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Medicaid Program Gets Boost From Pharmaceutical Settlement

by Cara Rosner | Oct 2, 2014 12:00pm
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Posted to: Health Care, Legal

Connecticut’s Medicaid program received $388,145 this month as part of a broader $56.5 million settlement that states and the federal government reached with Shire Pharmaceuticals.

The settlement resolves allegations that Philadelphia-based Shire “inappropriately” marketed several drugs for uses that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Terms of the agreement recently were announced by state Attorney General George Jepsen, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and state Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby.

Connecticut and other states allege that Shire made claims about the drugs without sufficient clinical data to support them and without the backing of the FDA, according to state officials. The drugs involved are Adderall XR, Vyvanse, Daytrona, Lialda and Pentasa, and the misleading marketing took place between February 2007 and September 2010.

According to allegations brought forth by the states, Shire advertised Adderall XR as being better than other drugs at treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and also marketed it as a treatment for conduct disorder, which is a behavioral and emotional disorder most common in children and teenagers.

The company also claimed Vyvanse prevents certain negative consequences of ADHD and that it, along with Daytrona, is more difficult to abuse than Adderall XR or other ADHD medications, according to the states.

Shire also allegedly marketed Lialda to prevent colorectal cancer and Pentasa to treat indeterminate colitis and Crohn’s Disease, according to the states, when those indications were not supported by the FDA.

Adderall XR, Vyvanse and Daytrona are approved by the FDA to treat ADHD; Lialda and Pentasa are approved to treat mild to moderate ulcerative colitis, according to Jepsen.

The states claimed that Shire’s actions led to fraudulent claims filed with their Medicaid systems.

Under the terms of the settlement, Shire agreed to pay states and the federal government a total of $56.5 million. The bulk of that, $48.1 million, will go to Medicaid programs to resolve allegations that false claims were submitted to government health care programs as a result of Shire’s actions.

“Improper marketing of drugs leads to false and fraudulent claims against our Medicaid program,” Jepsen said in a statement. “We take all allegations of fraud and abuse very seriously and we will continue to work to hold accountable those who seek to defraud our taxpayers.”

In addition to the $388,145 for Connecticut’s Medicaid program, the state also got another $15,152 for certain drug programs administered by the state Department of Social Services.

The state has already received the money from the settlement, according to Jepsen’s office.

Shire officials said in a statement that the company cooperated with the government throughout the settlement process.

“We are pleased to have reached a resolution and to put this matter behind us,” Flemming Ornskov, the company’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “The company has had, and will continue to have, a comprehensive compliance program and internal controls to ensure we comply with applicable laws and regulations.”

Under the settlement, Shire also entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department will monitor the company’s marketing and sales practices going forward.

In Connecticut, the Medical Fraud Control Unit of the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, the Attorney General and DSS continually work to recover public resources and “protect the integrity of the Medicaid program,” Kane said.

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Hartford Attorney Renews Complaint Against Radio Station

by Kristi Allen | Oct 2, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Legal, Media Matters

Christine Stuart file photo

Former Gov. John Rowland in the WTIC studios

A Hartford attorney filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday alleging that WTIC-AM 1080 violated federal communications law while they employed former governor and convicted felon John G. Rowland as a talk show host in 2012.

Attorney Ken Krayeske said he filed an informal objection to WTIC’s broadcast license renewal on the grounds that Rowland’s involvement with Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign constituted “covert on-air electioneering” that the stationed tacitly condoned.

WTIC’s broadcast license is currently on enforcement hold, which means the FCC has declined to grant a renewal of the license while they are investigating a possible violation by the station. WTIC can continue to broadcast until the FCC takes action on their application.

WTIC Program Director Jenneen Lee said in an email Monday that the station was unaware of any enforcement hold and could not provide more information. The FCC declined to say why the station was being investigated, but an FCC official did confirm that there was an enforcement hold on the license renewal.

“I hope the enforcement hold means where there was smoke, there was fire,” Krayeske said Wednesday in a phone interview. This is the third complaint he has filed with federal regulators since 2012 alleging criminal activity on part of WTIC and Rowland. “It’s good they’re finally taking action,” he said. 

Krayeske claims that in light of Rowland’s recent conviction, there is strong evidence that the former governor and the station that employed him violated FCC regulations and campaign finance disclosure laws.

Former campaign workers testified during the trial that Rowland used his radio talk show to support Wilson-Foley’s campaign, without disclosing that he was paid a total of $35,000 by her husband’s nursing home company. WTIC also knew there was a relationship between Rowland and the campaign, but Krayeske alleges they failed to investigate it sufficiently.

“Given Mr. Rowland’s public record of mistruth and dishonesty, starting with the place of purchase of kitchen cabinets in his cottage in Litchfield, Connecticut, and culminating in his resignation from the office of Governor and his conviction on federal corruption charges, WTIC acted irresponsibly in taking Mr. Rowland at his word,” Krayeske wrote in his complaint. “The FCC should not let WTIC-1080 off with a slap on the wrist. WTIC has demonstrated serious malfeasance.”

Asked why he thought the FCC would wait to take action, Krayeske said “It is plausible that the Justice Department called the FCC and told them to lay off during the investigation.”

He speculated that now that Rowland has been convicted and witnesses have gone on record confirming his suspicions, the FCC may be more willing to move against WTIC-AM.

“I expect more comprehensive prosecution from executive branch agencies of law-breaking corporations,” Krayeske said.

In his complaint to the FCC, he references another complaint made to the Federal Election Commission in 2012.

Back in May 2012, Krayeske complained that Rowland coordinated a political attack against Wilson-Foley’s opponent, Andrew Roraback.

“It appears that the Wilson-Foley campaign and John Rowland coordinated a political attack against at least one of her opponents, Andrew Roraback, using live air time on CBS Radio Inc.’s WTIC-1080 AM’s frequency,” Krayeske’s May 2012 complaint states. “This live air time is a commodity that should have been paid for by the Wilson-Foley campaign or be listed as a contribution to the Wilson-Foley campaign.”

That same complaint mentions the fact that Rowland gave out Roraback’s cellphone number on the air to get angry listeners to call him about his position on the death penalty.

During the recent trial, Roraback testified that the callers told him Rowland was the one who asked them to call.

Chris Syrek, one of Wilson-Foley’s campaign managers, testified a few weeks ago that on Feb. 23, 2012, Rowland emailed him during the show. He was talking about the death penalty on the air and wanted Roraback’s personal phone number.

“Rohrback [sic] home phone number ? givuing [sic] out his and [Democratic Sen. Edith] Prague contact info,” Rowland emailed Syrek.

“Ha that’s awesome,” Syrek responded. “Want his cell?”

Rowland read the number on the air and asked listeners to call Roraback.

Rowland denied in a Sept. 13, 2012 handwritten letter to election regulators that he had ever given out Roraback’s cellphone number on-air.

The FEC wrote Krayeske on March 6, 2014 telling him “there is no reason to believe CBS Radio Stations, Inc. (WTIC) or John Rowland violated” election law. In that same letter, election regulators told Krayeske they closed the file on the matter.

Krayeske said Wednesday he intends to file an appeal of that decision with the FEC in the future. 

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Foley, NBC Unable To Agree On Debate Terms

by Christine Stuart | Oct 1, 2014 7:19pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Christine Stuart file photo

Tom Foley at a transportation forum earlier this month

Republican Tom Foley’s campaign has been unable to come to terms with NBC Connecticut regarding an Oct. 23 debate against Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and third-party candidate Joe Visconti.

“We were not able to come to an agreement on terms with NBC 30,” Mark McNulty, a Foley campaign spokesman, said Wednesday. He declined to elaborate.

Asked about the debate negotiations, Matt Piacente, the station’s vice president of news, said only that “We are planning on having our forum on the 23rd.  We’ve invited the candidates to attend and look forward to it.”

It’s one of two debates where Visconti will be included. Malloy’s campaign jumped on the news that Foley may not appear at the NBC Connecticut debate and concluded he must be withdrawing because Visconti will be included.

“Perhaps he forgot his Face the State appearance where he said Visconti should be included in debates,” Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign, said.

McNulty pointed out that Foley will end up debating Visconti and Malloy at The Day/CPTV debate in New London on Oct. 16.

Foley declined earlier this month not to participate in debates sponsored by the CT Mirror, another sponsored by the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and News 12, and a forum sponsored by the CT Tourism Action Committee.

The next debate between Malloy and Foley will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in Storrs.

The debate schedule is as follows:

HARTFORD COURANT, FOX CT & UConn will host a live televised debate on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at UConn’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs. More information

CT BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION will host a debate on Thursday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. at the Hartford Hilton, 315 Trumbull Street, Hartford. More information

THE DAY, CPTV & WNPR will host a debate on Thursday, October 16 at 7 p.m. at the Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street, New London.

NBC CONNECTICUT will host a debate on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at their studio in West Hartford.

WTNH 8 will host the final debate on Sunday, Nov. 2 at 8 a.m. at their studio in New Haven.

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20 Connecticut Social Entrepreneurs Convert Their Companies to Benefit Corporations

by Christine Stuart | Oct 1, 2014 3:50pm
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Posted to: Business, Economics, State Capitol, Hartford

Christine Stuart photo

Onyeka Obiocha, chief financial officer of A Happy Life, talks to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman

A lifestyle coffee company was one of 20 companies Wednesday to switch their corporate structure over to a Benefit Corporation.

A Happy Life’s founder Vishal Patel and Onyeka Obiocha, its chief financial officer, have been waiting for this day since March 2013 when they were forced to incorporate as an LLC because the state previously didn’t offer Benefit Corporation as a designation.

