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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Below-Market-Rate Housing in Stamford, a Model, and ‘a Mess’

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Housing was a hot topic in this year’s almost-ended legislative session at the state capitol. Advocates pushed for measures to increase the amount of affordable housing in Connecticut, one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Towns pushed back, saying they will fight to preserve their character, particularly since developers are taking advantage of a law that allows them to bypass local zoning regulations if they build projects with a certain percentage of affordable units.  Each municipality now is working on a plan – due to the state on June 30 – for how it will boost

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Malloy-era Program to Encourage Gas Home Heating Ends Far Short of Goal

A program meant to incentivize a broad shift in home heating from oil to natural gas has come to an early end, far short of its lofty goals, as regulators found rising costs didn’t justify the limited interest in the program. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority voted 3-0 to end one of former Gov. Dannell Malloy’s key energy programs on Wednesday – a program that incentivized customers to shift to natural gas by subsidizing the upfront costs of connecting to gas mains. When the program was implemented in 2013, Malloy set a goal of converting 280,000 new customers to gas

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Sweeping Children’s Mental Health Bill Passes State House

A sweeping children’s mental health bill providing everything from broader insurance coverage to loan forgiveness for mental health workers to trauma-informed training for teachers passed the State House of Representatives by a 149-0 vote on Wednesday.  This is the first of three bills focused on children’s mental health to pass in the State House this session. The bill includes provisions that affect every aspect of the mental health system, from state agencies to insurance companies, local school districts, physicians and mental health providers.  State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, co-chair of the children’s committee and one of the bill’s authors, said

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Weston’s Lachat Town Farm Commission Approves Construction Bid for Education Center

WESTON — After two years of meetings, the Lachat Town Farm Commission unanimously chose a design-build firm Wednesday night for the construction of an educational center at the Juliana Lachat Preserve, with an expected late May groundbreaking. After considering four bids, the commission chose Verdi Design-Build, which happened to be the lowest bid at $2.97 million, to construct the Daniel E. Offutt III Educational Center. “We’ve been basically engaged for close to two years in this exploration of what the right building is for Lachat and a respectful tribute to Daniel Offutt and so hopefully those two factors are coming

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Transportation and Clean Air Bills Clear Senate as Dems and GOP Differ on Merits and Costs

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HARTFORD — The Connecticut Senate passed a group of bills aimed at reducing emissions caused by transportation and energy generation on Tuesday night, including an omnibus air quality bill aimed at encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles for a variety of vehicles from passenger cars to buses to heavy-duty trucks, and a bill that speeds up the state’s goals for eliminating carbon emissions from electric generation. During about seven hours of debate on a bill proponents have dubbed the “Connecticut Clean Air Act,” Republicans warned that changes in the bill came too quickly for people to adapt, that the true

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Connecticut Regulators Settle Discount Power Complaint For Misleading Electric Customers

State regulators agreed to settle a complaint with a third-party electric supplier for half of its original fine despite pleas from the Attorney General and Office of Consumer Counsel to fight the company in court. The company’s sales agents were found to have routinely misled people into signing contracts. After the Public Utility Regulatory Authority decided to fine Discount Power $2 million over what regulators described as “grave, systemic” violations of state marketing laws, the Shelton-based company appealed the fine to Superior Court.  The company had argued that the fine and a three-year suspension of its license to operate in

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State Reps Rally to Protect Dwindling Horseshoe Crab Population

The entire Connecticut House of Representatives came out this week for the horseshoe crab – the silent, slow-moving “ancient mariner” that has lived on earth’s shores for 445 million years. In a time when politicians keep to their camps, red vs. blue, and battle over the veracity of election results and other basics of democracy, state representatives voted 144-0 for An Act Concerning the Hand-Harvesting of Horseshoe Crabs. The unanimous vote sent a signal that state lawmakers want to ensure that the dwindling population of horseshoe crabs does not disappear from Connecticut beaches. “The whole chamber agreed that we should

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Lawmakers Overwhelmingly Support $75 Million Tax Break for Sikorsky (Updated)

HARTFORD – The Connecticut legislature overwhelmingly approved up to $75 million in tax breaks to Sikorsky to keep production in Connecticut if it wins two major helicopter contracts from the U.S. Army. The measure passed the House by a vote of 130-14 on Wednesday, and passed the Senate 34-1, with State Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, the lone vote against. State Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, co-chair of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding committee, said Stratford-based Sikorsky is trying to win two contracts to build “future vertical lift” helicopters for the Army. If Sikorsky is awarded both contracts, the state will grant

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Fiscal Committee Messages Priorities with $940,000 in Cuts From Stamford Budget

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City Rep. Monica Di Costanzo ticked off page numbers to the sound of Fiscal Committee members flipping through the budget book.  “Sixty-one, sixty-two, sixty-three,” Di Costanzo said, reading through the 555 pages and checking to see whether Board of Representatives committee members at city hall – and those watching on Zoom – raised a hand to propose a cut. “Page 88, Department of Operations, road maintenance,” Di Costanzo, the committee co-chair, continued. No hands went up. “Page 129, beaches … page 149, traffic analyst position …” Representatives Monday night proposed few cuts at first, even for the big-ticket items –

