Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 2014

Friday May 30:

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s colleges get Pentagon cash, a looming deficit for nutmegers, new waste treatment regulations on Long Island,

Connecticut colleges have been increasingly benefiting from money from the Pentagon over the last few years, winning millions in contracts from the U.S. armed forces to conduct research on a wide range of products used in national defense.

The relationship weakened last year, when the Pentagon was subjected to across- the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. Defense contracts to Connecticut schools in 2013 dropped to a little more than $4 million.
The Obama administration’s decision to trim that money may make competition for military research money more heated this year.

Yale has been the largest recipient of Pentagon dollars, about $18.6 million since 2000, followed by the University of Connecticut. Smaller schools also worked for the Pentagon, including the University of Hartford, Quinnipiac University, the University of New Haven and Sacred Heart University.

Connecticut’s schools are not the only ones receiving Pentagon money for research that helps fight wars.

In 2007, University of Oregon professor Brian Bogart published a paper called “Unwarranted Influence” that showed the extent of the ties between U.S. colleges and the armed forces.

The report said:

“When President Dwight Eisenhower gave his prophetic January 1961 farewell speech warning of the growing unwarranted influence on universities and governments by the defense industry, few universities had Department of Defense Contracts. As of December, 2006, 1107 universities had DoD contracts”
No matter who Connecticut voters elect or re-elect to the governor’s office in November, they will inherit what’s projected to be a two-year, $2.8 billion budget deficit, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.

That’s still a smaller number than the one-year, $3.7 billion deficit inherited in 2011 by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.  But Republican gubernatorial candidates say it shows how little progress the state has made getting its fiscal house in order.

Sen. Minority Leader and candidate for Governor John McKinney said:

“I’m willing to concede that Malloy inherited a $3.6 billion deficit, if he’s willing to concede to a $2.8 billion deficit over the biennium,”

The Malloy administration pointed out that the Republican budget proposal also contained deficits into the future. Republicans argue that their plan was not a full budget proposal and not a fair comparison.


If new legislation introduced in the New York legislature is adopted:
New construction and any big renovation projects on the island would need to incorporate modern waste treatment systems to better filter nitrogen and keep it from reaching ground and surface waters.

Registered pesticides that appear in groundwater in “multiple clusters” would be “prohibited for use.”
And, starting in 2017, no one would be allowed to repair cesspools in certain “priority areas” of Nassau or Suffolk counties. Those people would instead have to install denitrification systems.

These are just a few of the restrictions outlined in a new water quality control measure introduced in the state Assembly May 22 by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney a Lindenhurst Democrat.

A prior bill with a similar goal for cleaning up Long Island’s ground and surface waters was introduced by Mr. Sweeney and state Senator Ken LaValle, a Port Jefferson Republican. That bill was met with much criticism from stakeholders.
Mr. LaValle has yet to introduce new corresponding legislation in the Senate, saying that he is reaching out for further comment from interested parties.

He told The Suffolk Times last week he’s committed to releasing a bill by the end of the 2014 session on June 19 and that his version is likely to differ in a number of ways from Mr. Sweeney’s revised proposal.

The bill aims to curb the amount of nitrogen — which comes from human and animal waste, fertilizers and other sources — that reaches the aquifer and, ultimately, area bays and Long Island Sound, feeding algal blooms that damage ecosystems by depriving waters of oxygen.

 Thursday May 29:   

In the news tonight: Connecticut environmental law enforcement scrutinized,  Bridgeport votes one year moratorium on medical marijuana outlets;
new bill would restore State recognition for the Montaukett Tribe.  Helicopter routes on the east end re-visited

Although some improvements have been made in air quality, Connecticut’s environmental laws are not being enforced as strongly as they used to.  That’s according to the Council on Environmental Quality’s 2013 annual report.

The report found that Connecticut residents are driving less, taking the bus more often and using electricity more efficiently. That’s part of the reason air quality in the state last year was the best its been in decades.

But in other areas, environmental quality has declined. Global warming is affecting Long Island Sound’s temperatures, hurting the lobster harvest. It’s also causing flooding along Connecticut’s rivers and streams to become “more frequent and more damaging” than in the past.

Enforcement is down, and violations are up, showing up in more than one in four inspections. One reason could be that business owners are less likely to get caught because fewer inspections are being done

Last night, Bridgeport’s Zoning Commission voted for a year-long moratorium on accepting medical marijuana plans. This vote comes more than a month after the City’s Zoning Commission voted against allowing D&B Wellness to move forward with a medical marijuana dispensary in the city.
In response to last night’s moratorium decision, Mayor Finch’s spokesperson Brett Broesder said ”we have a responsibility to provide people who are hurting with the care and compassion that they deserve…..”
“However, when it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries in the state’s largest city, patient needs must be weighed against the safety and security of our kids and neighborhoods. …..thus far, proposed dispensary sites have been decidedly fraught with risk.”

Two Long Island legislators have introduced state legislation that would immediately restore state recognition to the Montaukett Indian Tribe, six months after Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a similar bill.

The measure, introduced simultaneously in the Assembly and Senate this month, would grant recognition to the dispersed tribe, which was declared extinct by a widely criticized 1910 state court ruling. Previous versions sought to create a process for granting recognition to the tribe, which has some 1,500 members living around Long Island and the East Coast.

Assemblyman  Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor, the Assembly sponsor, said he has requested a meeting with Cuomo to urge support for the bill. Thiele said he expects the bill to pass.

When he vetoed the legislation, Cuomo argued that creating a new state recognition process similar to the federal process would strain state resources. Instead, Cuomo ordered the New York Department of State to review the tribe's recognition claims.

The department said in a statement that: "Issues regarding state recognition are being researched and reviewed by the Office of General Counsel of the N.Y. Department of State. This process is ongoing and no conclusions have been reached at this time."
The Thiele bill, which was introduced in the Senate by state Sen. Kenneth LaValle  of Port Jefferson, would amend state Indian Law by adding a new article titled "The Montaukett Indians." It would provide guidelines for issues, including tribal leadership and elections.

Robert Pharaoh, chief of the Montaukett Indian Nation said he would "absolutely" support the bill.


A temporary Federal Aviation Administration requirement that helicopters fly over Long Island Sound rather than over homes on the North Fork is set to expire on August. 6th, according to Congressman Tim Bishop.

Mr. Bishop and Senator Charles Schumer are now working on a bill to make that requirement permanent and to also extend the area where helicopters must stay over the water. The current route was mandated in 2012 after years of complaints from homeowners about noise from helicopters flying across, rather than around, the North Fork. 

The North Shore route, as it is called, mandates helicopters operating along the North Shore, East of Huntington to Orient Point, must fly one mile off the coast to limit noise to residential areas,

This is where the problem has occurred, according to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who says pilots routinely have deviated from this path and crossed over his town on the way to the South Fork.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter also have added their support to making the helicopter route permanent.

 Wednesday May 28:

In the news tonight: battle over Russian helicopters; Connecticut gun law court decision challenged; and a Long Island water quality summit meeting 

Connecticut lawmakers hope increasing congressional anger toward Moscow will finally force the end of US purchases of helicopters made by Russian state arms dealer Rosoboronexport destined for the Afghan armed forces.

An increasing number of lawmakers – some of whom represent companies like Sikorsky – hope to take over the Rosoboronexport contract.

The Pentagon chose the Russian company to provide Afghanistan with helicopters because the Afghans are familiar with the Mi-17, and they are cheaper and easier to supply and maintain.

Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, whose district is home to Sikorsky, has been trying to prevent Congress from purchasing helicopters from Rosoboronexport.

DeLauro hopes to win approval of two amendments to the defense authorization bill. The amendments would essentially prevent the Pentagon from entering into contracts with Rosoboronexport because of Russia’s aggression in Syria and the Ukraine.

Bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate have also introduced a bill that would forbid the use of US tax dollars to enter agreements and end all existing contracts with the company. Signers of the bill, Republican Senators Dan Coats of Indiana and John Cornyn of Texas, as well as Senator Blumenthal, have provincial interests as well.

Bell Helicopters of Texas and Raytheon of Indiana are likely to compete against Sikorsky if the contracts are terminated.

The senators have failed to dissuade the Pentagon nor President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry from buying Russian helicopters.  

 Attorneys general in 23 states signed on last week to an appeal by state Second Amendment advocates of a federal court decision which upheld the constitutionality of Connecticut’s gun control law.

The appeal comes from gun rights supporters in Connecticut who unsuccessfully challenged the state’s post-Sandy Hook gun control law. In January, a federal court judge ruled that the law passes constitutional muster, even if it is a burden on gun owners.

