut Revenue Services Department began offering both the carrot and the stick Monday to tax delinquents -- pay up within the next 60 days at reduced interest and penalties or face more than double the penalties when the state catches up with you.

Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan announced the 2013 “Tax Amnesty” program, in which residents and businesses can pay most back taxes to the state with a 75-percent reduction in interest.

The state also is offering to waive late penalties for people who have not reported, or who have under-reported, their tax liabilities, if they pay the department before Nov. 30.

But for those who do not pay off their liabilities during the two-month amnesty window, the department received legislative approval to hike the late penalty from 10 percent to 25 percent for any taxes owed.

The state budget counts on the amnesty program to bring in at least $35 million in revenue. Sullivan said this amnesty program is also open to people whose liabilities the state does not currently know about including residents who have gone for years without filing their taxes.

Officials believe there are another 80,000 residents who have either not filed in years or have under reported.
Sullivan said delinquencies that occur after the amnesty window will be subject to the traditional 10 percent penalty.

One candidate for mayor of New Haven has called on the frontrunner to return a $9,000 campaign donation. Toni Harp received the donation from nine suburban doctors a day after the city canceled a $180,000 contract with their company due to ethical violations. Her opponent, Justin Elicker, says that's a typical example of "pay to play" and highlights the dangers of money in politics, calling it a a policy of "pay-for-access to Toni Harp." Harp, who's been a state senator for the past 20 years, said she saw no reason to return the money. She said, “There’s no relationship between how I do business and how I run my campaign," adding that campaign contributors have never bought influence with her legislative work.


Sagaponack Village trustees voted Monday to stay with the Southampton Police Department in exchange for an enhanced police presence, nixing a plan for the village to form its own police unit.

The agreement provides a police officer in the village 24 hours a day between May 15 and Sept. 15, and a police officer assigned to the village between 8 a.m. and midnight the rest of the year. The agreement, passed last week by the Southampton Town Board, also stipulates that officers assigned to Sagaponack will focus on community-oriented policing and get to know village residents.

Mayor Donald Louchheim said before the 5-0 vote."This gives us almost exactly what we wanted to have," "We're still paying a disproportionate amount of the police budget, but so be it."
EastEndBeacon.com reports:

Long Islanders love their cars, but this Friday they’re being asked to do something few of us can imagine: leave them parked home and venture out into the world of alternative transportation.

World Car Free Day has been around since the year 2000, but this is the first year that a consortium of Long Island alternative transportation groups has banded together to hold a car free day here.
Rosemary Mascali, the manager of the MTA’s Transit Solutions program, is coordinating the Long Island effort.

Her group has banded together with towns, schools, businesses, colleges, environmental groups and bicyclists to form a coalition that is asking people to pledge to either be car free or car “lite” on Friday, Sept. 20.

The pledge and a list of alternative modes of transportation on Long Island is available online at carfreedayli.com. [CAR FREE DAY LI dot COM]
The list includes bus and train schedules, ride share programs, locations of bike lockers and links to Google Maps that show the best biking and walking routes on Long Island. The website will stay up after Car Free Day is over.

The MTA’s Ms. Mascali says “There’s an extensive bus system on Long Island that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. It works for some people but it won’t work for others, depending their on proximity to a bus stop.”

Monday, September  16

Connecticut had its first bank failure in more than a decade Friday as a community lender that aspired to better serve urban neighborhoods was declared insolvent by banking regulators.

The Community's Bank of Bridgeport came under the receivership of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. amid mounting losses from commercial real estate loans.
All of the bank's over 1000 deposit accounts totaling $25 million are fully insured by the FDIC.   
Checks will be cut for the full amount of account balances and sent to customers, who should receive them Tuesday or Wednesday.

Prosecutors in a political corruption trial say the evidence makes it "plain" that former House Speaker Chris Donovan understood the scheme to trade campaign contributions for legislative influence.

In Donovan’s failed 2012 bid for a seat in Congress, seven men associated with his campaign have been convicted, one of whom faces sentencing this week.

Donovan has maintained that his "vote was never for sale" but prosecutors point to a recorded phone call and a video from May and June, 2012, in which Donovan said he was "working on" an effort to kill a tax on roll-your-own cigarettes and that he "taken care of" Ray Soucy, the man considered the linchpin of the conspiracy. 