This year the General Assembly passed legislation approving Benefit Corporation legislation as part of the state budget and Wednesday was the first day a company could choose that designation. The designation doesn’t necessarily give the company a tax advantage, but it allows a corporation to earn a profit and operate a social enterprise with the blessing of its shareholders.

Kate Emery, who has been called the “godmother” of Connecticut social enterprise movement, said the legislation Connecticut approved is the “most comprehensive” and has social entrepreneurs from other states looking to register their businesses here in Connecticut.

Connecticut is unique because it allows for a preservation clause that ensures shareholders that a company can’t flip back to a regular corporation with a majority vote of the shareholders.

“That’s something Connecticut has that no other state has,” Emery said. “I think that’s something we can use to attract other businesses to Connecticut.”

There are currently 23 other states with Benefit Corporation designations.

Christine Stuart photo

Kate Emery of The Walker Group

With over 20 companies to register in Connecticut on the very first day, “if we’re not the highest in the nation, we’re certainly per capita the state with the most social entrepreneurs who have registered on the first day,” Emery said.

“I think that sends out a huge message to world,” she added from a podium in the shared office space in Hartford that her benefit corporation helped establish.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said some of the companies that registered Wednesday are from other states and wanted to incorporate in Connecticut “because the law is so great and comprehensive.”

Merrill said her job is make sure it’s easy to register in Connecticut with the commercial recording division. She said Connecticut will be one of the only states to include the Benefit Corporation status of a company in the public record and in real time. That means the state will be able to track how many social benefit corporations choose to call Connecticut home.

State Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield, who for many years championed the legislation, said he believes it will be “transformative” for the state of Connecticut. “Not just because we have entrepreneurs, who I think are committed to … a triple bottom line of purpose and people and profits, but also because it offers a new kind of dynamic in the state that’s going to be especially attractive to young people.”

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said when she met Patel and Obiocha in January they were just starting out and she was excited to hear they have expanded.

Patel said back in January their coffee was only in a few locations, but they’re now in more than 40 stores, coffee shops, and restaurants. Its coffee comes from underserved countries like Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Tanzania and most of the profits from the sale of the coffee go back to coffee growers in these communities.

A Happy Life will also be opening up its own coffee shop in New Haven in Ninth Square on Chapel Street near The Grove, which is a shared workspace similar to the reSet offices in Hartford.

“This is exactly the kinds of corporations and businesses that we need here,” Wyman said.

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Another Day, Another Press Conference Criticizing Foley’s Urban Agenda

by Hugh McQuaid | Oct 1, 2014 1:36pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid Photo

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus appeared with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Wednesday, calling his opponent, Tom Foley, “a fake” and out-of-touch with urban communities.

Malloy, a first term Democrat, is competing with Foley, whom he narrowly defeated in the 2010 election. The legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and House leadership appeared in support of Malloy at an event in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

“When I look at the agenda and message from Tom Foley there’s only one word that describes him in my mind and that is ‘fake.’ He is a fake,” Sharkey told reporters in a conference room.

“He has no concept of how to actually run the state of Connecticut. The things he is putting out are—if I were him and I were his campaign, I’d be embarrassed,” he said. 

Democrats have relentlessly criticized Foley’s urban agenda paper since he released it one week ago. Almost immediately, the party cited passages that had been lifted from think tank policy papers. Since then, the Democratic Party has filed election complaints over the paper and held press conferences deriding it.

Malloy, holding a copy of the plan, mocked a passage on housing.

Hugh McQuaid Photo “‘I will provide an active and buoyant housing market, ensuring that public housing policy doesn’t destroy the private housing market in cities,’” Malloy said, reading. “What the hell does that mean?”

Malloy said Foley has tried to disassociate himself with the urban agenda in the wake of plagiarism allegations, but began 38 sentences of the document with the first-person pronoun, “I.”

Meanwhile, Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, praised Malloy and his administration as willing to listen and negotiate with the legislature’s minority caucus.

“If you want to make change, and you want to make an impact in the community, it’s got to be ‘we.’ We all have to be around the table,” Walker said. “I’ve been here more than 10 years and this is the first time where the doors were opened up, and we negotiated and we talked about it.”

Earlier this week, Foley’s campaign released as statement saying the urban plan had been “enthusiastically received in Connecticut’s cities.” On Wednesday,  Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Foley’s campaign, dismissed the press conference as predictable.

“It’s not surprising a group of partisan Democrats would get together to support Governor Malloy and criticize Tom Foley,” he said.

Foley led Malloy by 6 points in a poll published last month by Quinnipiac University. His campaign seems content to take a more passive approach while Malloy and his surrogates attempt to dominate the news cycle with press conferences.

Foley and Malloy faced each other during a debate Tuesday night and were scheduled to debate each other again Thursday. But Foley had no public appearances on Wednesday.

The Foley campaign did release a new 30-second TV spot Wednesday, in which the Republican candidate and a hotdog vendor named “Robbie” accuse Malloy of “nickel and diming” taxpayers. The ad references a Malloy plan to give taxpayers a $55 refund. The refund proposal was scrapped due to budget constraints.

In the ad, Foley says the proposal amounted to “a nickel and a dime a day. So that in a month you can buy a hotdog and a soda. Thank you, Robbie,” Foley says taking a hotdog and soda from the vendor. “Tired of politicians nickel and diming you? Let’s head in a different direction.”

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New Laws Take Effect Today

by Hugh McQuaid | Oct 1, 2014 10:30am
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Posted to: Public Safety, State Capitol, Transportation

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Several new laws take effect today including new regulations on pet stores and the sale of electronic cigarettes, as well as a law cracking down on domestic violence.

Here are a few of the laws going into effect on Oct. 1 as identified in the Office of Legislative Research’s “2014 Major Public Acts” report:

Pet shop regulations—the legislation, aimed at combating “puppy mills,” requires the Department of Agriculture to establish standards of care for dogs and cats bred in Connecticut. It prevents a licensed pet shops from selling animals from breeders with U.S. Department of Agriculture violations. The bill also requires pet stores to provide customers with greater reimbursements if they sell a pet that needs medical care soon after the sale. It requires shops to post USDA reports on the breeders they use.

Electronic cigarettes—the law prohibits stores from selling electronic nicotine devices to minors and subjects violators to the same penalties as vendors who sell cigarettes to minors. The law gives investigators a longer window for determining whether a sale is considered a first-time offense.

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and teen dating violence—this new law heightens the penalties for domestic and sexual violence. It establishes a mandatory minimum sentence for intimate partner sexual violence and makes it easier for a court to issue a protective order, among other changes.

Human trafficking—this law increases the responses available to the Children and Families Department if it believes a child is the victim of human trafficking. The department can provide more services, train law enforcement, and establish teams to review human trafficking cases. The law allows a court to conclude a child is “uncared for” if the child has been the victim of trafficking.

Warrants for GPS tracking—the law requires a judge’s approval before police can use GPS device to track someone. Police will need to demonstrate probable cause that the person they want to track has or will commit a crime.

Vulnerable Users—the law increases the penalty to $1,000 for a motorist who injures a pedestrian, highway worker, or cyclist.

Social Benefit Corporations—A new law provides the necessary legal framework for establishing and operating for-profit businesses that seek to produce social benefits while increasing value for their shareholders.

Click here to read the full “Major Acts” report.

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Weeding Out the Gubernatorial Candidates; Tax Returns Come Up During 2nd Debate

by Christine Stuart | Sep 30, 2014 9:59pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Taxes, West Hartford

Christine Stuart photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Both Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his Republican challenger Tom Foley said they will not increase taxes next year and they had both smoked marijuana, but that’s about where the similarities ended.

In a lightning round at the end of Tuesday’s debate, WFSB host Dennis House asked the candidates if they’ve ever smoked marijuana.

“Whoa,” Foley replied surprised by the question. “Yes.”

“Once,” Malloy replied.

As far as the budget is concerned, whoever is elected governor will inherit a projected $2.8 billion budget deficit, according to the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. Malloy explained that those projections assume a 7.8 percent increase in spending.

“During the time that I’ve been governor we have not increased spending by more than 2.8 percent,” Malloy said.

He expressed confidence that under his leadership the state would continue to hold the line at a 2.8 percent spending increase, and would thus not end the year with a budget deficit. And he said he would not raise taxes.

“That’s not a promise I made four years ago,” Malloy said. “I was weary of the situation I was inheriting if I was to be elected.”

Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley

Foley said Malloy can’t be trusted not to increase taxes based on his track record.

In 2011, Malloy eventually raised taxes $1.8 billion in order to close a $3.67 billion budget deficit.

Foley said spending has gone up $3 billion under a Malloy administration. Foley promised to keep spending flat for two years.

Malloy pointed out that by keeping spending flat, he and Foley are on the same page because it means Foley would maintain current spending levels that are based on revenue from the 2011 tax increase.

Foley said he can’t get rid of the tax increase Malloy implemented because Malloy has committed that spending.

“He’s made commitments and a lot of these commitments you can’t get out of,” Foley said in a post-debate interview. “The next governor has to accept the commitments the previous governor made.”

During the debate, Malloy pointed out that Foley plans to use the increased tax revenue in order to balance his budget.

“When you heard Mr. Foley speak he didn’t talk about cutting back that spending. In fact he incorporates the spending that already exists,” Malloy said. “There won’t be a deficit and there won’t be tax increases. I’m taking that pledge when I couldn’t take it before because this is a budget that I own and I’m willing to own.”