The plaintiffs, which include the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, gun store owners, and individual citizens, have taken their case federal Second Circuit Appeals Court.

The states brief reads “believe that the fundamental rights of their citizens and others should receive the highest protection. Connecticut’s Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety . . . burdens those rights and should be subject to strict scrutiny,”

The states argue that Connecticut’s law will be ineffective and was not narrowly tailored to protect the public and prevent crime. The underlying lawsuit and the amicus brief both challenge the state’s expanded assault weapons ban, which prohibits AR-15 style rifles.

Coastal resiliency was one of the key issues in today’s stakeholder meeting about water quality on Long Island. Local advocates say it’s hard for some Suffolk County communities to think about being resilient when residents can’t flush their toilets during high tide.

State and county officials joined water quality experts and the public for a stakeholders meeting at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood that was called by Governor Cuomo.  

Tuesday May 27:

In the news tonight:  The affordable care act has squashed Aetna’s high health insurance premiums and low claim payments, New York’s Senator Shumer has a plan to cut off heroin supply to Long Island; east end towns’ receipts for open space preservation are increasing, and some Fire Island homeowners fighting eminent domain.

The Affordable Care Act has finally put an end to Aetna’s years-long practice of charging premiums to Connecticut individual policyholders that exceed industry norms as compared to the medical claims it paid out.

A nearly six-year analysis of the insurance giant’s filings, obtained by The Connecticut Mirror, shows that before the ACA, no other health insurer in Connecticut or the nation had such consistently good margins as Aetna’s policies sold to individuals. In the eight years Aetna has been selling individual plans, state regulators never rejected one of their rate increases.

Health insurers gamble that they’ll take in more money in premiums than they have to pay out in claims, a formula known as the medical loss ratio. Companies’ adjusters try to control this ratio by predicting how much risk their company is taking. The better, or the larger, the medical loss ratio, the higher the profits.

In 2011, the ACA changed the rules by setting a limit on the amount of premium dollars a company can earn over the claims, taxes and fees it pays.
Insurers must pay out at least 80 percent of what they collect on individual policy premiums and 85 percent of the premiums earned on group policies.
Prior to this Aetna seldom paid out more than 55 percent on claim expenses, leaving the company about 45 percent in revenue. Other insurers in the state have ratios averaging 70 to 80 percent.

New York Senator Charles Schumer said he will ask for an additional $100 million in federal funds to help shut off a heroin pipeline from Mexico that has created a surge in the drug's popularity across Long Island.

Schumer said the money would be part of an upcoming Senate Appropriations bill. If approved, the funds will assist a drug trafficking task force that includes the FBI, DEA, U.S. attorney's office and other agencies. The additional funds will assist their efforts to share intelligence and prosecute defendants.

Schumer stated that putting more money into the task force is imperative in the fight against drug cartels in Mexico and South America. He says that our society in the past has ignored drug problems until they become epidemics and he does not want that to happen with heroin now.

According to Schumer’s office, New York City prosecutors seized 288 pounds of heroin in the first four months of the year, the most since 1991. Heroin overdoses took the lives of 121 people in Nassau and Suffolk in 2012 and another 120 people died there from overdose last year.

One Long island agency that specializes in treating drug dependence that served 100 people a month 5 years ago helped over 850 people last month.

Schumer said more money is also needed for treatment and rehabilitation.

Revenues of Community Preservation Funds (CPF) on the east end for the first four months of 2014 are up substantially compared to last year. 

The Funds receive proceeds of a 2% tax on real estate transfers and are used to purchase open space to protect it from development.

The funds received almost $30 million in the first four months of 2014, up from about $27 million in the same period last year, a 13 percent increase.

The number of transactions for the first four months of 2014 was 2,336, compared with 2,767 a year ago, as individual real estate prices  increased. 

Some Fire Islanders are trying to stop dozens of home buyouts intended to clear the way for new storm-shielding dunes.
But experts say the odds are stacked against them in a legal fight, since the government's ability to condemn property needed for public works projects is one of its most powerful tools.
 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aims to rebuild the battered Fire Island dunes as part of a $700 million, federally funded Long Island flood-protection project. The agency has targeted 41 oceanfront homes and lots for an estimated $46 million in buyouts, with Suffolk County responsible for carrying out the purchases and condemnations.
Because obtaining the properties might prove a lengthy process, the Army Corps plans to begin dredging this September for the first phase of dune-building, in Smith Point County Park within the Fire Island National Seashore where no such agreements are required.

Monday May 26:

In the news tonight:  a new controversy about federal recognition for Connecticut Indian tribes; a switcheroo in the governor’s race; New York City will take water from a Long Island aquifer, and officials investigate dumping into wetlands at Deer Park.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC, has issued a draft proposal that would make it significantly easier for tribes to win federal recognition -- and all the advantages that go along with that, including the ability to open casinos.

But intense lobbying from governor Dannel Malloy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, joined by the entire state Congressional delegation, got a provision added that would make it very difficult for three tribes in the state  -- the Eastern Pequot of North Stonington, the Golden Hill Paugussett of Colchester and Trumbull, and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Kent, to make another application. Their bids for federal recognition were rejected earlier.

The provision includes language that says, in order to renew their claims, tribes whose bids for federal recognition have been rejected must  receive approval from  those who previously opposed their recognition, which includes Connecticut's entire political establishment.

James Benny Jones, Jr., an Eastern Pequot leader, said Friday that his tribe plans to move forward with its attempt to win federal recognition. “It’s clearly an indication of influence peddling,” Jones said of the restrictive language.

Before the Interior Board of Indian Appeals overturned the decisions, the Eastern Pequot and Schaghticoke were given federal recognition, a status that was challenged by state officials.

Governor Dannel Malloy sent a letter to President Obama in February decrying some of the changes the BIA had been considering. He wrote, “For Connecticut, the consequences would be devastating. The petitioning groups have filed or threatened land claims to vast areas of fully developed land in Connecticut. Such claims can cloud the title to real property in the claimed area, causing significant economic hardship to Connecticut residents.”

A two-month public comment period ends August 1.

Following the Republican state convention, there has been some shuffling among candidates who didn’t get the nod for governor, which was won by Tom Foley. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti are teaming up in the race for the Republican nomination for governor and lieutenant governor.

Lauretti surprised insiders with his ability to raise more than $100,000 in his first three months in the race. However, he won’t be able to keep that money because he’s switching races.

Essentially, he will have to return those donations and give donors an opportunity to cut his lieutenant governor campaign a check. But he won’t be able to do any of that until he qualifies for the ballot by gathering signatures of about 8,200 Republican voters by June 10.

Newsday reports: New York City is seeking to reopen dozens of its wells in Queens, pumping millions of gallons of drinking water from the aquifers under Long Island, a plan some say can harm Nassau County's access to its only source of water.

The city plans to reopen wells in Queens as part of its "Water for the Future" program, a $1.5 billion project by the city's Department of Environmental Protection to repair leaks in the city's upstate aqueduct system.

The program is estimated to begin in 2021, the city plans to pump from the aquifer system that lies under geographic Long Island by rehabilitating the currently dormant wells.

The fear is that the city's pumping will cause increased saltwater intrusion on the county's north and south shores, a shift in the direction of underground plumes of contamination, and a general drawdown of the aquifer system, the sole source of water for Nassau's nearly 1.4 million residents.

Joe Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said "I think the city will be more than happy to cooperate with us and provide us all the information we feel like we need in order to evaluate the impacts on groundwater."

Investigators examining the illegal dumping in Islip Monday inspected a Deer Park site where officials say debris was dumped into a sensitive wetland that forms part of the watershed into the Great South Bay.

Detectives are trying to determine if the site -- at the rear of 175 Brook Ave. -- is related to the dumping they are investigating at Islip Town's Roberto Clemente Park.

Richard Groh, chief analyst with Babylon's Department of Environmental Control, said “Babylon Town officials visited the Deer Park property, which backs on to Sampawams Creek, after receiving a tip. The creek is a protected wetlands area under New York State DEC Freshwater Wetlands Regulations, which makes it a civil violation to place any fill in the area, according to officials.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has said the debris in the Islip park contains "high levels of asbestos" and had multiple origins, including New York City and Long Island, but that more will be known once a full analysis of samples taken from the park is completed perhaps as soon as next week.

 Friday, May 23

In the news tonight: Connecticut’s health exchange enrollment surged, farm worker advocates rally on Long Island, East Hampton presents their all renewable power plan, and New York’s Public Service Department says new overhead power lines are needed. 

The last day of enrollment on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange had so many people waiting in line that officials decided to enroll some of them at a later date.

