Osten Spearheads Push for Workers’ Compensation to Include Mental Health

Kara Dewaine lost her father, Jeramie Dewaine, to suicide two years ago. A corrections officer at Corrigan Radgowski Prison, he would sometimes work 72 hours straight, and witnessed horrific violence, including being one of the first to find an inmate who took their life by hanging, his daughter said.  “These weren’t things he could talk about at home,” she said. “It was like he had to become a different person when he was home to protect us from everything he was going through. He was expected to see these extreme things at work and deal with them as if they

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Lamont’s Extension of Emergency Powers Draws Questions from Republican Leadership

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that he will extend the public health state of emergency, which was set to end on February 9, through to April 20. The state of emergency gives the governor sweeping powers to manage the pandemic, including restricting business, limiting gatherings, and mandating masks.  The Governor first declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020 and extended the order an additional five months on September 9.  In a press briefing on Monday, Lamont said this additional extension would give Connecticut time to assess the vaccine’s efficacy as well as prepare for the new, more contagious

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Union Criticizes State for Lack of Vaccine Preparedness for Corrections Officers

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In a press conference Wednesday morning, union leaders representing tens of thousands of corrections officers argued that the state and the Department of Corrections have done little to prepare for vaccine distribution, constantly moving the goalposts and delaying a process they say is vital to workplace safety.  “The agency has no plan, nor does it show any true interest in formulating a plan to get our members the vaccine they so desperately want,” said Sean Howard, president of AFSCME Local 387, representing the Cheshire Correctional Complex.   Corrections officers are part of Phase 1b, which includes staff in congregate settings and

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Gifford to Lead Department of Health Through the Pandemic, Says Lamont Spokesperson

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has been without a permanent commissioner since May, and will continue to be led by Acting Commissioner Deidre Gifford until after the pandemic, the Governor’s Office said in a statement on Thursday to Connecticut Examiner.  Gov. Ned Lamont removed former commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell eight months ago and replaced her with Gifford, who was then and still serves as commissioner of the Department of Social Services. At the time, Lamont said she would lead both departments simultaneously while his administration performed a nationwide search for a new permanent commissioner.  Today, House Republican Leader Vinent Candelora

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With Tolls Off the Table, Transportation Funding Remains in a Question

State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, knows the bill he is proposing is not going to pass.  Co-sponsored by State Sen. Alex Kasser, D-Greenwich, the proposal would install electronic tolls on interstates I-84, I-91, I-95, and portions of Route 15, reviving a political debate from two years ago about how best to fund the state’s Special Transportation Fund.  The set-aside in the state budget is intended to support Department of Transportation operations, transit programs, and the debt on borrowing for infrastructure upgrades across the state. Gov. Ned Lamont, who campaigned on a promise of limited tolls on trucking, asked state lawmakers

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As Lamont Holds Line on Vaccinations, Advocates Question Omission of Type 1 Diabetes

“This has been a really terrifying time for people with Type 1 diabetes,” said John Kleinhans, a Type 1 Diabetic and the advocacy chair of the Greater Connecticut Chapter of JDRF, a Type 1 Diabetes research and advocacy group.  The organization wrote an open letter to Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday arguing that Type 1 Diabetes patients should be included in the current phase of the vaccine rollout.  In a meeting on Tuesday, Connecticut’s Vaccine Advisory Group allocation subcommittee recommended that Phase 1b include adults 65 and older, and residents with at least one health condition placing them at increased

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A Conversation with Kate Wesch, the New Rector of St. John’s Episcopal in Essex

Reverend Kate Wesch is joining St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex at the end of this month. Wesch is currently rector of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Seattle, and will move to Connecticut with her husband, mother, daughter and son. In conversation with the Connecticut Examiner, Wesch shares what made her fall in love with Essex and how she hopes to build community amid a pandemic. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  How did you come across the role at St. John’s in Essex?   We have not spent much time in Connecticut at all, but

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Cathy Osten Talks Mental Health, Workers Comp and Her Priorities this Session

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, returns remotely to Hartford for her fourth term representing a district that stretches from Marlborough to Ledyard. In a conversation with the Connecticut Examiner, Osten shares her legislative priorities for the upcoming session. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What are your top legislative priorities for the upcoming session?  I’ve always been interested in mental health awareness and improvements in the system. I’ve been meeting with people about this throughout the pandemic and even before. The initiatives I’ll be focusing on during this session have been on the forefront of my agenda

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Epidemiologists See Little Evidence of Classroom Spread of COVID in Connecticut

The Connecticut Examiner analyzed data from the state Department of Education that found that students in Connecticut are nearly as likely to report testing positive for COVID-19 if they study remotely, in person or in a hybrid model.  According to epidemiologists and experts in the state, that data tracks with the lessons they’ve learned over the fall semester, as students have returned to the classroom in some regions and stayed home in others.  Dr. Pedro Mendes, director of the UConn Center for Quantitative Medicine, built a model at the beginning of the pandemic to forecast PPE needs at UConn Health.

