Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January 2014

Friday, January 31 - updated 02-01-14

A federal court judge ruled Thursday that the state’s new gun control law passes constitutional muster, even if it is a burden on gun owners.

The ruling comes from U.S. District Court Judge Alfred Covello on a lawsuit filed last May in response to new gun control regulations passed by the legislature last year.

The plaintiffs, including the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, gun store owners, and individual citizens alleged that the law was unconstitutional and provisions within it were too vague to apply.

The judge’s decision reads. “The court concludes that the legislation is constitutional. While the act burdens the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights, it is substantially related to the important governmental interest of public safety and crime control,”
The judge agreed that some of the law’s language was vague, but not enough to make the law unconstitutional.
Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson said the plaintiffs may appeal the decision.

State regulators said Wednesday they are reopening their review of plans for Connecticut’s two largest electric utilities and telecommunications companies to trim or remove trees.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority – P U R A - will hold at least two new public hearings and a series of technical meetings to review the companies’ plans.

PURA’s decision to further delay action on the tree-trimming docket and reopen it to allow additional public input drew praise from the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

Zachary Bestor, of the New Haven-based Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said 

“Roadside trees provide so many well-documented benefits to our communities — higher property values, shade, cleaner air, reduced erosion and storm water runoff, and beautiful streets — that we must think very carefully before removing them unnecessarily.”

UI will discuss with PURA officials the feedback it got from its customers at public meetings held earlier this and explore additional options that could leave intact some trees within the company’s “utility protection zone” — an area extending 8 feet from either side of overhead electric lines, from ground to sky.

Long Island electric utility customers will see another increase in charges due to rising natural gas prices tied to the polar cold snap.
Typical residential bills will increase by around $5.25 next month after a January spike of $17.
PSEG, the operator of the Long Island Power Authority grid said the power supply charge for February will rise to about 11.6 cents a kilowatt-hour - a jump from January's 10.9 cents a kilowatt-hour.  Last summer the charge was under 9 cents a kilowatt-hour.

The power supply charge, which makes up around half of customer bills, includes the utility's cost of providing fuel to power plants and buying energy. 

The cost of delivering the power – the remainder of the customer bill - rarely changes.  Governor Cuomo promised a three-year freeze in that charge following passage of his LIPA reform act last year.
Newsday reported Friday that the federal sharpshooter program to reduce the East End deer population has cut the number of animals it plans to kill to about 1,000 from the original 2 to 3 thousand because some towns have declined to participate .  Opposition in East Hampton caused both the Town and Village governments to drop out of the plan.

The Town of Southold along with state park properties and some private farms is the sole municipality participating.

The USDA sharpshooters, all federal employees, will work in either mobile or stationary teams.

Mobile teams of three will include a marksman equipped with a noise-suppressed rifle, a light spotter and a driver. The shooter is elevated so that any shot that misses will be deflected to the ground. The bullet used is designed not to leave the animal.

Also stationary shooters will take deer as they move through. 

The cull, will begin mid-February, and will continue into March.

Officials say safety is the primary aim of the teams. While licensed hunters by law cannot shoot within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling, that restriction is waived for the federal deer shooters who can go as close as needed, subject to the property owners' permission.

Hunting will take place at night because deer are nocturnal feeders

Shooters will primarily target female deer because it's a more effective means of controlling the population.

On Shelter Island a deer “nuisance season” will run from February 1 through March 31. Local hunters with special state licenses will participate.

Riverhead Town has a program that allows local hunters to kill deer. 


Thursday, January 30

Thirteen months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the fight over gun control is heating up in Connecticut. Only this time, it’s gun control supporters who are bringing the fight.

On Monday, Governor Dannel Malloy left the door open for the legislature to offer amnesty to gun owners who filed late registrations under Connecticut’s new assault weapons ban.

By Wednesday, Connecticut Against Gun Violence began mobilizing its supporters against amnesty.

The issue concerns assault weapon applications and high-capacity magazine declarations postmarked after the registration deadline. Gun owners registered about 50,000 rifles and 38,000 high capacity magazines before the deadline, but several hundred came in late.

Connecticut Against Gun Violence is asking its members to tell legislators to oppose any sort of amnesty for late registrations. However, they add that if amnesty is going to be granted, they would like to repeal a law that exempts assault weapons manufactured before September 1993 from the ban. The group argues that the statute creates a serious loophole in the new law.

Since the Sandy Hook shootings, at least 9,900 people have died from gun violence nationwide.
Several dozen residents attended an information session Wednesday night at Gateway Community College in New Haven to learn more about a major new development that will occupy the former Coliseum site. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there:

The developer is LiveLWorkLearnPlay, and the project includes a hotel, a thousand housing units, retail, offices and open space. City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg explained some of the challenges, including slowing cars down coming off the highway onto city streets. 

Construction is expected to start this summer.
Like Phase I currently under construction near Yale New Haven Hospital, the second phase depends on removing the Route 34 Connector and building street-level boulevards. Deputy Development Administrator Mike Piscitelli explained the project.

He said the developer is partnering with New Haven Works to open job opportunities for city residents at all skill levels.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Riverhead Patch reports:
A group of irate professionals and parents met in Riverhead Wednesday night to discuss the controversial Common Core curriculum and how it’s affecting Long Island children.
Clinical social worker Maria Calamia testified to the New York State Assembly about the damage she believes children are suffering under the Common Core. She said her phone started ringing in October with upset parents calling about the very serious stress-related effects and damage the Common Core has had on their kids.

To help parents get their kids through the current school year, Calamaia suggested that parents have their children opt out of testing, encourage and support their children’s strengths and reinforce that testing and schoolwork don’t define them.

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo said after 11 parent forums around the state, Albany is listening. Governor Cuomo has responded and may allow a three-year moratorium. Palumbo said the goal is that the New York State Assembly adopt new legislation.

Palumbo urged residents to keep writing, calling and sending emails to the legislators.
 Wednesday, January 29

In response to frustrated teachers, administrators, and parents, Governor Dannel Malloy and legislative leaders are asking the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council to give school districts the flexibility to delay the new teacher evaluation system.

It was scheduled to go into effect simultaneously with new Common Core State Standards.

Lawmakers are asking that school districts be given greater flexibility in implementing the evaluations and reducing the number of classroom observations to one. It also asked the Council to create a subcommittee of classroom teachers to share the obstacles they face.

Malloy was expected to address the advisory council at a meeting today.

Harwinton teacher Linda Hall said, “Teachers have been cut, programs have been cut, and more money is spent on resources for testing, national standards, and propaganda….We need more educators who work directly with children in the classroom.”

The Education Department also announced Tuesday it was killing plans to spend $1 million on a PR campaign to promote the Common Core.

Connecticut will allow four companies to grow medical marijuana at facilities in West Haven, Portland, Simsbury, and Watertown.

Governor Malloy and Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein made the announcement Tuesday at a West Haven warehouse which will be converted into a growing facility by Advanced Grow Labs LLC.

Rubenstein said. “We have selected four producers who will create state-of-the-art production facilities capable of ensuring that pharmaceutical-grade marijuana is available to seriously ill patients whose doctors believe this marijuana will be beneficial to them.”

The four new growing facilities are expected to create a total of around 100 jobs in their first year of operation.

The four companies also have “robust” plans for “compassionate need programs” designed to help some indigent patients who cannot afford medical marijuana.

Indian Country Today reports:
Two representatives of Long Island and Connecticut Indian nations spoke at a conference on the Federal recognition process for native tribes last week at Arizona State University.

Lance Gumbs of The Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton and Ruth Torres of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Kent described their experiencs over decades attempting to obtain recognition - starting before the Federal Indian Gaming Act allowed casinos on native land.

Gumbs described how the Shinnecock Indian Nation was petitioner number 4 on the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ list of tribes seeking federal recognition in 1978, soon after the agency established the criteria for recognition.

Thirty-two years and $33 million later in June 2010, the BIA acknowledged the Shinnecock Nation.

Three or four days later, the tribe got another letter from the BIA.

Gumbs said. “It was an internal memo from inside the Office of Federal Acknowledgement saying the Shinnecock Tribe is indeed a tribe and they should be recognized expeditiously. And that letter was dated from 1979.”

The Shinnecock Nation’s experience is typical of a process that’s been described as broken, long, expensive, burdensome, intrusive, unfair, arbitrary, less than transparent, and subject to undue political influence and manipulation.

Indigenous leaders say it reflects a culture of neglect on the part of the federal government.
The Schaghticoke’s Torres said, along with the success of Indian gaming, came a backlash of political opposition that effectively put the brakes on federal recognition.  It led to a reversal of recognition for both the Schaghticoke and the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nations.

She talked about events in May 2005 that worked in concert toward reversal of her tribe’s federal status:  an appeal of the decision by then Connecticut Attorney General - now Senator - Blumenthal, the hostility toward the tribe publicly expressed by Kent residents, and a House Committee hearing that featured some of the most zealous opponents Indian gaming and Indian peoples in politics.

Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was in Albany this week lobbying on behalf of his think tank, the Center for Cost-Effective Government, which wants to get rid of what’s known as the Triborough Amendment.
The 1982 amendment to the state’s Taylor Law allows municipal union workers to keep receiving some benefits after their contracts expire.
Southold Town workers, who are at impasse with Town Hall over a contract that expired at the end of 2012, are currently working under the provisions of the Triborough Amendment.