Donovan’s former campaign manager, Joshua Nassi, faces sentencing in Judge Janet Arterton’s courtroom. She has previously sentenced four others to prison time for their roles in the case.
A suit filed nine years ago about funding for Connecticut’s lagging urban schools faces procedural delays in a Hartford courtroom.

The case spearheaded by the “Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educatioanl Funding” was challenged today by four Assistant Attorneys General.

They argued the coalition had no legal standing, and that education reforms adopted in 2012 should be given time to show improvements.
But lawyers for the coalition said that earlier rulings granted their members legitimacy in the courts; and that waiting more years for new achievement measurements is the equivalent of moving back the goal posts in the middle of a football game.

Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, where 23 of 32 schools received failing grades, commented:

“This is an embarrassment like the state of Connecticut hasn't had since slavery. We should be all embarrassed to a person in this state that we have not been able to solve this in the richest state in the country. We're still arguing over ridiculous legal jargon. The world `child' was never mentioned once by the state of Connecticut, or even us."

Newsday reports the Long Island Rail Road wants to spend $300 million in federal Sandy money to complete its Double Track project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.

Double Track will add a second set of rails allowing the LIRR to run more trains on the Ronkonkoma line.

Critics say it has little to do with protecting the LIRR from future storms.

The Railroad says extra capacity on the Main Line is imperative in case a storm again knocks out service on South Shore lines.
Senator Charles Schumer  said he will support using the Sandy funds for Double Track if the railroad makes "a compelling case that this project has mitigation effects for LIRR riders."

The Suffolk Times reports: Southold High School parents are concerned that a cost-saving measure is preventing their children from getting into electives of their choice.

Southold PTA president Jennifer Conway said school officials told her the district isn’t able to offer more electives because it can’t afford to hire more teachers to teach a sixth period for popular electives that require multiple sections.

The district’s contract states that teachers with more than five classes scheduled daily receive an extra annual stipend of 20 percent of their base salary per additional period.

Superintendent David Gamberg said that the sixth period arrangement is used primarily to avoid having to hire a full-time teacher when existing staff can handle demand by taking on one more period.

Mr. Gamberg said electives offered over the past two years essentially haven’t changed. Most of the changes have been dictated by student interest and dwindling enrollment. He said the district has been successful in balancing program variety with what taxpayers can afford.

Friday, September 13:

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey wants the conversation on property taxes to continue during the 2014 legislative session – although he didn’t get the phase out of the car tax that he wanted last session.

Sharkey said Thursday at a Capitol press conference: “Before the current recession we’re coming out of now, the crisis before the crisis was the property tax. …there were people in the state who were talking about open revolt over the property tax and the impacts it was having on their local communities…..the property tax accounts for 40 percent of all the taxes collected in the state and is the most regressive.

Municipal leaders opposed phasing out the car tax because they didn’t trust the state to replace the nearly $700 million it collects from the tax. The House passed the proposal, but there wasn’t enough support in the state Senate to get it passed.

To prove that the state is serious about reimbursing any lost revenue from elimination of the car tax, the legislature established the Municipal Revenue Sharing account and dedicated about $4.9 million to it over the next two years.

A slave named Mr. Fortune finally got the respect he deserved Thursday when his bones were laid in repose at the state Capitol.
A tradition usually reserved for ex-governors and statesmen was bestowed upon an African-American slave owned by a physician in Waterbury.
Steven Mullins, president of the Southern Connecticut Union of Black Episcopalians, said “What happened to Mr. Fortune should not happen to any human being in the world. Mr. Fortune was treated very much like an animal.”
He said the burial Thursday was a “teachable” moment for Connecticut residents, who sometimes forget slavery also existed in northern states.
Mullins noted that Mr. Fortune will be buried at Riverside Cemetery next to aristocrats from the 18th Century. “He is now good enough to rest in the same dirt as they’re in.”
Scientists speculate that he died when he broke his neck. Early historians wrote that he fell into the Naugatuck River and drowned.
After his death, his bones, which had been preserved by the doctor who enslaved him, were donated to the Mattatuck Museum. The skeleton became a popular exhibit, but was taken down more than 20 years ago after encouragement from the Waterbury NAACP.