Foley said if he was elected he wouldn’t blame Malloy for any problems he inherited, unlike Malloy, who often cites the $3.67 billion deficit he inherited from former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Joe Visconti, a Republican who will be on the ballot with Malloy and Foley in November, was excluded from Tuesday’s debate. However, Visconti was outside the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford chanting with a crowd of supporters that “Malloy and Foley are one in the same.”

Christine Stuart photo

Joe Visconti

WFSB officials didn’t include him because he didn’t receive 10 percent support in the last public poll. He received 7 percent and has been told he will be included in at least one future debate and potentially three others based on criteria, which he said the organizers of two of those debates refuse to disclose.

During Tuesday’s debate, Visconti added his commentary of the televised debate on his Twitter page.

When Malloy questioned the fairness of Foley’s partial tax returns, which show the Greenwich millionaire didn’t pay any federal or state income taxes in 2011 and 2012, Visconti, who has had some tax issues in the past, Tweeted: “Isn’t that the American Dream?”

“Even though he has a $10 million house and a $5 million boat and is worth millions and millions of dollars and pays no income taxes in the state of Connecticut or to the federal government,” Malloy said. “That’s what Tom Foley told us about himself in his returns.”

That means a person who earns $50,000 a year is paying a tax rate of about 17 percent, while Foley’s was “zero” for two years.

“I think most people who fill out a tax return know that when you don’t have any income in a year, you don’t pay any taxes,” Foley said.

He congratulated Malloy for having more earned income in the last two years.

Malloy’s partial tax returns showed both Malloy and his wife had an adjusted gross income of $303,467 in 2012 and paid about 25.3 percent of that to the federal government and 5.5 percent of it to the state of Connecticut. In 2013, their adjusted gross income was about $305,534 and their tax liability was about the same.

Foley shrugged off questions about his wealth.

“He almost seems angry about it, doesn’t he?” Foley said. “I don’t think class warfare works in America, so if that’s what he’s trying to do I don’t think people buy it.”

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Malloy, Foley To Debate Tuesday

by Staff Report | Sep 30, 2014 4:49pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his Republican challenger Tom Foley will meet Tuesday in their second debate of the 2014 election cycle.

The debate, which is sponsored by WFSB-TV, will be held at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford and will be shown live on WFSB-TV and streamed on its website.

Joe Visconti, the Republican who petitioned his way onto the ballot, will not be sharing the stage with Malloy and Foley Tuesday.

WFSB officials said the threshold for a candidate to be included in a debate was 10 percent in a poll. Visconti received 7 percent in the Sept. 10 Quinnipiac University poll.

The debate, which is the second of seven, will begin at 7 p.m. tonight.

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Senators Use FBI Report To Encourage Retailers To Adopt Anti-Gun Policies

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 30, 2014 12:03pm
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Posted to: Public Safety

Hugh McQuaid Photo

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy

Connecticut’s U.S. senators renewed their call Tuesday for national retailers to discourage customers from bringing guns into stores. They cited a FBI report that found nearly half of active shooter incidents occur at commercial establishments.

U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal held a press conference in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, where they highlighted new statistics released last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The report found that 160 active shooter incidents occurred in the U.S. between 2000 and 2013. Of those, 45.6 percent happened in areas of commerce.

“It’s time for all of the nation’s major retailers and restaurant chains to tell their consumers to leave their guns at home,” Murphy said. “With half of the mass shootings in this country occurring in retail establishments, it’s just good business and good policy.”

It is a familiar campaign for Murphy and Blumenthal, who wrote in June to the National Retail Federation asking the trade group to adopt “common sense” gun policies for customers and to use its political influence to support strengthening federal gun control policies.

On Tuesday the senators praised gun policies adopted by chains like Target, Panera, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Sonic. They called on Kroger, a national grocery store chain with no locations in Connecticut, to adopt similar policies by asking its customers to not openly carry weapons in its stores.

“Kroger actually has a policy that prohibits customers from carrying food into their stores. It’s against their policy to carry an ice cream cone into one of their stores, but it’s okay to carry an assault weapon,” Blumenthal said. “That makes no sense from the standpoint of business or safety.”

The media relations office at Kroger did not immediately return a call for comment for this story.

Former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy attended Tuesday’s press conference. After, he suggested Murphy and Blumenthal should focus their efforts on the nation’s economy and national security rather than “grandstanding” and “disarming the public.” He said the senators were talking about people who have a legal right to carry a weapon.

“To abridge their rights where it’s been proven time and time again that they serve as a deterrent for the bad guys. Whether you’re requiring it or putting pressure on a business to say your store has to be free of people carrying a firearm… all you’re doing is sending a signal to the bad people that says ‘Guess what? Come on in,” Healy said.

During the press conference, Murphy pointed to statistics in the FBI report indicating that 21 of the active shooter incidents ended after an unarmed member of the public restrained the shooter. The report found five incidents in which armed members of the public stopped the shooter.

However, Murphy said the policies he and Blumenthal were advocating are designed to send a message that there are places where it is inappropriate to carry guns.

“The gun industry wants people to live in fear of each other and of the government so that they have to be armed at all times. What we are trying to do is puncture a hole in the gun industry’s argument that everyone in this country needs to be armed at all times in order to protect themselves,” he said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo Blumenthal agreed.

“It very definitely sets a tone and sends a message and probably discourages people with guns generally, whether they’re openly carried or not, from bringing them with them when they shop. Changing the culture, practice and policy is very important,” he said.

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Medical Providers Will Have To Give Notice of Mergers, Acquisitions

by Christine Stuart | Sep 30, 2014 11:27am
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Posted to: Health Care, Insurance, Legal

New legislation requiring hospitals, health systems, and medical practices to provide Attorney General George Jepsen with notice of acquisitions or changes in affiliation goes into effect on Oct. 1.

The law is in response to a rapid consolidation of Connecticut’s healthcare industry.

“Acquisitions and mergers often make business sense, and may lead to some efficiencies and more integrated care, but they also may lessen competition, leading to higher prices and fewer consumer options,” Jepsen said in a press release. “The notice requirement enacted this year will allow us to better monitor the healthcare market and, where appropriate, to enforce antitrust laws designed to protect Connecticut consumers.”

In an effort to make compliance as easy as possible, Jepsen’s office has posted a new form on its website with instructions on how to comply with the new law.

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Task Force To Take A Comprehensive Look At State Tax Code

by Christine Stuart | Sep 30, 2014 5:30am
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Former State Sen. William Nickerson is named co-chairman of the tax panel

A panel of experts in tax law, tax accounting, tax policy, economics and business finance convened for the first time Monday to start the process of examining the state’s tax code for the first time in 25 years.

“The world economy has changed,” Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee Co-Chairwoman Patricia Widlitz said. “The way we do business has changed and it just occurred to us that instead of tweaking the system we really need to do an in-depth study.”

Sen. John Fonfara, the other co-chairman of the committee, joked that the room full of lobbyists are hoping that none of the changes to the tax code that may be considered “ever happen.”

The last time the legislature took a comprehensive look at its tax code was back in 1989-90. One of the chairs of that panel was Bill Cibes, who once chaired the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

Cibes who attended the group’s first meeting on Monday said his panel looked closely at the sales tax, corporation tax, and the potential of an income tax. That group’s work, Cibes said, made it easier for former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker to conclude the only way to get the state out of the deficit it was in was to implement an income tax. Weicker went forward with an income tax in 1991, a year after the panel concluded its work.

Cibes said the state is still struggling with deficits because the statutory spending cap makes it necessary to find new revenue sources.

He recommended that the panel and its consultants look at the work his task force did back in 1989-90 before moving forward with their examination.

The legislature set aside $500,000 to hire an accounting firm to help it understand the state’s tax code.

The 15-member panel also elected former Greenwich Sen. William Nickerson and former New Haven Rep. Bill Dyson as co-chairman of the group.

Dyson, a Democrat, did not attend Monday’s meeting, but Nickerson, a Republican from Greenwich, made it clear that he was not interested in partisan politics.

“I don’t know. I don’t want to know and I don’t need to know any persons party registration,” Nickerson said. “That is not part of our function at all.”

He added that “we’re here to do a task oriented job.”

The panel will meet again Oct. 23, which will give the state time to choose an accounting firm as the consultant.

No lawmakers are voting members of the committee. The following is a list of all the committee members:

Anika Singh Lemar, Clinical Associate Professor, Yale Law School
Lou Schatz, Partner, Shipman & Goodwin
Tiana Gianopoulos, Senior Counsel, Day Pitney
Don Marchand, Partner, Ivy, Barnum & O’Mara
John Soto, President/Owner, Space-Craft Manufacturing
Yolanda Kodrzycki, V.P. and Director, New England Public Policy Director
Alan Clavette, CPA, Clavette & Company, LLC
Robert Testo, Principal, R.J. Testo & Associates
John Elsesser, Town Manager, Town of Coventry
Bill Dyson, Former O’Neill Endowed Chair, CCSU
Bill Nickerson, CEO, Hoffman Management
Howard K. Hill, Founder, Howard K. Hill Funeral Services
Al Casella, Partner, Murtha Cullina
Marian Galbraith, Mayor, City of Groton
Bill Breetz, Connecticut Urban League Initiative, Inc.

The three alternates are:
Melinda Agsten, Partner, Wiggin & Dana
David Nee, Board Member, CT Voices
Ofelia Matos, Budget Director, City of Waterbury

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Rowland’s $52K Pension Intact Despite Second Conviction

by Mary E. O'Leary | Sep 29, 2014 9:56pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts

Douglas Healey file photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland

Former Gov. John G. Rowland may be facing 57 years in federal prison for his latest tangle with the law, but he will continue to collect his state pension.