Access Health Connecticut CEO Peter Van Loon said there were about 10,000 people waiting in line physically or virtually and that exchange staff signed up about half of them. Because of the deadline, they had to backdate many of the enrollments to meet the March 31 deadline.

At the end of the enrollment period about 80,000 people had signed up with one of the three insurance carriers on the exchange. 

Officials were surprised by the continued call volume after the enrollment deadline. They are still receiving 3,000 to 4,000 calls per day. The exchange is considering keeping the call center open to answer questions from the newly-insured about all the rules involved.

Van Loon said it looked like 18-to-34-year-olds waited until the last-minute to enroll. They are about 25 percent of the total number enrolled in private plans. The 55-to-64 age group is around 30 percent of the total.

Newsday reports: Advocates for immigrant farm workers throughout New York rallied yesterday in Wyandanch.  They say the workers should have the same labor protections as other employees in the state, including a day of rest, overtime pay and the ability to organize.

Senator Phil Boyle, a Bay Shore Republican, one of the legislators who protesters are lobbying for support, said he would back labor laws so farmworkers are "not treated as second-class citizens," but the bill would have to be "a compromise that protects both farmworkers and farmers."

Heriberto González, a Mexican immigrant who worked on farms upstate, said many workers are paid $7.25 an hour for backbreaking labor that could extend to 70 hours a week.

"We get housing that is not adequate where we have to live, without heat or air conditioning" and "where an employer can come and get us anytime they need us to go to work."

But Joe Gergela, director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, which represents a $250 million industry employing more than 5,000 people in the region, said
“We want fairness, and it's a conversation being argued by people who have nothing in the game."

We reported earlier this week that the town board of East Hampton on Long Island voted unanimously to adopt a comprehensive goal for solar, wind and other renewable energy. Yesterday, the town convened a public meeting  about the plan. Francesca Rheannon reports:
Residents crowded into a packed community event in East Hampton Town Hall Thursday to learn about the town’s newly announced plan to go 100% renewable. The goal is ambitious -- 100% of electric power sourced from renewables by 2020 and 100% equivalence in renewable energy in all sectors, including transportation, heating and waste management, by 2030.

Gordion Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island was one of plan’s creators. He says that the technology and financial resources to get to 100% renewables have been in place. What’s been lacking until now is the political will. Now that has changed.

The East End community is only the second municipality in the nation -- San Francisco was first -- to make the commitment. Raacke hopes other towns and cities will follow East Hampton’s example.

For the East End news team, I’m Francesca Rheannon.

New electric transmission lines in East Hampton and North Hempstead are needed to “ensure reliability of the electric system,” the State Department of Public Service has concluded following its review of projects in the two towns.

Department officials said, because demand for electricity increases in summer, “both projects should be completed prior to the summer of 2014”

After the installation of high-voltage lines on tall poles prompted an outcry about aesthetics and safety and questions about the need for the upgrades, East Hampton and North Hempstead officials enlisted a review by the department which oversees L I P A and its contractor PSEG Long Island. 

The memo did not address requests for the power lines to be buried.  An analysis by the Department of costs for undergrounding is to be issued soon. 

Thursday, May 22:   

In the news tonight: cab and livery companies go to Federal court to block a competitor from doing business in Connecticut.; Democratic Governors Association challenges Connecticut election laws; man wrongly convicted for  murder gains law degree Sunday, and Suffolk County adopts Carbon monoxide monitor law

A coalition of 15 Connecticut cab and livery companies filed suit in federal court Wednesday to block ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft from doing business in the state.

The cab and livery companies filed a 42-page complaint in U.S. District Court that contends because Uber and Lyft are Internet-based, they are putting passenger safety at risk by skirting state and federal regulations that govern the industry.
Uber and Lyft arrived in parts of Connecticut, including New Haven, in April. 

Lawyers for the Democratic Governors Association and state election regulators will try to work out their differences before a magistrate in Bridgeport after both were questioned at length on the DGA’s challenge of Connecticut campaign finance law.

U.S. District Judge Janet Hall ordered the settlement talks after hearing oral argument Wednesday on the case, in which the DGA claims the State Elections Enforcement Commission and Connecticut campaign laws restrict its First Amendment right to spend money on behalf of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the coming election.

Hall grilled lawyers for both sides but warned the DGA’s attorney, Marc Elias, not to draw conclusions from her questions.

She said. “I ask a lot of questions and anyone who tries to make sense of those questions is wasting their time,”

But the judge questioned whether the association had standing to bring a lawsuit against regulators who had not yet taken any enforcement action against the association.

She also asked whether the law regulators intend to enforce unfairly punishes a candidate like Malloy simply because he associates with a group like the Democratic Governors Association.

The group filed a preemptive lawsuit hoping to avoid being prosecuted by the SEEC for spending money this fall on behalf of Malloy, who has actively raised money for the group and has served as its former finance chair.

Martin Tankleff, who was released from prison in 2007 after serving 17 years on charges of killing his parents, will receive his law degree Sunday, and plans to establish a foundation to work to free prisoners who were wrongly convicted.
Tankleff, now 42, told Newsday:

"It's another step in the journey that I have….to become a lawyer and advocate on behalf of those who were wrongfully convicted, to make sure that what happened to me doesn't happen to anyone else. The system has too many innocent men incarcerated"

The former Belle Terre resident was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison in 1990 after being convicted of killing his parents, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, in 1988. His conviction was overturned by an appeals court in 2007 and the state attorney general's office decided in 2008 not to retry him.
He sued the state for false imprisonment and settled for $3.375 million in January. He has a separate lawsuit in federal court against Suffolk County.

The Suffolk County Legislature has passed a law requiring county-owned buildings and community college buildings to have Carbon-Monoxide  (known as C - O) detectors installed over the next three years.

County Executive Steve Bellone signed the bill into law yesterday.

County Legislator Kara Hahn of Setauket, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is important because the county has already suffered from a lack of detectors.

She said police Sgt. James Hutchens died in 1992 after he was found unconscious in the police radio shop garage when he was overcome by CO gas. The ventilation system was turned off while a car was left running in the building. Hahn said."It happened before and shouldn't happen again,"

The county does not have the power to require smoke detectors in commercial buildings.

Wednesday, May 21:   

In the news tonight: violent youth transferred to custody of Connecticut Correction Department, Former Governor seeks dismissal of corruption case against him, East Hampton plans for all renewable electric power by 2020, and Budget votes on Long Island.

A memorandum from Superior Court Judge Burton Kaplan details “ample evidence” of violence by the inmate to support the transfer of the transgender youth known as “Jane Doe” into the custody of the Correction Department.

Kaplan filed the 22-page memorandum on May 6. It provides some details on the case that have not been publicly available because Department of Children and Families and juvenile court records are typically sealed.

But the case of “Jane Doe” captured public attention after the 16-year-old transgender female was transferred from DCF custody into an adult prison. Burton ordered the transfer at DCF’s request.

The department’s decision to employ a rarely-used law to put the teen in Correction Department custody has been criticized by child advocates, the Connecticut ACLU, newspaper editorials, and LGBT advocates. Many point out that “Jane Doe” is a minor imprisoned at an adult prison in Niantic despite not having been charged with any crime.

Meanwhile, “Jane Doe” has written open letters to both DCF Commissioner Joette Katz, a former state Supreme Court justice, and Governor Dannel Malloy, a former prosecutor, asking to be removed from the adult prison facility.

Attorneys for John G. Rowland sought the dismissal Tuesday of the criminal indictment accusing the former Republican governor of conspiring to act as a secret paid consultant to the congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley in 2012. If that fails, they also want a closer examination of prospective jurors to guard against what they call poisonous pre-trial publicity.

Rowland’s legal team is asking Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns to throw out the entire case and, if that fails, to narrow the government’s case in a way that could bar testimony from Mark Greenberg, a congressional candidate who says Rowland proposed a similar arrangement to him in 2010.

The lawyers said “The Government here is attempting to criminalize conduct that is simply not illegal. In doing so, the Government has stretched the bounds of the law well beyond what Congress had intended and well beyond what any court in this Circuit has found permissible,”.

The U.S. Attorney's response is not due until June 16.

On Tuesday, the East Hampton Town Board voted unanimously on a goal to meet 100% of the town's community-wide electricity needs with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy by the year 2020.

Sylvia Overby, Town Councilwoman and liaison on the Energy Sustainability Committee, said, "Our everyday lives are impacted by the effects of global warming. We owe it to the children of East Hampton to do something about climate change and air pollution caused by fossil fuels."

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell says building local solar farms can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in lease revenue for the town.

Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, commented "Setting these bold renewable energy goals for the eastern tip of Long Island positions East Hampton as a visionary leader in the fight against climate change

According to Raacke, a 2012 study found that Long Island could generate 100% of its electricity from renewable and carbon-free sources.  Presently much of Long Island’s electric power is generated by fossil fuels such as natural gas.

Looking further ahead the Town Board also set a goal of meeting the equivalent of 100% of its energy consumption in all sectors (electricity, heating, and transportation) with renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

School budget votes were held in Suffolk County yesterday.
Two districts, Patchogue and East Hampton approved budget increases greater than 2% by voting over 60% in favor.  Bridgehampton rejected a proposed increase over the state cap of 2% by a substantial margin.
The Patchogue-Medford budget called for a 2.38 percent increase in spending over the current year, although the school tax will increase by only .07 percent.  
Tuesday, May 20:

In the news tonight: Bridgeport’s Classical Studies Academy students have a brighter future,  New York Schools violate federal law on homeless students, and school board and budget elections in Suffolk.

The Connecticut Post reports that after 13 years in operation, Classical Studies Academy in Bridgeport, a K to 8 school, is getting a new name and its high performing students will earn a clear path into Central Magnet School.
The city school board's Community Engagement Committee voted last week to recommend that the school's name be changed to Classical Studies Magnet Academy.
The school never had the word "magnet" attached to it and this change will give students at the kindergarten through eighth-grade school an automatic pathway into Central Magnet School, if their grades are good enough.

Since 2005, Classical Studies has has a curriculum of classical literature, art and music. Students throughout the district can apply to the school, but their parents have to commit to 40 hours of service to the school if their children win a slot. The school has a waiting list and this year received a record number of applications.

Principal Helen Giles said that Classical students score near the top in the district on standardized tests.  She stated that the school already performs as a magnet and "I think we should take it to the next level.”

Advocates for the homeless say New York State continues to disobey a federal act that protects against the dis-enrollment of schoolchildren whose families are in the process of appealing their homeless status.

Mark Scheerer of New York News Connection reports:

It’s called the McKinney-Vento Act, a federal law that says homeless students are supposed to be entitled to enrollment in school while any disputes about their homeless status proceed – those are called “310 appeals" in New York. Despite a couple of court rulings that said they shouldn’t, the New York State Education Department persists in allowing schools to dis-enroll students before their final appeal is ruled  on, which sometimes takes over a year. This affects a student's stability, which depends in part on access to school. Deborah Berger is an attorney who began trying to change this nearly a decade ago.   

Berger: "I think that it’s disgraceful. While you’re deciding whether or not the child meets the requirements of McKinney-Vento, the child should not be dis-enrolled."

The Suffolk Times reports that the county will match a $60,000 payment for an engineering report to explore wastewater treatment options for Orient homeowners. This could make the village the first community in Suffolk to install small wastewater treatment facilities to clean up the local ecosystem.

Nonprofit Peconic Green Growth completed a preliminary study in December 2013, which showed the most suitable sites in Orient for holding subsurface wastewater facilities. It considered seven parcels, able to process waste for 574 people, for further study.

These updates would help reduce nitrogen pollution by 50 to 90 percent. Current wastewater systems are mainly cesspools, and can eventually leach nitrogen into local waters, threatening drinking water area marine life.
Researchers have said the Peconic Bay has seen rust tide become an annual occurrence in late summer as nitrogen loads have increased.
Legislators at last week’s general meeting said they are anxious to see what lessons can be learned from the engineering study. Peconic Green Growth has 15 months to complete the study.
Voters have until 9PM tonight to vote in school board and budget elections in Suffolk.
Three districts will ask voters to pass budgets that exceed the state recommended 2% cap including Patchogue-Medford, Bridgehampton and East Hampton.
The Patchogue-Medford budget calls for a 2.38 percent increase in spending over the current year, but a decrease in the school tax levy of .07 percent.  

The budget must receive a 60 percent supermajority vote to pass.

Monday, May 19:   

In the news tonight: Connecticut Dems and Republicans hold nominating conventions;
Long Island commercial fishermen wary of offshore wind farm

Both Democrats and Republicans held their state nominating conventions over the weekend.

Democratic delegates gathered Friday night in Hartford, where they nominated Governor Dannel Malloy and the entire underticket of incumbents for a second term.

Malloy is hoping to hang onto his job, despite low poll numbers that have changed little since he took office in 2010.

He told delegates he had made the "hard choices" necessary to get the state's economy back on a healthy footing after 20 years with the party out of office, even though that meant a $2.6 billion two-year, tax increase approved in his first year.

He touted progressive achievements such as a $10.10 minimum wage by 2017; a state earned income tax credit for low-wage workers; and the requirement that some employers provide sick days for their workers. 

Malloy received the endorsement of Former AFL-CIO President John Olsen.

Tom Foley, who lost a close election for governor in 2010, was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Republican State Convention for a second try at defeating Malloy. But Folley failed to block two rivals from qualifying for a GOP primary in August.
State Sen. John McKinney and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, will compete with Foley since they each got more than 15% of delegates votes.

Foley says he raised the $250,000 necessary to qualify for public financing, but added that he hadn’t decided yet whether he would use those resources, or private funding, to support his campaign.

As a Rhode Island company, Deepwater Wind, is planning to construct the first offshore wind farms in the United States in the ocean east of Montauk, commercial fishermen are raising concerns about how such projects will impact their livelihood,
according to an East Hampton Star report.

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, believes that construction methodologies, and offshore wind farms themselves, pose a significant threat to fish habitats, spawning, and migratory patterns. Citing studies by
the United States Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the experiences of the commercial fishing industry in Europe, where more than 2,000 wind

turbines are in operation, she is urging a greater role for fishing interests in the decision-making process.

Ms. Brady, who lives in Montauk says “We’re trying to sustainably grow the fishing economy …. To destroy a sustainable industry in the name of sustainability is insane.”

Brady and others are worried about the effects of construction noise, pile driving into the ocean floor, clouding and sedimentation causing damage to fish eggs and spawning grounds, wind turbine noise and vibrations, and electric fields associated with cables that carry electric power to land.

Jeffrey Grybowski, of Deepwater Wind, which last year won the exclusive right to develop a wind farm about 30 miles east of Montauk, said he recognizes the valid concerns of fishermen.  Grybowski said the wind farm building process will include collaboration with the fishing industry.  Feedback on possible locations and construction operations will be sought.  Grybowski is confident that offshore wind and
commercial fishing can coexist and that wind farms can be designed to minimize impacts on fisheries.

As documented in scientific journals such as Nature, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels is causing ocean acidification, which could render the ocean uninhabitable for many, if not most, fish stocks. Wind energy is meant to replace fossil fuels.

Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island, an advocate for wind and solar power, told WPKN News:

“Fishing interests, along with all other stakeholders, should have input on the siting of offshore wind farms. The experience from European offshore wind farms some of which have now been operating for decades, is that studies show no significant or
long-term impacts on wildlife. 

Raacke says “The bottom line is that to avoid climate change and widespread environmental destruction, we must switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy
sources. With proper siting and other precautions offshore wind farms along with solar energy will enable us to make that switch without harming fish, wildlife or our environment."

Friday, May 16:

In the news tonight:   Connecticut’s campaign finance law dispute; second amendment advocates headed to the Connecticut Republican convention, is student debt a factor in Long Island’s brain drain?, and re-building Riverhead’s downtown.

Connecticut Public News Service reports:

A legal battle over campaign finance is pitting the Democratic Governors Association against the League of Women Voters of Connecticut and other independent advocacy groups.

A lawsuit has been filed by the Governors Association, DGA, to prevent Connecticut from enforcing a 2013 campaign finance law that revised the definition of independent expenditures because they say it violates their free-speech rights.

Cheryl Dunson, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, says at issue are unlimited campaign contributions, which the state does allow – but only if they are independent expenditures. The law says that the state can place reasonable requirements for unlimited contributions.

Ms. Dunson says that the candidate should not be involved in the process.

A ruling in the DGA's favor could end the requirement that unlimited expenditures be independent and in essence, allow them to make unlimited campaign support of Connecticut Gov. Malloy's candidacy at that same time that Governor Malloy is fundraising for the DGA.

Governor Malloy is a member of the association, and as finance chairman helped the group raise $20 million in 2011.

The case could be headed for oral arguments next week.

They may not have been able to stop the Democrat-controlled General Assembly and governor from implementing stricter gun control laws in 2013, but Second Amendment advocates are staying involved in the political process.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League encouraged its members to get involved with the political process so they can support candidates that share their view of the Second Amendment. Part of that process included becoming one of the 1,253 delegates to the Republican convention this weekend.