They are not expecting a new contract for at least several months. The bill to eliminate the amendment is sponsored by St. James Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, but currently has no sponsor in the State Senate.

Tuesday, January 28
The Connecticut Post reports:
The state Department of Education says the Bridgeport school district systematically failed to identify students eligible for special education and must now take corrective action.

In response to an October 2013 complaint filed by the Center for Children's Advocacy, the state conducted an investigation and determined the district violated its obligations to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state law.

Most of the examples cited in the complaint were from the 2012-13 school year, when there was an effort to reduce special education costs under outgoing Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas.

The city school district must submit a formal response to the state by Thursday.

Under federal law, every school district must identify, locate and evaluate all students who need -- or are suspected to need -- special education or related services.  Students who are chronically failing, misbehaving or absent should receive evaluations.
An attorney for the Center for Children's Advocacy said a shrinking number of school staff, social workers, guidance counselors and psychologists made the problem worse.

The Bridgeport district has now commissioned an outside agency to conduct an audit of the district's special education program. The district also has a team of central office staff working to improve accountability at individual schools. 
The Connecticut Post reports Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch will co-host a February 6 forum at Roosevelt School to defend his proposal to lease the ridge of the shuttered Seaside Park landfill to United Illuminating for a 9,000-panel solar field.

The idea for the forum was first floated by members of the City Council's Contracts Committee, which recently tabled a vote on a 20-year lease with UI because the company had no visuals of what the field would look like.

The committee's concerns were exacerbated when UI suggested the solar field may be surrounded by a fence with barbed wire for security.

Freshman Councilman Rick Torres says the installation would mar the city's shoreline and its waterfront view from the Black Rock neighborhood he represents.

Councilman Jack Banta, favors the solar panels and says he sees no other use for the landfill.

Torres and others believe the land should be left untouched or incorporated back into Seaside Park.

Finch says transforming the landfill into parkland would be too expensive, while UI would pay the city about $7 million over 20 years in taxes and rent.

Newsday reports that more than 9,700 Suffolk residents listened to an hour-long telephone town hall meeting Monday night about the county’s nitrogen-polluted waters. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone hosted the meeting. He directly addressed the public and answered questions.

Bellone said addressing the nitrogen water problem, which pollutes bays, contaminates the aquifer and harms tidal wetlands, is his administration’s top priority.

They will identify sites for new sewers or other improvements as well as the most environmentally sensitive areas, and have a cost estimate. It will be costly, and his administration will find potential funding sources.

Bellone said, "The cost of sewering is extraordinarily expensive. We have to make sure we're prioritizing, so we get bang for the buck."

About 70 percent of homes in the county are on septic systems, which leach nitrogen into the water table, primarily from urine.

David Kapell of the Rauch Foundation, a Long Island-based nonprofit, said it has pledged $1.5 million toward a clean water lobbying campaign launched by environmental groups.

The Suffolk Times reports:
While local hunters have been calling for reduced hunting regulations during months of spirited debate over a planned deer cull expected to start next month, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he favors reducing bow hunting setbacks throughout the state.

East End assemblymen Anthony Palumbo and Fred Thiele have said they’re making it a priority to pass a bill this legislative session that would, reduce bow hunting setbacks from 500 feet from a structure to 150 feet. A version of that bill stalled in the Assembly’s economic conservation committee last year after passing the state Senate.

Mike Tessitore, with Hunters for Deer, said on Monday that the governor’s suggestion still shows that he doesn’t recognize the challenges that hunters on Long Island face amid an overpopulation of deer.

He said additional measures should be taken to relax the regulations on Long Island. Hunters for Deer has opposed the US Agriculture Department program planned to cull deer on the east end since it will use techniques that are illegal under state law.
Monday, January 27

On Friday, Governor Dannel Malloy proposed an additional $7.2 million in mental health services be added to his budget. This includes $2.2 million for Rental Assistance Program vouchers, $5 million to increase mental health services to young adults, and an unspecified amount for crisis intervention training for police officers.
Malloy’s proposal would make it mandatory for all police to receive the training some time in the next three years.

The Governor said “While we in Connecticut have always been proud of our mental health system, the tragedy of Sandy Hook has caused us to identify the need to do better.” 

The Connecticut Labor Department sent out 250,000 tax forms to individuals who collected unemployment compensation in 2013 and 27,000 of those forms included information about other individuals.
Due to an error in the printing process, the forms contain the correct information on the top portion of the form, while the bottom half of the document contains information pertinent to another individual.

Because the forms contain social security numbers, the agency will also contact claimants that received incorrect forms to offer credit protection. It is also re-printing and mailing the forms again.  The new mailing will contain the corrected 1099-G and an addressed, pre-paid envelope so the incorrect form can be mailed back to the Connecticut Department of Labor.

A hundred New Haveners gathered in a church basement on Saturday to discuss ways to bring more voices into discussions of public policy. This was the first community gathering of the Peoples' Caucus, a breakaway group on the New Haven Board of Alders who vowed to offer an alternative to the Democratic Party leadership.

Doug Rae, a Yale professor of political science and former top city official, said, “You’ve got to have a positive and run with it.”  He also stressed the need for organizations to “overcome factionalism.”
Caucus co-founder and newly elected alder Michael Stratton, said the six-alder caucus is “not an opposition party,” but a group committed to developing a legislative agenda “from the people.” He added, “We welcome union people. We welcome non-union people,” even though Caucus members have been critical of leaders of Yale’s UNITE/HERE 

Locals 34 and 35, which supported the supermajority that now exists on the Board of Aldermen and holds leading party positions.

As reported by the Albany Times Union:

The board of directors of New York State United Teachers, the state’s powerful teachers union, called Saturday for the ouster of state Education Commissioner John King over his handling of the implementation of the Common Core.

The NYSUT 80-member board of directors unanimously approved the symbolic but unprecedented resolution, which states the board has "no confidence in the policies of the Commissioner of Education."

NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi [eye-an-u-zee] said the resolution was prompted by King’s “policies and his insistence in pursuing those policies in a way that's damaging to instruction in New York state”

NYSUT has no legal authority over King, who reports to the state's appointed Board of Regents. But the unprecedented vote sends a strong message as King and the Regents encounter mounting criticism over the state's implementation of the new Common Core learning standards.

East Hampton could enter the top tier of municipalities powered by solar energy, if Long Island’s electric utility, now managed by P-S-E-G accepts the town’s solar proposals.

While towns throughout the East End are sending their solar wish lists to PSEG for a second round of renewable energy feed-ins to the region’s electric grid, East Hampton is in the unique position of being located in an energy-starved corner of the island. PSEG is willing to pay a premium of seven cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, more than anywhere else.

Installing solar on town properties could defer, reduce or eliminate the need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new electric infrastructure. That’s because solar power would reduce the load on the grid. East Hampton is proposing 40 megawatts of solar energy generation.

Friday, January 24
Governor Dannel Malloy tried his best to dance around questions Thursday about whether he would look to use the nearly $1 billion in excess revenues the state is expected to realize at the end of the year on some type of tax relief.

Earlier in the day Thursday, Republican lawmakers proposed using about $247 million for tax relief to businesses and individuals who purchase clothing, footwear, and over-the-counter medications.
Malloy didn’t comment directly on the Republican proposals.

He is expected to unveil his budget adjustments when the legislature convenes on February 5.
Malloy estimated projected revenues would increase nearly $500 million over the next three years.
He told reporters Thursday “I take great pride in being a governor who inherited a state with a $3.6 billion deficit. We did some extraordinary things to turn that around.”

Also on Thursday, Governor Malloy nominated Robert Klee, an environmental scientist and lawyer, to head the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Klee, who is 39, has been DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty’s chief of staff for the past three years.

He was a lawyer specializing in appellate work and environmental law. 
Klee will take over on February 3 when Esty returns to Yale.
Many state and local education and security officials held a news conference at New Haven's Wilbur Cross High School on Thursday to discuss "hardening" school security. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus was there.

The administration of Governor Dannel Malloy made $21 million in grants available last year to more than 600 schools to enhance security, and Malloy announced that he'll make another $10 million available.
That money includes ballistic-resistant glass, entry door buzzer systems, panic alarms, and more.
New Haven Schools Superintendent Garth Harries explained what the money for his district will go for.
Harries:  “strengthening our camera systems which are an important part of our communication infrastructure and the connection of those cameras directly to emergency response.”
Donald DeFronzo, head of the Department of Administrative Services, said state government is assuming a new role and broader responsibility on this issue.

DeFronzo:  “for the first time we will be establishing state wide preventative safety design standards and are going to require local school districts to take a more comprehensive and a more uniform approach to school safety measures at the local level”

Education officials also spoke and said the enhanced security is necessary to enable students to learn in school.

Connecticut has 1,300 schools serving 600,000 students pre-K through 12th grade.
Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Reviews are still coming in following Governor Cuomo’s budget proposals for the coming fiscal year. Mark Scheerer reports the state’s teachers union has a thumbs-up, thumbs-down reaction.

Some of the education related aspects sounded good to the teachers union.
Cuomo’s commitment to universal pre-kindergarten and his critical focus on problems with the common core curriculum were noted favorably.

But numbers crunched in a new NYCED report shows 69% of New York’s school districts, starting the 2014-15 school year, with less money than they received 5 years ago.

