A Round Up of Endorsements

CT Examiner has assembled a round up of major endorsements How they endorsed The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund gives out letter grades to candidates based on their voting records, public statements and their responses to a questionnaire. “Aq” means a candidate received an “A” grade based only on their answers in the questionnaire. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association grades lawmakers by their votes on 10 bills the association considered priorities in the 2019 legislative session, so there are only grades for incumbent candidates. If a candidate takes more votes that CBIA considers pro-business – such as voting

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Melón, Haines Offer Sharp Contrast for Fall Election

Educator and real estate agent Judd Melón, an East Haddam Democrat, is challenging one-term incumbent State Rep. Irene Haines, an East Haddam Republican, for the chance to represent Connecticut’s 34th House district, that includes East Haddam and East Hampton. Melón taught Spanish literature and language in college and public high school for 10 years, and is a licensed real estate agent, but he said that he put teaching on hold to challenge Haines because he disagreed with several votes she’s taken, including votes against the minimum wage increase, expanding paid family and medical leave, and police accountability bills in 2019

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State Budget Forecast Improves From September Estimates

Connecticut’s budget forecast has continued to improve as revenues from sales, income and real estate taxes exceed earlier projections. The Office of Policy and Management, Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget agency, projected a $1.26 billion deficit for fiscal year 2021 in its monthly forecast released Tuesday. It’s much worse than the $166.2 million surplus the state budgeted back in December, but it’s 76 percent less than the $2.02 billion deficit the office was projecting as recently as Sept. 20. The improved budget picture is a combination of better than projected revenues —  $18.5 billion compared to $18.05 billion last month –

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Marino’s Re-opens, Offers a Taste of Middletown’s North End

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MIDDLETOWN — The first week Francesca Vitale re-opened Marino’s Pizzeria, all the old customers came back, clamoring for the hamburg pizza her mother made famous. “On the first day, we did like 100 pizzas,” Vitale said. Vitale’s grandfather, Sebastiano Marino immigrated from Sicily in 1898 and opened a bakery on Ferry Street in Middletown’s North End in 1920. Vitale’s mother, Constance Marino-Vitale, opened Marino’s Restaurant in 1941. Both were staples of the Italian-American community in Middletown until the restaurant closed in 1992. When Vitale and her friend Carla Marino opened back up Marino’s in a new location on William Street,

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Hall, Goupil, May Vie for Connecticut House Seat

Three candidates are competing to replace three-term Republican incumbent Jesse MacLachlan, who represents the 35th District — the towns of Clinton Westbrook and Killingworth — in the state legislature. MacLachlan announced that he would not seek re-election in August. In 2018, MacLachlan defeated Clinton Democrat Jason Adler with 52.5 percent of the vote. The Democratic nominee, Christine Goupil, was elected First Selectman of Clinton in 2017, on a platform that included replacing the position with a town manager. By the end of her first term in 2019, the town approved the plan and hired Karl Kilduff to manage the town.

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State Mandate, Dwindling Funds, Has Towns Scrambling to Purchase Police Body Cameras

Funding to reimburse municipal police departments for the purchase of body cameras languished for years unspent until in March the legislature moved $3 million of $3.6 million remaining to fund camera purchases by the State Police. Now a provision in the Police Accountability Bill passed in special session this summer has towns scrambling to secure any of the remaining money. The bill requires municipal police departments to outfit officers with body cameras no later than July 2022. The new police accountability law has renewed interest in the grant program, with municipal departments hoping to claim a share of the approximately

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Sharp Contrast as Weir Faces Osten in Senate Race

Four-time Democratic incumbent Cathy Osten, faces Hebron business owner Steve Weir, the Republican candidate, in the race for the 19th State Senate District, representing Sprague, Hebron, Columbia, Franklin, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville and Norwich. Osten, an Army veteran and long-time corrections officer and supervisor,has been co-chair of the Appropriations Committee — a key state budget committee — since  2017. She also serves as vice-chair of the Labor and Public Employees committee. She said that she is running to make a difference and represent her constituents. In 2019, Osten lost a bid for a 7th term as Sprague’s first selectman. Steve

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Mohegan Gaming Set to Operate First Tribal Casino in Las Vegas History