A new report says staff cuts at the Department of Environmental Conservation are resulting in a lot less oversight of air, water and hazardous-materials pollution across the state. New York News Connection’s Mike Clifford reports:

It’s the D-E-C that regulates pollution, and Andrew Postiglione with Environmental Advocates of New York says their new report looks at 22 percent staff cuts at the D-E-C over recent years, to determine the impact those cuts are having on New York’s ability to protect itself.

Postiglione: "And what we found was that inspections were down by 35 percent across all permit categories, violations were down by 25 percent. What this says to us is that DEC is looking less and finding less."

Postiglione says his group is urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to rethink his “Open for Business Policy” and to restore many of the 850 positions that have been cut at the Department of Environmental Conservation since 2008.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and other New York State officials visited Montauk on Thursday morning to send a clear message to federal officials: Change summer flounder quotas or we'll sue.

Fishermen say quotas which limit the total amount of flounder that can be landed in New York waters are unfair and the quota is one-third that of neighboring states.

The governor said "I have news for the federal government: Fish swim — that's what they do. Fish don't realize when they're in New York waters versus Connecticut waters. There's no demarcation in the sound — Flounder, you are now going through New York water to Connecticut water."

Cuomo said the state is losing "tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars" because of unfair fishing limits, particularly on summer flounder, placed on both commercial and recreational fisherman.

He threatened legal action against the Federal government in order to protect the state’s $5 Billion dollar industry that employs 44,000.

Thursday, September 12

The Hartford Courant reports: Two Connecticut based defense contractors, both units of United Technologies, announced layoffs this week.
Sikorsky Aircraft is cutting 200 hourly jobs, mostly in Connecticut. The helicopter manufacturer has been battling defense cuts and rising costs.

Stratford-based Sikorsky announced the layoff of 200 salaried workers in June.   The Sikorsky workforce — now numbering about 8,400 in Connecticut — were told of the reductions Thursday. 

Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson cited U.S. and international budget reductions, rising costs to compete, and uncertainty due to sequestration. But he said "Sikorsky continues to look to a promising future”

Pratt & Whitney of Hartford laid off 400 salaried employees Tuesday. About 200 of the cuts were in Connecticut. These put the global Pratt & Whitney job cuts at more than 1,400 this year. Affected employees will receive severance packages, outplacement services, continuation of group insurance and a one-year benefit of the company's Employee Scholar Program.

A new report says arrests in Connecticut schools dropped 13.5 percent from 2008 to 2011, but hundreds of the arrests made in 2011 were for minor policy violations such as throwing erasers, shouting, or leaving class without permission.

The report by Connecticut Voices for Children — the first comprehensive study of its kind in the state — also found significant racial disparities in arrest rates: Black students were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than white students, and Hispanic students were 3.2 times more likely.

Sarah Esty, the report’s author and a former policy fellow of Voices for Children said
“The overall number of arrests have declined, which is an encouraging trend However, there remains a great deal of work to be done in terms of students being arrested for behaviors that likely could have been handled without police involvement . . . and in the disturbing disparities in arrest rates.”


As reported by Newsday:
A congressional ethics probe released Wednesday found "a substantial reason" to believe New York’s First Congressional Representative Tim Bishop violated the law when he allegedly sought a donation from a constituent he was helping with fireworks permits in an environmentally sensitive area.
But the 177-page report by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics also leveled a new charge against Bishop, alleging he mis-reported the date and source of the constituent's $5,000 donation, more than legally allowed.  Bishop's attorneys filed a 12-page letter disputing the allegations.
But the House Ethics Committee, which makes the final determination about whether to pursue the office's findings and recommendations, made no ruling in a complaint against Bishop.
The original complaint was filed in August 2012 by Smithtown Councilman Robert Creighton, who backed Bishop's challenger Randy Altschuler last year.

Bill Lindsay, a 12-year-member of the Suffolk County Legislature who’s served as presiding officer since 2006, died Wednesday at age 67 following a long battle with lung cancer.

Lindsay was elected to his eighth term as presiding officer earlier this year, thus making him the longest-serving presiding officer in the Legislature’s history.

A Holbrook resident, Mr. Lindsay was elected to the Legislature as a Democrat in a special election in March of 2001 to fill the 8th Legislative District seat vacated when then-future County Executive Steve Levy was elected to the state Assembly.

Prior to that, Mr. Lindsay was an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 25, and was that union’s business manger from 1992 up until his election.

South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk said ”He spent his life helping working people. He was a really special guy. It’s a personal loss and a county loss.”