The Union’s chief Dick Ianuzzi: “That’s a very difficult thing to accept if you are a school district trying to meet higher standards and trying to have college and career ready students.”

The proposed education budget total school aid increase of almost 603 million dollars should be closer to 1.5 billion according to the education conference board.

The Albany Times-Union reports: A power struggle has started between New York State Education Commissioner John King and the Senate Education Committee. Lawmakers stated at a Thursday hearing that they want King to slow or delay the rollout of the Common Core standard tests.
This is the latest development in a yearlong debate, with complaints from teachers, their unions, and parents about the way the state has introduced the national Common Core program and tests that come with it.
King said he will try to respond to lawmakers’ concerns but doesn’t want to abandon the program. He insisted the exams, some federally mandated, provide valuable information on how teachers and students perform.
New York State United Teachers has called for a three-year moratorium on using the tests to evaluate teachers.
Regents exams incorporating Common Core standards won’t be fully implemented until 2017.
It is unclear how lawmakers could force changes in the program.
King said legislators could discuss moving the Regents exam deadlines beyond 2017.

Thursday, January 23

It may not be a true polar vortex, but as far as the independent system operator - or ISO -  that runs New England’s power grid is concerned – it might as well be.

As happened two weeks ago, ISO New England posted power alerts system-wide since Tuesday night, meaning power generators that feed the grid must all be available. No routine maintenance or testing is allowed.
And as happened two weeks ago, natural gas prices are running high since some of the natural gas is being diverted for heating. And once again the region’s plants are burning a whole lot of oil and coal.
Oil was accounting for more than 20 percent of the generation Wednesday. Normally it averages less than one percent. Coal has been running about seven percent of the fuel mix. Normally it averages about three percent.
Early Wednesday afternoon power demand was running above the predicted demand for the day, with peak power period still several hours away.

UnitedHealthcare’s decision to drop physicians from its Medicare Advantage network last October became the center of attention Wednesday during a U.S. Senate hearing in Hartford.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal blasted United Health care decision to drop an estimated 2,200 doctors from its network as “playing Russian roulette with the health of its patients.”

Concerns were raised that poor patients who found their doctor dropped from the plan would not be able to find transportation to covered doctors. And policy-holders are having trouble even getting information from the insurer about whether or not their doctor is in the plan.

One Norwalk resident with stage 5 kidney disease said five of his doctors received cancellation notices and he’s been working to make sure he can still continue seeing his doctors. He continues to call United Healthcare, but every time he calls he gets a different answer.

Technically, none of the doctors will be removed until Feb. 1, but there’s no opportunity after that date to cancel a Medicare Advantage plan.

United Healthcare said Wednesday that the changes the company made to the network were in the interest of its members.

The Albany Times-Union reports:
It's not often that a Democratic governor criticizes a Democrat in the White House, but Governor Andrew Cuomo and his staff did everything short of that during Tuesday's budget presentation.
The topic was a long-awaited "waiver'' - an infusion of $10 billion over five years from the federal Medicaid system to help reinvent and streamline the state's hospitals.

The money is being sought in exchange for reforms to Medicaid that are expected to save the federal government $17 billion over five years.

A waiver would cycle $10 billion of the savings back to the state.
Texas and California received similar waivers but New York is still waiting after 18 months and several revisions to its plan.

Cuomo's secretary, Larry Schwartz says three Brooklyn hospitals are in jeopardy.
They serve thousands of indigent people who rely on Medicaid, the federal/state insurance program for the poor.

One of these, Long Island College Hospital, has been cited for closure by the state university system, which runs it.

Unions and local groups have kept it running after seeking a court injunction. 
The $10 billion waiver would also include upstate hospitals.

The waiver money would help with ongoing efforts to shift the way troubled hospitals provide care.
Currently, their emergency rooms serve as de facto doctors' offices for the indigent people.
To change that, the state Health Department has developed managed care programs for Medicaid recipients. Patients then can make an appointment with a doctor rather than using a far costlier emergency room.

A coalition of progressive groups announced Wednesday afternoon that it would launch grassroots efforts to kill what it described as giveaways to the wealthy in Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Ron Deutsch of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness said “Right now, we cannot afford to spend a $2 billion surplus on tax cuts for the wealthiest New Yorkers,”

He singled out proposed changes to the estate tax and reduced business taxes as “a misguided effort” in a state with what advocates says is the nation’s most profound income inequality.

The coalition includes the Working Families Party, New York State United Teachers, the state AFL-CIO and the Communications Workers of America, plus advocacy groups such as MoveOn, the Hunger Action Network and Community Voices Heard.

Wednesday, January 22

The latest winter storm is stretching capacity at Connecticut homeless shelters to the limit, but advocates say preparations have been made to ensure nobody is forced to stay out in the cold.

Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness says some shelters are operating at 120 percent of capacity. With the "severe weather protocol" in effect, she said, measures are in place to ensure that no one is turned away.

Helping agencies are ensuring that every inch of local shelter space is being made available during the storm, When the extreme weather event passes, she said, they will also be working to get people into transitional and more permanent housing.

Local hospitals still are treating some homeless people who did not make it into shelter during the first polar vortex earlier this month.

Bates says whether you are out in the cold or know somebody who is - help is available at the United Way of Connecticut Hotline – 211.

If shelters in a particular area reach the point where nobody else can be accommodated, she said, backup plans are at the ready, including a voucher system for rooms at nearby motels.

Reported by CT News Service

Governor Dannel Malloy’s Budget Director Ben Barnes projected the state will end the year $506 million in the black.
The state’s surplus has nearly doubled over the past two months.
Most of the increase is related to additional revenue the state received from its tax amnesty program. Barnes also reported spending will be $80 million below budget.
Malloy, in a statement, said the report “highlights the continued progress we have made in turning a record-setting $3.6 billion deficit to a surplus of more than $500 million.”
However, the Office of Fiscal Analysis predicted deficits ranging from $1.1 to $1.4 billion for the next four fiscal years if the state continues spending at current levels.
Barnes says this contrasts with the smaller and decreasing deficits.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero argued that Malloy changed the fiscal and budget assumptions to make it appear as if the state’s debt is decreasing when “we are borrowing more now than we ever have before.”
The projected state indebtedness including bonding is set to hit $20.8 billion on June 30 but it was just under $20 billion when Malloy took office. 

Over a hundred concerned residents attended a meeting last week at the Hamden Middle School to learn about United Illuminating's plan to cut trees near power lines in order to reduce power outages during storms. The statewide plan has already been approved by state regulators for both UI and CL&P.

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:

UI's Jim Cole presented a detailed PowerPoint slide show about the impact of trees in causing outages.

Cole: There’s thousands of tree locations here that damage our infrastructure.  Pretty much 90% of all the damage on the electric system – on an overhead system is caused by the trees"

He explained the process by which UI plans to remove trees and branches within 8 feet of its infrastructure, saying homeowners could appeal any decision they disagree with.

Hamdenite James Van Pelt said it seems the action is coming now as a response to climate change, where the utilities are expecting more massive storms like the ones that hit the region in the past couple of years.

Van Pelt: “yet what they have not been told is that trees are a major cause of mitigating climate change. Trees sequester tons and tons of carbon.”

A six-month pilot project is set to begin in Hamden, Orange, Shelton and Bridgeport, but Cole said it wouldn't begin until after more informational meetings.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Governor Cuomo issued a $142 billion 2014-2015 New York state budget proposal yesterday. The Albany Times Union reports it would keep spending growth below 2 percent while including a 3.8 percent increase for education.  

Education spending would rise to $21.9 billion, including the first $100 million of a five-year, $1.5 billion commitment to pay for universal pre-K.

Cuomo also is proposing a $2 billion bond act — to be considered by voters in November — that would be used to improve technology in classrooms and fund school infrastructure improvements, including facilities for universal pre-K.

He also called for a 10-year extension of the state’s Brownfields Cleanup Program, with a focus on upstate sites.

Medicaid funding would rise 4.6 percent or $2.6 billion; non-Medicaid spending at the Department of Health would drop $519 million or 11.2 percent. 

Tuesday, January 21

One long-time New Haven prison reform advocate says she's happy others have joined her cause, as a new coalition held a rally outside New Haven City Hall last night. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

The rally drew old-time activists and new recruits to the Amistad statue in front of city hall. Barbara Fair, who has worked for decades on criminal justice reform, was delighted to see people come together.

Fair: "We had people not only from the New Haven community but the faith community involved in issues like mass incarceration and the war on drugs"

Tisa Wenger, a member of the Anti-Racism Task Force of the Unitarian Society in Hamden, explained the new coalition is called Decarcerate Connecticut.

Wenger: "which is aiming of course to tackle the problems of mass incarceration which is disproportionately targeting people of color."

The group is calling on Connecticut lawmakers to improve prison conditions, reduce the Prison Population, cut the prison budget and invest instead in low-income communities that send almost all prisoners into the system.

They are circulating a people's resolution to get more funding for job training and educational support for young people, to put an end to the so-called "school to prison pipeline." They also want to reduce the prison population through alternatives to incarceration and improve conditions for those who are in the state's prisons.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

African American Republicans in the state used Martin Luther King Day on Monday to reach out to other like-minded voters. Regina Roundtree, founder of Connecticut Black Republicans and Conservatives, is hoping to help Republicans make in-roads into the state’s urban communities, long bastions of Democratic support. Roundtree, a Farmington Republican, outlined her initiative Monday during a press conference at the Capitol. She said she hopes that an issues-based approach will resonate in urban communities. 

