Republicans Release Broad Plan on Crime, Democrats Question Need

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HARTFORD — Senate Republicans on Wednesday introduced a plan they say will address an increase in crime by making changes to criminal justice law, expanding access to vocational training programs, modifying housing policies and rolling back parts of the 2020 police accountability legislation.  In a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said the Republicans had come up with their proposals after talking with police, community leaders and people who work with juveniles in their districts. The Republicans are requesting a special session to present the plan to the legislature.  Some of their proposals,

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Lamont Challenges Whistleblower Protections of Former DPH Spokesman, Av Harris

Av Harris tells CT Examiner that he fully believes he did the right thing when he tried to blow the whistle on what he saw as possible illegal interference in a Bridgeport murder case by the commissioner of the state’s Department of Public Health, where he served as media spokesman and legislative director until the end of last year. But less than 48 hours after he alerted the Office of Gov. Ned Lamont about his concerns, he said, he was out of a job. A former journalist and veteran political operative perhaps best known for his role as spokesman for

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In Special Session, House Approves Extending Emergency Powers in 80-60 Vote

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HARTFORD — Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives voted 80 to 60 on Monday to extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency executive powers until February 15, 2022. 10  Democrats joined the Republican caucus in opposing the extension.  In a special session, legislators elected to renew the declaration of public health and civil preparedness emergencies first issued on March 10, 2020. The public emergency declarations would have expired on September 30 without this sixth extension.  The State Senate is expected to vote tomorrow to approve the measure. In a letter to legislators, Lamont argued that given the rise of the delta

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Conservative Caucus Hears Public Fears of Mandated Vaccination in the Workplace

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HARTFORD — About 50 people who have opted not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine convened at the State Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to testify at a public hearing about how that decision has affected their ability to work.  The legislature’s Conservative Caucus organized the hearing. State Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, chair of the caucus, said that the purpose of the meeting was to hear the stories of people who are being affected by mandates requiring vaccination.  “The recent requirements for vaccination in order to maintain employment have raised concerns in the public,” France said. “We are here to hear from

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Democrat Josh Elliott Makes a Case for Secretary of the State

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In June, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced that she would not be running for election, opening the door for a slew of candidates to express interest in the position.  One of those candidates is Democratic State Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden. Three other Democratic candidates, State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown, State Rep. Hilda Santiago of Meriden, and New Haven Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., have also formed exploratory committees.  A Republican has not served as Secretary of the State since 1995, but two GOP candidates have thrown their hats in the ring: Brock Weber, an aide to

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State Auditors Release a Scathing Report on the State Department of Correction

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The State Department of Correction has paid its employees excessive overtime and union leave while neglecting training requirements and annual performance reviews, according to a recent audit report from the state.  According to the report, which reviewed the activities of the Department of Correction for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, documentation was either missing or not properly approved for 72 of the 124 hours of compensatory time that the auditors reviewed. The auditors also found instances of undocumented medical leave and a lack of documentation and overpayments for workers earning overtime.  In particular, the auditors discovered 122 employees who

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Legislators Say ‘Aye’ to Sports Betting and Online Gambling Using Emergency Regs

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Connecticut lawmakers approved emergency regulations on Tuesday allowing sports betting and online gambling – over objections from some Republican lawmakers that rushing to beat the kickoff of the NFL season was not a good reason to authorize a massive emergency expansion of gambling in the state. The emergency regulations, which will allow for online gambling and sports betting to begin before Sept. 9, passed the Legislative Regulation Review Committee by a vote of 9-4 – with four Republican lawmakers voting “no” over what they say are concerns regarding a hurried process timed to the beginning of football. A number of

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Lawmakers Unanimously Approve Community Block Grant Plan

In a joint public hearing followed by Appropriations, Commerce and Housing committee meetings, Connecticut legislators voted unanimously to approve the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Allocation Plan on Wednesday, paving the way for cities and towns across the state with populations of less than 50,000 to access funding for local projects.  Funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the program provides grants to benefit low and middle income residents, decrease blight, or address a specific, urgent crisis. Small communities across the state receive more than $13 million annually through the grants.  Miguel Rivera, Housing & Community

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Bond Commission Set to Approve $1.2 Billion of Projects on Friday

On Friday, the State Bond Commission is expected to vote on more than $1.2 billion of borrowing, including the final portion of public funding for the controversial redevelopment of New London’s State Pier, and much smaller amounts for renovations of Three Rivers Community College and other projects around the region. The bond package includes the final $50 million of funding for the $235 million redevelopment of State Pier as a hub for offshore wind projects. At a Bond Commission meeting in April where $55 million of funding was approved for the project State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, questioned the