There is path a clear for the Mohegan Tribe’s gaming operation to enter the largest gaming market in the United States. Nevada regulators on Wednesday gave initial approval for Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment to operate the 60,000 square-foot casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, the former site of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, a few blocks from the Las Vegas Strip. If the Nevada Gaming Commission approves a recommendation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board made — after a virtual meeting with Mohegan Gaming representatives on Wednesday — it will become the first tribal organization to operate a casino

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Hot Dry Weather Fostered West Nile, Reduced EEE Populations in Southeast Connecticut

A hot dry summer across Connecticut has increased the prevalence of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, but far fewer mosquitos have been identified as carrying the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus than last year. Through Oct. 5, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has trapped 143 mosquitos that have tested positive for the West Nile Virus, compared to 82 it found through the end of its testing on Nov. 7 last year.  Last year, 122 mosquitos the station trapped tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). So far this year, they’ve found two – one trapped at Stonington High School on Aug.

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East Lyme Selectmen Set Aside FEMA Funding As Contingency

The East Lyme Board of Selectmen voted to put the remaining FEMA funds from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in a contingency fund on Wednesday evening, and left open the possibility that some of the funds could go towards purchasing body cameras for the East Lyme Police Department.  There is $327,046.72 from the surprise $1.73 million in FEMA reimbursements East Lyme received in August for infrastructure repairs following the two damaging storms in 2011 and 2012.  The town had already appropriated $203,560.89 of those FEMA funds as part of the $4.4 million Niantic Bay Boardwalk project that was approved in 2014.

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Shoreline Bike Plans Stymied at Eastern Point Road in Groton

GROTON — A state proposal to reconfigure lanes on a road near Electric Boat’s Groton campus could be a key piece of a proposed bike-friendly corridor along the shoreline from Rhode Island to the Connecticut River, but the Connecticut Department of Transportation says there isn’t room on the road for traditional bike lanes. The proposal from CTDOT would reconfigure the lanes on Eastern Point Road between its intersections with Benham Road to Chester Street, eliminating one southbound driving lane so that there would be one lane in either direction, with wider shoulders. That section of road serves the South Yard

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Audit Cites Long-standing Vacancy for Backlog in Discrimination Hearings

HARTFORD — A years-long vacancy in a key position at the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities appears to be delaying hearings on some of the most difficult to resolve cases alleging discrimination, a state audit released this week highlighted. State statute requires the commission to have three “human rights referees” who conduct hearings on contested cases alleging discrimination in the workplace, housing or public accommodations. Since June 2014, the commission has had only two referees, with one position sitting vacant.  The state audit released on Tuesday found that, as of April 21, there were 269 cases awaiting a hearing

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Lamont Releases Plan to Tap Rainy Day Fund, Trim Spending and Extend Tax Surcharge

Gov. Ned Lamont proposed using $1.82 billion from the state’s “Rainy Day” reserve fund to offset a project $2 Billion budget deficit in 2021. Lamont’s proposal, released on Thursday, included $200 million in “mitigations,” including projections that the state could save $30 million through a hiring restriction for state jobs, $25.3 million rescinded from the current budget, and using $100 million in federal COVID relief funds to pay for state public health and safety costs. Another $44.8 million in mitigations proposed by Lamont, most significantly maintaining the existing 10 percent corporate tax surcharge for 2021, would require legislative approval. Melissa

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Osten, Formica, Needleman Weigh in on Energy Legislation, as it Passes 35-0

HARTFORD — The State Senate passed a bill aimed at improving accountability for storm response of energy providers, like Eversource and United Illuminating, by a vote of 35-0, sending the bill to Gov. Ned Lamont for his signature. As key legislators representing southeast Connecticut on the Energy and Technology Committee praised the strides they say the bill made, they admitted there was far more work to be done, and promised to consider deeper reforms in the regular session. “This is an important first step,” said State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, co-chair of the committee. “There will be more, many more.”

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East Lyme Voters Narrowly Approve Additional Public Safety Building Funds

East Lyme voters narrowly approved a plan to bond an additional $985,000 to fund renovations of the former Honeywell office building to use as the police station and emergency services center.  Voters approved the bonding by a vote of 1,184 to 1,112 in a referendum held Thursday. Voters also approved using $1.2 million in delayed FEMA reimbursements from hurricanes Irene and Sandy to fill the funding gap for the public safety building by a vote of 1,254 to 1,058.  East Lyme voters previously approved $5 million in bonding for the project in February 2019.