Roundtree plans to target several Connecticut cities for outreach this year: including Hartford, Windsor, New London, Meriden, New Haven, Waterbury, and Bridgeport. 
She said her strategy is to build a grassroots movement around policies like education and job training. 

Governor Malloy used the Martin Luther King Day celebration Monday to call upon the legislature to codify his executive order of last year creating an Office of Early Childhood.

Creation of the new agency was stymied in the last few hours of the legislative session by partisan bickering. 

Malloy said in a press release, “A smart, coordinated system that makes sure we are providing quality services to the children who need them is an important part of our effort to give everyone in our state the chance to succeed throughout their lives.”

Senator Toni Boucher, the ranking Republican on the legislature’s Education Committee, agrees early learning for this age group is critical to future success. But she thinks having an Office of Early Childhood under the state Department of Education “makes a great deal of sense.”

The state budget allocated $127 million in the first year and $232 million in the second year for creation of the office and the services it provides. Malloy argues that it’s a consolidation of services and not an expansion of government.  

About 300 people turned out for a rally in East Hampton Saturday to voice their opposition to the sharpshooter deer cull program.  

East Hampton Town and Village, and Southold Town, have agreed to a program that would eliminate 2,000 to 3,000 deer on the East End. The Long Island Farm Bureau secured $200,000 in grant funding for the United States Department of Agriculture's sharpshooter program to reduce the number of deer.

Demonstrators held signs that said, "No Science? No Cull!" and "Save the Deer," and "Please Don't Kill My Mommy."

Patricia Hope, a former biology teacher attended the rally to pass out fliers reading "Culling East Hampton's Deer Herds: There Is A Better Way To Do It."
Hope, a member of the East Hampton School Board favors contraception to reduce the herd."
She wants to see the town research a method of birth control without the chemicals that contaminate other species.

Meanwhile the Shelter Island Reporter says:

“Small vermin fans can rejoice: There won’t be a band of sharpshooters or local hunters with bow or shotgun pursuing mice on Shelter Island.

Members of Town Board’s Deer and Tick Committee discussed what homeowners could do to try to curb the presence of mice that carry ticks.

They discussed giving a tickicide specifically for mice to residents. But Dr. Scott Campbell, a committee member and official at the County Department of Health said it would be impractical.

The committee is focusing attention on culling the herd through recreational hunting. During the eight-week shotgun season a $100 reward from an unidentified donor will go each week to the hunter who bags the most deer and a grand prize will be awarded at the end of the season. 

Monday, January 20

Gun owners in Connecticut registered about 50,000 assault rifles before the January 1 deadline according to state officials.

That rough estimate comes more than two weeks after the deadline to register banned rifles and ammunition magazines — steps required by last year’s gun control legislation passed in response to the Sandy Hook shooting.

The bill increased the number of guns prohibited in Connecticut and banned ammunition magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds. Residents who owned the newly-banned items before the law were required to register or declare them to the state prior to Jan. 1, if they wanted to keep them.

Prior to the deadline, gun owners formed long lines outside state police offices to present the required documents. Others choose to mail the paperwork.

Psychology professors from Stony Brook University and Yale University on Friday told the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission that autistic children are at risk of social isolation, but are not more violent than the general population.

Dr. Matthew Lerner, a psychology professor from Stony Brook, told the commission:
“Having autism does not mean you’re likely to commit a violent crime,” 

He said autistic individuals do, however, display traits that sometimes bring them into contact with the criminal justice system.
Those traits include obsessive compulsive and impulsive behavior and an inability to understand social cues.

Lerner said almost none of the literature on the topic points to an autistic child planning a mass murder like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The commission is searching for a public policy response to the shooting by Adam Lanza who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
The commission chair, Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, has been trying to set up a meeting with Peter Lanza, the gunman’s father to see if he can find out more about Adam Lanza’s medical condition.

Connecticut's senior U.S. Senator, Richard Blumenthal, has joined 57 other senators to sponsor a bi-partisan bill that would severely tighten sanctions on Iran if it doesn't meet all U.S. demands to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability on a strict timeline.

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:

In an interview with WPKN, Blumenthal insisted that the bill actually supports President Obama's position of diplomatic engagement. But the White House says a vote for new sanctions would be, in effect, a “march toward war.”

Blumenthal, one of 16 Democrats supporting the bill, disagrees with that assessment. He said the timing of the sanctions measure "would toughen sanctions only if and when negotiations fail."  

His office sent a summary of the bill from AIPAC -- the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- listing the draconian measures that would be required should negotiations fail, just one of which would drive down Iranian oil exports almost to zero.

In this instance, peace activists agree with Obama.  Henry Lowendorf from the Greater New Haven Peace Council was one of a group protesting Blumenthal's position Friday on a downtown New Haven street corner. As for the timing issue, he said,

“How long would you like to have someone hold a gun to your head and negotiate with you over what you are doing?

And that’s what this is – a gun to the head of the Iranian government.

The Iranian government has said this could kill the Negotiations.

Obama said this could kill the negotiations."

Lowendorf noted that Israel has opposed Obama's diplomatic opening with Iran.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News
Consumer watchdogs say New Yorkers pay some of the highest utility rates in the nation, and a new report finds they also are paying tens of millions in legal costs to raise those rates. More from Mike Clifford of New York News Connection:

Bronx Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz is calling on Governor Cuomo and fellow lawmakers to create a consumer utility advocate's office. Right now, he says, utility customers have very little clout when it comes to rate increases. Even worse, he says, New York consumers are footing the bill whenever utility companies go to bat to raise their rates.

Dinowitz: "They have lawyers, they have all sorts of expenses – that expense goes into the rate increase. So, consumers are actually paying, right now, to help raise the rates that consumers pay. It’s unbelievable."

Dinowitz says Governor Cuomo could provide major help to New Yorkers this week, by including funding for a consumer utility advocate office when he releases his executive budget Tuesday.

The Albany Times-Union reports: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they would re-elect Governor Andrew Cuomo in a recent Siena College poll.

Most New Yorkers said they support Cuomo’s move toward medical marijuana with nearly half saying they would skip the pilot stage with distribution from 20 hospitals.  
 Friday January 17:

At Thursday’s Democratic nominating convention Representative Gary Holder-Winfield of New Haven received unanimous support to run for the 10th District state Senate seat vacated by New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

The nomination came after state representative Juan Candelaria, another New Haven Democrat, stepped aside.

Enrollment through Connecticut’s health insurance exchange has increased over the past month, but Access Health CT board members are more interested in how many of those individuals were below the age of 34.

People signing up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act tend to be older and potentially less healthy. That could threaten the calculations upon which the law is built.

Enrollment numbers released Thursday showed that only 21 percent of those enrolling with one of the three private insurance carriers were between the ages of 18 and 34.  Some industry sources say 25% or more is necessary for financial viability of the plan.

Meanwhile, between Oct. 1 and Jan. 15, some 86,001 individuals enrolled for plans through the exchange.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Kevin Dubay rejected the state’s request to delay arguments in a landmark education financing lawsuit until after the November election.

Dubay concluded that the case should move forward but has not set a date for the trial.

The rejection of the modification was the second ruling against the state in less than two months. In December, Dubay also rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Attorney General’s office declined comment on the decision.

The executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, a coalition of cities and towns that sued the state in 2005 for failing to adequately fund education, said that the judge did the right thing Thursday.

Attorney’s for the coalition told the court Thursday that they will be ready for trial in six months. 

The state continues to argue that it’s doing enough to fund education and meet its constitutional mandate, with increases in school funding of $100 million in fiscal year 2013 and $137 million in 2014, along with a 1,000 new preschool slots.

The plaintiff’s continue to argue that even with the additional resources, Connecticut’s schools are woefully underfunded.

Newsday reports: At a public forum in Southold Town Thursday night federal and local officials said the deer population on eastern Long Island had grown too large for hunters or birth control methods to reduce.  They plan to move forward with using paid federal sharpshooters to kill as many as 3,000 deer beginning next month.

Speakers blamed the deer for car accidents – some fatal, millions of dollars in crop and plant damage and a correlation with tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease.

The main opposition to the plan came from bow hunters, frustrated by hunting restrictions, who view the sharpshooters as competition.

Only one speaker opposed the cull as an animal rights issue.

USDA personnel plan to use techniques that hunters cannot -- silenced rifles, bait, hunting at night and shooting from the back of trucks.

While the cull was planned for 40 nights, the number of deer shot would depend on the funding available.  Some of this will come from a federal grant obtained by the Long Island Farm Bureau and contributions from participating Towns. 

Riverhead Town has declined to participate.

East Hampton Town and East Hampton Village are considering joining the action but animal-rights activists on the South Fork have filed a legal challenge to block the cull.
Long Island’s News 12 reports New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation is considering a controversial plan to kill or capture mute swans.

The department says the swans are aggressive toward people and invasive. They also say the swans destroy local water-based plant life, displace other birds and harm overall water quality. 
The D-E-C is accepting public comments on the proposal until January 31.

Thursday, January 16

More than 50 Yale students and other supporters of four workers fired from a downtown New Haven food store held a rally yesterday to demand their re-instatement. The store owner was unavailable for comment. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more.

