Repeal of ‘Transfer Act’ Would Shift Burden For Environmental Clean-ups in Connecticut

Legislators and policy makers are proposing to change the way that hazardous waste cleanup works in Connecticut — a shift that advocates hope will both boost the economy and better protect the environment.   The changes are outlined in two bills that if approved by the legislature will switch over the state of Connecticut from a system that is transfer-based — in which the owner is responsible for cleaning up hazardous materials only when a property changes hands — to a release-based system, in which the cleanup must be done as soon as the owner becomes aware of the problem.  This

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New Guidelines For Connecticut Ease Bartending Restrictions at Restaurants and Events

The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development has revised reopening guidelines to allow more flexibility for bar service at restaurants and events.  According to revised guidelines announced Thursday, workers at restaurant bars are no longer required to be behind a plastic shield when taking orders, serving food and drinks or collecting bills. They do, however, have to remain behind a shield while at “work stations” — areas where they are mixing drinks. Earlier regulations allowed patrons to sit at bars, but only as long as the entire bar was covered with plexiglass. Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut

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Latina Leaders in Connecticut Meet to Encourage Women of Color to Run for Local Office

Latina leaders in Connecticut are encouraging women of color to run for local office in order to represent the needs of their communities.  In a Zoom conversation hosted by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz on Thursday afternoon, eight elected city councilwomen, representatives and alderwomen shared their experiences and their suggestions for getting into politics.  Many of these women faced similar obstacles in running for office — lack of funding, difficulty networking, and being branded as overly emotional or being told to “wait their turn.”  “The first thing that I would say to women that decide to run in, don’t read the

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New Regulations Require Children Three and Up to Wear Masks in Daycare

The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood has released new regulations requiring that children ages three and up wear masks in daycare and childcare centers beginning Monday, September 21. The regulations are based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which say that children ages two and older can and should wear masks in order to create a safe school or childcare environment.  Beth Bye, commissioner for the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, said that the recommendations came on the heels of a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, which shows that young

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Westbrook Debates Mural Design by Tony Falcone

Westbrook is trying to liven up its downtown business district with an outdoor mural, a project that has drawn both support and criticism from residents.  The project is a three-and-a-half-year-old effort between the Town Center Revitalization Committee and the Economic Development Committee. They recently created an online survey, available on the town website, that allows residents to vote on their favorite of two potential paintings. The winner will be featured on the wall of the Turtle Cafe on Westbrook Place in Westbrook’s downtown.  Both murals include a rendering of David Bushnell’s submarine, the Turtle, known for being the first submarine

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Residents of Eastern Connecticut Invited to Talk With US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo Tonight

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is giving a virtual talk at Connecticut College on September 14 to discuss her memoir, Crazy Brave.  Connecticut College is hosting Harjo as part of a partnership with “One Book: One Region,” a program that was formed to bring together communities in eastern Connecticut to discuss literature.  Jefferson Singer, dean of the college, said the partnership was an effort to create ties between the college and the local community.  Laurie Wolfley, a professor of English at UConn, and a member of the committee responsible for choosing the book, said that Harjo’s memoir was a timely

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Connecticut Announces Sharply Lower Rate Hikes for Health Insurance Plans

Connecticut’s approved rates for health insurance premiums in 2021 are vastly lower than what companies have requested, according to the final rulings released on Friday by the Connecticut Insurance Department.  The approved average rate increase was 0.01 percent for individual plans and 4.1 percent for group plans. Last year, the average increase for individual and group plans were 3.95 percent and 9.19 percent, respectively.  The department said in a press release that it expects the proposed changes to save 214,600 Connecticut residents $96 million.  In a public hearing on September 2, the insurance companies defended their proposed increases, arguing that,

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East Lyme Police Report Rise in Reported Opioid-Related Overdoses

East Lyme has seen an unusually high number of overdoses in the last two months, East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein reported at a meeting of the town’s Police Commission on Thursday night.  Out of a total of 15 reported overdoses in East Lyme in 2020, seven occurred between July 1 and September 10, compared to three during the same period in 2019. Additionally, two of the three deaths attributed to overdoses this year occurred between July and September.  Finkelstein told CT Examiner that the majority of these overdoses were caused by heroin or fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to

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Symphony Kicks Off Fall Outdoor Program with Free Concert at Hygienic on Friday

The Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra will kick off a program of outdoor musical performances with a free concert on Friday at Hygienic Art Park in New London. The orchestra is giving five outdoor musical performances as part of their fall “Soundscape” program. Rather than full orchestra performances, the organization is opting for a series of smaller performances — ensembles of two to five musicians on strings, woodwind and brass. Their repertoire will range from traditional classical movements to contemporary popular songs.  The first three events, performed at Hygienic Art Park, will feature violin and cello, a bass duet and clarinet

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Board Of Selectmen Debate Sewers, a Resolution on Racism, and Sidewalks (UPDATED)

The Old Lyme Board of Selectmen held a public hearing last night to vote on whether to grant an easement for sewers to be installed by Old Lyme and three chartered beach communities. The system would establish a shared trunk sewer, pump station and force main between Old Lyme and the communities of Old Lyme Shores Beach, Old Colony Beach and Miami Beach. The pipes would run along Hartung Place, cross Hartford Avenue and Swan Avenue to reach the shared pump station at the corner of Pond Road and Portland Road. The shared force main would run up Portland Avenue

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As Connecticut Evaluates Rate Hikes for 2021, Health Insurers Push Back on Reports of Large Profits

As the Connecticut Insurance Department deliberates over whether to allow insurance premiums to increase for 2021, health insurers pushed back against reports of large profits during the pandemic as premature. On Aug. 5, the New York Times reported that many of the large insurance companies that serve Connecticut, including Aetna, Anthem and United Health Care, reported second-quarter earnings that were double what they earned in the previous year.  Insurers, however, are predicting that these earnings will be offset by a coming increase in elective surgeries and treatments postponed due to the pandemic. Most said they experienced a decrease in claims

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With One Month to Go, State Officials Seek to Boost Census Numbers for Connecticut

With one month to go before the reporting deadline for the U.S. Census, eight percent of Connecticut households still remain uncounted, currently the ninth-best completion rate in the country and the second-best response rate in New England after Maine.  In August, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would stop collecting responses for the census on September 30, a month earlier than previously stated.  According to Elizabeth Porter, chair of the Complete Contact Committee in Groton, the abrupt change in the deadline for collecting responses has created some challenges. “That, to me, was just unfair,” she said. “If you set

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As Events Remain Sharply Limited by COVID, a Coalition Tries for Middle Ground with Lamont

As winter approaches without any indication of when restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 will be loosened for Connecticut, the events industry  — catering businesses, event venues, designers, florists, party rental companies, musicians and DJs — are banding together to ask state and federal officials for economic assistance and for the chance to reopen. The guidelines, put in place in the spring in a series of executive orders by Gov. Ned Lamont, currently limit gatherings to 25 people indoors and 100 people outside, including staff.  Shiran Nicholson, owner of the Knowlton, a venue in Bridgeport, said that those restrictions

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Montville Fire Departments Collecting Supplies for Victims of Hurricane Laura

MONTVILLE — The four independent fire departments in Montville are collecting donations of water, cleaning supplies and bug spray, which they will ship to Louisiana to help the victims of Hurricane Laura in the hard-hit town of Lake Charles.  The fire departments will begin collecting the donations on Wednesday. They hope to have enough items to fill at least one, if not two, 53-foot trailers.  Their goal is to ship the materials within a week, said Steven Frischling, the Public Information Officer at the Chesterfield Fire Company, but the earlier they receive the donations, the earlier they can ship them.

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With the Minimum Wage to Increase to $12 on Sept. 1, Elected Officials and Business Owners Debate Possible Delay

Connecticut’s minimum wage is set to increase from $11 to $12 per hour on September 1.  The change is the result of a 2019 bill which increases the minimum wage by $1 per hour every 11 months until it reaches $15 per hour. September 1 will mark the second increase of five. The next increase is scheduled for August 1, 2021, when the minimum wage will increase to $13 per hour.  Advocates say that this wage increase is critical for minimum wage workers who are struggling to pay their living expenses. The unexpected and nearly unprecedented loss of revenue due

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Jump in Domestic Violence Across Connecticut tied to Challenges of COVID