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House Lawmakers Overwhelmingly Approve Performance-Based Energy Bill

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would direct the state’s utility regulator to establish a rate-making system for energy providers, including Eversource and UI, that would consider the quality of their service to consumers. The House voted 136-4 to approve the bill, which will give the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, called PURA, more power to penalize utilities for poor performance in storm recovery and which will force the companies to reimburse customers who lost food or medicine after lengthy power outages. Lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the legislation, but also called for more action and in-depth reviews

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Deadly ‘Beech Leaf Disease’ Identified Across Connecticut and Rhode Island

A mysterious nematode first identified near Cleveland in 2012 has been spotted in seven Connecticut counties and Rhode Island this summer. The nematode has been tied to the deadly “Beech leaf disease” that has wreaked havoc on beech trees from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean. “We’re really concerned because we’re not left with much else in the forest now – oaks and hickories and birches, and then beeches,” said Robert Marra, a scientist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Going back 150 years, there would have been abundant chestnuts, elms, ashes and walnuts, said Marra, but the northeastern forests

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Panel Discusses Barriers to Treating and Preventing ‘Opioid Use Disorders’

A panel of medical professionals met on Wednesday in a virtual roundtable hosted by the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce to discuss the added obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to treating and preventing opioid addiction. Opioid overdoses and deaths have increased during the pandemic, and Dr. Michael Kalinowski, a family physician at Middlesex Health, said it’s likely that long-term addictions have increased as well.  According to Kalinowski, COVID-related restrictions have hindered efforts to educate students and parents about opioid use, identify mental health concerns in young people, and eliminate unneeded prescription opioid medication. Kalinowski said that because improving mental

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Connecticut’s Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking System Nears Completion

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The final piece of Connecticut’s tracking system for sexual assault forensic evidence kits – a sheet of instructions for survivors to track the progress of their evidence kit as it is sent to the state forensic laboratory for testing — is nearly complete. The tracking system began operating in March 2017 as the state worked to clear a backlog of 1,188 forensic evidence kits that local and state police departments had not submitted to the state laboratory for testing. “This is the last missing piece of the puzzle,”  Kristin Sasinouski, deputy director of forensic biology and DNA at the state

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Open Burning Prohibited as Fires Persist in Dry Windham County

Open burning was barred across the state Tuesday as fires continued to burn in Windham County. Windham County has been experiencing drought since July, and it’s been the site of several fires in recent weeks. The forest fire danger level for Connecticut was “very high” on Tuesday, the second-highest alert after “extreme.”  The alert meant no open burning was allowed Tuesday, and the restriction continues as long as the fire danger level remains high, very high or extreme. The alert is updated every morning at 7 a.m. “With all the recent tree damage and debris, to many it appears to

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Mystic Knotwork Recognized for Tradition and Innovation

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Matt Beaudoin started tying rope bracelets when he was 7 years old to earn his allowance.  Now, his Mystic Knotworks is a staple of the Mystic riverfront, and the small business administration named Beaudoin Connecticut Small Business Person of the Year, presenting the award to Matt and his wife Jill at their Cottrell Street workshop on Tuesday. Connecticut Small Business Development Center business advisor Matt Nemeth nominated Beaudoin for the award back in December because of the cultural importance of knotwork in southeastern Connecticut, and also for the workshop’s unique work practices. Beaudoin took over what was then “Beaudoin’s Rope

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Advocates, Opponents, Debate Plans to Open the First Methadone Clinic in Middlesex County

Between 2015 and 2019, 73 people from Middletown died of a drug overdose, more deaths per capita than in New Haven or Bridgeport. At least 17 Middletown residents have died so far in 2020. By comparison, New Haven has five clinics that dispense methadone – one of three drugs commonly used in medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders — Bridgeport has three. There are no dispensaries anywhere in Middlesex County and since 1989, zoning regulations have prohibited methadone clinics from operating in Middletown. The Root Center for Advanced Recovery, which offers methadone and other medication-assisted treatment for drug addiction at

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Citing Changing Times, Available Land, Essex Selectmen Vote to Combine Planning and Zoning Commissions

