Courtney Outlines Federal Aid for the Arts at Shoreline Arts Alliance Roundtable

Rep. Joe Courtney, the Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, joined the Shoreline Arts Alliance on Friday for a virtual roundtable discussion of federal pandemic relief for the arts.  Courtney shared that the initial pandemic relief from the federal government last year was just a general infusion into the economy in an attempt to mitigate a financial crisis. However, by the end of 2020, he said lawmakers had a much better sense of which industries were going to be hardest hit by the virus, and knew that the arts industry needed particular assistance.  This inspired the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant,

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Rollout on Track, Despite Pause for Johnson & Johnson Doses

Connecticut state leaders told vaccine providers to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.  The CDC announcement came as a result of six people in the United States who developed cerebral blood clots in the two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson shot. About 100,000 people in Connecticut have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and none have reported serious side effects, according to the state Department of Public Health. The state has leveraged its

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Connecticut Leaders Urge Rollback For Cap on State and Local Tax Deductions

Gov. Ned Lamont, alongside the Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, California and Hawaii, issued a letter last Friday imploring President Joe Biden to support a repeal of the federal cap on state and local tax deductions.  The Tax Cut and Jobs Act, signed into law in 2017 by then-President Donald Trump, placed a $10,000 cap on SALT deductions for federal tax filings. As a result, high earners in higher-tax states like Connecticut would be able to deduct only half of local property taxes, for example, from their federal taxes. The governors described the cap as a

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Lamont, Courtney Highlight Economic Development in New London

NEW LONDON — Gov. Ned Lamont and Rep. Joe Courtney shared their economic optimism for southeastern Connecticut at a press conference in New London on Wednesday morning. Courtney offered details of President Joe Biden’s newly announced plan to aid the offshore wind industry with low interest loans and expedited federal approval. The Connecticut Port Authority, in cooperation with Eversource and Ørsted, has begun redeveloping State Pier in New London to support the installation offshore wind turbines. “What we’re talking about here is a multigenerational change in terms of how America is going to power its economy and New London is

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Predicting a “Great Summer,” Lamont Shares Plans for Summer Camps and Vocational Programs

Gov. Ned Lamont shared his optimism with the Connecticut business community at a virtual breakfast event Wednesday morning hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, highlighting what he described as the success of Connecticut’s vaccination rollout and previewing potential partnerships for workforce development.  Predicting that will be a “great summer” for Connecticut’ business community, Lamont said he was proud that Connecticut was one of the first states in the region to begin rebounding from the pandemic. “I feel like we’re in the ninth inning of this COVID year that’s been really brutal for small business, brutal for the

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With Warmer Weather in Sight, Connecticut Eases Outdoor Dining Approvals Until 2022

Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill into law Wednesday that extends a relaxation of outdoor dining regulations until March 31, 2022.  H. B. 6610, “An Act Concerning The Provision of Outdoor Food and Beverage Service By Restaurants,” allows local planning officials to authorize or expand outdoor dining at restaurants and loosen local zoning rules. The state Senate passed the bill unanimously on Tuesday.  Outdoor eating permits now no longer require significant paperwork like site surveys or traffic studies. Restaurants that have already received permits for placing tables on sidewalks or in parking lots throughout the pandemic are allowed to continue

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Connecticut Opens COVID Vaccinations to Ages 16+ on Thursday

All adults 16+ will be eligible to register for their COVID-19 vaccine starting on Thursday, April 1. The Governor’s Office announced that appointments will become available Thursday morning, and residents can register for the vaccine by visiting ct.gov/covidvaccine and entering their zip code.  The site will show the nearest vaccine providers and instructions on how to register, whether through the Vaccine Administration Management System, an appointment scheduling system provided by the Center for Disease Control, or other vaccine signup systems.  All Connecticut adults can register in VAMS now, and will receive a confirmation email from the state once eligible, which

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Scanlon Proposes $600 Child Tax Credit to Bolster Federal Aid