The workers at Gourmet Heaven say they were paid between $4.16 and $6.25 per hour for 70 hour work weeks. They believe they were fired after cooperating with the state Department of Labor, which was investigating and confirmed the wage theft. Joe Foran with the New Haven Workers Association laid out some of the groups' demands.

Other demands include the firing of the assistant manager, and end to intimidation end, and the payment of a $15 an hour living wage..

One of the fired workers, Julio, spoke at the rally:

"To all the people that we make sandwiches for, please don't shop here anymore. Support us in our struggle. Support our friends who still work here. They depend on us to continue to boycott until intimidation ends."

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty announced Wednesday that he will resign February 3 and return to teaching at Yale University.
Esty was the first person to lead the blended environmental and energy regulatory agency.

He resigned since his sabbatical leave from the university will expire this year.

Esty was well-regarded author and academic before taking the state job.

He  believed controlling pollution and managing environmental resources were critical to business success.

As a commissioner he got to implement those policies — sometimes to the dismay of environmentalists, who initially championed his appointment.

Esty and Malloy engaged in some heated debates with environmentalists and other New England governors who largely opposed how they changed the Connecticut’s renewable portfolio standard by including large-scale Canadian hydropower and expanding natural gas sourced from fracking operations.

Esty was also criticized for overly close relations with some companies with interests in his office’s purview, like Northeast Utilities and investor UBS.

Governor Malloy said he would announce a replacement before Esty departs.

Yesterday, the MTA rejected the White House Emergency Board’s recommendations on resolving its labor problems which have resulted in a three-and-a-half year deadlock with unions representing Long Island Railroad workers.

This starts a 60-day cooling off period, after which President Obama could appoint a second board to help reach a deal. If both sides are still at an impasse by July, the unions could legally strike, causing a work stoppage for the first time in 20 years..

Last month, the board called on the LIRR to give workers annual raises averaging 2.83 percent over six years -- shooting down the MTA's claim that it couldn't afford to do so.

The MTA has repeatedly called on all its unions to accept a three-year freeze on labor costs. Under its proposal, any raises would be paid for through other union concessions.

The agency has said the "three net zeros" plan is necessary to keep the MTA solvent, and to avoid a fare hike three times the size of the 4 percent increase already planned for next year.

Suffolk County took the first step Wednesday toward approving the $1.2 million purchase of about 16 acres to create the largest public park in the Selden-Centereach area.

The county's Council on Environmental Quality unanimously recommended the purchase of the property owned by the Middle Country School District provided Brookhaven Town gives adequate buffer areas and protective lighting measures for nearby homes. 

Backers say the purchase would create a single 24-acre recreational complex that Brookhaven is will run under an agreement with the county.

The plans call for four baseball fields and two new multisport fields for soccer and lacrosse, as well as basketball and tennis courts, playground facilities and a concession stand.

The Suffolk Legislature must vote on the expenditure. Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider both expect the project to be approved.

Wednesday, January 15
Republican Governor hopeful Tom Foley told hundreds of Connecticut gun owners that he would veto future gun control restrictions if he is elected governor. But he disappointed some gun owners Tuesday night when he stopped short of calling for repeal.

Foley addressed a monthly meeting of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League in Middletown.
The Second Amendment advocacy group has seen its membership grow significantly over the last year as the state debated and adopted stricter gun regulations.

Gun owners opposed the new gun restrictions, which increased the number of guns banned in Connecticut and prohibited the sale of large ammunition magazines.

CCDL has filed a complaint in federal court claiming the law is unconstitutional.
Foley acknowledged that many Second Amendment advocates are hoping to see the law repealed, but he told the group not to expect that change to come from the legislature or the governor’s office.

He said “if I am governor any further attempts at restrictions on law-abiding gun owners by our legislature will stop at the governor’s office.”

Foley said if he had been elected, he would have focused the response more on addressing failures in the state’s mental health system. Foley said the bill also should have done more to address “non law-abiding citizens.”

New Haven City Hall’s Public Information Office is now off-limits to the public.
The office is one of many mayoral appointees’ work spaces located in a wing on City Hall’s second floor. A sign went up on that door Monday stating that only people with keycards may enter the area.
Jackie James, the Harp administration’s new temporary deputy community services administrator says she acted out of security concerns.
James told the New Haven Independent. “Too many people were roaming” through the suite of offices, “Stuff was getting stolen. People’s pocketbooks were stolen. The staff came to me and say they didn’t feel safe.” She said the city’s prison re-entry initiative has moved to the first floor, which is open to the public.

A New York State requirement that buyers of ammunition go through background checks before purchasing bullets or shells was originally supposed to start today.  Gun dealers would then be required to keep records of the sales.

But that deadline is now delayed until further notice since a required state database is currently under construction and not operational.

The regulation was part of the SAFE Act, passed last year following the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

However, other changes became effective today, including a new requirement that ammunition purchases over the Internet go through a licensed gun dealer rather than directly from the vendor and those who own magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds are supposed to get rid of them or modify them so the limit is 10.

Newsday reports:
A plan to send sewage from treatment plants in East Rockaway and Long Beach to the Atlantic Ocean has the support of some Long Island environmental organizations. 
Local and federal officials are pushing for $600 million in Sandy aid to fund pipes from sewage treatment plants to points offshore.

The plan also calls for Long Beach to convert its treatment plant into a pumping station so that sewage could be moved from there to Bay Park in East Rockaway for treatment and then sent 2 to 3 miles offshore through an outfall pipe.

The estimated cost for the plant and piping is $690 million.
When superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012,  power to the Bay Park plant was  knocked out. More than 100 million gallons of raw sewage was dumped into waterways., Another 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage was released into a waterway north of Long Beach, where effluent is regularly piped.

Research done after the storm found elevated levels of heavy metals -- indicators of wastewater -- in sediment in the bays near the treatment plant and also offshore.

Also 85 percent of nitrogen in the western bays has been traced back to Bay Park.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito said. "The outfall pipe is not a luxury item.”

Some environmental organizations have pushed for an outfall pipe for about five years.

Tuesday, January 14

Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said his party ended the year with one of its most successful Decembers in recent history when they raised almost $47,000.

But although the Democrats had about $668,000 in cash on hand at year’s end, Labriola is not concerned.

He said the vast network of grassroots supporters have been energized by the Republican Party’s victories in the 2013 municipal races. Republicans took top city and town offices in New Britain, Bristol, Ansonia, and Meriden, although they also had losses in Stamford and Norwalk.

The Republican Party lost the governor’s seat by just 6,400 votes in 2010 after more than 20 years in power. It’s always more difficult for the party that’s not in power to raise money.

Labriola said, “Unlike Governor Malloy, we don’t have state contracts to sell for campaign cash,”  referring to the refunds the Democratic Party has had to make over the past few months to state contractors prohibited from contributing.

Governor Dannel Malloy has not said whether he will seek a second term, but he has been aggressively raising money for the Democrats. Due to a change in campaign finance laws the party can spend unlimited amounts of money on publicly financed candidates.

Is it possible for a business to make a profit and benefit society at the same time? A group of entrepreneurs at the Social Enterprise Trust (known as reSET) in Hartford believes it is. They’re pushing the state to allow for the creation of what’s called a Benefit Corporation, or “b-corp.”

A b-corp is a for-profit corporation that seeks to earn profits and achieve social goals.

The first b-corps were established in 2007 without special legislation. There are currently 759 b-corps in 27 countries, working in about 60 industries.
But there may be plenty more if Connecticut entrepreneurs get a chance to use the certification.

The b-corp allows businesses to earn a profit and operate a social enterprise, which sometimes means foregoing a profit.

The legislature’s Commerce Committee held a public hearing today on the b-corp issue with an eye toward introducing legislation in February.

James Woulfe, a public policy and impact investing specialist at reSET, said there are downsides for social enterprise companies that choose to become an s-corp or an LLC. 

A b-corp, can receive investment dollars and the founder can still own a piece of the company and help create more jobs.

Already 19 states and Washington, D.C. allow similar business designations. Woulfe said there’s a large body of law already established for these types of corporations.

A bill that would have created a b-corp legal structure for social enterprises passed the House 128-12 last year, but failed to get called in the Senate.

New York’s food pantries are crowded – even after the customarily crowded holiday season. Mark Scheerer reports one reason is a cutback in SNAP benefits:
SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, were cut back in November after the economic stimulus from the 2009 recession expired. It’s caused a strain on New York’s food pantries and the food banks that supply them. From Buffalo to Long Island, more people are making more frequent visits as their budgets stretch and sometimes fall short at month’s end. Mark Dunlea, who runs the Hunger Action Network, says now, Congress appears to be completing work on a Farm Bill which may contain another SNAP slash of nine-billion dollars over ten years.

Dunlea: "We have a lot of upstate cities in particular where the official poverty rate for children is actually above 50 percent. And so, we’re very concerned that children, as well as seniors and the working poor, will really take a big hit."

Joy Meyer-Buckley manages the Helping Hand pantry in Centereach on Long Island. She says there’s a “trickle-down” theory at work, and not a good one.

Meyer-Buckley:  "Pantries are struggling as they are. The food banks are struggling because donations are down, because corporate contributions are down. You know, it’s a trickle effect."

At Long Island’s largest food bank, Randi Shubin Dresner of Long Island Harvest says November’s SNAP cuts are sending more people looking for assistance.

Dresner: "They’re having to go in more frequently, which is putting a strain on the food pantries all across Long Island. Now, they’re having to even cut back on how much they give to people coming in, and how frequently they come in and re-visit them."