A Quinnipiac University poll released this week found that 56 percent of Connecticut voters support the new stricter gun laws, while 38 percent opposed them.

Quinnipiac University Poll Director Doug Schwartz said those who would vote solely based on the gun control laws favored the stricter laws, which bodes well for Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.

A new report says heavy student loan debt is a major factor forcing young college graduates to plan on leaving Long Island – and Mike Clifford reports that it is accelerating local brain drain.

The White Paper from the Suburban Mellennial Institute is headlined “Congratulations, Graduates – Your Bill is in the Mail and Will be Coming for the Next Four Decades.” 

The institute’s founder, SUNY professor Jeffrey Guillot, says the report finds the downtrend in millennials' home ownership is directly linked to skyrocketing student loan debt.

"Because they are being priced out of the marketplace; and so if we can find ways to allow flexibility on what is now the second biggest source of debt in America, then we’re going to be moving in the right direction."

Guillot says some Republicans are lining up behind the measure and he believes there is no reason more can’t get behind the plan because he says it is revenue neutral. 

A consortium of groups are studying the potential redevelopment of downtown Riverhead, and planners are now getting down to work to see how to facilitate changes suggested by the public.  Among these are more unique shops, including a coffee shop and a bookstore, access to the river, a grocery and a movie theater. 

Consultants from Nelson, Pope and Voorhis and others are hosting the second of two public outreach sessions on their work. Tuesday, May 20 at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center on Main Street in Riverhead.

There will be two sessions, one from 3 to 5 p.m. and another from 7 to 9 p.m.

Planners outlined their work to date in a presentation to the Riverhead Town Board May 15.

The scope of their work has broadened since the town began working on the study through a $567,000 New York State Brownfields Opportunity Area grant last year.

Work will include designating historic areas of mostly-residential Second Street, which would then be eligible for 40 percent tax credits for people who want to restore the buildings there.

Thursday, May 15   

In the news tonight:  Another Democrat for Governor?, National Bike to Work Day is Friday, Public transportation advocates plan a “Bus Mob” on the South Fork, and a deal for Fire Island homeowners.

In the race for governor, Jonathan Pelto, a 10-year veteran of the legislature and former advisor to the last Democratic governor, Bill O’Neill, said he’s exploring a run challenging Dannel Malloy.

Pelto has been an outspoken critic of the Malloy administration, especially when it comes to education policy. He told CT News Junkie that Malloy is vulnerable on education issues.

Rank and file teachers haven’t warmed to Malloy’s education reform bill, which Pelto said “effectively did away with tenure.”
Pelto said educators, and many parents, see Malloy as supporting policies that encourage “teaching to the test,” which has alienated some who vote Democratic. 

During the 2010 election, Malloy beat Republican Tom Foley by just 6,404 votes. A Quinnipiac poll last week suggested that voters are still evenly split between Malloy and Foley, who is again seeking the Republican nomination.

It's time to check your tire pressure and pull out your helmet to join those who will be cycling to work Friday for National Bike to Work Day in Connecticut.

Last year more, than 600 people signed a pledge to bike to work, with the longest commute being a 65-mile trek one-way from Old Saybrook to Hartford.

State Senator Beth Bye says "It's a big deal in Connecticut, We just need the people that build our roads to be more aware, too, to try to remember cyclists as they are planning intersections and revamping roads – that there are some simple things they can do to make it safer."

As the summer traffic season in the Hamptons begins to heat up, a group of citizens wants to highlight transportation alternatives that could relieve congestion and lessen the region’s carbon footprint.

They are organizing a “Bus Mob” -- a gathering of people to ride local buses on Saturday, May 17.

WPKN’s Francesca Rheannon reports:

Wednesday, May 14:  

In the news tonight:  Voters say bring on the grass; a new take on gun legislation; Long Island vets housing land was a dump site, and the EPA investigates asbestos dumping by Long Island firms.

Connecticut voters strongly support the state’s legalization of marijuana for medical treatment and are open, by a closer margin, to allowing its recreational use, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday.

Slightly less than half the state has used marijuana and 59 percent says legalization would encourage underage use, but overwhelmingly voters say alcohol is more harmful to a person’s health than marijuana and would remain a bigger health threat if pot were legalized.

By more than a 2-1 margin, voters say they would support a medical marijuana dispensary in their town.

Connecticut legalized marijuana for medical use in 2012, with the first six marijuana dispensaries to open this summer in Branford, Bridgeport, Bristol, Hartford, Montville and South Windsor. State law allows patients with one of 11 debilitating illnesses to use marijuana for palliative purposes if their doctors believe it’s appropriate.

A year after a modest proposal to change gun laws failed in the Senate, Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have switched tactics. They plan to introduce a bill that would forbid anyone under a temporary restraining order from owning a gun.

State Senator John McKinney, a Republican who helped pass a bipartisan gun-control law after the Newtown school massacre in his district, told a conservative audience in a video Democrats posted Wednesday that he would not block the law’s hypothetical repeal if elected governor.

According to a Quinnipiac poll, the post-Newtown gun law is supported, 56 percent to 38 percent, but it provokes sharp differences based on gender and political affiliation, drawing opposition from men and Republicans and support from women, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

At a groundbreaking just shy of one year ago, six homes in Islandia were hailed as the first affordable houses built for returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thomas Datre Sr. was then president of the Long Island Home Builders Care Development Corp. -- the charitable arm of Long Island Builders Institute that sponsored the construction.  The Datre family is now implicated in investigations of illegal dumping in Suffolk County.

Five months after the first-time homeowners got the keys to their new houses, the subdivision became the latest site to be investigated in connection with a probe of illegal dumping in the Town of Islip.

Investigators were led to the site after learning companies associated with the Datre family were involved in the project

The disclosure that Veterans Way in Islandia is also under investigation came hours after Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota confirmed that asbestos has been found in a second illegal dumping site in a lot on Route 111 in Central Islip.

In a related story, federal agents raided an abandoned aviation factory in Port Jefferson Station Tuesday for signs of unlawful asbestos handling, months after a Suffolk construction firm was cited there for stripping the cancer-causing material from metal pipes.

The raid by Environmental Protection Administration agents involves looking into the treatment of hazardous materials from the long-shuttered Lawrence Aviation factory by DFF Farms Corp., owned by Thomas Datre Jr.

It also comes as Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota expands his separate probe into asbestos dumping in the county. Last week, Spota said that 32,000 tons of the toxic material had been dumped illegally at Roberto Clemente Park in the Town of Islip.

Spota said Datre Jr.'s company as well as that of his father, Thomas Datre, have been searched by investigators looking into illegal dumping.

Lawrence Aviation was shut in 2003 after solvents, oils and other waste had been dumped there for decades. It was declared a federal Superfund site in 2000 after officials determined the waste had created a hazardous underground plume that contaminated the area.

Sources said EPA criminal division agents Tuesday were trying to determine whether asbestos had been illegally released there or in the surrounding area in recent months. They also want to know if asbestos was illegally removed from the factory and dumped elsewhere in violation of federal law.

Tuesday, May 13

In the news tonight: Senator Blumenthal says victims of sexual assault need more protection, Republicans tell Malloy to can those ads, New York State’s retirement fund is big, and a new park for Brookhaven Town.

New Connecticut legislation aimed at improving how universities respond to sexual assaults does not go far enough, according to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. 

The senator said he supports the law, but wants to include additional proposals.

Blumenthal announced a “Bill of Rights” for the victims of campus sexual assault, which stemmed from roundtable discussions his office hosted at seven Connecticut colleges and universities.

The state’s bill and Blumenthal’s proposed inclusions address many of the same institutional concerns. Both want victims to have clear access to support and the option to report confidentially, and that schools establish a trained sexual assault response team.

But additionally, Blumenthal’s report calls for federal funding for schools to refine policies and training. It also recommends clarifying Title IX policies so students know how to submit a complaint against a school.

The “Bill of Rights” also wants sexual assault prevention to begin well before students reach college. It recommends age-appropriate education during the middle school and high school years.

In the meantime, the senator encouraged colleges and universities to voluntarily adopt the provisions of the “Bill of Rights.”

The Connecticut Republican Party criticized Governor Malloy’s plan to spend nearly $600,000 on two television ads to promote Connecticut’s business climate.

Malloy said, the ads are supposed “to communicate that Connecticut’s on the move and that we have programs that allow businesses to grow and come to our state and that we’re tired of looking at New York’s ads and Massachusetts’ ads”

Republicans criticized the ads, playing less than 6 months before Malloy is up for re-election, saying there’s a fine line between “promoting our state and using taxpayer money for a campaign.”