Upset with public officials who were receiving a state pension and benefits, even when found guilty of wrongdoing, lawmakers in 2008 adopted legislation to prevent the payments in the future.

But the law applies to people “convicted of crime relating to his or her state or municipal office,” according to a statement from Jaclyn M. Falkowski, head of communications for the state Office of the Attorney General.

Read more from the New Haven Register.

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Municipal Lobby Warns of Unfunded State Mandates

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 29, 2014 4:34pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Town News, State Capitol

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities released a report Monday calling on state policymakers to relieve local governments of the more than 1,200 mandates they say the state imposes on towns.

“There are currently over 1,200 state mandates on towns and cities in Connecticut. Most of these state mandates are unfunded. They burden residential and business property taxpayers with significant costs and siphon precious resources from local services,” South Windsor Town Manager and CCM President Matthew Galligan said in a press release.

The report is part of an election year series by the municipal lobby group and contains a series of recommendations for candidates running for the state legislature and for Congress. Many of the proposals are perennial issues for the group.

One recommendation aims to ease towns of a requirement to publish legal notices in local newspapers by allowing them to publish the notices online. Lawmakers consider changing the requirement almost every year. However, newspapers argue it would reduce transparency.

Another recommendation calls for adjusting the cost threshold for when a government triggers prevailing wage requirements. The CCM report calls for exempting school construction projects and raising the threshold for other new construction projects from $400,000 to $1 million. The group wants to see the trigger for renovation projects raised from $100,000 to $400,000.

Prevailing wage frequently pits organized labor unions against municipalities. The unions believe the policy sets important wage standards for construction workers, and the municipalities view it as a burdensome unfunded mandate. The legislature’s Labor Committee held a public hearing on the subject last year but declined to change the law.

Other recommendations include changes to mandates on education spending like eliminating minimum budget requirement and shifting the cost of special education to the state rather than individual districts.

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Largest Education Association Endorses Malloy After One Committee Says Not To Endorse

by Christine Stuart | Sep 29, 2014 2:27pm
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Posted to: Education, Election 2014

Christine Stuart file photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy traces a heart with a student at the Meriden YMCA

Connecticut’s largest teacher’s union endorsed Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election bid after closed-door interviews with Malloy, his Republican challenger Tom Foley and Joe Visconti.

The Connecticut Education Association announced the endorsement Monday, joining the American Federation of Teachers, the state’s second largest teachers union, in backing Malloy despite clashing with Democrat during his first term.

In making the endorsement, the 40-member board of directors for the teachers union differed with its political committee, which voted 8-7 approximately two weeks ago not to endorse any of the gubernatorial candidates.

Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the CEA, said it’s not that unusual for the board to disagree with its political committee. He said the board has not followed the recommendation of the political committee in the past.

The last time there was a unanimous decision about a gubernatorial candidate was in 1990 when Lowell P. Weicker was running for governor.

The political committee also didn’t have the polling data available to them before they made their decision, Waxenberg said Monday. A poll of 3,000 of its 43,000 members found that pension funding stability, collective bargaining, and funding of public education were the most important issues.

“It’s obvious of the two candidates, which of the two is stronger to address the issues that our members find of the most interest to them in the next governor,” Waxenberg said.

But Malloy didn’t make the job of the teacher’s union easy when two years ago he said that in order for teachers to earn tenure “the only thing you have to do is show up for four years.”

“The teacher’s by-in-large years ago were insulted by the governor’s statement and felt disappointed,” Waxenberg said

“The extra effort on our part this year was not to ignore the emotionalism,” Waxenberg said. “We tried to look at the two individuals running for governor and see where they stand on the facts.”

Waxenberg added that he didn’t believe there was any member of the board of directors who was voting for Foley. He said there were just a few of the members who felt the board shouldn’t endorse either of the candidates.

“Some people even said I’m voting for Malloy, I just don’t want to endorse,” Waxenberg said. “That became the emotional argument.”

Foley’s statements last week about education policy made Malloy’s endorsement easier to deliver to the board, Waxenberg said.

Last week, as part of his urban strategy, Foley said he would fix underperforming schools by mandating in-district school choice and implementing “money follows the child.”

Waxenberg said Foley’s “money follows the child” proposal would be “totally destabilizing to public education in the urban centers.”

CEA said it’s researched Foley’s proposal and concluded that if a Hartford student went to a Hartford charter school then it would cost the district an additional $8 million to send those upwards of 1,299 students to a charter school. Waxenberg said it would cost New Haven $13 million.

“Where are they going to get the money for that?” Waxenberg said. “It really is a recipe for disaster regarding how we fund public education in our state and the impact it would have on local communities.”

Earlier this month, Foley told about 230 CEA delegates, that he would develop a funding system to treat each student differently based on their skills and background.

“High performing kids are not expensive to educate,” Foley said, so they would receive lower amounts of state education funding than students who don’t perform well.

CEA said it didn’t have any specific numbers about how that part of Foley’s plan would impact local school districts, but it did an analysis of what it would happen to funding for public schools, if a child in that city of town attended a charter school. The total loss of money to local school districts would be about $39 million, according to CEA which focused solely on charter schools.

Foley maintained during his interview earlier this month with CEA that the state needs to spend more money on education and the distribution of that funding needs to be equitable.

“I have a plan for saving money in other areas of government and getting control over government spending so we can invest in things like education,” Foley said.

The videos of all three gubernatorial candidates speaking to CEA delegates were recently made public by the CEA on its website. This was the first year CEA held a forum to hear directly from the candidates. 

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Dems Say Plagiarism Turned Into Coordination, Foley Camp Dismisses Claim

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 29, 2014 12:50pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid File Photo

Tom Foley speaks at a Connecticut Policy Institute press conference in March

State Democrats filed a complaint against Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley Thursday, asking election regulators to investigate his campaign’s use of policy language from a think tank Foley founded. 

Foley is running against Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, whom he narrowly lost to in 2010. After Foley released an urban strategies plan Wednesday, Democrats quickly accused the candidate of plagiarizing sections of the plan from the work of three think tanks, including the Connecticut Policy Institute. Foley founded the group in 2011.

In a complaint to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Democrats argued that Foley’s use of the policy institute’s work amounts to an illegal contribution and coordination.

“Tom Foley’s plagiarism goes beyond lifting sentences and ideas word-for-word — they constitute clear election law violations. Through copying CPI’s work, the Foley campaign has made it an illegal arm of its political operation, effectively illegally self-financing and funneling contributions in violation of the law,” Democratic Party spokesman Devon Puglia said.

Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Foley’s campaign, dismissed the complaint and defended Foley’s plan as “enthusiastically received in Connecticut’s cities.”

“Cutting the car tax by 60 percent in Hartford and more than 25 percent in New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury will help struggling households. Tom’s plan to restore urban jobs, cut taxes on small businesses, support small and minority contractors, help ex-offenders, and fix underperforming urban schools will reverse three and a half years of urban neglect by Governor Malloy,” Cooper said.

In the complaint, the party claims Foley violated election laws by self-financing the work of the policy institute, which was adopted by the campaign. Like Malloy, Foley is participating in the state’s public campaign financing system. That means he can spend a $6.5 million public grant, but is restricted from spending his own money or accepting contributions.

Back in March,
Foley’s campaign emailed reporters an advisory on the release of the Connecticut Policy Institute’s urban policy recommendations. Foley appeared at the press conference and told reporters he did not plan to adopt the recommendations directly but would use them as a “framework.”

“In terms of my campaign and developing an urban policy agenda of my own, this a good framework to start from,” he said.

The complaint accuses Foley of adopting the recommendations as a “pre-packaged policy platform.”

“Through his personal founding and financial support of CPI, and now his wholesale adoption of CPI policies and recommendations, Tom Foley has effectively self-financed major components of his campaign policy platform in violation” of election law,” the complaint reads.

Foley’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, a spokesman defended the campaign last week against the Democrats’ plagiarism allegations.

“The urban policy agenda released yesterday is largely drawn from the work of the Connecticut Policy institute, a think tank Tom Foley founded and he has said from the start would be the foundation of his urban policy agenda,” Cooper said. “Borrowing policy ideas from states that have successfully road tested new policy initiatives is not plagiarism - it’s smart.”

The Democrats’ complaint also points to personal connections between Foley, CPI, and Grow Connecticut, a Super PAC funded by the Republican Governors Association. Foley’s wife Leslie Fahrenkopf Foley is CPI’s director, according to paperwork filed with the Secretary of the State’s Office.

Meanwhile, Craig Stapleton, a member of the policy institute’s advisory board, donated $25,000 to Grow Connecticut, the complaint says.

It is not the first complaint the Democrats have filed against Foley this election cycle—they made a complaint in July accusing him of spending public dollars before he received them. However, neither complaint is likely to be resolved before the election.

Joshua Foley, staff attorney at the Elections Enforcement Commission, said the commission will be incorporating complaints alleging expenditure and contribution violations into its thorough post-election audits.

The delay keeps regulators from redundant investigative work on campaigns they will later be auditing anyways. It also precludes critics from claiming the commission tipped the scales in favor of one candidate or the other by ruling on a complaint before Election Day.

Last year, Foley agreed to pay the State Elections Enforcement Commission $15,504, to cover the cost of a poll his campaign commissioned before he had officially declared his candidacy.

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Enfield Lobbies For Train Station

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 29, 2014 10:33am
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Posted to: Transportation, Enfield

Hugh McQuaid photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy toured an Enfield site Thursday where community organizers are hoping to build a commuter train station on the planned rail line between New Haven and Springfield.