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Ben Proto Sees Shifting Attitudes Paving the Way for GOP Success in November

As Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Ben Proto sees it, the recipe for success in this fall’s statewide elections is sitting right in front of the party’s candidates and voters looking for an alternative to the political menu long dominated by Democrats. Start with a heavy helping of buyer’s remorse over a historically unpopular Democratic President, Joe Biden, toss in economic inflation and pandemic fatigue and top it off with layers of frustration about parental choice, taxes and crime, Proto says, and voters just may have an appetite for a whole new plate of office holders.  “The act of voting is

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Lawmakers Pitch Bill to Fast-Track Funding for Connecticut’s Public Schools (Updated)

Daniela James, a senior at Farmington High School, said she saw stark differences between the opportunities afforded her in Farmington compared to her former school, Waterbury Arts Magnet School.  Her current high school in Farmington offered 24 Advanced Placement Courses, in comparison to the three offered in Waterbury. She said that in her former school, students regularly dropped out, while 99 percent of students at Farmington High School graduated last year.  “The generational privileges that there are in Farmington, along with the multitude of AP classes to beef up [students’] transcripts makes them much more equipped to look appealing to

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Lawsuit against Boy Scouts Says Bird Refuge at Deer Lake Must be Preserved

MIDDLETOWN — An avid birder and supporter of the preservation of Deer Lake filed suit in Middlesex Superior Court yesterday against the Connecticut Yankee Council of the Boy Scouts of America stating that the bird sanctuary on the property must be protected and that the council has received substantial charitable donations for maintenance of the refuge since 2011.  David Stephenson, of Madison, is seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that any sale of Deer Lake must include a conservation restriction prohibiting any changes to the property inconsistent with its use as a bird sanctuary. According to the suit, the

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Connecticut House Approves $30 Million Childhood Lead Exposure Bill,146-0

The Connecticut House voted 146-0 on Tuesday to pass a bill that will increase testing for lead exposure in children, lower the threshold requiring municipalities to investigate and remediate for lead, and provide $30 million to cover the estimated cost of compliance.  The bill requires health centers to report lead poisoning when a child’s blood levels are greater than 3.5 micrograms per deciliter, in conformance with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. It also requires the state to begin an epidemiological investigation and conduct remediation when a child’s blood level is greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter. “We

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Breaks with Town Attorney to Pass New Bylaws

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OLD SAYBROOK – Against the advice of the town attorney, the Old Saybrook Police Commission on Monday night approved new policies meant to encourage communication between commissioners and the public. In a 5-2 party-line vote, the commission approved new rules for managing correspondence with the public, and for talking with the public about their concerns regarding the Old Saybrook Police Department.  The commission voted 6-1 to approve an additional rule that would prohibit speakers at public commission meetings from criticizing specific employees of the police department in a way that can identify that person. The commission again postponed a vote

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Rogers Lake Ordinance On Hold, Community Remains Vigilant

OLD LYME — After a several contentious meetings of the Rogers Lake Authority in which residents opposed a proposed DEEP permit for a no-wake zone, about 20 lake residents sat on folding chairs in their association clubhouse to watch Monday’s virtual authority meeting. “We have about 201 signatures now,” said Dave Evers, president of the Rogers Lake West Shore Association, before the meeting began. “We might reach out to legal teams, we’ll see how it goes. We clearly have a lot of support.” The room darkened. On screen, Dennis Overfield, chair of the Rogers Lake Authority, began the virtual meeting.

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Lawmakers Debate California Emissions Standards for Trucks Advancing in the Legislature

HARTFORD – With just one-and-a-half weeks remaining in the legislative session, some lawmakers said they still have questions about Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to adopt California’s stricter emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. On Monday morning, lawmakers in the Transportation Committee approved sending a bill to the House and Senate for debate – but several lawmakers questioned the impact on businesses in the state and said they needed more information before they could vote to pass the bill before the short session ends on May 4.  The bill previously gained the approval of the Environment Committee, and is expected

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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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Eversource and Avangrid ask to Extend Deadline for Natural Gas Hookups, as Subsidies Come to End

As regulators get ready to shut down a program that subsidizes Connecticut customers to connect to natural gas, the two largest utility companies in Connecticut are calling for more time to sign up customers who have already shown interest as part of an “orderly wind down” of the program. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority issued a draft decision in March where the utility regulator said it intended to end the Gov. Dan Malloy-era program as soon as April 27, citing less interest in the program than expected, rising costs, and limited environmental benefits.  The PURA board meets Wednesday morning to

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Stamford Debates Housing Reforms Aimed at Connecticut’s Suburbs and Small Towns