Wednesday, Sept 11

In New Haven, State Senator Toni Harp  captured about half of the votes in a four-way primary for Mayor.

New Haven now has a two-way mayoral race between Harp and Justin Elicker.

Justin Elicker took 23 percent of the citywide vote. He is also running as an independent.   His candidacy will depend on his ability to attract a majority of the city’s 18 thousand registered independent voters and 2500 registered Republicans.

In Stamford, Board of Finance member David Martin won the support of Democrats for another mayoral run. Martin beat out his better-funded opponent, state Rep. William Tong, by about 300 votes.  Tong was supported by former Mayor and now Governor Dannel Malloy.

Martin lost a 2009 bid for mayor to Republican Michael Pavia, who is not running for re-election.

Martin now faces former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and unaffiliated candidates Kathleen Murphy and John Zito in the Nov. 5 election. Fedele, who was endorsed by the Republican Town Committee in July, had raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for his campaign as of June 30.

Officials at Connecticut State Colleges & Universities are hoping the state will pick up some  more of their projected deficit of $18 million in this year’s budget.

With programs already cut and class sizes increased, the state’s largest public college system is trying to cover the increased costs of current and retired employees’ health and pension benefits.  The cost has increased in part due to negotiated pay raises.

Each year the state picks up the cost of some of the benefits for college systems’ employees, but the state is playing catch-up after years of chronically under funding its pension liabilities.

Two years ago a state labor arbitrator ruled that the state's colleges must offer employees a second opportunity to join the state's pension retirement system – known as SERS - in place of  the 401K retirement plan many are enrolled in now.

Under the 401K plan, the state must contribute 11 percent percent of each employee's salary. Under SERS, the required contribution is 55 percent.

So far, 335 employees have changed over to the more-expensive plan. If everyone eligible switches to the State plan, it would cost an additional $78 million a year.

On Tuesday, the day before the 12-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the websites of Sag Harbor Village and Riverhead’s Veterinary
Emergency Center were hacked by a group calling itself the Islamic Electronic Army.

According to his Facebook page, Fahd Al Murar, a.k.a. KJ-FIDO, along with his group, also known as Web Soldiers of the Al Qaeda Army, claimed responsibility for the hacking.

For roughly a half hour Tuesday morning, a six-minute video featuring Osama Bin Laden played on the Sag Harbor Village’s website.

The web page read, in part: “We are Muslims. We are many. We are strong. If you touch one person … we will destroy you, your life, your country, your happiness.” 

A similar message was posted on the Veterinary Center’s web page.
Both websites were restored by Wednesday morning.

Other Long Island business web sites were also hacked by the same group.
Primary elections in Southampton Tuesday drew few voters. 

Although only 144 votes were cast, candidates vying in the Conservative party primary election for Supervisor will have to wait until at least Thursday for results.

According the Suffolk County Board of Elections, they are still counting.

Former Southampton Supervisor Linda Kabot, who has the Republican Party backing, and Phil Keith, a US Naval Commander, who has the support of Conservative Party leaders, were not on the ballot. Voters had the opportunity to write-in their names.
Newsday reports: Suffolk County District Attorney
Thomas Spota survived his first contested election in more than a decade, defeating defense attorney Raymond Perini, in the Republican primary.

Spota, bested Perini by roughly 56 to 44.

The primary campaign materialized after Spota successfully challenged Suffolk's 12-year term limits law since his position was created by the state constitution.

Spota now has the Republican, Democratic, Independence and Conservative ballot lines. We are not taking bets.

Tuesday, September 10

Republican Tom Foley, who lost to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy by some 6000 votes in 2010 announced today he is forming an exploratory committee in the race for governor.

In 2010, Foley spent more than $10 million of his own money on the campaign, while his opponents used the public campaign finance system.
Today in Bridgeport, Foley told reporters he is considering seeking public financing, a step to neutralize criticism he tried to buy the office.

Foley, who runs a private equity firm in Greenwich, has never really stopped running for governor since his defeat. Foley started making the rounds to newspaper editorial boards last November.

According to a June Quinnipiac University poll, Foley would beat Malloy by three percentage points.

