Port Authority Pushback: $5 Million Added Bonding a ‘Contingency’

Despite a price tag of $255.5 million provided on a State Bond Commission agenda, Connecticut Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris said the project is still in line with earlier cost estimates of $250 million. At a meeting of the Port Authority board on Tuesday, Kooris said that, while a guaranteed bottom-line cost won’t be finalized until the board meets in June, the New London State Pier redevelopment is still expected to cost $250 million – an estimate Kooris gave after Gov. Ned Lamont visited the pier to see construction progress in March. If the Bond Commission approves an additional

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State Pier Costs Continue Upward as Port Authority Officials Race to Meet March Timeline

HARTFORD – As the cost to redevelop the New London State Pier continues to escalate, lawmakers are being asked to approve another $20 million in bonding to fund the project – which now carries a price tag of $255.5 million. Hailed in 2019 as a $93 million project to redevelop the pier into a hub for offshore wind construction – with the offshore wind partnership of Eversource and Ørsted paying $57.5 million of the cost – the state’s investment now stands at $160.5 million, and the State Bond Commission will decide Thursday whether to approve another $20 million in funding.

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As Session Nears Close, Bill Safeguarding State’s Contracting Watchdog Still Unfinished

HARTFORD – With the state legislature’s session coming to a close at midnight, the fate of an effort to safeguard funding for the state’s contracting watchdog is still up in the air as lawmakers work to address state agency concerns that the bill will restrict their procurement processes. The bill – which passed out of the Senate unanimously on Friday – would protect the State Contracting Standards Board from what has become common practice by the Office of the Governor to cut the board’s funding – something that has frustrated the board and lawmakers.  Speaker of the House Matt Ritter,

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Connecticut General Assembly Approves Pay Raises for Itself, Other Top State Officials

HARTFORD – All 187 state legislators need a $12,000 pay raise to attract a more diverse membership than what one member called the “lawyers, independently rich people, retired people and adults living in their parent’s basement” that now dominate its ranks. “That’s what we’ve got here,” State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, said at the State Capitol before the full General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a hike in legislators’ base pay from $28,000 to $40,000. “And that’s not truly representative of the people in our state.” Other legislators said they just flat out deserve their first raise in 21 years

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Legislators Move to Approve Limited, but Durable Oversight by the State Contracting Standards Board

HARTFORD – Connecticut lawmakers are moving toward fully funding and staffing the State Contracting Standards Board, but won’t give the board the authority to review the contracts of every quasi-public state agency this year. The State Senate voted unanimously Friday on a bill to take steps to protect State Contracting Standards Board funding and staffing from the state’s governors, who have routinely pushed against giving resources to the board’s oversight of state contracting processes. The bill still needs approval from the House. The bill requires the board to hire five, full-time staff by September, and lawmakers will vote on a

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Parties Split As Lawmakers Approve Transportation Emissions Bill

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HARTFORD – Lawmakers approved a wide-ranging bill aimed at limiting emissions from cars, trucks and buses in an effort accelerate the shift to electric vehicles. The bill, dubbed the “Connecticut Clean Air Act” by proponents, would require transit and school buses to transition to zero emission buses, expands electric vehicle rebates, tightens emissions standards for trucks, and requires some condo and apartment buildings to allow residents to install electric vehicle chargers. The bill passed the House by a vote of 95-52 on Friday, with all Republicans voting against. It passed the Senate earlier in the week on a nearly party-line

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House Easily Passes Juvenile Crime Bill But Divisions Apparent After Debate

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HARTFORD – After hours of emotional debate over whether a get-tough policy or social intervention is the way to combat juvenile crime, an overwhelming 129-17 House of Representatives bipartisan majority on Thursday approved a bill that attempts to take both approaches to address crime by young people – especially car thefts. The bill now moves on to the Senate for a final vote before the legislative session ends next week.  It provides an array of measures such as stiffer penalties for repeat car thieves, creation of a car-theft task force and greater discretion for judges to order suspects to wear

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At the Capitol, Juvenile Crime is in the Eye of the Party-holder 