State transportation officials believe the commuter rail line will be up and running by the end of 2016 and are considering locations to add passenger stations. Community organizers in the Thompsonville section of Enfield have purchased property along the Amtrak line and are lobbying the state to approve the site for a commuter stop.

“When you look at this site and you look at Thompsonville, this would be a great venue to bring transit-oriented development to this neighborhood that’s had some economic issues and revitalize it, bring some younger people in who would want public transportation, maybe would want to buy property here,” Rep. David Alexander, D-Enfield, said.

Hugh McQuaid photo Malloy did not commit to approving the location as a future train stop, but he said the state has already invested $550,000 in its renovation. He said the Transportation Department will continue to evaluate the Enfield site and other locations.

“I do believe this is a location that would be ripe for a train station. I’ve instructed the [transportation] commissioner to do all the work necessary to understand the implications and costs of that so we can move forward and establish a train station here,” he said. “... I’m prepared to move this project forward.”

The Enfield Community Development Corporation purchased the property in January. It includes a building constructed in 1893. The structure has housed manufacturing equipment and once served as a rail shipping and receiving point. Darrin LaMore, the Enfield Community Development Corporation’s executive director, said the building will someday function as a train station.

Malloy toured several stories of the old factory building. Outside, the governor and other officials climbed up an embankment to look at the nearby rail lines. That survey ended abruptly when a state trooper assigned to Malloy’s security detail noticed an oncoming train headed down the tracks.

The train roared by and the officials withdrew back down the embankment. A subsequent press conference was conducted safely away from the tracks.

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Report Projects Decrease In Uncompensated Care, But Connecticut Group Has Doubts

by Christine Stuart | Sep 29, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Health Care

A report released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projected that hospitals will save $5.7 billion in uncompensated care costs because of the Affordable Care Act.

The report, which is based on projections from large national hospital groups, concludes that states like Connecticut that expanded Medicaid eligibility will see greater savings compared to states that did not expand Medicaid.

“Hospitals have long been on the front lines of caring for the uninsured, who often cannot pay the full costs of their care,” HHS Secretary M. Sylvia Burwell said in a press release. “Today’s news is good for families, businesses, and taxpayers alike. It’s yet another example of how the Affordable Care Act is working in terms of affordability, access, and quality.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy applauded the news.

“Today’s good news signals what we’ve known all along: the Affordable Care Act is working,” Murphy said in a statement. “The savings we’re seeing today are a direct result of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Now when people they get sick, they have the peace of mind that they’re covered. This means huge savings for hospitals and consumers.”

But the Connecticut Hospital Association says there’s no hard data at the moment that shows Connecticut hospitals have seen a drop in uncompensated care, which the report defines as both bad debt, which hospitals expect to collect but are unable, and charity care, which they don’t expect to collect.

“Through the first nine months of FY 2014 (beginning Oct. 1, 2013), we have seen no noticeable change in demand for charity care,” Michele Sharp, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Hospital Association, said.

The Office of Policy and Management, which also tracks the information, said it doesn’t have any hard data at the moment on the rate of uncompensated care in 2014, but like the Connecticut Hospital Association it anticipates it will decline.

“We anticipate that while expanded coverage should reduce hospitals’ uncompensated care, it won’t make up for the ACA cuts to Medicare funding and Connecticut taxes on hospitals that cost hospitals $254 million per year,” Sharp said.

She added that the cuts to Medicare, as part of the ACA, are not offset by the benefit of increased coverage because Connecticut had fewer uninsured patients to start, making the benefit of expanded coverage less than in other states, and leaving Connecticut hospitals with a significant funding gap.

The Disproportionate Share Hospital payments for Medicare totaled $11.4 billion in 2012 and are scheduled to be cut by just over 10 percent or $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2016 and $17.6 billion by 2020.

The HHS report examined five large for-profit hospital operators and associations based in three states that expanded Medicaid coverage.

The report found overall reductions in the volume of uninsured admissions to hospitals. The reduction ranged from 15 to 34 percent and in Medicaid expansion states it ranged between 48 and 72 percent. The report also found an increase in Medicaid patients being admitted to hospitals in Medicaid expansion states.

“These large percent increases in the volumes of Medicaid admissions are most likely the result of a shift in admissions of uninsured patients to admissions of patients covered by Medicaid, although some of the increase in Medicaid admissions could be the result of pent-up demand among the formerly uninsured,” the report found.

Murphy said the HHS report, which did not include any Connecticut- specific data, is proof the Affordable Care Act is working.

“This data is welcome news and shows that the Affordable Care Act is putting this country’s health care system back on track,” Murphy said.

Sharp points out that since Connecticut was an early adopter of Medicaid expansion there’s unlikely to be much of a change in charity care.

“Given how far Connecticut was ahead in Medicaid coverage, Connecticut hospitals are not expecting any significant changes in the demand for charity care,” Sharp said. “Over time, we’ll be able to better assess how health reform changes are playing out in Connecticut, but we anticipate that it is unlikely that our charity care will change significantly.”

Combined totals of bad debt and charity care, according to the Connecticut Hospital Association, were 2.58 percent in 2012, 2.34 percent in 2013, and 2.46 percent in the first nine months of 2014.

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Foley Releases Partial Tax Returns

by Christine Stuart | Sep 26, 2014 2:13pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Taxes

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Tom Foley

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley released partial 2010, 2011, and 2012 tax returns Friday afternoon at a law office in Hartford.

The federal returns show the Greenwich businessman, who files separately from his current wife Leslie Fahrenkopf, had a good 2010 with an adjusted gross income of $1.02 million, but he took a big loss of $2.8 million on an S-Corp. bringing his adjusted gross income down to a -$65,705.

Foley’s spokesman Mark McNulty did not know if the loss was on multiple S-Corps.

In 2012, Foley’s taxable income jumped back up to $100,059 and brought his adjusted gross income back up to $20,462. 

McNulty refused to allow reporters to photograph the federal tax return and it was not immediately clear if the state portion of the returns would be made available.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the first two pages of his federal returns and his state returns available to reporters earlier this month.

Asked why the Foley campaign didn’t simply copy the redacted returns and email them to reporters, McNulty said it was “personal preference.”

The amount of alimony Foley paid his ex-wife increased each of the three years. She received $76,295 in 2010, $77,440 in 2011, and $79,128 in 2012. He also claimed income in each of the three years from Stevens Aviation, a company he’s owned for 25 years.

Foley filed an extension on his 2013 taxes so they were not available.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo went to the law offices to view the tax returns and was told she wasn’t a member of the media.

“Today I went to view Tom Foley’s tax returns, and I was denied, because his campaign is hiding something. What might that be? He paid a zero percent effective tax rate in 2011 and 2012,” DiNardo said in a statement.

The party also forwarded a blurry video of her encounter with McNulty in the conference room of Hinckley, Allen and Snyder.

“After pledging for weeks to release his federal and state tax information, Tom Foley tried to pull a fast one and refused to release them,” Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Malloy campaign, said. “After disclosing that Tom Foley paid an effective tax rate of 0% in 2011 and 2012—which would make even Mitt Romney blush—he should live up to his commitment and actually release his federal and state tax return summaries.”

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OP-ED | Sometimes We Can Just All Get Along

by Suzanne Bates | Sep 26, 2014 1:00pm
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Posted to: Corporate Watch, Education, Law Enforcement, Opinion

It was clear that Brink Lindsey, vice president of research at Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, was surprised to find himself on the same panel as the well-known progressive activist Ralph Nader.

Lindsey said that as a young man he considered Nader — a Connecticut resident who was made famous by his many runs for president, as well as his consumer advocacy — one of “Satan’s henchman.”

“Yeah, you hear that right, Ralph Nader is speaking at the Cato Institute,” said Lindsey. “That little popping sound you hear is heads exploding all over Washington.”

Nader was at Cato to discuss his new book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. The goal of the book is to convince those on the populist right and those on the populist left that they should form an “alliance of outsiders” to take down the powers that be.

There are some very obvious and clear differences — the libertarian/tea party movement on the right grew primarily out of a deep distrust of big government, while the populist movement on the left grew primarily out of a deep distrust of big business. 

But the common word here is “big,” and by using that word both the left and right imply that anything too big and too powerful can be threatening to individual liberty — whether a massive nanny state, or a bank that’s “too big to fail.”

In this season of political bickering, it is nice to take a step back and remember there are many areas where the left and right can and do find common ground. For example:

*Crony Capitalism — Nader spoke at Cato about crony capitalism — also known as corporate welfare. He pointed out the difference between big businesses, which, when they struggle, turn to Washington for bailouts; small businesses, by contrast, just go bankrupt.

We’ve seen our state in recent years spend millions of dollars, ostensibly to persuade billion-dollar hedge funds to stay in the state, and millions more to bring new businesses to the state.

Connecticut would be better off not picking winners by giving handouts to big corporations, but rather the state should offer a more streamlined tax and regulatory system that would benefit all businesses.

*Criminal Justice — As we all face the failure of the massively expensive war on drugs, conservative groups like Right On Crime, a national initiative led by the Texas Public Policy Center, are making the case from the right that our criminal justice system needs to be reformed.

Connecticut implemented some important reforms in 2003 by strengthening the state’s parole system and focusing on reducing recidivism. This is not to be confused with the state’s recent early release reforms, which allow offenders early release if they meet specific criteria over the course of their incarceration. Critics say the program has allowed violent offenders back on the street before serving their full prison sentences. This is the wrong way to go about reform, which should first and foremost focus on public safety.

The left-right consensus instead is on the recognition that keeping young non-violent offenders, usually those who’ve been incarcerated for drug crimes, behind bars is expensive and harmful. Those put behind bars — who are usually young black or Latino men — get caught up in the criminal justice system and have a hard time ever getting out. Jailing these men is damaging to their families, and is particularly hard on their children.