An estimated 3-point-1 million New Yorkers have been affected by the reductions in SNAP benefits.

Mark Scheerer - New York News Connection.

Monday, January 13

During last week's deep freeze, homeless shelters were swamped as many people who normally live outside year-round came in out of the super-cold. Still, some homeless people sleep outside all winter.

The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness reports that most of the shelters throughout the state are now 110 percent to 120 percent full and continue to take in people way beyond capacity.
At the same time, the number of people identified as homeless but unsheltered -- meaning they were either living outside or at locations unintended for habitation --. has almost doubled over the last five years –- from 502 people in 2009 to 919 people in 2013.

Shelter officials and some homeless people say there are plenty of reasons why people avoid seeking shelter on cold nights. This includes concern for their safety, both physical violence and rape, inside shelters; unwillingness or inability to live by the shelters' rules; and lack of respect shown them by some shelter staff.
As the National Shooting Sports Foundation kicked off its annual trade show in Las Vegas today the Newtown Action Alliance gathered at NSSF headquarters in Newtown to draw attention to the way the gun industry is marketing its product.
Dave Stowe of the Newtown Action Alliance said the gun industry has the right to sell it’s product, but it should support background checks for all gun sales and it shouldn’t market their product to children.

 A report by the Violence Policy Center details how guns like the Bushmaster XM-15 - used by the gunman in the Sandy Hook shooting—are marketed.

The report says that “To attract customers, Bushmaster uses the slogan ‘Justice for All’ on its catalog cover and images of shooters clad in military-style clothing. Their graphics often contain militaristic and law-enforcement terminology like ‘duty’ and ‘patrol’ and phrases such as ‘Control Your Destiny’ and ‘Bravery on Duty’.”

The report details the marketing of several military-style guns the group refers to as “assault weapons.”

Michael Bazinet, a spokesman for NSSF, said  “our members do not sell ‘assault weapons’ to the American public. Calling semiautomatic rifles that resemble, but are not military firearms, is purposely misleading and intended to confuse the public.”

Bazinet also pointed to the gun safety programs operated by the NSSF.


City Seed opened New Haven's first season-long indoor farmers' market on Saturday. Despite spring-like temperatures that day, vendors were looking forward to respite from lots of cold days ahead. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:

Hailey Davis from Mystic Cheese was one of more than two dozen vendors who formed a loop in the cafeteria of Metropolitan Business Academy, just a few blocks from City Seed's premier farmers' market in Wooster Square.

Davis:  “because of the weather getting so cold outside we’ve been losing a lot of people coming to the maket. Once we transitioned inside its been a great turnout … there’s a lot of people here.”

The space offered room for yoga and children's art activities in addition to the usual produce, meat, eggs, cheese, honey, and crafts. The Cheese Truck pulled up outside the school in order to satisfy all its regular Farmers Market customers with its delectable grilled cheese sandwiches.
The indoor market runs until the end of April, after which two farmers' markets will  re-open outdoors. Others will follow later in the season.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News. 

Town of Riverhead police and fire personnel executed a search warrant at an overcrowded and unsafe home on Hamilton Avenue on Friday.

At least 18 adult men were found living in the single family home, with at least five in an unfinished basement. 

Town officials said, the violations found represent a risk to the safety and welfare of the residents of the home, as well as neighbors.

Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, was contacted by code enforcement officials to assist residents with finding new housing.

Attorneys for the Town of Riverhead plan to begin action against the property owner, Rickey A. Taylor, in State Supreme Court for violations of the Town and State fire and building codes.

Friday, January 10
A legislative task force wants an expansion of video slot machines at three off-track betting facilities in Connecticut.

The idea would be to allow video slots — currently only permitted at the state’s tribal casinos — at locations in Bridgeport, New Haven and Windsor Locks.

Any change would need to be negotiated with the Mohegan and Pequot tribes, who have slot revenue sharing agreements with the state.

Senator Andres Ayala, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the task force, said the group will continue to discuss the issue but it’s likely they will seek legislative approval to expand the slots.

State fiscal analysts projected state revenue from the two casinos would continue to drop over the next few years. They predicted those revenues would plateau in 2017 and 2018 at $212 million, down from a combined $430 million at their peak in 2007.

Ayala said the state has been using gaming revenues to balance its budget for some time.

Supporters hope to “stem the tide” of Connecticut gamblers doing their gaming in nearby states like New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, where casinos are being built to compete with Connecticut’s.

Indian Country Today reported that The Bureau of Indian Affairs this week approved the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s gaming compact with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  This is one of several approvals required for what is described as a $500 million destination resort casino planned for Taunton in southeastern Massachusetts.

The Connecticut office of Policy and Management released a report Thursday showing the state’s overall debt dropped about $11.6 billion over the past three years, while contributing more to the underfunded state employee pensions.

Bonded debt, on the other hand, increased 1.1 billion since 2011. Malloy said it’s a portion of what the state is doing to address its long-term liabilities.

Republican Senator Scott Frantz told Malloy that the governor’s co-mingling “bonded debt” and “long-term obligations” was confusing. Bonded debt is for infrastructure and other capital projects, while the unfunded pension is a different kind of long-term liability.

The governor said it’s important to put these debt numbers into context. “Otherwise, what will happen in our state is the bad decision making that’s happened before, which leads to underinvestment in our infrastructure.”

But not everyone agreed.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said, “The Malloy administration’s latest report on state debt is a complete work of fiction.”

McKinney and other Republican lawmakers have criticized the amount of debt Malloy’s administration has created.

The report shows bonded debt is expected to rise. By 2018, bonded debt for capital projects will account for about 11 percent of the general fund.

The biggest piece of that debt helps fund school construction projects, followed by transportation projects, and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund.

Plans to revitalize downtown Patchogue reached a milestone Thursday when the mixed-use New Village complex leased its first apartment. The $110-million complex features 291 apartments, 46,000 square feet of retail space and 17,000 square feet of office space.

The apartments are located in a half-dozen buildings on sites formerly occupied by the defunct Swezey's department store and the Carnegie Library, which was relocated. About 67 apartments are lower-cost "workforce" housing for residents who earn about $45,000 a year or less.

Local officials are counting on the development, and similar new projects springing up around the old Four Corners shopping district, to rescue the struggling downtown after decades of decline.

Interest in the New Village market-rate apartments exceeded expectations, with double the interested in the new apartments than anticipated. 

Southold Town will host a public meeting next Thursday, January 16, to discuss the “Deer Project,” a new proposal by the Long Island Farm Bureau to cull deer herds throughout the East End with hunters provided by the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

Martin Lowney, New York State director of the USDA, will discuss the scope of the proposed project and anticipated outcomes.

The Deer Project is being funded by the Long Island Farm Bureau and local municipalities. 
The forum begins at 6 p.m. at Southold Recreation Center, located at 970 Peconic Lane, Peconic.
 Thursday, January 9   
Connecticut’s Healthcare Advocate, Victoria Veltri, says last year her office helped more than 5,600 Connecticut consumers and saved them a total of 9.5  million dollars.

The savings are costs consumers would have had to pay in claims for medical services and procedures if the office had not intervened. Almost 5,700 residents were helped with issues like denials of medical coverage and unwarranted billings.

Veltri said the office worked to offer effective services to each of the consumers that reached out for help in 2013.

Last year, the office helped negotiate behavioral health care reforms included in the legislative response to the Sandy Hook shooting.

The new law requires mental health and substance abuse services to be considered “urgent care” and shortens the review time for service requests from 72 hours to 24 hours. It also requires insurance companies to inform consumers that they have the right to appeal a denial of care.

Governor Malloy appointed West Hartford resident Jonathan Slifka to a new cabinet-level position Wednesday as an administration liaison to the state’s disabled community.

As liaison, Slifka will be charged with reaching out to people with disabilities on behalf of the Malloy administration as well as serving as an advocate for the community in coming up with policy recommendations.

Slifka was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. He serves in a number of volunteer positions including as a member of the West Hartford Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities. He is the brother of Scott Slifka, West Hartford’s Democratic mayor.

Slifka will earn $70,000 a year and will begin work this Friday. He said his first goal will be to reach out to people at state agencies and those in the disabled community, and then “attempt to bridge the gap.”

Newsday reports: A major power transmission cable connecting Long Island to Westchester County failed on Monday.

It is leaking a "minimal amount" of nontoxic fluid into Long Island Sound according to the New York Power Authority (NYPA) which owns the cable.

The 345 KV cable connects the Long Island grid at East Garden City to a Con Edison electric station in Westchester County. The leak has been identified in that portion of the cable three miles from Long Island under the Sound.

NYPA said temporary loss of the cable will not impact electric service on Long Island as other cables are available to carry the present load.
They plan to re-configure the system to use a spare cable already installed so that the transmission capacity can be restored as early as possible.

The state authority said it was overseeing the repairs in coordination with PSEG Long Island, the new grid operator for LIPA, and Con Edison.