Zak Sanders, a spokesman for the party, said “Gov. Malloy has repeatedly crossed that line.”

Asked about the Republican criticism, Malloy said the state has spent money on these types of ads every year since he has been governor and Republicans haven’t complained until this year.

The ads feature several Connecticut business executives talking about why they chose to grow in Connecticut and they don’t feature Malloy in any way.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, said “These ads should come down immediately. It’s time for the Malloy administration to face the facts on Connecticut’s economy, not spin them.”  

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the Common Retirement Fund has hit a new high valuation of $176 billion for the just-ended fiscal year, driven by an estimated rate of return of 13.02 percent.

Global and domestic equities were the top performing sectors, earning rates of return of 22.3 percent and 25.1 percent, respectively.

DiNapoli said in a statement. “It was a stellar year for us. The Fund grew in value to a historic high of $176.2 billion,” “The strength of the domestic equity market, coupled with strong private equity and real estate returns, drove much of our growth.

The third-largest public pension fund in the country, the CRF provides benefits to more than a million state and local government employees, retirees and beneficiaries. Over the past 20 years, 80 percent of benefits have been funded from investment returns.

The CRF’s long-term expected rate of return is 7.5 percent. Last year, it earned a 10.38 percent return and was valued at $160.7 billion.

Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town officials gathered Monday to celebrate the conclusion of a decade long effort to buy a 16-acre property for a planned park in Selden.
The Boyle Road parcel was purchased for $1.264 million from the Middle Country School District with funds from the county's Drinking Water Protection Program.
The land will be combined with two adjacent tracts to form a 24-acre county park managed by the town.
The town has agreed to spend as much as $8 million to build baseball and softball fields, a multipurpose field, basketball and tennis courts, parking and a track at the park. Construction is expected to take five to eight years.

Monday, May 12:

In the news tonight: Dean withdraws from Governor’s race, summing up the Connecticut legislature session; hoping for Federal funds for local waters and Riverhead’s budget woes.

Republican Martha Dean announced Friday that she has withdrawn from the Connecticut governor’s race. Dean, an attorney from Avon, said she made the decision after the latest Quinnipiac Poll on Friday revealed that only 5 percent of registered Republicans said they would vote for her in a Republican primary.

Dean is a strong supporter of gun rights and opposed last year's legislation tightening gun laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

She said she would support the Republican choice for Governor.

So far, Tom Foley, who almost beat Governor Dannel Malloy four year ago, is tied with Malloy and leading four remaining candidates: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton; Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti; Fairfield State Sen. John McKinney; and former West Hartford town councilman Joe Visconti.

Republicans are set to nominate a candidate for governor at the party’s convention May 17 at Mohegan Sun.

New Haven state senator and majority leader Martin Looney summed up this year's General Assembly session -- which ended last Wednesday -- in an interview with the editor of the New Haven Independent.

Looney said the short session, was meant to make adjustments in the two-year budget bills passed in every odd-numbered year. Many other bills having nothing to do with the budget are always introduced, and many are passed.

Looney highlighted bills raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017; getting $20 million additional for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program that partially reimburses cities for hosting more than their share of non-profits, and crafting a new pre-Kindergarten program.

He also mentioned greater protections for survivors of domestic abuse; a fine on motorists who carelessly kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists; and a law changing how not-for-profit hospitals are converted to for-profit, to take into account community impact.

The Riverhead Town Board is considering an early retirement offer to town employees to help close a budget gap looming next year.

The offer would apply to all town employees, including police and superior officers, who have at least 20 years’ experience and are 55 or older. Employees who opt in would continue to receive full health benefits for four years after retirement.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said about 10 of the town’s roughly 300 employees have expressed interest in retiring. The board would likely replace any police officers who retire but would leave general employee posts unfilled.

Walter is working to avoid a $4 million shortfall or double-digit tax increase in 2015 as the town runs out of the surplus funds it has used to keep taxes from rising in recent years.
Riverhead Town has offered several retirement incentives in recent years as it struggled with paying off the debt incurred by borrowing on expected real estate transfer taxes for preserving open space..

County officials joined local farmers and environmentalists in Cutchogue this morning to urge the federal government to fund projects aimed at restoring Long Island Sound and the Peconic Estuary.

Congressman Tim Bishop, a Southampton Democrat is asking the United States Agriculture department to designate both water bodies as a region of critical importance under the newly created federal Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

Naming the Sound and the Peconic Estuary as a critical designation area would help fund agricultural conservation, habitat restoration efforts, and the sustainable use of soil, water and other natural resources.

Congressman Bishop told WPKN’s Hazel Kahan, that although there is competion for these federal funds, he is optimistic:

Bishop: "Senator Gilllibrand and I wrote to the Secretary of Agriculture, asking for this designation.

now the agricultural community of eastern Long Island is coming together to advocate for that." 

Are you hopeful?

"I'm hopeful. Now there are only going to be 8

of these critical conservation areas accross the country so i think were' in for some pretty still  competition.

But i also think we can make a pretty good case.
we have two estuaries of national significance here.

A huge piece of our economy is rooted in agriculture. I think we can make a very good case."

Friday, May 9:

In the news tonight: The sub biz is still big biz; the latest poll on the Governor race, first aid for heroin overdoses, and more time for Sandy help.

Electric Boat is a big winner in a $600 billion defense authorization bill that is expected to soon win House approval.

The bill, reported out of the House Armed Services Committee late Wednesday, approves about $6 billion to build two new Virginia class submarines jointly built by Electric Boat in Groton and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

The Ohio class submarine replacements will still be the largest in the U.S. military – and cost at least $5 billion per sub, compared to the $2.7
billion price tag of the Virginia class submarine.

As the Navy moves to replace the Ohio class subs, the problem is that their replacements are so expensive that appropriating money for them would distort the Navy’s shipbuilding budget and could result in cutbacks in the procurement of other ships.

Gordon Adams, an American University professor who teaches national security policy, says “The Navy is trying to pull a fast one here”

Adams says, “with the help of friendly lawmakers, including Joe Courtney who represents southeastern Connecticut in Congress, the Navy promoted the replacement sub as a national security asset that deserves its own category of funding to keep it from becoming a victim of the nation’s shrinking defense budget. 

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows about 48 percent of voters say Governor  Malloy is doing a good job, while 46 percent disapprove of the way he’s handling his job.

The poll says his 2010 opponent, Tom Foley, leads five other Republican candidates going into next week’s conventions.

Also, according to the poll, 53 percent of voters disapprove of the way Malloy is handling the budget.

 Quinnipiac Poll Director Doug Schwartz said “The good news for Gov. Malloy is that the negative headlines about his cancellation of the $55 per person tax refund does not seem to affect his overall approval rating or his standing in the governor’s race,”.

Also, Schwartz says “The bad news is that almost all the Republicans are within single digits of Malloy.” The poll found that Malloy and Foley are deadlocked at 43 percent.

And Schwartz said. “Economic issues are dragging Governor Malloy down” but ”a bright spot for him is that voters think he has strong leadership qualities and is honest and trustworthy.”

The East Hampton Star reports:

A drug that can reverse the effects of life-threatening overdoses of the opioid drugs heroin, morphine, and oxycodone, which was for many years available only in emergency rooms, is now being used by emergency medical service providers throughout Suffolk County and will soon be available to South Fork police departments.

Narcan, the brand of naloxone most frequently used, is administered when a patient is believed to have taken a drug that has depressed the central nervous or respiratory systems.

Until recently, only paramedics were able to administer it, and they did so intravenously or intra-muscularly in the field.

As basic life support providers, emergency medical technicians now can provide the time-sensitive intervention through a patient’s nose. A patient can regain consciousness within minutes. If a patient is already in cardiac arrest, however, it can no longer be administered.

The change comes as the county reported a 300-percent rise in heroin-caused deaths over the last four years. In 2013, there were at least 82 heroin deaths, and possibly more; the county medical examiner’s figures are incomplete due to ongoing police investigations. In 2012, there were 83, while in 2011 there were 64 and in 2010 - just 37.

The administration of Narcan is so simple, in fact, that the public is being trained to use it too. Two weeks ago, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, New York Senator Phil Boyle, and the Suffolk County Department of Health announced a partnership in Opioid Prevention Training.