This doesn’t mean criminals should be let off the hook — when someone breaks the law, they still need to be held responsible and they still need to try to make restitution. However, throwing huge numbers of non-violent offenders — at a cost of $35,000 a year each to Connecticut taxpayers — is not the way to go. Drug courts, treatment programs, and electronic monitoring with house arrest are all alternatives.

*Common Core — Proving the adage about politics making strange bedfellows, the groups on the left and right who oppose the Common Core State Standards would likely be diametrically opposed on almost every other issue, yet they find common ground on the Common Core.

From the left, the Common Core looks like a corporate takeover of education and an enlargement of the testing regime imposed by the federal government on schools since the advent of No Child Left Behind. From the right, the Common Core is another sign that the federal government is trying to take over education, further eroding local control.

Both sides agree the implementation of the Common Core has been a disaster, leaving many parents and teachers frustrated and angry. Not to mention the kids, who have to be the guinea pigs for a new curriculum and lengthy tests.

Building consensus across the left-right divide could lead to smart policy changes in Connecticut, if we could just cut through the noise and prejudice to get there. As Nader said in his speech at Cato, our big institutions have an interest in keeping this from happening.

The “power structures believe in dividing and ruling,” he said, so they can “distract attention from areas where different groups agree to where they disagree.” It’s a clear strategy — if you keep the status quo the same, you keep the power. It’s up to us to see past the divisive rhetoric so we can disrupt the status quo.

Suzanne Bates is the policy director for the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. She lives in South Windsor with her family. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Tax Review Panel Convenes Monday

by Cara Rosner | Sep 26, 2014 12:00pm
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Posted to: Business, Economics, Taxes, State Capitol

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A panel tasked with analyzing Connecticut’s tax structure and suggesting policy options to “modernize” it will meet for the first time on Monday.

The 15-member panel is comprised of experts in tax law, tax accounting, tax policy, economics and business finance. They were appointed by the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, which is convening the panel.

The group will be closely analyzing the major taxes in the state: the corporation business tax, sales and use tax, personal income tax, local property tax, estate and gift tax, and excise tax.

In doing so they are charged with developing “revenue-neutral policy options to modernize the current tax system, with the goals of increasing the system’s simplicity, fairness, economic competitiveness and affordability,” according to the bill that created the panel.

Members will have almost a year and half to complete its work; the bill stipulates the panel must report back to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee by Feb. 1, 2016 with results and any recommendations for further action.

The group’s first meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Such an exhaustive review of the state’s tax code is overdue, said State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who supported the panel’s formation.

“It could represent the first time in 25 years there is a comprehensive look at the tax code,” he said. “Clearly, it’s a good thing.”

Connecticut taxes haven’t been closely examined since 1991, when the state personal income tax was enacted, Lembo said.

It’s important to take a periodic look at who bares tax burdens in the state, he said, since it is the only realistic way to assess whether a tax is too low, too high or progressive enough.

The annual state tax burden in Connecticut is $2,500 per capita, Lembo said. That’s well above the $1,400 national average and is third-highest in the country, he said. A review of the tax burden will give lawmakers some insight into the effect that is having, like whether it is potentially stifling business innovation, he said.

The panel also will assess how well Connecticut’s tax code aligns with stated public policy goals, he added. “Sometimes they can work against each other” unintentionally, he said.

He hopes the tax analysis will lead to a meaningful conversation about the rainy day fund, which he would like to see lawmakers make more of a fiscal priority.

By the end of this year, the panel must develop an outline of items they will consider, a list of goals and a tentative schedule for their work, according to the bill that created the panel. Members must also meet with various interest groups – business associations, labor groups, public interest groups and accountants, among others – and gather their input by year’s end.

The panel will spend 2015 conducting its analysis by working in subcommittees devoted to each tax. Members will consult with the Office of Policy and Management, the Department of Revenue Services and other experts as needed, according to the bill.

The Connecticut Business & Industry Association is among those who will be closely watching the outcome. Members of the state’s largest business association feel the panel’s work is vital to keeping Connecticut economically competitive, said Bonnie Stewart, CBIA’s vice president of government affairs and general counsel.

“North Carolina and New York, for example, have done similar reviews and have already implemented reforms designed to make them more attractive for private-sector investment and economic development,” she said. “We’re hopeful that the tax study panel results in modifications to Connecticut’s tax system that will help our economy grow and make Connecticut more competitive.”

CBIA members “would like to see state tax policy that encourages business investment, jobs and innovation – tax policy that’s simpler and encourages private-sector investment,” Stewart said. “Taxes and tax policy are extremely important to the Connecticut business community.”

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OP-ED | Why It’s (Politically) Great to Have Rivals

by Susan Bigelow | Sep 26, 2014 8:30am
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Posted to: Opinion

Having bitter rivalries with someone isn’t a good thing, unless you’re in politics. Then it’s a way to make money, get your supporters fired up, and raise your national profile, as the last week shows.

I’m currently obsessed with this video game where you can play as various countries at various stages of world history, and one of the things you’re supposed to have is rivals. You get what amounts to extra points for having longtime rivalries, because then you’re encouraged to try and thwart those other countries at everything they do. It’s great fun to try and make them miserable. I imagine that that’s what Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., felt when they decided to come to Connecticut to help Tom Foley try to bump off Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has been a persistent thorn in their sides.

Jindal hasn’t shown up yet, he’s scheduled to be at a fundraiser in October, but Christie made an appearance with Foley in Malloy’s hometown of Stamford on Tuesday. He succinctly summed up Malloy’s first term in “two quick points: lost jobs and higher taxes.”

Christine Stuart file photo This isn’t Christie’s first visit to stump for Foley — he swung by a diner in Greenwich in July — and it likely won’t be his last. Christie has been involved in a public feud with Malloy for years, dating back to Malloy’s earliest days in office when the two sparred over Malloy’s tax increases. Christie famously said he’d be “waiting at the border to take Connecticut’s jobs” should Malloy raise taxes, and Malloy fired back.

Screengrab As for Jindal, Malloy decided he’d had enough of Jindal spouting a line of Republican boilerplate at a supposedly nonpartisan National Governors Association meeting at the White House, and called him on it.

So it’s not surprising, then, that the two of them would be up for coming to Connecticut to stump for Malloy’s opponent. It’s not just free PR for their potential 2016 candidacies, it’s a chance to get a little payback.

A lot of this is pretty great for Tom Foley. He gets two Republicans who will likely run for president in 2016 swinging by the state to raise money and fire up the troops, and he also gets a strong ally in Christie, who is head of the Republican Governors Association. The RGA has already pumped millions into this race. “The RGA’s got a big wallet, and they’re opening it up to us here in Connecticut because they see the opportunity,” said Foley, acknowledging the obvious. Jindal, when he comes, will bring in plenty of money as well.

But having rivals visit — even deep-pocketed rivals — is good for Malloy, as well. There’s a lot of political upside to having opponents with national profiles like Jindal and Christie. For one thing, the Democratic Party faithful deeply dislike both men, though Christie has somewhat more crossover appeal. That lets Malloy raise money off of them; last week, the Connecticut Democratic Party sent an email to supporters about Christie’s visit titled, “Guess who’s coming to town?”

Secondly, rivals give you a foil. They’re someone to react to and needle, as well as someone to debate and contrast yourself with. The same email from the state Democrats had all kinds of statistics about how New Jersey was sinking fast under Christie. In a year when Democrats are having all kinds of problems getting demoralized voters excited, a reminder of what they’re voting against never hurts.

Another problem with visits from national names is that they bring both high expectations and their own baggage with them. Christie was met by pro-Second Amendment protestors who decried his support for gun control legislation in New Jersey, for example, and a lackluster visit from Bill Clinton turned into a disaster for Democrats. Republicans also run the risk of nationalizing the race in a way that they desperately don’t want. If this race is about Connecticut, Foley will do well. If the race is about the general fight between Democrats and Republicans on the national level, though, then Republicans aren’t going to have a prayer.

But those potential issues are pretty minor, compared with the pluses. Rivalries are good; everyone gets publicity and raises some money when rivals come to town. But don’t get too used to it. What we’re seeing here is the ending point for this rivalry, no matter who wins the election. After this, Christie and probably Jindal will be in the 2016 hunt, and Malloy will still be here. So enjoy this rivalry while it lasts.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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OP-ED | For Teachers: The Devil You Know vs. The Devil You Don’t

by Terry D. Cowgill | Sep 26, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Education, Election 2014, Opinion

Come Nov. 4, there will be a lot people holding their noses in Connecticut. And it won’t be because of the onset of cold and flu season. The two major-party candidates for governor aren’t exactly the most likeable people in the world, but perhaps their enemies in the education establishment are willing to make amends to thwart an even greater nemesis — the other guy.

The state’s largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association, is slated to announce its endorsement late today, Friday, Sept. 26, when the union board will vote on whether it wants to give its nod to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy or one of his challengers, Republican Tom Foley or petitioning candidate Joe Visconti. The state’s smaller teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Malloy back in June.

As a large and powerful labor union, the CEA has been keeping careful track of the candidates’ positions on education issues to see whether they comport with the CEA’s agenda. Unfortunately, we can’t see precisely what that agenda is because that page on the CEA’s website is restricted to members only.

But, based on its past legislative victories, I think we have a pretty good idea what the CEA wants to accomplish: more money to hire more workers, resistance to meaningful reform in the way workers are evaluated and better conditions for workers. In other words, pretty much what every labor union tries to deliver for its membership.