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HARTFORD – The State Capitol press conferences were held back-to-back, but the views of Democrats and Republicans on the level of juvenile crime in Connecticut and how to deal with it were worlds apart.  “I think this is a systemic problem,” Republican State Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford told reporters. “All you have to do is go on Facebook or walk out your front door and talk to your neighbors.” Minutes later, East Hartford Democrat State Rep. Jason Rojas gave the same group a completely different take.  “It doesn’t happen to the vast majority of people in our state,”

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Supreme Court Nomination Moves Forward After Misconduct Allegations Aired 

HARTFORD – A former state prosecutor nominated by Gov. Ned Lamont to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Connecticut Supreme Court was unanimously approved Monday by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, after hearing allegations against her of impropriety during a murder trial. The nomination of Joan K. Alexander, a veteran Superior Court judge who has served on the state Appellate Court for the past two years, will now be put to a vote of the full General Assembly before the current legislative session ends May 6.  Lamont selected Alexander, 59, of Cromwell, to replace his first nominee, Justice Christine Keller, who

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Legislators Approve Four-Year $1.86 Billion Labor Agreement for State Employees

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HARTFORD –  State lawmakers have approved a four-year, $1.86 billion agreement with unions representing 46,000 state employees that includes raises and bonuses, in votes that fell largely along party lines. The Senate approved the contract Friday afternoon in a 22-13 party-line vote, with all Republican members voting against. The House approved the contract on Thursday in a 96-52 vote. State Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor, was the only Republican to break ranks and vote in favor of the contract. The $1.86 billion agreement negotiated between Lamont’s administration and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition would give about 46,000 covered public

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A Party-Line Vote, as Sides Spar Over $1.86 Billion State Employees Contract

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As state residents and conservative-leaning groups pushed back in testimony today on the $1.86 billion price tag of a four-year agreement between the state and unions representing 46,000 public sector employees, both the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont and union representatives warned that it would cost more to reject the deal. The agreement negotiated between Lamont’s administration and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition would give covered employees a 2.5 percent raise this year and each of the next three years. It would also pay union state employees who were employed in July 2021 a bonus of $2,500, and pay

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Aid-in-Dying Bill Fails Again at State Capitol 

HARTFORD — More than a decade of frustration by supporters of aid-in-dying legislation in Connecticut will continue for at least another year after a Monday vote at the State Capitol that again rejected the proposal first floated 13 years ago.  By a mostly party-line vote of 5 to 4 by Senate members of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, the latest version of the bill failed to advance to a debate of the full General Assembly, effectively defeating it.  The vote came despite public polling that shows nearly two-thirds of Connecticut residents would support allowing terminally-ill patients to end their life with

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Pequots, Mohegans Seek Legislative Approval to Issue Pistol Permits 

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They have more than 50 state-certified police officers between them, as well as a fleet of cruisers, holding cells for suspects, a firearms-training range and an automated fingerprinting system. But what police at the sovereign-nation reservations of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and its neighboring Mohegan Tribe don’t have is the power to issue pistol permits to their residents as is granted to every municipal department in the state. A proposed bill before the General Assembly would change that, and was the subject of a public hearing this week before the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. Merrill Reels, treasurer

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Connecticut Lawmakers Considering Legalizing Consumer Fireworks

HARTFORD – July 4th and other backyard celebrations could get considerably louder – and some say more dangerous – under a proposed legislative bill to allow more powerful fireworks to be sold in Connecticut. The only fireworks that are now legal without a permit are relatively tame hand-held sparklers and ground-based fountains that produce a display of sparks.  Under the proposed bill, the sale and use of “consumer-grade” explosive devices including firecrackers, Roman candles, smoke bombs and other “aerial” varieties would be allowed – although sales would be limited to stand-alone fireworks stores.  The bill was discussed Tuesday at a

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Contracting Watchdog Warns About Plans by Lamont to Diminish Independent Oversight

HARTFORD – As the State Contracting Standards Board again warned that its ability to review state procurements is at risk without additional staffing, lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee said they were committed to finally safeguarding its funding this session. State Contracting Standards Board Chairman Larry Fox said that Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to fund new positions in the Auditors of Public Accounts instead of adding staff that the standards board has been requesting for years would effectively end its ability to review procurements in state agencies when its executive director David Guay retires later this year. “I feel like deja