And also from The Star:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended the deadline for homeowners to file flood insurance claims related to Superstorm Sandy until Oct. 29. The deadline for claims had been Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 8

In the news tonight: financing education in Connecticut, end-of-life care law passes, was New York’s anti-corruption commission corrupt? and seeking funds for Suffolk’s bays

The Connecticut legislature approved a major financing bill late Tuesday that dramatically expands pre-school programs in public schools and tackles overdue repairs and renovations at the state universities and community colleges.

The measure, includes $953 million in new financing in the 2014-15 fiscal
year. It also continues investments in a job growth incentives for small businesses and other economic development programs.

Senator Scott Frantz of Greenwich, one of six Republican senators to vote
against the bill, praised the Democratic majority for the quality of programs
in the bond package, but said something still has to be done about the state¹s
$21 billion in bonded debt, one of the highest debt levels, per capita, of any

The Connecticut House of Representatives has given final passage to a proposal aimed at creating a formal process for people with terminal illnesses to discuss their end-of-life care options with a health care provider and document their choices in a medical order.

The measure now heads to Governor Malloy, who has said he supports it.

The bill would allow the state Department of Public Health to create a pilot program for “medical orders for life-sustaining treatment”. The program would include training for health care providers on discussing options with patients, who could then document their choices in a form that would direct medical personnel on how to respond.
Workers in emergency medicine say they often see dying patients whose wishes aren’t known, or families unsure what to do. Even if a patient has an advance directive, it might be unclear about whether it’s still in effect.

The proposal faced opposition this year from people who warned that patients could end up being undertreated or pressured into accepting less treatment than they might want.
The New York Times reports  Federal  prosecutors in Manhattan have allegedly issued a grand jury subpoena seeking emails, text messages and other records from all members of the Moreland  Commission.

The Commission, created last July by Governor Andrew Cuomo,
was created by the Governor to investigate widespread corruption, but was suddenly shut down a month ago by the Governor.

Last month, according to Crain’s New York Business, Mr. Cuomo dismissed suggestions that there could have been anything wrong in his office’s interfering with the commission’s investigations. Cuomo said “It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me”

The  subpoena follows a series of meetings by  several Commission employees and Federal prosecutors. This suggests that the criminal investigation may be examining allegations of interference with the commission.

On April 10, the commission’s two chairmen reached an agreement under which  prosecutors took possession of all of the panel’s documents and computer files, including materials its staff had developed in several corruption investigations, some focused on state legislators.

Federal  prosecutors  also collected the BlackBerry smartphones the commission had provided to its staff.

In the commission’s early days, senior members of its staff were told to communicate with Mr. Cuomo’s aides only via BlackBerry P-I-N messages, which are not recorded on government servers.


As reported by Newsday: Health and planning officials are pressing Suffolk lawmakers for $133,000 to combat a growing variety of harmful algae blooms that have damaged local bays, lakes, and shellfisheries.

The problem, largely a result of too much nitrogen in bays and lakes, is complicated by more than a half-dozen harmful blooms having emerged in the past decade.

The blooms have damaged the hard clams in the Great South Bay and Peconic Bay's scallops.

The county wants a one-time infusion of about $100,000 to develop new strategies from the county's watershed protection program. It will be funded with a portion of the quarter-cent county sales tax reserved for water quality, land preservation and related projects. Those funds will be supplemented with $32,000 from New York Sea Grant.

As part of this initiative, which is expected to launch by September, the county would also spend $28,000 to assess the impact of the 5-year-old aquaculture leasing program in Peconic Bay.

The shellfish populations are said to help filter water by reducing pollution, and currently generate about $4 million in oysters annually, with a multiplier impact of $18 million on the local economy.

The issue will face another legislative vote May 13.

Tuesday, May 6

In the news tonight: a fence on the Hamden – New Haven border will come down, reconsidering juvenile offender sentencing, and New York health care costs scrutinized.


Residents from southwestern Hamden are upset about a decision by New Haven's mayor, Toni Harp, to take down a fence separating them from some low-income housing developments across the town border.

Harp says it discriminates against poor and minority residents along the fenceline, preventing free movement. Several people made their complaints Monday night before a Hamden town council meeting.

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus has more:

Joan Howell has lived in the neighborhood more than 20 years. She said she's had bikes stolen and had her property damaged by people she's seen jump the fence back into the Brookside housing development, but that's not her first concern.

Howell: "It's traffic first, it's safety first, you know why? because people get hit walking up and down Woodin Street because there are no sidewalks. So you're increasing the traffic. That's because when the fence comes down, traffic from New Haven will pour into the neighborhood."

Residents of the newly rebuilt housing developments on the New Haven side are overwhelmingly people of color. The Woodin Street neighborhood is racially diverse and residents who spoke out were black, white and Latino. They say it's just the politicians who are making opposition to the fence a racial issue.

Hamden residents say they put no credence in a recent land survey and they feel betrayed by their mayor, Scott Jackson. But he says it's out of his hands, because New Haven's housing authority recently determined that it owns the property on both sides of the fence, which it wants to remove.

Jackson: "The survey determines the corporate boundary of Hamden versus corporate boundary of New Haven, right? That's not relevant, because parcel lines cross municipal boundaries all the time."
During a time of proposed confidence building activities last year between residents on both sides of the fence, only New Haven residents participated, so no confidence was built.

Jackson said he expects the 50-year-old fence to come down within a week or so.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

Connecticut’s retired state Supreme Court Justice David Borden, who chairs the nonpartisan state Sentencing Commission, is pushing to pass a bill to reconsider the sentences of juvenile offenders.

The bill is the Sentencing Commission’s answer to a growing body of case law from the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the position that juvenile criminals are less culpable and therefore less deserving of severe punishment than are their adult counterparts.

The bill would give inmates a hearing to make their case for a shorter sentence before a parole board if they have been serving lengthy prison terms for crimes they committed as teenagers.

Opponents like the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. John Kissel, said that the bill goes far beyond what the state would need in order to comply with the Supreme Court ruling that motivated it. Kissel said the bill was not fair to the families of crime victims who expect truth in sentencing.

Opponents have attached 22 amendments to the bill with hopes to stall it in the senate so it doesn’t pass by the end of the current legislative session. Kissel said, a long debate doesn’t necessarily kill a bill and since the senate was willing to spend eight hours debating hydraulic fracturing, you would think if the juvenile justice bill was as important to them they would commit eight hours to that as well.”

Newsday reports: Employer-provided health insurance costs for New Yorkers have risen sharply between 2002 and 2012 -- with out-of-pocket expenses alone rising on average more than 100 percent.

This comes as personal income in the New York metropolitan area fell 6.9 percent during the same period, according to government statistics. The New York State Health Foundation reported 25 percent of employers reduced or froze wages, 22 percent avoided hiring more workers, and 20 percent reduced benefits. Some employers have opted not to offer insurance.

The health care increases came before last year’s federal Affordable Care Act rollout and state exchanges, but the ACA hasn’t done much to reduce premiums either.
A 2012 report by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit studying health care issues, found that premiums rose more slowly after the Affordable Care Act but the private insurance spending per person is projected to grow more rapidly than incomes over the next decade.

For the next three years until the ACA is phased out, almost every health insurance plan enrollee will pay a "reinsurance tax" -- $63 this year -- to help insurers cover high-cost cases.

New York is second only to California in health care spending, according to the health care research nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Monday May 5:

In the news tonight: protecting bike riders, Connecticut’s budget passes legislature, University of Bridgeport and WPKN Radio to be powered by a fuel cell power plant, Suffolk County health clinic to be privatized with lowered fees.

It took five years of trying, but a bill is now finally headed for Governor Malloy’s  signature that proponents say will protect pedestrians, cyclists and others who share the roads with motor vehicles.
The so-called Vulnerable Users bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly, and calls for a mandatory fine of up to $1,000 dollars for motor vehicle drivers who fail to operate with due care and cause injury or death.
It was helped along by advocacy groups like Bike Walk Connecticut. The group's executive director, Kelly Kennedy, says the bill is needed. She says between 2006 and 2012, almost 11,000 pedestrians and cyclists have been hit on the state's roadways, with 36 cyclists and 259 pedestrians dying.
The bill covers any road user not in a motor vehicle, such as horseback riders or people in wheelchairs, as long as they are following the laws.

The Connecticut legislature approved an $18.9 billion state budget plan over the weekend that preserves municipal aid and preschool funding. The budget repeals keno but gambles on future revenue collection and unidentified savings. It was approved along party lines, with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans opposed. The budget increases spending 2.5 percent.