Other candidates to announce their intention to run for governor thus far are state Senator John McKinney and West Hartford resident Joe Visconti. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Senator Toni Boucher of Wilton also are exploring possible gubernatorial campaigns. Malloy hasn’t announced his re-election bid, but there’s no indication that he’s not going to run.
Time is running out for thousands of uninsured people who must decide whether to comply with a federal mandate to buy health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a penalty instead.

Dan Smolnik, a tax attorney from Brookfield said he thinks “the majority will weigh the risks of not having health insurance and make a rational decision that isn’t purely based on economics. People are smarter than that.”

Known as the “individual mandate,” the Affordable Care Act requires most Americans who can afford coverage to buy insurance or pay the tax. , Federal officials estimate about six million people will chose to pay a penalty each year instead of purchasing coverage. Foregoing coverage means consumers take the risk of being saddled with high health care bills, one of the primary reasons people declare personal bankruptcy.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has authorized Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) to increase its “payments in lieu of taxes” (known as PILOTs) to $1.4 million thanks to a joint effort from local representatives in the Senate and House. The funding is an increase of $160,000 over last year’s PILOT payments from BNL.

PILOT payments are part of a program that allows federally owned lands to make payments directly to Brookhaven town, as opposed to paying taxes through property value assessments.  The payments are distributed by the Town to local school districts and libraries.

Last year the DOE’s payout to Brookhaven was $1.26 million, but this year the DOE was looking to decrease its contributions. U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S.
Representative Tim Bishop convinced the DOE not to cut the funding. They said it would force Brookhaven Town to cut jobs and decrease programs.

Riverhead Town is slated to receive more than $12 million in funding for a sewage treatment plant upgrade according to County Executive Steve Bellone who announced the project funding Monday.

The plant's increased capacity will absorb the needs of the 500 housing units planned for downtown. Capacity will increase from 1.2 million gallons per day to 1.5 million.

The project carries an estimated price tag of $22 million. An $8 million grant and an additional $2 million investment from the town — on top of $1 million already spent by the town on design and engineering — would leave $12 million Riverhead Town would need to borrow.

Riverhead received a total $28 million in funding recommendations for projects "promoting long-term growth, environmental sustainability elements and a focus on transit-oriented development”

Monday, September 9 

On Friday, Hartford Superior Judge Antonio Robaina granted the state Child Advocate’s request to obtain the educational records of Newtown gunman Adam Lanza.

The judge ordered the school system to comply with a March subpoena for the records. It had not complied with the request.

The records sought included Lanza’s psychological reports and evaluations, report cards, attendance records, nursing reports and notes, social work records, disciplinary records, education plans, and any communications with his family.

The advocate’s office expects to receive the records within the next week.

Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky said last month that a report on the investigation into the shooting will not be available until the fall. The report was expected this summer, but the deadline continues to be pushed back. Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive for the shooting. which sparked sweeping legislation that changed gun laws, access to mental health services, and school security.
Several dozen people gathered on the four corners of a busy downtown New Haven intersection Sunday evening to say no U.S. military intervention in Syria. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.

"Several people spoke of their fear that a U.S. missile strike on the Syrian military could lead to terrible complications, including a much larger war in the Mid-East. While President Obama is calling for action to punish Syrian leader Bashar al Assad for his use of sarin gas on his own people, others are saying it's not confirmed yet that Assad is the guilty party.

One of the protesters said it's natural to want to punish whoever used chemical weapons.  He added that the U.S. has used napalm in Vietnam and cluster bombs among other weapons.

Obama is facing stiff resistance to deploying Cruise missiles over Syria both from Congress and from the American people.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Lobster fishing in Long Island Sound for both recreational and commercial fisheries was shut down on Sunday in an effort to replenish the lobster population in the Sound.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says it took this action  “in response to the low level of abundance and persistent low production of young lobsters seen over the past decade across the entire New England stock complex.”

The shutdown is set to run through Nov. 28 with Connecticut and New York State agencies acting under a plan put in place by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The memory of the wrath of Superstorm Sandy should remind Long Island to prepare for this year’s outbreak of severe weather, yet many respondents to a new survey said they’re not as prepared as they should be in case another storm slams into the East Coast.

A Weather Channel/American Red Cross poll showed that while 56 percent of New York and New Jersey coastal residents were very or somewhat concerned about being in harm’s way, only 49 percent said their Sandy experience has led them to plan for future storms.
John Miller, chief executive of the Red Cross on Long Island said that residents should create a family evacuation plan and get needed supplies and medications.