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Data Suggest Little Difference in COVID Rates Between Remote, In-Person and Hybrid Instruction

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According to Department of Education data, public school students in Connecticut are nearly as likely to test positive for COVID-19 if they study remotely, as students learning in person or in a hybrid model. In-person students made up for 29 percent of total students across the state as well as 29 percent of reported student cases, meaning they did not make up for a disproportionate number of confirmed COVID-19 infections. The state has reported just over 7,000 positive cases among students since the start of the school year.  Students in hybrid learning models were slightly more likely to report COVID-19

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Immersive Pop-Up Dining at Hartford’s Goodwin Hotel

HARTFORD — Theater and indoor restaurant dining have, for many, been casualties of the pandemic. With a long winter ahead, Chef Tyler Anderson of Hartford’s historic Goodwin Hotel is hoping to provide a respite. “We have a hotel that’s slow because of COVID and a restaurant that’s slow for the same reason,” Anderson said. “I’ve seen other hotel restaurants turn guest rooms into private dining rooms as a way for people to have a COVID-safe meal indoors. We just wanted to take it to the next level.”  Starting on January 8, guests can visit the Goodwin for an immersive mystery

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Advocates Plan Strategy for Ranked Choice in Legislative Session

In the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers in Hartford will need to tackle COVID relief head-on, deal with a looming budget crisis, and they may work to legalize recreational marijuana. Still, some activists are pushing to put another issue on the agenda: ranked-choice voting.   The voting change has been long supported by third parties as a way to eliminate the “spoiler effect,” where votes for a third-party candidate draw votes from a similar major-party candidate, causing the other candidate to win. Maine and Alaska already use ranked-choice voting, and Massachusetts held a ballot referendum to consider the change, though the measure

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Courtney Sponsors Bill to Aid Districts with Tribal Lands and Military Bases

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A federal bill introduced by Congressman Joe Courtney to protect education funding for districts like Groton and Ledyard with children living on tribal lands and military bases was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 4. “This is a big deal for us,” said Michael Graner, superintendent of Groton school district. “Groton has about 1000 military-dependent children who live in military housing, and because their parents don’t pay property taxes on their military housing, the town misses out on that revenue.” The bipartisan “Impact Aid Coronavirus Relief Act” will allow school districts to receive the same federal Impact

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Union Leaders Question Safety and Equity of Schooling as COVID Surges in Connecticut

HARTFORD — As COVID-19 infections surge across Connecticut, union leaders went to Hartford to present a petition calling on the governor to shift all schools to remote learning absent stronger safety precautions.  The petition, signed by nearly 14,000 educators, school employees, and community members, is an “unfortunate last resort,” said Mary Yordon, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1727 and Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut.  In a press conference at the State Capitol on Thursday morning, leaders of the Board of Education Union Coalition urged the state to establish statewide safety protocols and

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Food Assistance to Expand Next Week, Aiding More than 100,000 Connecticut Families

More than 100,000 households in Connecticut will receive additional Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits next Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Connecticut Department of Social Services.  The department will provide $16.9 million in SNAP benefits as authorized by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, legislation signed in March that allowed states more flexibility in providing SNAP benefits. For Connecticut, this means that all households enrolled in SNAP will receive the maximum benefit allowable for their household size, even if they are not normally eligible.   The $16.9 million comes on top of $157.2 million in additional emergency

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In Interview, DeLauro Sketches Priorities as Appropriations Chair

House Democrats elected Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who represents the greater New Haven area, to chair the House Appropriations Committee for the 117th Congress. The veteran congresswoman will take over the committee in January following the retirement of Rep. Nita Lowey of New York. The vote from the full caucus ratified the Steering and Policy Committee’s vote on Tuesday to recommend DeLauro for the position.  On Friday, DeLauro told Connecticut Examiner that she is thrilled and humbled by the new role.  “To be chosen by my peers as chair of the Appropriations Committee is an honor,” DeLauro said. “The committee holds

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$13.3 Million for Twelve Small Cities Across Connecticut

Twelve municipalities across the state received federal grant funding totaling $13.3 million through the Community Development Block Grant Small Cities program, Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno announced on Friday.  Administered by the Connecticut Department of Housing with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the program funds projects that develop housing and infrastructure in smaller communities to primarily benefit lower-income residents.    “These grants go a long way toward improving neighborhoods so that we can make our communities more attractive and encourage continued growth for the benefit of all of our residents,” Gov. Ned

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Lamont Announces Retroactive Expansion of Benefits for 38,000 Unemployed

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the signing of an executive order Friday morning expanding unemployment benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19.  The order directs the state Department of Labor to expand eligibility for the Federal Lost Wages Assistance Program to Connecticut residents who previously did not qualify.  The federal program, which added a supplemental $300 weekly to benefits for Americans who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only applied to workers who had a minimum benefit of $100 per week.  While 160,000 state residents received supplemental benefits, 38,000 others who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic received