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Lawmakers Voice Bipartisan Frustration with Limited Role Overseeing Federal COVID Aid

HARTFORD – Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the state legislature’s Appropriations Committee say they will step up oversight of federal COVID aid funding, and plan to call for regular meetings with the Lamont administration to keep track of how the money is being spent. “We’re just looking for transparency,” State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, told CT Examiner “we really want to be an active partner in all of the dollars that are coming into Connecticut.”  Osten, who serves as co-chair of the committee, said that lawmakers are seeking the same oversight of federal infrastructure money that the committee had last

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Lamont, Republicans Joust Over Spending Proposals

HARTFORD – Bipartisan cooperation is the “Connecticut difference” that has brought the state from a fiscal crisis to solid financial footing during his term, Gov. Ned Lamont declared to the General Assembly in his State of the State address Wednesday. But with elections looming in November for the governor and state lawmakers, Republican leaders were quick to draw a line – declaring Lamont’s optimistic proposals to revise the state budget as irresponsible and “typical election year politics.” Lamont, appearing before lawmakers in-person after delivering his budget address in a pre-recorded video last year, proposed a $24 billion budget – including

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Port Authority, State Agencies Dispute Findings of Contracting Watchdog

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After a months-long review of the Connecticut Port Authority, the State Contract Standards Board questioned on Friday whether the authority – a quasi-public agency – had the authority to sign a development agreement for the New London State Pier, or pay a $523,000 “success fee” to a contractor tasked with finding a port operator in 2018. Those findings are disputed by Connecticut Port Authority, Office of Policy and Management, and, to an extent, the Office of the Attorney General – and Standards Board Chair Larry Fox admitted that there may be legitimate disagreements regarding how the state statutes are interpreted. 

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Sean Scanlon Talks Exploratory Run for Comptroller

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GUILFORD – One of the greatest challenges State Rep. Sean Scanlon sees in his exploratory run for State Comptroller is simply making people aware of what the job entails.  “A lot of people don’t know what the office does, but what the office does is relevant to a lot of people,” Scanlon said in an interview with CT Examiner, listing scrutiny of state spending and managing the state employee and retiree health plans as the main tasks. “I think that job is more important than ever because of what we’ve faced in the last two years with COVID and to

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Putting Aside Carbon Caps, Lamont Presses for California Emissions Standards, EV Subsidies

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With carbon caps off the table for this year’s short legislative session, at a League of Conservation Voters forum on Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont pressed lawmakers to focus on reduced vehicle emissions by adopting California’s standards, and expanding subsidies for electric vehicles. “One thing I’ve noticed – business, labor, in particular the legislature – everybody’s generally in favor of doing more to protect the environment,” Lamont chided legislators. “But when push comes to shove, when it comes to putting our shoulder to the wheel, sometimes you pull back when it comes time to figure out how we’re going to pay

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Republicans Take Aim at Connecticut’s ‘Disjointed’ Mental Health Services

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HARTFORD – In a press conference on Wednesday, Republican lawmakers announced several proposals to expand access to mental health care for children and new mothers, from mental health liaisons in schools to greater awareness of postpartum mental health to increased support for nonprofits in the face of looming state workforce retirements.    State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, called the lack of mental health services a system-wide problem in the state of Connecticut.   “We have a disjointed, disconnected system of care here,” said Somers. “There’s no continuum of care. People search for days to try to find help. We don’t have enough

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Labor and State Officials Offer Contrasting Views of Public Employee Retirements

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State officials and labor leaders offered contrasting views on a possible wave of state employee retirements this summer, with union officials warning that the already overburdened workforce would be stretched thin, while human resource officers for the State of Connecticut described the expected departures as “relatively manageable.”  At a Dec. 7 meeting of the Task Force to Study the State Workforce and Retiring Employees, Nick Hermes, the chief human resources officer and deputy commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, reassured legislators and the committee that the number of retirements so far from state agencies overseen by the department were

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Connecticut Economists Sound off on Democratic and Republican Tax Proposals

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Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and Gov. Ned Lamont, have proposed a variety of competing ideas to reduce the tax burden on Connecticut residents facing the highest rate of inflation in nearly four decades. But economists who spoke with CT Examiner about their ideas questioned the effectiveness and scope of some of these plans, and suggested a few ideas of their own. In December, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he would retroactively expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit from 30 percent to 41.5 percent for 2020 using $75 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.  Economists who spoke to CT Examiner