Legislative Democrats and Governor Malloy’s administration negotiated the budget this week after budget analysts concluded the $505 million surplus anticipated earlier had dropped to about $43 million based on disappointing income tax revenue.
The new plan assumes that in 2015 the Department of Revenue Services will collect an additional $75 million in unpaid taxes from tax delinquents identified last year during the tax amnesty process.
The budget increases the Education Cost Sharing formula’s payment to municipalities by about $47 million and boosts payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, for state property by $10 million and an additional $10 million for colleges and hospitals. It transfers $11.5 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to substance abuse and mental health services.
Republicans claimed the budget is built on faulty premises and doesn't address the state's fundamental problems.

FuelCell Energy, Inc. will install a 1.4 Megawatt fuel cell power plant at the University of Bridgeport.

The facility will supply approximately 80 percent of the campus power needs. 

The manufacturer says the ultra-clean emission profile of the fuel cell power generation advances the sustainability goals of the University.

FuelCell Energy will install, operate and maintain the plant, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2014.

The University of Bridgeport, a private institution with total enrollment of about 4,800, will purchase the electricity and heat under a multi-year power purchase agreement.

WPKN Radio’s office and studios are located at the University’s Cox Student Center and are expected to be powered by the new system. 

The University’s President Neil Albert Salonen, said "Sustainable and affordable energy is an increasingly important component of the new energy mix at the University of Bridgeport."

The University will benefit from the plant's combined heat and power capabilities which provides both ultra-clean power and usable high quality heat. The University expects to enjoy cost savings along with a reduction in pollutants and CO2 emissions.
As reported by Newsday: Amityville's county-run Maxine Postal Tri-Community Health Center will be transferred to a non-profit under a bill approved last week by the Suffolk Legislature.
Lawmakers voted to turn operation of the center over to Hudson River HealthCare, of Peekskill that runs two former Suffolk County health centers.
Officials hope the move will lower costs for both the county and the facility's 12,500 patients.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the handover, tentatively scheduled for
June 15, will save the county $4.5 million over the next five years.
According to Bellone, the agreement will bolster federal benefits and state aid payments, provide federal coverage for malpractice cases and give the health center access to federal programs.

Services will also expand to include mental health and dental care while lowering patients' copays from as much as $75 to between $15 and $35.

Friday, May 2:

In the news tonight: May Day in Fairhaven, Nutmegers thinking about moving, new housing and commercial development for Coram, and another gender bias suit against Southampton Town police.

Immigrants and their supporters marched through the streets of a New Haven neighborhood on Thursday -- May Day -- to demand an end to deportations of the undocumented and an end to wage theft, which is especially common by employers of immigrant workers.

WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

The rally and march through Fair Haven, where many immigrant families live, featured several speakers, including Mike Lawlor, Governor Dannel Malloy's criminal justice adviser. He outlined Malloy's past support for immigrants' rights, and added,

Megan Fountain, with Unidad Latina en Accion, ticked off the names of New Haven families where at least one member is facing deportation.

Obama has pledged to deport only "the worst of the worst," but in practice a large majority of the two million deported under Obama have no serious criminal record or no record at all, including these New Haveners.

One of their chants was translated as "Obama, listen, we are fighting back."

After the rally, marchers passed by a local McDonalds, where they called for a living wage of $15 an hour for all workers, immigrants and native-born alike.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

A Gallup Poll released Wednesday ranked Connecticut second, with 49 percent wanting to leave if they could.
Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist of DataCore Partners in New Haven said Connecticut “has been underperforming after one of the worst recessions dating back to World War II.”
…. “we have the fifth-highest cost of doing business in the country and we were 35th last year in terms of job growth. According to the latest polls as of the end of March, 42 percent did not believe that this is recovery. People don’t have extra money to buy non-essential items.”
Tom Foley, Republican candidate for governor, said, “I am disappointed, but not surprised, because people are attracted to places where they see opportunity and can feel optimistic — two things that Governor Malloy has failed to deliver”.

Construction of a $53 million pedestrian-friendly housing and commercial complex has begun on the site of a dilapidated former United Artists movie theater in Coram.

Wincoram Commons will offer 176 affordable rental housing units, mixed retail and 13,300 square feet of commercial space on the site of the often vandalized theatre at Route 112 and Middle Country Road which has been vacant for over a decade.

Gov. Cuomo  said "This redevelopment project will transform a symbol of blight into a new engine for economic development and affordable housing," Cuomo said the project is expected to inject nearly $56 million into the local economy and create 145 construction jobs and more than 30 permanent jobs.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called the project an example of the public and private sectors working together to promote economic growth. The project's first phase will be paid through a mix of state, county and nonprofit funding.

The development project is part of a land-use strategy to support growth in the community while eliminating an eyesore.
A Southampton Town Police sergeant has filed a civil rights suit in federal court against the Town of Southampton, its police department and chief of police.

Southampton town attorney, Tiffany Scarlato, who was served with the summons and complaint yesterday, said the town currently has a couple of other gender discrimination cases pending before the EEOC.

Detective Sergeant  Lisa Costa claims she was the victim of "egregious and relentless" gender discrimination by the police department "in the form of a hostile work environment, failure to promote, and other adverse employment actions committed against her"

Costa also says the department brass retaliated against her after she filed complaints with the federal agency and the N.Y. State Division of Human Rights.

She says the Town police has a "relentless policy of gender discrimination" 

Town Attorney Scarlato said "We do receive these types of cases on a regular basis. We have every intention of vigorously defending it."

Thursday May 1 

In the news tonight:  Connecticut’s budget woes, Keno or no, the Long Island Railroad has a new head, and Southampton has a giant park - for industry. 

The U.S. economy slowed drastically in the first three months of the year as a harsh winter exacted a toll on business activity. The slowdown, while worse than expected, is likely to be temporary as growth rebounds with warmer weather.

That national slowdown of economic activity is seriously affecting budget planning in Connecticut, where it now is feared there could be a $300 Million shortfall in projected tax revenues, necessitating cutbacks in state services.

As a result of declining revenues, Governor Malloy canceled plans for a $55 tax refund to 2.7 million taxpayers.  Also $100 million won’t be deposited in the state employees’ pension fund.

Legislative leaders from two budget writing committees have been behind closed-doors all week seeking to cut spending or defer tax breaks they planned to give to various businesses.

It’s unclear at the moment what lawmakers will target for cuts or which taxes will remain on the books.
Keno won’t help the state end next fiscal year in the black and the likelihood lawmakers would repeal the bingo-style game seems even slimmer than it did just a few weeks ago.

According to the budget approved last year, the game will be run by the Connecticut
Lottery and the revenues will be split with the two tribal casinos. It’s estimated to bring in $13.5 million in 2015 and $27 million in the following years.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield, said lawmakers are kidding themselves if they think it’s possible to cut revenue at this point.

McKinney, who as a Republican doesn’t have a seat at the table, said he has not heard whether Keno would remain in the budget. However, he’s proposed amendments eliminating it on several bills and will be working to make sure they get one vote on the issue.

Keno is not popular with Connecticut voters, but it remains a last-ditch option in budget negotiations when lawmakers run out of ideas to balance the budget. In a recent March Quinnipiac University poll, 65 percent of voters opposed Keno.

Helena Williams, the first woman president to run the Long Island Rail Road, was fired Wednesday after 7 years in the job.

Williams will be replaced by Patrick Nowakowski, a career railroad professional who for the past five years has served as executive director of Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which is building a 23-mile rail line to connect with the Washington, D.C. Metro system.

The 60 year old Nowakowski, starts May 12.

Williams, who is 58, told Newsday she was surprised. She declined to say why she was fired. 

The move comes as LIRR laborers and MTA management remain at an impasse in their nearly four-year-long dispute -- and a potential strike looms.

Willliams said she believed her firing had nothing to do with the possibility of a strike.  She is not involved with negotiations.

The MTA said only that Williams was out as president. The agency did not give a reason.

Kevin Law, president of the business group the Long Island Association, said in a statement that Williams did "an excellent job," and her ouster was ill-timed.

As reported by Newsday: Groundbreaking for the Hampton Business District industrial park at the Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach was held Tuesday. 
Rechler Equity Partners of Plainview plans to put up nine buildings -- including medical offices, a hotel and a restaurant..

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the industrial park "is the kind of opportunity that we need here" to develop an economy that extends beyond tourism.”

The developer, Gregg Rechler, said the park would create more than 1,100 jobs.
In 2005 the company gained the zoning changes needed for vacant Suffolk County-owned land at the airport and signed a 40-year lease with the county in 2009.
Rechler called the project a "very unique opportunity" because there are few if any undeveloped parcels left on the South Fork that are zoned for projects of this scale and have sewerage.

The first phase of the project, a 60,000-square-foot office building, should be complete by the end of the year and the entire park should be built in three to five years. 

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