CTNewsJunkie File Photo The CEA held a forum with the three candidates Sept. 13 at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford but, like the agenda on the CEA website, the event was a members-only affair. So we are left to wonder what kinds of questions they asked. Fortunately, former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, a staunch CEA ally who tried and failed over the summer to become a petitioning gubernatorial candidate, has put together a helpful list of suggested questions for Malloy on his blog.

Malloy, whom he brands “the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the country,” would be subject to a withering set of queries if Pelto had his way. Malloy, you may recall, disparaged the teaching profession in 2012 when, in a budget address to the General Assembly, he foolishly asserted that, “Basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.” Then the governor introduced legislation — later watered down under pressure from the CEA and others — that would have partially tied teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests.

These are sore subjects for educators. Pelto, who insists Malloy proposed to eliminate tenure and end collective bargaining for teachers in failing schools, would have demanded that the governor clarify his position on those subjects.

And I’m sure the union also wants answers to questions about the Common Core, the Race to the Top, and the fairness of the state’s Educational Cost Sharing grant program. And you can bet that Malloy did his level best to kiss and make up to the teachers whose support is crucial to his re-election campaign.

One of the union’s favorite whipping boys, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, is resigning at the end of this year. That was a smart move by Malloy because it removes a lightning rod for criticism. But it also raises the question, foremost on the minds of the CEA bosses who will vote Friday night, of who will replace Pryor.

A controversial commissioner like Pryor who comes from outside the system, or someone who rose through the ranks as a teacher and has been a fixture in Connecticut’s educational establishment? Bet on the latter with an announcement coming in advance of the election. It’s a safer move for a governor who needs to mend fences with educators.

As for Foley, he has done his best to say as little about education as he can get away with. His website is full of bromides about “fixing our underperforming schools,” “providing more support for teachers” and — beyond in-district school choice and an A-F grading system for schools — he offers almost nothing in the way of specifics.

But that hasn’t stopped legislative Democrats from criticizing Foley’s education platform.

“Five bullet points — that’s a postcard. That’s not a plan,” said Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the legislature’s Education Committee.

My guess is Foley is banking on the likelihood that education will not be first and foremost on voters minds — not with a sluggish economy anyway. And maybe those teachers despise Malloy so much that they’d be willing to go with the devil they don’t know. After all, Foley wants to “support teachers.” Who could possibly object to that?

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Malloy Stands His Ground on Education Policy

by Christine Stuart | Sep 25, 2014 11:48pm
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Posted to: Education, Election 2014, East Hartford

Christine Stuart photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

The most recent public poll shows Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy doing better than his Republican challenger Tom Foley when it comes to education policy, but Malloy’s campaign wanted to further demonstrate his grasp of the issue.

Malloy held a press conference Thursday at Robert O’Brien STEM Academy in East Hartford to pan Foley’s plan to fix failing schools by allowing their students to go to another school in the district.

Foley explained Wednesday that he would offer in-district school choice and allow the money to follow those students to higher performing schools, which would receive more money than the underperforming schools.

Malloy, who was flanked by members of two teacher unions and Democratic lawmakers from East Hartford, said Foley had no understanding of what was happening with education policy in Connecticut.

“This is a guy who is totally disconnected from the discussion that’s going on on educational improvement,” Malloy said.

Foley said at a press conference last month he’s been involved with the education reform movement for more than 15 years.

But the lack of detail in Foley’s plan had Malloy curious about exactly what would happen under a Foley administration.

“Am I left to guess what he’s talking about?” Malloy asked reporters. 

Where will all the children go if all the seats are filled? Is he going to expand the capacity of schools? Did he tell you what the maximum size of an elementary school should be?

“I think when you make a policy pronouncement it would be helpful to know what the current policy is and he doesn’t,” Malloy said. “It would be good to know what you would do with students when you close a school and he hasn’t answered that.”

Malloy added that “If he’s going to threaten schools and parents and teachers and administrators in districts and communities with an A-F grade isn’t it incumbent upon him to supply some of that information? Honestly, folks you would hold me to that standard.” 

Malloy, who sounded at times as if he was scolding the media for not getting answers from the Foley campaign, said “you can’t treat a school like a factory. You don’t sell it. You don’t close it. You have an obligation to make it work and that may not be comfortable in a giveaway line or a simple phrase.”

Foley’s campaign did not respond to further questions Thursday about his education plan.

Asked Wednesday if in-district choice and the “money follows the child” approach was a tough love approach to education, Foley said “I don’t see it as tough love. I see it as institutions that aren’t performing lose. Yeah, that’s kind of the way the private sector works and it ought to be the way the schools work.”

So some schools will close as a result of this and other schools will get more resources? “Yeah,” Foley said.

Marcia Ferreira, president of the East Hartford Teachers Association, said the “money follows the child” concept has the potential to destroy schools, such as the Robert O’Brien STEM Academy where Malloy held his press conference Thursday.

“This funding scheme would upend school financing as we know it,” Ferreira said. “...Our school is not a business. It is not a factory that can be shut down and children are not workers that can just be laid off. Our schools need support and not punishment.”

Jeff Leake, vice president of the Connecticut Education Association, said Foley’s plan would take crucial dollars away from school boards and communities and place them “who knows where.”

“That is not a recipe for success. That’s a recipe for disaster,” Leake added.

The Connecticut Education Association has not endorsed a gubernatorial candidate yet this year, but AFT Connecticut has endorsed Malloy.

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Smart Policy or Plagiarism?

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 25, 2014 4:09pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Enfield, New Britain

Christine Stuart file photo

Tom Foley

In an academic setting, Tom Foley would be “flunked” for lifting portions of his urban policy agenda without attributing his sources, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday of his Republican opponent.

The Connecticut Democratic Party emailed reporters Wednesday to highlight the passages in Foley’s urban strategy plan, which appear to be copied verbatim from sources including the Connecticut Policy Institute, a think tank founded by Foley. Other sections are copied from articles published by the Heartland Institute and the Pelican Post, two conservative think tanks.

“Lots of other people get in trouble for that,” Malloy told reporters Thursday at a stop in Enfield. In school, Foley would “get an F. He’d be flunked. He wouldn’t get a grade for it.”

Asked how serious a problem plagiarism is in a public policy arena, Malloy told a reporter “you decide. If you decide it’s not important by not covering it, then I’m just going to take all your ideas and claim them to be my own.”

Hugh McQuaid photo Plagiarism in politics is not a new phenomenon. In a phone interview, a University of Connecticut political science professor, said people should always attribute their sources, but candidates sometimes neglect to without suffering major consequences.

“If he didn’t [attribute his sources], within the political world, it’s not the most major thing at all. Politicians often read speeches written by someone else,” UConn Professor Ron Schurin said.

Rich Hanley, an associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University , echoed Schurin’s comments and added that he didn’t think the criticism will have traction with the public.

However, plagiarism occasionally has political consequences. Last month, the Washington Post published a blog on the “biggest plagiarism offenders of the 2014 election.” Montana Democrat, U.S. Sen. John Walsh, topped the list. He ended his re-election campaign after the New York Times reported that he copied portions of a paper as a student at the U.S. Army War College.

Others on the list were faulted for including lifted passages in their policy plans, websites, and speeches.

In 2012, then U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon was accused of lifting quotes about the Keystone XL Pipeline from the TransCanada website. McMahon’s office defended the use of the language in the editorial and said she wasn’t alone in restating TransCanada’s numbers.

Foley’s campaign also defended the use of the statements from the three think tanks.

“The urban policy agenda released yesterday is largely drawn from the work of the Connecticut Policy institute, a think tank Tom Foley founded and he has said from the start would be the foundation of his urban policy agenda,” Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the Foley campaign, said. “Borrowing policy ideas from states that have successfully road tested new policy initiatives is not plagiarism - it’s smart.”

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Rowland Sentencing Postponed

by Christine Stuart | Sep 25, 2014 1:08pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Douglas Healey file photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland

A federal judge agreed Thursday to postpone the sentencing of former Gov. John G. Rowland.

Jurors handed Rowland seven guilty verdicts last week related to work he did or tried to do for two congressional campaigns.

After the jury foreman read the verdict, prosecutors indicated the would be willing to push back the Dec. 12 sentencing date until after the holidays. U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton set 10 a.m. Jan. 7, 2015 as the new date.

The Jan. 7 sentencing date is the same day as the next gubernatorial inauguration.

Rowland’s crimes carry a maximum penalty of more than 50 years, though Rowland will likely face much less.

Rowland’s convictions stem from two campaigns.

In 2010, the former governor aggressively courted Republican Mark Greenberg, who is now in his third consecutive run for the 5th Congressional District seat. Rowland pitched Greenberg a consulting contract, which included $35,000 a month in compensation. But the former governor wanted the pay to come from Greenberg’s nonprofit animal shelter, the Simon Foundation. The Greenberg campaign eventually rejected Rowland’s proposal.

The former governor successfully entered into a similar arrangement with Brian Foley, the wealthy husband of Lisa Wilson-Foley, who ran for the seat in 2012. Foley paid Rowland $5,000 a month as a consultant for Apple Rehab, his nursing home company.

Meanwhile, Rowland worked as one of two main consultants to the Wilson-Foley campaign and used his afternoon talk radio show on WTIC 1080 AM to echo the candidate’s messages and attack her opponents.

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Voters Will Have To Answer A Question On Election Day

by Kristi Allen | Sep 25, 2014 10:56am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Election Policy

Connecticut citizens will have a chance to vote for something other than a politician in the upcoming November election: a constitutional amendment.

The amendment concerns restrictions to absentee voting in the state constitution. Currently, Connecticut only allows for absentee voting in cases where the voter is sick on Election Day, outside of the district, serving in the military, or has religious obligations.