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Boughton Takes Regional Approach to Federal Infrastructure Dollars

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His official title is Commissioner, but Mark Boughton might soon be better known as the state’s ambassador of infrastructure.  The former longtime mayor of Danbury who now heads the state tax department, Boughton was tapped by Gov. Ned Lamont last month to be his chief advisor in overseeing the upcoming influx of billions of federal dollars intended to reshape Connecticut’s deteriorating roads and bridges and improve its rail and internet service, among other projects. In an interview with CT Examiner, Boughton said his main task is to build collaborations among state agencies, legislators, town officials, regional planning agencies, business groups

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Port Authority Offers Upbeat Message on Costs and Delays for State Pier Development

NEW LONDON — A nine month wait for a federal dredging permit hasn’t raised the cost of filling seven acres at State Pier, and the redevelopment is still slated to fit within a $235 million price tag, according to officials at the Connecticut Port Authority. The delay means that the bulk of the dredging work for the offshore wind hub – a partnership of Eversource and Ørsted – will be pushed off until next winter. But Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris said the permit did arrive in time to start work before a Feb. 1 deadline to cease dredging

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Senate Republican Leader Calls Helping Lower Incomes a Priority for Next Session

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HARTFORD – State. Senator Kevin Kelly told CT Examiner that helping families battered financially by the pandemic while the state government has a historic influx of revenue will top the agenda for Senate Republicans in the upcoming legislative session. “Upper income people are doing just fine during the pandemic. But if you’re at the lower end you’re getting hammered with inflation,” said Kelly, referencing spiking prices of groceries, cars, fuel and healthcare. “These are the costs that Connecticut families can’t sustain because we’re dead last in the nation in job and income growth.”  With an avalanche of tax revenue from

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Top Senate Democrat Lays Out Agenda for Legislature in 2022

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HARTFORD – Easing the sting of the state’s property tax on residents, addressing inequities in public health and combating juvenile crime with increased intervention lead the agenda of the top Democrat in the State Senate for the legislative session that begins in February.  “There’s no other tax that is felt as acutely as the property tax and we need to find ways to address it,” Sen. Martin Looney said in an interview with CT Examiner, adding that its “regressive” current structure often means the state’s wealthiest residents pay lower effective tax rates than its lowest-income residents.  Looney, who has been

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Connecticut Port Authority Secures Key Army Corps Permit for State Pier

NEW LONDON – The Connecticut Port Authority received a permit to fill about 7 acres of water between the two piers in New London on Thursday – a key, long-awaited piece of the $235 million redevelopment of the State Pier into an offshore wind hub. The Connecticut Port Authority had been expecting the Army Corps of Engineers permit to be issued for months. The authority had agreed to a provision in its contract with the Eversource/Ørsted offshore wind partnership that would have allowed the companies to withdraw their funding for the project if the permit wasn’t in hand by Aug.

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Cyber Specialist Warns on State’s Vetting of Cloud Services, Lack of Backups

A network security specialist for the state’s Department of Emergency Services told CT Examiner this week that his department was not sure which state employee records may have been left exposed when the Kronos Private Cloud suffered a ransomware attack last weekend, because the State of Connecticut doesn’t keep local copies of those records, and they are inaccessible at this point. According to Travis Woodward, president of CSEA SEIU Local 2001, which represents 22,000 active and retired state employees, that shows the danger of the state’s shift to cloud-based services without proper controls and backup data in the event of

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Candelora Says Connecticut is Failing on Crime, COVID and the Economy

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HARTFORD – Connecticut’s highest-ranking Republican state representative says his party will use the upcoming legislative session to address what he calls widespread government failure on issues ranging from the economy to COVID-19 and the spike in crime being committed by youth.  House Leader Vincent Candelora lists a firmer response to a recent surge in juvenile crime as his top priority for the February-through-May session of the General Assembly, and has held public forums around the state to learn residents’ concerns. “We’re hearing from a lot of people who are afraid,” said Candelora, who represents his hometown of North Branford, as

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