NYPA was also working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, because of the spill, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Martin Tankleff, a Long Island man who served 17 years in prison after he was convicted of killing his parents, has settled his false-imprisonment lawsuit with New York State for $3.375 million according to Newsday.
The settlement came just as the suit was to come to trial in the state Court of Claims. Another suit filed by Tankleff, against Suffolk County, is pending in U.S. District Court.
In still another trial in federal court Tankleff, now 42, says he “hopes to expose the misconduct that caused my wrongful conviction so that it does not happen to anyone else."
Tankleff was charged with fatally bludgeoning and stabbing his parents, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, in 1988 when he was 17.
He was convicted in 1990, largely on the basis of a confession that he never signed and immediately repudiated.
Tankleff was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, but in 2007 an appellate court overturned his conviction on the basis of new evidence.  The actual killer, believed by some to be a business partner of the Tankleffs, was never indicted.
Wednesday, January 8
New Haven’s Mayor Toni Harp has resigned her state Senate seat.

State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield, a New Haven Democrat, is the only candidate, so far, who has indicated an interest in seeking the office according to the New Haven Register.

The likely date for a special election to fill that seat is February 25. Holder-Winfield said he plans to file campaign committee paperwork with the State Election Enforcement Commission on Wednesday. 

Harp was sworn in as the city’s 50th mayor last week after holding the state Senate office for 21 years.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton announced he is running for governor Wednesday.

He joins an increasingly crowded field of Republican candidates, including Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, Joe Visconti of West Hartford, and Gordon Ward of Manchester and other Republicans like Senator Toni Boucher of Wilton and the 2010 Republican nominee Tom Foley.

Boughton was the Republican Party’s lieutenant governor nominee in 2010.
Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy has not announced his re-election bid yet.

In November, Boughton won re-election to a seventh term as mayor with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Boughton spent some time in the national spotlight in 2005 when Time magazine published a story on the city’s efforts to regulate volleyball games in Danbury.
Residents had complained to the city about large scale backyard volleyball matches to which tickets were sold — events organized by the city’s Ecuadoran population
The city responded by passing a law which allowed the city to issue warnings or levy fines against offenders.
The volleyball issue — coupled with a controversial 2005 request by Boughton to then-Governor Rell to deputize troopers as immigration agents — kicked off some four years of tension between City Hall and Danbury’s immigrant population.


The Albany Times Union reports -  Hundreds of anti-fracking activists were expected to demonstrate as legislators and others streamed into the Empire State Convention Center for Governor Cuomo’s State of the State speech.

Cuomo's speech was a magnet for those on both sides of the fracking debate as well as Second Amendment activists incensed by the year-old NY SAFE gun control law, proponents of medical marijuana disappointed by Cuomo's limited program, and others energized by issues such as universal pre-K education and a higher minimum wage.

Governor Cuomo is being urged to do more about the environment. Mike Clifford of
New York News Service reports:

Peter Iwanowicz with Environmental Advocates of New York says Cuomo made good on last year’s pledge to reduce dangerous carbon emissions from power plants. Now, he is urging the governor to help make more wind and solar technologies available to homes and businesses. 

Iwanowicz: "We’re really focusing in on carbon pollution from the stack, which is good – but not good enough, when it comes to dealing with climate."

Iwanowicz says Cuomo has made economic development a major priority during his time in office, and in the area of climate action, he could further that goal by helping to spur more investment in clean energy.

Finally, 2014 could be a big year when it comes to the “fracking” issue. Iwanowicz again gives Cuomo credit for putting the controversial natural gas drilling process on hold in New York, but believes the ongoing public health assessment needs to change. That’s because right now, he says, it is being conducted behind closed doors.  


"We want to see that assessment put out for public comment, so that independent scientists and researchers can take a look at it, before anything moves forward."
A fabricated news article is making the rounds online. It features a falsified Suffolk Times article and advertises an early bow-hunting season in Southold Town.
The article states that Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell announced an early start to the bow hunting season this year “in an effort to assist the deer cull on the East End.”

The bogus article claims that bow-hunting season would run from Feb. 1 through March 31. It also states that the Department of Environmental Conservation would “waive the 500-foot buffer between hunter and residents and allow hunters to hunt within 100 feet of homes,” that “DEC is allowing hunters to bait,” and “there will be no limit to deer taken.”

On Monday, Mr. Russell called the work a hoax.

Southold Town is indeed planning to pay sharpshooters provided by the US Department of Agriculture to come in and cull the deer herd. 

The source of the bogus report is unclear. However, it has been spreading via social media and email during the past week.

Tuesday, January 7
Governor Dannel Malloy announced Dora Schiro as his choice for head of the state Emergency Services and Public Protection Department. Schiro has an extensive background leading state and municipal prison systems, and will be the first woman in the job.

She will need to be confirmed by lawmakers next month.  Ms. Schiro said she plans to travel the state to meet with members of the department and the state’s communities to form a specific plan of action.

Her appointment was applauded by Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews, whose union has clashed with the Malloy administration and the department’s leadership recently over contract negotiations and an effort to consolidate state police dispatch. Matthews said Schriro seemed qualified for the job and he was encouraged by her willingness to listen.

A fuel cell power plant in Bridgeport fired up on December 20, becoming the first such plant in North America. It generates 15 megawatts -- enough to power about 15,000 homes.

It is only one of many additions to the state’s clean- and renewable-energy portfolio last year.

In addition to the fuel cell power plant, the state’s first grid-scale solar farm comprising more than 23,000 panels went on line in December.
Both sources have been purchased from their developers by Dominion, owner of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station.

Last year also brought a sharp increase in clean and renewable power systems that go directly into buildings and facilities, known as distributed generation. Nearly 1,500 residential solar projects were added, and some 240 commercial clean energy projects, mainly solar and fuel cells, were approved.
The per-kilowatt hour cost of the new projects is approaching those of fossil fuel-generated power.

The biggest disappointment for environmentalists has been wind power. For more than two years, the state has had what amounts to the only ban on wind projects in the nation as it waits for siting regulations that have been held up by the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee.


The New York Times reports:

On Monday Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a sweeping $2 billion tax relief, a catchall of cuts for property and business owners, renters and upstate manufacturers.
The proposals reflected suggestions a bipartisan tax panel gave him last month.
Cuomo said the state could afford the tax cuts because his administration tightly controlled spending increases and expected growing surpluses in coming years. The plan would be phased in over three years.
Part of the governor’s proposal includes an income tax credit for New York City renters who earn up to $100,000.
Another proposal would give a tax rebate equal to a homeowner’s property tax increases for two years. But the second year would be tied to local governments taking "concrete steps" to consolidate.  Residents of school districts, towns and villages that don't take those steps won't get the rebates.
The governor is also proposing a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 6.5 percent, from 7.1 percent, and a rise in the estate tax exemption to $5.25 million, from $1 million.

Tree trimming will be on a priority list for PSEG as it takes over management of Long Island’s electric system.  
Working with four outside contractors, this year the utility will trim trees along 2,600 miles of lower-voltage distribution lines in residential neighborhoods, and around 250 miles of higher-voltage transmission lines.
PSEG, under its $446 million annual contract, also plans to remove five times as many "at-risk" trees from around power lines so that they don't topple over during a storm.

The expanded tree-trimming effort will cover more line mileage than LIPA had previously, and remove more growth around the power lines themselves.

The effort is designed to reduce the power outages that plagued Long Island after major storms and it is certain to raise concerns.

Phil Healy, superintendent of public works for the village of Lynbrook, told Newsday that plans to cut away more from wires "pretty severe," and suggested PSEG is "going to find that there's a lot of pushback and people are very attached to the aesthetics of their neighborhoods."
"It will really change the character of many areas," Healy said. "People will be very disappointed."
Monday, January 6

The Connecticut Bond Commission is expected to approve $230 million in borrowing for dozens of projects this week.

In addition to economic development incentives for several corporations, the  Commission will be asked to approve almost $23 million to help various school districts statewide purchase computers, tablets, and other electronic devices to meet the Common Core Standards requirements.

Several towns including Derby, Guilford, New Milford, North Branford, and Torrington will also receive $1.7 million to update the wiring at their schools so they will also be able to comply with the Common Core requirements and take the computerized tests.

Funding for environmental remediation includes over $7 million to Wesleyan University to help clean up the environmental mess left behind when it closed the Long Lane School for Girls and $4 million for remediation of Rochford Field in Hamden, the site of industrial toxic dumping for many decades.

Departing Bridgeport Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas has told the city's Board of Education he wants his health insurance coverage through the city to continue through June 2014 according to the Connecticut Post.

Vallas announced in November that he was resigning to run for lieutenant governor of Illinois as Governor Pat Quinn's running mate. Nevertheless there is a disagreement with Vallas' official departure date and termination of his health insurance coverage.

Since Vallas announced he would leave on his own, only a 60-day notice is required. Board members expected that would start at the time of Vallas' November 9, 2013 letter to the board.

At a special closed-door meeting board members were told Vallas wants the 60-day notice window to begin on December 31, 2013. That would keep him there through February. And he wants his health care to continue for four months after his departure date, costing the district a reported $1,700.

Board Chairwoman Sauda Baraka said any decision or actions will require a majority approval of a quorum of the board.

Last week's snow storm on Long Island created an urgent need for blood donations after the New York Blood Center was forced to cancel several drives.
A blood drive will take place at the YMCA Patchogue Family Center, at 255 West Main St. in Patchogue, Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The center will also be holding a bone marrow registry drive at the same time.

Walk-ins are welcome for both drives. Anyone with questions on the bone marrow drive can contact Nicole at

Twenty hospitals across New York will be allowed to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other serious diseases that meet standards to be set by the state Department of Health, according to the New York Times.