In some places they’re called mother-in-law suites, in others illegal apartments. Whatever the reference – zoning officials say ADU for “accessory dwelling unit” – they’ve come to be called controversial in the hot debate over how to alleviate the state’s affordable housing crisis. Housing advocates say ADUs are a vehicle for creating more affordable rental units and greater access to Connecticut’s wealthy towns, where crime is low and quality of education is high. Last year legislators passed a law legalizing ADUs statewide. It allows them to be built in single-family houses as of right, meaning without a zoning variance, special

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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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Stamford Reps Question How a Score of 55 Beats a 74 for Firefighter Testing and Promotions

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The test is scored precisely, down to decimals. Yet results can be rounded. A grade may be set to define passing and failing. But not necessarily. Earning the highest score could mean a promotion. Or not. Members of the Stamford Board of Representatives said this week they are confused about how firefighters and police officers are evaluated on exams they take when they want a promotion. During the board’s Personnel Committee meeting, representatives requested an explanation of the rules after a firefighter was promoted March 28 to deputy fire marshal even though he scored 19 points lower than the runner-up.

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Funds for Senior Center Renovation Not Yet Approved by Old Lyme Board

OLD LYME — The town’s FY 22-23 budget does not, so far, include a $220,000 request that the Lymes’ Senior Center Building Committee says is needed to move forward with design plans for a $3.8 – $4.8m renovation of the center. The committee has requested a total of $292,000 in FY 22-23 to cover schematic design, architecture and engineering and soft costs. The amount will be split, according to previous agreements, between Old Lyme and the Town of Lyme 75/25. Lyme has already agreed to cover its 25 percent share, or $73,000. In FY 23-24, the construction phase of the

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Rogers Lake Authority Says ‘We Can’t Ignore Public Comment’ about No Wake Zones

OLD LYME — After hearing strong public objection to a proposed no-wake zone ordinance, the Rogers Lake Authority will hold a special virtual meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. to review public comment and decide on a way forward.  “We have to take it pretty seriously, with 160 plus people being against this, we have to pay attention,” Dennis Overfield, chair of the authority, told CT Examiner on Friday.  He said that Monday’s meeting agenda will be a review of previous public comments from the authority’s March 9 and April 19 meetings, but there will be no further public comment

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Mystery of the Disappearing Alewife Explored at Black Hall Pond 

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OLD LYME – The deep water of Black Hall Pond this spring has become a laboratory where environmental officials are trying to revive a once-prolific species of bait fish that has suffered a mysterious and precipitous decline across the state in recent decades.  Known as the Alewife, the silvery, foot-long herring is a major draw for fisherman and predators such as striped bass and osprey, and once were so prolific that they choked adjoining streams with their numbers during migrations. One contributor to their decline here was a series of beaver dams that blocked their spawning route between Long Island

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Push for Primary Care Raises Alarm Among Mental Health and Disability Advocates

Two years ago, in response to ever-rising healthcare costs, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order allowing the Office of Health Strategy to create targets — called “benchmarks” — for how much the cost of healthcare should grow each year, and to create metrics that measure the quality of healthcare in the state. The executive order also included a plan to increase the amount of money directed toward primary care doctors.  Now, the legislature is considering turning that executive order into law. But the bill is opposed by various organizations on the grounds that the extra funds for primary care

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Schools Officials Calls Florsheim Claims “Patently False,” in Push For 6% Budget Hike

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MIDDLETOWN — The town’s superintendent and Board of Education pushed back hard against recent charges by Mayor Ben Florsheim that the proposed school budget shows a lack of investment in school staff and a lack of transparency. An eight-page document signed by Superintendent Alberto Vazquez-Matos and Board Chair Deborah Cain offered point-by-point rebuttals to criticism leveled by the mayor in his April 1 budget address, calling the idea that the district was cutting funding for school staff “patently false.”  “Every component of the Board’s proposed budget invests in our employees and our community. Using our strategic operating plan as our

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Bid to Improve Training for Teacher’s Aides Loses Out to Cost and Budgetary Concerns

A provision that would have improved access to training and career advancement for some of the state’s lowest-paid workers in the classroom, many employed to help high-need students, appears to have lost out this year due to cost and budgetary concerns. Kelly McQueeney, a paraprofessional in the Avon school district, said she had to learn a variety of skills for her job helping students with different needs, including sign language, the use of alternative communication devices and certain types of walkers.  Soccorro Testut, a paraprofessional in Norwich, said that some of the most valuable training was how to translate and

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Retired Conn College VP Tapped as Interim Head of the Connecticut Port Authority

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As the Connecticut Port Authority begins its search for a replacement for Executive Director John Henshaw, who is stepping down,  the quasi-public currently overseeing the redevelopment of the New London’s State Pier into an offshore wind hub has tapped the retired vice president of Connecticut College, Ulysses B. Hammond, as its interim executive director. Connecticut Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris said that Hammond’s experience overseeing human resources, finances and capital projects as vice president of administration at Connecticut College is, “a macrocosm of everything that the authority deals with on a smaller scale.” “I think he’s very well positioned

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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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