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Vice President Kamala Harris visited Connecticut last week to tout the American Rescue Plan, the federal COVID-19 aid bill that will bring billions in funding to the state.  Her visit came with a particular focus on the new federal child tax credit, which will bring a $3,000 yearly benefit per child between six and 17 years old, and $3,600 per child under six. The credit begins to phase out at individual incomes of $75,000 or couples earning up to $150,000. “Through this plan, we are going to lift half of America’s children out of poverty,” Harris said, speaking at West

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Legislation Aims to Improve Outcomes for Black Mothers, Consider Doula Care

Tamika McPhail thought it was just the hospital. While pregnant with her second child, she noticed that the baby wasn’t moving. Soon, it was nearly too late, and her obstetrician couldn’t find a heartbeat. After an induction and emergency C-section, she said her son had to be “brought back to life.”  She’s had four children since, trying out three different hospitals and four different obstetricians, but she said each subsequent birth came with serious complications for her or her child.  “I’ve come to see that it’s not just the hospital, and it’s not just the doctor,” McPhail said. “It’s a

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Six Bills To Watch in Connecticut, Say Advocates

With the 2021 legislative session underway, Connecticut Examiner checked in with six advocacy groups from across the state to see what bills they’re watching that are flying under the radar State Bill 1018, An Act Concerning Prosecutorial Accountability, focuses on the roles states’ attorneys play in the system of mass incarceration, and tries to shed a light on the critical role they play in whether or not folks are being treated fairly. State attorneys are really left to run their districts as they see fit, and that discretion can lead to bias. This would ensure that if a person is

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Legislators Heard 12 Hours of Testimony on a Bill to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis in Connecticut

Legislators on the Public Health Committee listened to nearly 12 hours of public testimony, primarily focused on a bill to declare racism a public health crisis in the state of Connecticut. The hearing on Wednesday took up a few bills, but mainly centered on Senate Bill 1, An Act Equalizing Comprehensive Access to Mental, Behavioral and Physical Health Care in Response to the Pandemic.  The bill declares that in the state of Connecticut, racism is recognized as a public health crisis and, if passed, would establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine racial disparities in public health across state

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Courtney Fields Questions on COVID Aid

Congressman Joe Courtney held a tele-town hall Wednesday evening to answer constituent calls about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Courtney, the Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, took questions on everything from childcare providers and vaccine distribution to special education and PPE manufacturing. Education issues came up throughout the call, with one caller from Mystic, who said his daughter has experienced significant learning loss from not being at school in-person, asking Courtney about whether the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will help mitigate learning loss.  “My heart goes out to you,” responded Courtney, who said the competing demands placed

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Courtney to Hold Tele-Town Hall on Wednesday to Answer Questions on $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan

Congressman Joe Courtney will hold a tele-town hall Wednesday, March 17 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM to answer constituent questions about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.  Courtney, a Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, said in a press release that he hopes to shed light on what the newly passed COVID relief bill will mean for the communities he serves.  “Passage of the bill extended Unemployment Insurance, it authorized a new round of funding for local restaurants and small businesses, and it directs support straight to our towns that will fund strained essential services from firehouses and police

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State Warns of Scams Targeting Vaccination Efforts

COVID-19 vaccination scams targeting Connecticut residents are on the rise, Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong said. State leaders are sounding the alarm to raise awareness of the vaccine distribution system, and ensure that residents are not taken advantage of.  The Office of the Attorney General and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection released information about two new scams, one in which people posing as vaccine manufacturers offer rewards for filling out a vaccine survey, but ask for credit card information to ship a reward. In another scam, residents received a fake letter from the governor’s office directing

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Lamont Announces a Faster Timeline for COVID Vaccinations

All Connecticut residents aged 16 and older will be eligible to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations starting April 5 — one month earlier than previously scheduled, Gov. Ned Lamont announced at a press conference on Monday. Residents 45 and older will now be able to register beginning Friday — the same day as Connecticut’s reopening of restaurants and other establishments to 100 percent capacity.  “There’ll be a bit of a rush, so if you’re relatively healthy, you maybe don’t have to go to work every day, you can telecommute, perhaps you think you had some sort of a mild infection in the