Governor Cuomo, who has steadily resisted pressure to legalize marijuana, is expected to announce the plan at Wednesday's State of the State address.

The newspaper said the policy will be far more restrictive than the laws in Colorado or California, where medical marijuana is available to people with conditions such as backaches.
Cuomo's executive action does not require legislative approval, but instead relies on a provision in a state public health law that allows for the use of controlled substances for patients with cancer and other serious illnesses.

Recycling in Brookhaven Town just got a little easier thanks to a new program  that began this past weekend. It’s called “single stream recycling” and has been implemented in several communities throughout New York.

The program allows residents to combine their paper and co-mingled items into one container, with no sorting required.

Supervisor Ed Romaine said the Town will save $105 for every ton that does not have to be sent out to be burned.  

Friday, January 3

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and juvenile justice advocates participated in a roundtable discussion Thursday at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown.

Murphy pointed out that between 2001 and 2010, the state reduced its population of incarcerated minors by 50 percent. It was the largest such decline measured in a 2013 study from the National Juvenile Justice Network.

He plans to introduce legislation this month to offer incentives to encourage other states to enact similar reforms. The policies are aimed at preventing minors who commit low-level offenses from going to jail in the first place and reducing the number of school-based arrests. 

But Murphy is opposed to a planned new locked facility for girls in Middletown.

The state Department of Children and Families is converting part of a state-run psychiatric hospital into a facility to house 12 girls and plans to hire staff to supervise them. But Murphy said he hopes they don’t follow through, saying “if the state builds it, girls will be sent to fill it”.

DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said the beds will help the state provide short-term housing for girls who run away from the department’s other facilities. He said runaways are at risk of being victimized, particularly through sex trafficking. He does not believe the new beds would result in more girls being committed to the department.

Huntington Town on Long Island is set to start trial February 18 for a housing discrimination lawsuit brought against the town by the NAACP's local branch.
But officials said Thursday settlement talks are ongoing.
The suit, filed in 2011, alleges that a proposed affordable housing development in Melville discriminates against minorities and families because it includes the sale of one-bedroom units. The trial will begin in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
Attorney Christopher Campbell, representing the NAACP, said the town gave a formal counter offer, marked confidential.  He said he doesn’t see the issue getting resolved before the trial.
The dispute, which began in 2002, centers on whether affordable multi-bedroom rental apartments or one-bedroom owned units should be built on a vacant 8 acre site.
The proposed units were intended to offset a lack of non-age-restricted, affordable housing.
DuWayne Gregory officially became leader of the Suffolk Legislature Thursday by a 14 to 0 vote.  Colleagues cited his ability to protect the body's independence and to work with County Executive Steve Bellone.
Gregory becomes the first African-American to hold the post.

Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who was elected deputy presiding officer, nominated Gregory, saying his commitment to public service began well before his 2008 election to the county legislature. He cited Gregory's work as Babylon Town's citizen advocate.

Suffolk County in recent years has grappled with budget deficits that spurred layoffs of hundreds of county workers and borrowing from a dedicated environmental fund.

After facing a $180 million deficit last summer, Suffolk was projected to end 2013 with a gap of about $13 million, but the county is relying on initiatives including borrowing for rising pension costs to balance the budget, deferring those costs into the future.

New York’s Education Commissioner John King said the state has secured a federal waiver to prevent "double-testing" in math for some 60,000 seventh and eighth graders receiving instruction in Algebra I.  
King calls it "an example of New York's commitment to smarter, leaner testing,"
He has faced a barrage of criticism over the state's implementation of the Common Core standards, including the testing regimen.

Currently, seventh and eighth grade students who are receiving instruction in Algebra I and who take the Algebra I regents exam are also required to take the state Common Core Mathematics Test.
Starting this spring, the waiver will allow schools to administer only the Regents exam.

The change also applies to students in grades 7 and 8 who receive instruction in geometry and take the applicable Regents exam.

Thursday, January 2

WPKN local news tonight is under the weather.

Besides the blizzard, here are some stories we are following:

•    New Haven gets a new mayor.  Toni Harp was sworn in yesterday.
•    Governors and Legislators receive high capacity gun magazines as ‘gifts’.
•    Long Island gets a new power manager and bids from local solar power providers are sought.

Here are some details:

Toni Harp was sworn in yesterday as the first female mayor of New Haven, the second African American, and the 50th mayor in the city's history.

WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:

In her speech, at the end of a 2 and a half hour ceremony, Harp lauded the city's location as ideal for attracting business from a big chunk of the country and even Canada, pledged to create jobs, improve education and options for youth, and focus on the needs of the least powerful. She said, “I have an idea about those who wind up on the wrong side of the law that, ‘there, but for the grace of a loving parent, inspiring teacher, caring member of the clergy, or someone else who got involved, could be virtually any one of us. It’s the behavior that’s reprehensible – even abhorrent – and rarely the perpetrator.”

She also said it was "egregious" that some residents living across the street from one of the world's most prestigious hospitals lack health care -- without mentioning Yale New Haven Hospital by name.

Harp is still putting together her leadership team, including a chief administrative officer. She's conducting a national search for that position.

The New Haven Register reports:
State Senate Majoriy Leader Martin M. Looney said he would have preferred to receive a different type of magazine for a Christmas present.
“I wish he had sent me a New Yorker, the New Republic or the Atlantic,” Looney said when told he was the recipient of a high-capacity gun magazine.
Specifically, both Looney, D-New Haven, and state Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield, each were sent one 28-round standard capacity AR-15 magazine, manufactured by C Products Defense Inc. of Bradenton, Fla.
It was part of Alabama gun activist Mike Vanderboegh’s “Toys for Totalitarians” campaign, in which he is sending banned high-capacity magazines to some legislators. 
He also sent various examples of magazines to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and the governors of Colorado and Maryland.

On New Years day the Long Island Power Authority turned over the management of its power grid to New Jersey- based PSEG.  LIPA will maintain a reduced staff under the plan recommended by New York State’s Moreland Commission after the failure of the utility during “Superstorm Sandy.”

East End Beacon reports:

Governments all over the East End are sending bids to LIPA for the second round of large-scale solar projects that would feed in to the Long Island grid. Bids for up to 100 megawatts of solar power will be accepted until Jan. 31.

According to East Hampton Town officials, LIPA plans to buy 40 megawatts of that power from sites on the East End.

During the program’s initial round of funding, LIPA agreed to pay 22 cents per kilowatt hour for the power, but this time around the applicants will bid a price that they would like to receive through a clearing house auction set up by LIPA.

Companies will receive 7 cents more per kilowatt/hour for power generated on the South Fork east of LIPA’s Southampton substation. The South Fork has a  shortfall in electric production, particularly on peak hot days in the summer.

According to LIPA, “reducing the load constraint in this area will help defer, reduce or eliminate the need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building new generation, infrastructure, and transmission and distribution lines.”

WPKN volunteers Francesca Rheannon and Melinda Tuhus contributed to this news report.

Wednesday, January 1

State officials have filed “friend of the court” briefs in support of a lawsuit that would bar United Healthcare from terminating contracts with doctors in its Medicare Advantage network.

The complaint was made by the Fairfield County Medical Association and the Hartford County Medical Association after United Healthcare began dropping physicians from its network in October.

In early December a U.S. district court judge sided with the medical associations and issued an injunction against the insurance company, which has appealed the decision.

Meanwhile, federal regulators concluded the company’s provider networks were adequate.
This week, state officials filed a joint brief in support of the medical associations as the case moves to the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In a separate brief, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, also backed the medical associations.

Blumenthal cited a doctor in Stafford Springs, who says he is the only full-time family medical practice in town.  He said United’s decision to drop him will mean many of his clients will no longer have a provider in town.
The terminated contracts could impact as many as 10,000 Connecticut residents.

A UnitedHealthcare spokeswoman said Tuesday:
“The changes we are making to our network will encourage higher quality and more affordable Medicare coverage.

The court is expected to hold a hearing on United Healthcare’s appeal sometime in January.

Ending a longtime discriminatory practice against the unemployed topped a list of recommendations from the Connecticut legislature’s chief investigative panel to help older residents find work.

Rep. Mary Mushinsky, a Wallingford Democrat who is co-chair of the Program Review panel said
 “It’s still legal in Connecticut to discriminate in want ads, until we fix it,”

The Program Review and Investigations Committee recommended expanding education and training opportunities for seniors, increasing access to small business subsidies and promoting the state’s apprenticeship programs.
U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny has ruled in favor of New York State in a lawsuit brought by the state Rifle and Pistol Association and a number of other sportsmans’ organizations and individuals against the “SAFE” act that restricts the use of some weapons.

The judge ruled that the State acted ‘within the confines’ of the US Constitution in passing the act.
But he struck down three elements of the bill for vagueness.  One of these would have banned possession of a “large capacity ammunition feeding device manufactured before September thirteenth, nineteen hundred ninety-four”.

The judge upheld the expansion of the definition of banned assault weapons:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants to see the timeline for boosting New York’s  minimum wage to $9 an hour moved up by a year. Under legislation passed in 2013 as part of budget negotiations, the wage goes to $8 today, $8.75 next January, and $9 at the end of 2015.

Silver will introduce new legislation to attain $9 an hour by the end of 2014, a full year ahead of schedule, and tie future increases to the rate of inflation — another aspect of the plan that was opposed by Senate Republicans.

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