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Protesters Gather at State Capitol as Lamont Seeks Extended Emergency Order

Connecticut legislators will convene a special session on Wednesday to address an extension of Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency powers. Connecticut and Rhode Island are the only states in the Northeast that have yet to lift emergency orders, while 27 states still have emergency declarations in place. Lamont has requested an extension of public health and civil preparedness emergencies until September 30. Lamont first declared a state of emergency in respond to the pandemic on March 10, 2020. The order allows the governor sweeping powers to address COVID-19, and some of those orders — like relaxing rules for outdoor dining and

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States Lay Groundwork for 250-year Anniversary of 1776

With five years to go before the celebration of 250 years of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, more and more states are making preparations for what promises to be a nationwide celebration of Herculean proportions.  Terry Brown, Director of Federal Partnerships with the U.S. National Semiquincentennial Commission, said on Thursday that the 250th anniversary was going to be “the biggest event in history.” He said they planned to produce 100,000 programs and attract more than 350 million visitors across the state. All of this, he said, would mean billions of dollars infused into national, state and local economies. 

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Joe de la Cruz Talks Marijuana, Jobs at Pratt & Whitney and Electric Boat

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Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill into law on Tuesday that legalizes recreational marijuana. Effective July 1, possession of limited amounts of marijuana will be legal for people aged 21 and over, and legal sales of the drug are expected to begin next summer. The House passed the legislation 76-62, with one Republican voting in support and 12 Democrats opposing. Ten Democrats and three Republicans were absent from the vote.  One of those Democrats was State Rep. Joe de la Cruz of Groton, who ran unopposed in 2020 and beat his Republican opponent handily in 2018. The Connecticut Examiner spoke

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Christine Goupil Weighs in on ‘No’ Vote to Legalizing Marijuana

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Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana into law on Tuesday, after the state legislature passed the legislation last week. Effective July 1, possession of limited amounts of marijuana will be legal for people aged 21 and over, and legal sales of the drug are expected to begin next summer. The House passed the legislation 76-62, with one Republican voting in support, and 12 Democrats opposing.  One of those 12 Democrats is State Rep. Christine Goupil of Clinton, who defeated Republican John Hall by just 274 votes last November. The district had previously been represented by Republican Jesse

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Cook Weighs in On ‘Nay’ to Marijuana Bill

Last Thursday, the state legislature passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, sending the proposal to the desk of Gov. Ned Lamont, who has said he will sign it into law on Tuesday. Effective July 1, possession of limited amounts of marijuana will be legal for people aged 21 and over, and legal sales of the drug are expected to begin next summer. The House passed the legislation 76-62, with one Republican voting in support, and 12 Democrats opposing.  One of those 12 Democrats is State Rep. Michelle Cook of Torrington, who beat Republican Molly Spino by just 304 votes last

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Lamont: ‘I Think They Took a Lot of the Guts Out of That Bill’

Legislative efforts to further regulate broadband internet as a utility fell flat out of fear that the new rules could make Connecticut the target of a lawsuit. But a less ambitious bill passed earlier this month will allow the state to create detailed maps of broadband infrastructure and establish a grant program for companies willing to expand into underserved areas. State Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury, co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, said that federal rules prevented state lawmakers from creating stronger oversight on the state level.  “Companies were going to take it to court,” said Arconti.  The original bill

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50 Years After War On Drugs Announced, Connecticut Votes to Legalize Marijuana

On June 17, 1971, then-President Richard Nixon spoke from the White House to declare that “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse, and in order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”  Fifty years later, on June 17, 2021, the Connecticut state legislature passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, sending the proposal to the desk of Gov. Ned Lamont, who has said he will sign it.  During debate on the House floor Thursday morning, State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, highlighted the date’s historical significance, and said

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House Members Debate Marijuana Before Expected Vote

Legislators debated recreational marijuana on the House floor for hours on Wednesday after a tumultuous week for the proposal.  The State Senate passed legalization in the final days of the regular session, but the House ran out of time to take up the bill before the session came to a close. The Senate passed the bill again on Tuesday to start the special session, but not without adding an amendment expanding eligibility for social equity licenses.  Gov. Ned Lamont, a proponent of marijuana legalization, said the amendment “opens the floodgates” for individuals to exploit the social equity licensing system, and

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Lamont Strips Oversight of State Contracts, Port Authority Reforms