An 1800 square foot piece of land was auctioned off last week in East Hampton, and a heated bidding war between two neighbors resulted in a winning bid of $120,000.

Suffolk County officials say a Manhattan financier won the 1-foot-wide by-1,800-feet long property.  It stretches from the ocean to Montauk Highway amongst a tiny enclave of million-dollar houses in Napeague, west of Montauk.

Friday, September 6
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture report on hunger “food insecurity" in Connecticut has been on the rise.

Nancy Carrington, CEO of Connecticut Food Banks says "We distribute 36 tons of food every business day, and we know that it’s still not enough”.

The number of Connecticut households who say they don’t have a consistent, dependable supply of food has grown by nearly 6 percent since 2000 -- to 13.4 percent in 2012.

Only a handful of states, including Mississippi, Nevada and Missouri, had steeper hikes.

Connecticut’s food insecurity figures were still lower last year than the national average of 14.7 percent

The report also said that nearly 5 percent of Connecticut households faced “very low food security,” which means that food intake by some household members was reduced, and meals were skipped.

Lucy Nolan, executive director of Hartford-based End Hunger Connecticut!, said  Connecticut is taking longer than most other states to climb out of the recession. And there has been a growth of the food stamp program in the suburbs that has to do with jobs.

Nolan also noted that “Last year Connecticut was the worst state in child poverty, and the state also has the biggest gap between rich and poor."

Profitability was flat, but individual companies are beginning to make investments in new technology and employee training. That’s the good news according to this year’s annual survey by the Connecticut Business Industry Association and Blum Shapiro.

The survey was distributed to over 5000 businesses in June and July but only 377 companies responded.
Thomas Devitto, chief marketing officer at Blum Shapiro, believes the numbers presented reflect what the business community is feeling in the state.
The survey found that Connecticut’s economy is the greatest concern for 34 percent of the businesses in 2013, followed by 21 percent who feel it’s national economic uncertainties, 14 percent believe it’s the tax burden, 11 percent believe it’s the implementation of Obamacare, and 9 percent say it’s the cost of compliance with federal and state regulations.

DeVitto pointed out that the survey was sent out before the Obama administration postponed the large employer mandate until 2015.

The survey asked what companies were doing to prepare for implementation. The responses ranged from “no new hires” to “talking to advisors” and “raising deductibles to mitigate the price of increases.”

But the survey found a majority of businesses did not have enough information to proceed with formulating a plan for how to address it. 

Environmentalis are calling on Riverhead town officials to enact new zoning that would put the brakes on commercial development in Wading River.

Members of the  Long Island Pine Barrens Society and the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition want to restrict retail development west of Wading-River Manorville Road on Route 25A.

According to Dick Amper, president of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, the groups want "current and future town officials to complete the job of creating zoning that is appropriate to the small town character of the hamlet."
East End Beacon reports:

East Hampton’s bicycle committee wants to establish what could be the nation’s first beach that is accessible only by bicycle, somewhere along the Napeague stretch.

Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said “It would minimize despoilation of the natural dunes and encourage alternative transportation. It’s more ecologically beneficial to not have all that parking in dune areas.”

Ms. Quigley said the beach would have a lifeguard, handicapped parking spots and a turnaround for emergency vehicles, but otherwise only bicyclists would be allowed to park there. Town employees are scoping out possible sites now.

According to Ms. Quigley The bike committee in East Hampton is thinking big with proposals in the works for alternative routes through the woods throughout town, which would enable bicyclists to commute from, say, Sag Harbor to East Hampton without having to travel the same roads as cars.

Thursday, September 5

Civil rights groups are calling for new laws to regulate the use of Tasers following the death of a New Britain man subdued by a stun gun Tuesday. It was the second Taser-related death in Connecticut in three months and brings the total number of Taser-related deaths in Connecticut to 13 since 2005. Of those deaths, four occurred in New Britain and three in Meriden. Tasers have been considered a non-lethal weapon in a police officer's arsenal since they began to be widely used in Connecticut around 2005.
The ACLU and the NAACP of Connecticut want police to get training in Taser use and the NAACP wants a moratorium on Taser use until new regulations are written.

Taser International Inc. reports that more than 600,000 of their devices are in use throughout the world, and are used an estimated 900 times a day. The company says the devices have saved 1.8 million lives. They have not been tied directly to heart-attack deaths until recently.