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Rob Derry, Clinton’s Green Party Police Commissioner

CLINTON — Rob Derry was never interested in politics. From a young age, he knew he wanted to become a state trooper, just like his grandfather. For the last three decades, Derry has worked in law enforcement, as a local police officer and then a state police sergeant.  Derry said his work has led him to develop relationships with many local politicians, including Dick Smith, longtime first selectman of Deep River, who Derry became close to during his time in Westbrook as a state trooper. One day, Smith gave Derry a laminated copy of an article about him in a

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Lamont Outlines Expected Timeline for COVID Vaccinations

In a Thursday afternoon press conference, Gov. Ned Lamont, alongside the co-chairs of his vaccine advisory group, laid out his plan for statewide vaccine distribution. The first doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are set to arrive in Connecticut on December 14 and December 21, respectively, and pending FDA approval, the state plans to administer those vaccines in two phases.  The first part of phase one, starting as soon as vaccines arrive, will include the state’s 200,000 healthcare workers, 22,000 nursing home residents, and 6,000 medical first responders. The state anticipates all residents in those categories who choose to be

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Eric Bergman Explains Local Success for Greens in Clinton

CLINTON — Eric Bergman, an English teacher at the Morgan School, was elected to the Clinton Town Council in November. A resident of Clinton for nearly 20 years and an active participant in local politics, he is an unsurprising choice. But Bergman ran as a Green Party candidate, making him the first third-party candidate in history elected to Clinton town council.  Bergman estimates that Clinton has roughly 2,700 registered Democrats, 2,300 registered Republicans, and close to 5,000 unaffiliated voters, a breakdown that created a clear opportunity for a third-party candidate to succeed at the local level.  “Clinton has a distinctly

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It’s All in the Details: Connecticut Moves Toward Legalizing Marijuana

Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and New Jersey all voted to legalize recreational marijuana on November 3, joining eleven other states and the District of Columbia. Just 15 states still outlaw marijuana in any form, and Connecticut is not one of them, having decriminalized possession in 2011 and legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2012.  New Jersey joins three other states in the region, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, which already legalized cannabis products. New York and Rhode Island are also mulling over the issue, and Connecticut’s state leadership has made it clear that marijuana legalization is a priority for the upcoming

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Courtney Sketches Out Agenda Under a Biden Administration

CT Examiner spoke with Joe Courtney, Connecticut’s 2nd District representative, about his legislative priorities heading into the lame duck session and the next administration.  The following transcript has been edited for clarity and condensed.  Stimulus and the Lame Duck CT EX: What are the prospects for a stimulus package and COVID relief bill in the new Congress?  COURTNEY: First off, we’re still seeking to get a COVID relief bill done in the lame duck session. No one’s given up on that, and Plan A is still to get relief out as soon as possible. COVID is picking up speed, and

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Halda Therapeutics Joins Redevelopment of Winchester Arms in New Haven

Halda Therapeutics, a Branford-based biotech company founded by Yale professor Craig Crews, is returning to New Haven.  The drug discovery startup signed a lease on a 9,800 square foot lab and office space in Science Park, located just west of Yale’s Science Hill campus at the former Winchester Arms factory. Halda recently completed a $25 million round of Series A financing. The move was announced Wednesday in a press release from Winchester Partners, a joint venture of Twining Properties, L+M Development Partners and the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, which owns the former factory, a 145,000 square-foot building at 115

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Osten Offers Quick Take on Election

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, will return to Hartford for her fourth term representing a district that stretches from Marlborough to Ledyard, beating back a challenge from Republican businessman Steve Weir with 54 percent of the vote.  “We ended up exactly where I was anticipating we would be at the end of the day,” Osten said. “I’m excited and honored to be reelected, because it lets you know what your job performance was.”  Speaking from the car as she drove up to Hartford, Osten said she was already putting in legislation requests for her fifth term. Among them are bills

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Paglino Offers Takeaway from Third-Party Bid

Green Party candidate Justin Paglino, a physician from Guilford, challenged incumbent Democrat Rosa Delauro for Connecticut’s third House district.  DeLauro beat back Paglino and her Republican challenger, real estate developer Margaret Streicker, with 54.7 percent of the vote.  For Paglino, his 1.4 percent of the vote counts as a win.  “I’m happy I got over one percent of the vote, because that means that the Green Party gets to keep a ballot line for the next election in two years,” Paglino said. “It was very grueling work getting 2,100 signatures over the summer, so I’m glad we don’t have to

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Door to Door with Senate Candidates for Southeast Connecticut

Every day of the 2020 campaign for the Connecticut State Senate has run under a shadow of pandemic, with reports in the final weeks before election day of increasing hospitalizations and a rising statewide daily positivity rate for COVID-19. “A second wave,” Gov. Ned Lamont called news on Thursday of a 6.1 percent state positivity rate. But with time still before the election, candidates are finding ways to get out the vote and get in touch with district residents. To get a flavor of the election and a sense of the challenges, CT Examiner checked in on two competitive races

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