Funding to staff a board that oversees state contracts and procurements was eliminated in a move the board’s chairman said could be a “fatal blow.” The State Contracting Standards Board was set to see $454,355 to fund five additional staff positions funded in a budget approved by state lawmakers last week, but a bill to implement the budget – which lawmakers convened a special session this week to approve – allowed that funding to lapse back into the general fund. State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, said Gov. Ned Lamont removed the funding after lawmakers approved

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Lamont Threatens Veto of Marijuana Bill

The State Senate opened the special session by passing recreational marijuana legislation on Tuesday evening, but as legislators cast their votes, Gov. Ned Lamont threatened to veto the version of the bill they were voting on.  Earlier in the day, legislators amended the marijuana bill to prioritize people previously convicted of cannabis possession applying for licenses to start legal recreational marijuana businesses.  Half of all recreational marijuana licenses have been set to go to “social equity applicants,” who were previously defined by their place of residence and income: applicants from low-income areas or areas with high unemployment, or individuals whose

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837-page Budget Bill Has Republicans Crying Foul

The State Senate was scheduled to convene a special session at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, but did not gavel in until 3:30 p.m. Just hours before, Democrats unveiled the 837-page implementer bill, a piece of legislation executing new programs and services funded in the budget that can also serve as a catch-all for unfinished legislative business.  While the budget itself passed with significant bipartisan support, Republicans expressed their opposition to the implementer bill, arguing that they will not have sufficient time to read the document before voting.  “The fact that they’re not in, speaks volumes to the problems with the

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Votes on Marijuana, Carbon Caps, Head to Overtime in Special Session

While this year’s legislative session came to a close on Wednesday night with the bipartisan passage of the state budget, lawmakers will be back in Hartford shortly for a special session to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana, along with other Democratic legislative priorities.  The Senate passed a bill on recreational marijuana before the close of session early Tuesday morning, but will be forced to vote again in special session, after Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, declined to call the bill for a vote in the House on Wednesday, after Republican leaders would not agree to limit debate on the legislation to

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Osten Explains Her ‘Yea’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17, and is waiting for a vote in the House Wednesday evening.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, voted in support of the legislation.  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  How did you decide to support the bill?  I’ve

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Bradley Explains His ‘No’ Vote on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17, and is waiting for a vote in the House.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport, who has made news recently after being charged with five counts of wire fraud related to state campaign funding, voted against the legislation. This interview has

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Anwar Explains His ‘No’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, voted against

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Cohen Explains Her ‘No’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  Connecticut Examiner spoke to several legislators who spent hours debating the bill on the Senate floor to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, voted against the

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Formica Explains His ‘No’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  After a debate that stretched for hours, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, was one of the votes against

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Needleman Explains His ‘Yea’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, was one of

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Appropriations Offers Spending Plan for $2.8 Billion of Federal Aid

The state legislature’s Appropriations Committee presented its plan to divvy up more than $2.8 billion in federal relief funding, the third in a series of proposals for bolstering Connecticut’s economy and supporting people who are continuing to struggle with the consequences of the pandemic.  Gov. Ned Lamont laid out his spending priorities for the funds at the end of last month, and last week, Republican lawmakers presented their own ideas about where to invest these funds. The money has been directed to the state through the federal American Rescue Plan Act signed into law in March.  While the committee’s proposal

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Lamont Proposal Would Raise the Bar for Broadband — and Customer Rates?

Gov. Ned Lamont is proposing to give the state regulators greater control over broadband internet providers to further his administration’s goal of ensuring universal access to high-speed internet by 2027. Under this proposal the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, would have oversight over the handling of consumer complaints, could order expansions of infrastructure, and regulate the general operation of the providers, which in Connecticut include Xfinity and Frontier. Unlike with other utilities regulated by PURA, however, like electricity or water, federal law does not allow states to regulate the cost of broadband — meaning that any additional investments

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State Republicans Pitch Infrastructure and One-Time Investments in Plan for Federal Dollars

In a press conference in Hartford on Tuesday morning, Republican lawmakers announced an alternative to the Governor’s proposal to spend the nearly $2.8 billion that Connecticut will receive from the federal government.  State Rep. Michael France, R-Ledyard, said the Republicans want to focus on one-time investments rather than programs that will require continued funding after the federal money runs out.  “We saw too much of paying for recurring expenses, which creates too much of a cliff,” France said of the Governor’s plan.  The Republicans proposed infrastructure investments, including $15 million for domestic violence shelters and homeless centers, $5 million for

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