In May 2011, The National Institute of Justice published a report saying current research does not support a substantially increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia. But last year, the American Heart Association journal, "Circulation," ran an article that found that Taser shocks, particularly those to the chest, can cause fatal ventricular fibrillation.

Shelton on Wednesday became the second city this week to call for a temporary ban on medical marijuana facilities. Ansonia adopted a one-year moratorium on such facilities Monday.
Shelton’s  Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously adopted a 9-month moratorium so officials can review new State regulations .

Rick Schultz, an administrator in the city’s Planning and Zoning office, said the 9-month moratorium will allow Shelton officials to develop regulations of their own regarding medicinal marijuana facilities.
But Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti said by the time the moratorium ends the question of any new applicants will probably be moot, due to the small number of licenses — 10 at the most — that will be available under the state law approving medicinal marijuana.

Though no applications for such facilities have been filed in Shelton, Schultz has said interested growers have inquired at his office in the past.

The Shelton moratorium takes effect Sept. 3.

New York News Connection reports:

New York homes wrecked by Superstorm Sandy are being rebuilt and weatherized with help from a variety of agencies and groups.

United Way and its Youth Build project, Long Island Community Development Corp.'s Weatherization Assistance Program and others all help low-income folks - especially older people - and those with disabilities - save energy and money as they renovate.

And then, there's Sol Goldstein, 81, and his volunteer group, Rebuilding Together Long Island, which is run mostly by retirees.  Ten months after the storm, Goldstein says, there are still more people for his volunteers to help. "They're living with relatives, living in hotels," he said. "They're looking for an organization like ours to try to get them back into their home before the hotel money dries up."

The work of these green-oriented rebuilding projects is overseen by Long Island V-O-A-D, or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, which coordinates referrals, identifies needs and guards against duplication of services.

United Way of Long Island's Youth Build program puts low-income young adults ages 18 to 24 to work in construction. Rick Wertheim, its senior vice president for housing and green initiatives, said the program folds in energy and weatherization retrofitting for storm-damaged homes.

Wertheim said "After the chaos comes all the opportunity. You just can't rebuild in a non-energy-conserving manner. You have to pay mind to making a house more energy-efficient than less."

Anyone seeking assistance is urged to dial 211.

If you are a homeowner in New York State, and receive an envelope from the state Department of Taxation and Finance in the next few days, it might cost you money to ignore it.

The tax department is notifying 2.6 million homeowners statewide reminding them that they have until the end of the year to register their School Tax Relief, or STAR, exemption with the state. The exemption can save hundreds of dollars or more.

This marks the first time since the tax relief program began 15 years ago that homeowners must register with the state in order to keep the exemption. Registration can be done on line or by phone.
STAR has traditionally been administered by local tax collectors, but under this program people must contact the state, which is handling the renewals in an effort to halt double dipping, since the STAR exemption applies only to a primary residence.
Over the past few years, it's become apparent that numerous New Yorkers who have moved to places like Florida but still own homes in New York have continued to claim the exemption.
 Wednesday, September 4

For now it seems that the federal government is not likely to crack down on Connecticut’s newly approved medical marijuana program.

In a memo released last Thursday, the Justice Department outlined priorities regarding aspects of regulation for states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but acknowledges as well that some states have approved its medical use.

The DOJ memo states “…the federal government has traditionally relied on states and local law enforcement agencies to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotic laws.”  The memo also says that the Justice Department feels that strictly regulated state programs are less likely to threaten the federal government’s enforcement priorities.

Connecticut’s medical marijuana program is known to be one of the most tightly regulated programs of its kind.  A legislative committee recently reviewed and approved the regulations for medical marijuana use, after being legalized in 2012.

Connecticut News Service reports:

With three weeks and counting until sign-up time for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act a local foundation says a new program, the “No Wrong Door” approach to coverage choices should help many.
Elizabeth Krause with the Connecticut Health Foundation says there is no faulting the idea behind “No Wrong Door,” because it means most people statewide should gain access to affordable health insurance no matter how they apply – by phone, online or through an insurance agent.

Krause says she expects an increase in enrollment in the thousands, cutting the Connecticut’s uninsured rate in half. But the state needs to update its technology, which means it could take two years before the program is seamlessly able to route locals to the assistance that they are eligible for, to find affordable health insurance.