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Lawmakers Open Hearing on Legislation to Ease Workers’ Comp Claims for COVID-19

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In July of last year, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order establishing a presumption of eligibility for workers’ compensation claims related to COVID-19. This meant that employees required to work in person during the height of the pandemic, from March 10 to May 20, who contracted COVID-19 would be presumed to have contracted the virus at work, making them eligible for workers’ compensation.  Employers could still contest a claim, but the executive order ostensibly helped essential workers access deserved benefits in the midst of a pandemic, when substantiating a claim of an infection in the workplace would be especially

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Lamont in Middletown to Announce Statewide Rollout of Free Public WiFi Sites

MIDDLETOWN — City Hall and Russell Library will provide free, public WiFi networks as part of a statewide initiative to bring reliable internet access to underserved communities, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday morning.  In a press conference in Middletown, Lamont said that these locations will be the first of 200 community sites across Connecticut, spread across 169 towns. A combination of state and federal dollars will fund the initiative, and the Middletown networks are expected to be up and running by the end of the week. State officials did not share a timeline for the statewide rollout.  “This is something

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Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick Makes his Case for a 3rd Term

Incumbent Keith Hedrick is facing off against former State Rep. Aundré Bumgardner in the Democratic primary for Groton City Mayor on Monday, March 8. Hedrick served for decades in the U.S. Navy and is endorsed by the Groton Democratic Committee.  In a conversation with Connecticut Examiner, Hedrick shared why he hopes voters re-elect him as mayor, and what his goals are for a third term.  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What are your thoughts heading into Monday’s election?  I’m frustrated, because I’m in a primary that didn’t need to happen. I just don’t think the primary

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Aundre Bumgardner Makes His Case for Groton City Mayor

Former State Rep. Aundre Bumgardner is challenging incumbent Keith Hedrick in the Democratic primary for the Groton City mayorship on Monday, March 8. Bumgardner, who represented Groton and New London in the General Assembly from 2015 through 2017, was sworn in at the age of 20, making him the youngest state representative in Connecticut history. He has served on the Groton Town Council in 2018. Bumgardner was elected to the statehouse as a Republican, but left to join the Democratic party in the aftermath of the 2017 Charlottesville riot, when then-President Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides”

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Lamont Announces a Significant Loosening of Pandemic Restrictions

Connecticut restaurants and retail outlets will be allowed to operate at full capacity with masks and distancing on March 19, Gov. Ned Lamont said in a press conference Thursday, where he laid out a significant loosening of pandemic restrictions.  Lamont announced the elimination of capacity limits for restaurants, libraries, museums, aquariums, gyms, stores, offices, personal services and houses of worship.  He emphasized that all of these businesses will still be beholden to mask mandates, six feet of spacing requirements, and cleaning protocols. Stores and restaurants are currently capped at half capacity indoors, and restaurants can seat eight people at most

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Mike France on the Race for Connecticut’s Second Congressional District Against Joe Courtney

State Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, announced on Feb. 23 that he is challenging Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney, who represents Connecticut’s second congressional district, covering most of the eastern half of the state. Courtney unseated former Congressman Rob Simmons, a Republican, fifteen years ago, winning that election by just 83 votes. Since then, Courtney has comfortably won reelection each cycle, including last November with nearly 60 percent of the vote. France is a retired U.S. Navy officer who has served in the statehouse since 2015. In a conversation with the Connecticut Examiner, France shared how he would represent eastern Connecticut differently

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Why Members of Lamont’s Cannabis Equity Group See His Bill as a Betrayal

Late last year, as Gov. Ned Lamont prepared his push for legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana in the upcoming legislative session, his office gathered dozens of predominantly nonwhite activists, legislators and community leaders to form a cannabis equity discussion group, which met weekly via Zoom for two months.  The group discussed everything from equitable revenue allocation, and processes for expunging criminal records, to licensing that would be inclusive of Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Dozens of hours of work culminated in a set of recommendations delivered to the governor, all centered around how best to legalize cannabis in an equitable fashion,