ESSEX — The Board of Selectmen took a step towards combining the town’s planning and zoning commissions on Wednesday. First Selectman Norm Needleman said that with little available and sub-dividable land left in Essex, there isn’t enough planning work left to justify a two separate commissions. According to Needleman, about half of towns in Connecticut have combined their planning and zoning commissions The Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 to approve sending the proposal to a town meeting, to be held in-person and by Zoom on Oct. 7. According to Needleman, the younger generations generally don’t have the same desire to

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70-Acre Fire Breaks out in Windham, Drought Deepens Across Connecticut and Rhode Island

Volunteer firefighters and state crews are working to contain a 70-acre brush fire that began Wednesday in the Natchaug State Forest in Windham County as drought conditions persist and begin to stretch into southern Connecticut. Northern Connecticut, including Windham County, has experienced drought since June. A typically swampy area of the forest is now dry brush, and there has been low humidity in the air and high winds for the past several days – a recipe for fire to spread — explained Will Healy, a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The conditions also contributed to smaller

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East Lyme Board of Selectmen Approve $985,000 in Bonding for Public Safety Building

EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve an additional $985,000 in bonding to fund renovations of the public safety building in their regular meeting Wednesday night. The additional funding would bring the total amount of money borrowed for the project to $5.98 million, with the remainder of the $7.2 million cost paid for by FEMA disaster relief funds for Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy received in August. The Board of Finance will decide whether to approve the additional bonding in a special meeting on Thursday night. If approved, the spending would then go to a

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Formica, Marx, Debate Energy Prices, Millstone Deal, in Southeast Connecticut Race

After a steep rate hike on July 1 by Eversource Energy was met with outrage from customers across Connecticut, the company – New England’s largest energy provider – responded by blaming the Connecticut legislature for forcing it into a long-term contract subsidizing Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford. A bipartisan group of state and elected officials, including southeastern Connecticut lawmakers, passed legislation in 2017 that paved the way for Millstone owner Dominion Energy to bid for a long-term preferential contract usually reserved for new renewable sources like wind and solar power. Dominion said at the time that it would close

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As Legislature Moves to Address Storm Outages, Energy Providers Warn of Added Cost

The Connecticut General Assembly will consider a wide-ranging bill in special session this month aimed at addressing apparent shortcomings in the response by Eversource and United Illuminating to Tropical Storm Isaias. That bill will include provisions that task the Public Utility Regulatory Authority with reviewing and establishing minimum staffing levels for the energy providers. In written testimony in response, Eversource and United Illuminating warned that more staff will mean significantly higher rates for customers. The bipartisan bill, “An Act Concerning Emergency Response by Electric Distribution Companies and Revising the Regulation of Other Public Utilities,” was introduced by State Sen. Paul

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East Lyme Board of Finance Approves $1.2 Million Compromise for Public Safety Complex

EAST LYME — Citing other priorities the money could be used for, the East Lyme Board of Finance did not approve using the full $1.5 million in FEMA reimbursement from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy to help renovate the former Honeywell Office building into a police and public safety complex. Instead, the board approved appropriating $1.2 million of FEMA funds for the public safety building by a 5-1 vote Wednesday night. The vote came as a compromise as board members pared down the referral from the Board of Selectmen to use about $1.5 million in disaster recovery funds to fill part

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A Spike in Car Thefts in Connecticut after Long Downward Trend

From January 1 through the end of August, the Hartford Police Department recovered 741 vehicles stolen in other towns and taken to Hartford, more than the yearly totals for 2018 or  2019.  In one weekend between Friday, Aug. 28 and Sunday, Aug. 30, 82 cars were reported stolen across Connecticut – 62 with the key fob left inside – according to a report released by the Hartford Police Department earlier this week.  In East Lyme, Police Chief Michael Finkelstein said it’s rare to see windows smashed out of vehicles. The town has had more instances where people are entering unlocked

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Connecticut’s Rainy Day Fund Tops $3 Billion

HARTFORD — A deposit into the state’s rainy day fund last week brought the balance to just over $3 billion, or 15.1 percent of net general fund appropriations, a record high according to Comptroller Kevin Lembo, that could be quickly depleted based on early revenue projections for fiscal year 2021. In his monthly financial update on Tuesday, Lembo said that his office agreed with the Office of Policy and Management forecast of a $2.07 billion general fund deficit for the 2021 fiscal year. The deficit projection is on the high end of possible ranges, according to Lembo, but it was

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