Also, even with the “No Wrong Door” approach as many as 36-thousand non-English speakers could miss out on affordable coverage – so, the Connecticut Health Foundation is reaching out to groups that can help.


As reported by Newsday:

The Long Island Power Authority has raised customer bills twice this summer, this time by just over 4 percent for September.  The utility is citing higher energy costs during the high-demand air-conditioning season.
Ratepayers who use 770 kilowatt hours -- the average for a single-family residence -- will see a $6.21 jump in their September bill, on top of a $5.71 increase in August.

The 8.7 percent hike will show up in the power-supply portion of customer bills, which makes up around half the monthly total.

This month the charge jumps to 10.06 cents a kilowatt hour, from 9.25 cents last month.
LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said the cost of oil was a major factor in this month’s increase.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a LIPA reform bill in July, fulfilling the goal of a three-year rate freeze, including 2013.  But that freeze applies only to the cost of delivering the power, not the cost of the power, most of which must be purchased from outside Long Island.

Last week, LIPA announced that the 2013 budget for solar rebates had run out, and rebates would be suspended for the rest of the year. LIPA added that they might be eliminated entirely in 2014 if systems continue to sell well this year without rebates.

That would allow LIPA to save around $28 million in next year's budget, when it must begin paying new non-reimbursed costs, such as $80 million for Superstorm Sandy.

Tuesday, September 3
Over the weekend, protesters gathered on a corner in downtown New Haven to protest President Obama's move toward bombing Syria; he blames the regime of Bashar al Assad for a chemical weapons attack that killed over a thousand people. But some at the rally said Obama's decision to have Congress weigh in on the matter provides a window for action. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

Several speakers said it was unlikely the Syrian government carried out the attack, but in any case protesters demanded the U.S. wait for the U.N. inspectors' report before taking any action. Henry Lowendorf with the Greater New Haven Peace Council said Obama's decision to consult Congress -- as is required under the Constitution -- was the result of some members of Congress pushing for that, as well as strong opposition from the public for military action.

 Some of the protesters said they didn't trust Obama to wait for a vote from Congress, which doesn't reconvene from summer recess until Sept. 9.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.
Protest organizers are asking people to call the White House at 202.456.1111 to urge President Obama not to bomb Syria.
An overflow crowd of over 100 flooded the community room at West Hartford Town Hall on Monday for a forum scheduled by U.S. Representative John Larson. Larson wanted to discuss the possibility of a military intervention by the U.S. in the ongoing civil war in Syria. 

The Obama administration says an attack on civilians using a banned chemical weapon came from the government of Bashar al Assad. Russia, as well as some in the U.S. dispute that conclusion.

Outside the meeting, about 70 people, many of whom identified themselves as Syrian Americans, held a rally chanting for the U.S. to “act now” to end the violence.

Inside, Larson tried to allow speakers one minute each. A variety of opinions were voiced but a majority appeared to oppose U.S. military intervention and many urged caution going forward.

Over the Labor Day weekend the Connecticut Labor Department announced the recovery of $6.5 million in workers’ unpaid wages during the last fiscal year. The Department found amounts due for unmet minimum wages, unpaid overtime, and unpaid wages altogether.

The Labor Department’s wage and workplace standards division investigated hundreds of violations pertaining to employers failing to keep required personnel files or breaking rules regarding workers under 18 years of age. Additionally, the department issued 181 stop work orders to employers who were not properly compensating workers.

Governor Dannel Malloy said “Working men and women should receive the wages they rightfully earned, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are paid for the jobs they do.”

Towns and large villages across Long Island saw unemployment rates drop in July, as the region continues to inch back from the high joblessness wrought by the Great Recession in 2009.

Nassau and Suffolk Counties combined had a 6.2 percent jobless rate in July, compared to 7.8 percent in July of 2012. 

In Suffolk, Lindenhurst Village had the highest jobless rate at 8.1 percent. Meanwhile, Babylon represented the township with the highest unemployment, at 7.4 percent.

The New York State Police entrance exam is being given for the first time since 2008. Those who pass the test will get on an eligibility list that will remain in effect for four years.
The exams will be held each weekend in October at various locations throughout the state.
Candidates must be between 20 and 29 years old and have 60 college credits at the time of appointment.
Online applications must be submitted by Sunday September 8.

More information, is available on line at NYtrooper.com


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