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6 Connecticut Mayors React to Gov. Lamont’s Plan for Legal Marijuana

On Feb. 10, Gov. Ned Lamont released a plan to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut, saying that he anticipates the state will start to see revenue from cannabis sales as early as next year. In the Governor’s proposal, much of that anticipated revenue, including an optional 3 percent local excise tax, would go directly to municipalities. In an effort to better understand local responses to the plan, Connecticut Examiner checked in with six mayors from across the state to ask their thoughts on the proposal and what legal marijuana could mean for their municipalities.  As a former police chief, I

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Legislators Join Women’s Business Development Council to Share Advice on Weathering Pandemic

State legislators joined the Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council to host an informational webinar on Tuesday about resources available to women and minority business owners to weather the pandemic.  State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, joined Bipartisan Women’s Legislative Caucus members State Representatives Donna Veach, R-Berlin,  and Christie Carpino, R-Cromwell, and Women’s Business Development Council CEO Fran Pastore to share advice for small business owners.   “Typically, WBDC sees about 800 women a year from all over the state of Connecticut, but from March to November 2020, we increased that by 600 percent,” Pastore said. “We helped put an estimated $11

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Five Southeast Connecticut Legislators Weigh in on Legalizing Marijuana

In Wednesday’s budget address, Gov. Ned Lamont not only called for the legalization of recreational marijuana, but allocated the expected revenue from cannabis sales in his budget, signaling his assumption that the state will legalize within the next year. Lamont also released his own proposed legislation, which was met with mixed feedback from leadership on both sides of the aisle.  Connecticut Examiner checked in with five state legislators from southeast Connecticut to get their thoughts on the Governor’s legislation.  I think it’s about time. I think we need to be pretty thoughtful with the revenue, because I’m not a big

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Lamont’s Budget Proposal Assumes Marijuana Revenues

In his budget address on Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont not only called for the legalization of recreational cannabis, but allocated expected tax revenue from marijuana sales as part of his budget, signaling his expectation that the proposal will become law.  “Our neighboring states are offering recreational marijuana on a legal and regulated basis,” Lamont said. “Massachusetts dispensaries are advertising extensively here in Connecticut. Rather than surrender this market to out-of-staters, or worse, to the unregulated underground market, our budget provides for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”  “Our proposal really centers equity at the forefront of licensing, the workforce, the training,

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State Lawmakers Push to Use New Gambling Revenues for Student Tuition Aid

In a press conference on Friday morning, a group of state legislators called for legislation that would help fund the Pledge to Advance Connecticut, or PACT, the state’s program to ensure students across the state can attend community college without incurring debt.  The Board of Regents for Higher Education voted in December to spend $3 million in reserves to fund PACT through the spring semester, but warned that without a permanent funding stream, the program was in jeopardy. The lawmakers said that the passage of the gaming bill, which is currently being drafted by the Public Safety and Security Committee,

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Connecticut Lags Behind Neighbors in Marijuana Efforts, Say Industry Experts

Vincente Sederberg, a Colorado-based law firm that played a key role in passing Colorado’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative, hosted a panel on Thursday afternoon to discuss the state of marijuana legalization in the tri-state area.  The panel also featured Michael Huttner, managing director of Young America Capital, and experts from Vincente Sederberg, including Michelle Bodian, a senior associate at the firm, Andrew Livingston, director of Economics & Research, Jennifer Cabrera, counsel, and Elliot Choi, counsel.  Vincente Sederberg has advised local, state and national governments around the world, including in Uruguay, the first country to legalize marijuana. In comments, Michelle Bodian,

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Connecticut Residents Can Now Renew Driver’s Licenses Online

The Department of Motor Vehicles will process renewals for driver’s licenses online starting February 15, Governor Lamont announced in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.  As long as residents do not need to change any of their license information, they will be able to renew their licenses through a new online portal that is the culmination of two years of efforts to modernize the department and minimize unnecessary in-person office visits, DMV Commissioner Sibongile Magubane said.  Connecticut joins 36 other states in allowing renewals to take place from home, and in those states, roughly 40 percent of renewals take place

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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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