“It’s hard to convey what a perfect scenario this pandemic is for an abusive personality,” said Mary Jane Foster, president and CEO of Interval House, a domestic violence shelter in Hartford.  According to Foster, the combination of isolation, job loss, financial strain and the stress of homeschooling can trigger higher levels of abuse while closing off potential means of escape.  Data provided by the Connecticut State Police Public Information Office shows that domestic violence calls to the Connecticut State Police increased overall in March — 93 calls compared to 83 in March 2019 — but dropped again in April, May

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Openings for Insurance, 64,000 Jobs and $3 Billion Business Staked on China-U.S. Trade Tension for Connecticut

The so-called trade wars between the U.S. and China have affected businesses not only in Connecticut, but across the country. From 2018 to 2019, exports to China declined 11.5 percent and imports declined 16.2 percent, according to U.S. Census data. In the first half of 2020, imports from China declined an additional 17 percent. In part this is a result of the high tariffs both countries have levied —  tariffs which remain on $370 billion worth of Chinese goods imported into the United States and $110 billion worth of American goods exported to China. Paul Hebert, founder of the Manchester,

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At Friday Press Conference in New London, Regional Leaders Discuss Domestic Violence Funding and the Costs of COVID

Domestic violence agencies in southeast Connecticut are worried about a shortage of funds as they continue to face the daily challenges brought on by the pandemic.  “We’re still short so much money,” said Kathie Verano, chief executive officer of Safe Futures, a domestic violence shelter located in New London. “We’re begging for money from anyone.”     According to data provided by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence total communication between shelter staff and victims statewide increased seven percent from last year — although this number includes an increase in check-ins with clients, as well as victims calling the shelter.  Verano said that Safe

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Across Connecticut Local Officials Report Better than Expected Tax Collections

In a world where many normal bureaucratic functions have been put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, property taxes in Connecticut are still being paid on time. Tax collectors across the state contacted by CT Examiner say that they have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of money they have collected so far in 2020. “I thought it would be a lot less,” said Deborah Fioretti, tax collector for the town of Avon. “It was better than I expected,” agreed Ridgefield Tax Collector Jane Berendsen-Hill.   On April 1, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order requiring that towns offer the

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Yale Offers Online Course for Public School Employees to Manage Stress and Anxiety of Students

As schools prepare to reopen in the fall, Yale University is rolling out a new online course for school educators in Connecticut on how to manage stress and emotions in the classroom.  The course, entitled “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress,” was developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and will be made available to all adults who work with students in Connecticut public schools. It is funded by Dalio Education, a philanthropic organization that has invested over $95 million in public education in Connecticut. According to Mark Brackett, the Center’s director, the 10-hour course

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Despite Pandemic, Local Schools Expand or Wait-list for Fall Pre-Kindergarten Programs

In the last two years, several school districts in southeast Connecticut have decided to pilot universal pre-kindergarten programs for local three and four-year olds. Now, coronavirus-related concerns of safety, finance and teaching method, pose unforeseen challenges to educating their youngest pupils, even as the programs prove popular. The Westbrook school district, for example, introduced a universal pre-k program last year, transitioning from a half-day model to a full-day model.  The district intended to expand that program this year, before pandemic concerns put those plans on hold, and a combination of financial ramifications from COVID-19 and concerns about overpopulating classrooms meant

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Wesleyan Professor Tackles Human Hierarchies with the Aid of Animals

After Dr. Kari Weil earned tenure at Wake Forest University, she decided it was time to get herself a horse. Weil thought she might never get married, and saw this as another way of falling in love. She had fond memories of family trips to Michigan as a child, where she would ride, without a helmet, through the surrounding woods. She named her horse Cacahuète, the French word for “peanut,” because the horse was the color of peanut butter.  Weil eventually did marry, and she moved to California to be with her husband, bringing Cacahuète with her. She taught at

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Fearing Health Insurance Rate Hikes in the Wake of COVID, Senate Democrats Propose Caps, Subsidies

The number of people seeking medical care for COVID-19-related reasons has sparked fears that Connecticut insurance companies, set to file their rates by the end of July, may raise 2021 premiums to astronomical levels. In response, members of the Connecticut State Senate are proposing measures that may offset or prevent some of these potential costs. In the “Juneteenth Agenda,” unveiled on June 19 of this year, the Senate Democrats offered a list of reforms in policing, education, housing, and healthcare, among other things. One of the proposals involves setting limits on premium hikes by insurers and provides state-level subsidies to

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