The amendment, the text of which can be found here, would strike this specification from the state constitution and add a provision saying people are allowed to vote without appearing at a polling place on Election Day.

If it passes, the amendment would give the General Assembly the power to pass laws altering election laws in Connecticut. It would give them the power to pass legislation that would allow “no excuse” absentee voting or open polling places on the Saturday before elections.

“There’s no reason not to vote early,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause, a group that has been advocating for the passage of the ballot question. “It gives more people the opportunity to vote.”

Quickmire said being able to vote early or by absentee ballot would be benefit anyone who might have trouble making it to the polling place on Election Day, particularly commuters, elderly residents, and those who can’t leave work or school.

However, absentee voting isn’t a clear cut issue. Many state Republicans think removing the language from the state constitution could give too much power to the legislature to decide election laws.

“I’m uncomfortable with us opening up the gates and not having a clear direction where we’re going,” Sen. Michael McLachlan, the ranking Republican member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, said in 2012.

Rep. David Labriola, R- Oxford, pointed out that “the rules could change quite quickly on a simple majority once this change happens.”

Republicans also raised concerns about fraud and abuse in the event that no excuse absentee voting is allowed.

Expanding absentee voting is an issue with deep partisan undertones. Republicans accuse Democrats of using absentee voting as a way to expand their voter base, while Democrats say Republicans are opposed to it because it would hurt them in elections.

Both sides vehemently deny that political calculations factor in to their stances on the ballot question.

“This is a common sense measure that is going to make voting better in this state,” Quickmire said.

But the measure divided the General Assembly almost completely along party lines. Only two Republican lawmakers, one in the House and one in the Senate, voted for the amendment it in 2013.

Rep. Livvy Floren of Greenwich, a former member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee who worked on the bill, was one of the two Republicans to vote for the proposal.

“I’m in favor of anything that increases voter participation,” she said. Floren said she received no pressure from her party to vote the other way.

Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, was the other Republican to vote in favor of the bill.

Despite the strong Republican opposition, both Floren and Quickmire said they are confident that the public will approve the ballot question.

“The only challenge is to make sure people know it’s on the ballot,” Quickmire said. “We’re trying to make sure the word gets out.”

Common Cause has been reaching out to various community organizations and trying to spread knowledge of the ballot question through word of mouth, but they don’t have the funds for paid advertising at this point.

Quickmire expressed concern that the wording of the question could be problematic for voters.

“I wish it could have been changed to make it easier to understand,” she said. “If you see something that’s confusing…your instinct is to vote no.”

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she thought the language of the question was “sufficiently clear” but was also concerned about how much voters knew about the ballot question going to the polls.

“It’s just a question of whether or not people know it’s on the ballot,” she said.

There will be a 200-word explanation of the question posted on wall of every polling place on Election Day along with the text of the constitution and the exact wording of the changes. Still, Quickmire said she’s worried not everyone would read or even see the explanation.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is running for re-election, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley have both weighed in on the proposed amendment.

“Voting is a great responsibility and this amendment assures the voting rights of every Connecticut resident whether or not they can get to the polls on Election Day,” Malloy said in a press release last year when the resolution passed. 

Foley told the Hartford Courant in August that he supports no excuse absentee voting, but could not support this particular initiative because he thought it would give too much power to the legislature.

University of Connecticut professor Ronald Schurin said that voter fraud is not a significant issue and that “the number of documented cases is very, very small.”

Schurin wasn’t so sure that no excuse absentee voting would necessarily give a large advantage to either party.

“I can see voters down in Fairfield County who commute and are economically conservative wanting to avail themselves of this, but I can also see it helping voters in other parts of the state,” he said.

Amending the constitution in Connecticut takes time. Changes have to be approved by both the voters and the legislature.

According to a report from the Office of Legislative Research, the last time constitutional voting provisions were amended in Connecticut was in 1964. They were first amended during the Civil War to temporarily allow soldiers to vote by absentee ballot and again for the same reason during World War I. The amendment allowing for sickness or travel was passed in 1932 and the religious exemption was added in 1964.

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Foley Pitches Car Tax Reduction and Cap As Part of Urban Strategy

by Christine Stuart | Sep 24, 2014 5:31pm
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Posted to: Economics, Election 2014, Jobs, Poetry, New Britain

Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley with New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Heather Somers, his lieutenant governor candidate

One of the centerpieces to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley’s urban policy agenda is a proposal to cut the car tax rate in any city or town where it’s higher than 30 mills.

Foley said his proposal would only cost about $30 million and it would also include a cap on the personal property taxes for small businesses in cities where the mill rate is above 30 mills.

“This will cut the car tax in Hartford by 60 percent or about $400 on a typical car,” Foley said outside New Britain City Hall on Wednesday. Under Foley’s plan, New Britain’s tax rate on cars would be cut by about 18 percent.

“The car tax is simply too high in our cities and distorts markets,” Foley added. “People should be able to drive the kind of car they want to drive and can afford and the car they own shouldn’t affect where they choose to live.”

Foley also would cap personal property taxes for small businesses in cities where the mill rate is over 30 mills.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2013 proposal to cut car taxes was promptly squashed by local mayors and first selectmen who rely on the revenue to support their municipal budgets. That year, Malloy’s budget called for eliminating the tax on motor vehicles valued at $28,500 or less. The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated that cities and towns would lose $632.8 million as a result.

Foley was flanked at the press conference by mayors from New Britain, Bristol, Danbury, and Meriden. When Foley announced the car tax cut the mayors looked surprised, since it would mean some of them would lose revenue.

“The revenue loss to our cities — the mayors will be happy to hear this — will be made up by the state,” Foley said.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said his city isn’t impacted by the proposal because its mill rate is below 30 mills.

“For those municipalities who struggle with this issue, particularly Hartford and Waterbury and New Britain with a very high mill rate, this has real appeal,” Boughton said. “As long as the state of Connecticut provides a refund for that lost revenue I don’t have a problem with it.”

Boughton said a universal mill rate would be problematic because under previous administrations “we haven’t quite been able to trust the government to do what they say they’re going to do and usually municipalities are the ones left holding the bag at the end.”

He said it’s usually up to municipalities to “duct tape money together to make sure kids have classes to go to and officers are able to get paid.”

Boughton, who was running against Foley earlier this year before dropping out of the race, said he thinks Foley’s car tax proposal is a “good compromise.”

When Foley announced his campaign for governor last September, he vowed to come up with an urban strategy. The document released Wednesday was the result of his conversations with individuals and businesses who live and work in Connecticut’s cities.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Malloy campaign, said Foley’s urban strategy, especially the car tax reduction, does not even begin to address the needs of urban communities.

“He will shut down local schools just like he closed mills leaving children without a classroom,” Bergman said.

Bergman added that the report plagiarizes from other sources. The Connecticut Democratic Party sent out a press release highlighting sentences from the Connecticut Policy Institute, a nonprofit think-tank Foley founded after he lost in 2010, an article published by The Heartland Institute and the Pelican Post, two free-market think tanks. Some of the sentences in those sources appear verbatim in Foley’s urban strategy.

A section of Foley’s three-part urban strategy involves turning around underperforming public schools.

Foley said he would ask local school districts with underperforming schools to offer in-district school choice. He would combine that with “money follows the child,” a controversial funding method. Under a “money follows the child” approach, the district would pay the charter school to educate the child. The state would deduct the money from the town’s Education Cost Sharing grant and send it directly to the charter or magnet school.

Those two things combined mean “the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools to perform better,” Foley said.

He said underperforming schools should be on notice if he’s elected governor because those are the schools that would receive fewer funds.

“They should start trying to be better schools right away,” Foley said.

He said if they don’t improve with fewer resources and lose too many students, then they’ll be reconstituted.

Is this the tough love approach to education?

“I don’t see it as tough love. I see it as institutions that aren’t performing lose. Yeah, that’s kind of the way the private sector works and it ought to be the way the schools work.”

So some schools will close as a result of this and other schools will get more resources? “Yeah,” Foley said.

Earlier in the day, Democratic legislators came to the Capitol to criticize Foley’s education policy.

The final part of Foley’s urban strategy involves reducing crime and improving the criminal justice system.

“There are a lot of impediments to ex-offenders getting jobs,” Foley said. “I respect the rights of employers to have relevant information about prospective hires and other things that I think they need to make intelligent and thoughtful hiring decisions, but I think in many ways the deck is unnecessarily stacked against ex-offenders.”

He said he would like to find ways to get employers to hire ex-offenders and give them a chance.

Asked if he would support banning the box on the initial employment application that would force a person to disclose their criminal history, Foley said his “inclination would be to get rid of it.”

Foley said he thinks he will be able to pay for all these initiatives without raising overall spending.

“Listen, this state spends $21 billion a year,” Foley said. “That’s a lot of money.”

He said there are places in the state budget to save money, especially when it comes to healthcare costs.

“Everybody in Connecticut will benefit if we can reduce the cost of healthcare services in the state by 5 or 10 percent,” Foley opined. “I don’t think that’s an unreasonable goal and if we can do that, the state spends over $7 billion a year on healthcare services, so if we can get 10 percent that’s $700 million right there.”

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Democratic Lawmakers Criticize Foley’s Education Policies; Foley Defends Market Approach

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 24, 2014 12:20pm
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Posted to: Education, Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid photo

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz and Rep. Andrew Fleischmann

(Updated 2:56 p.m.) Legislative Democrats mocked a set of education policies outlined by Tom Foley, saying the Republican governor candidate has failed to provide substantive proposals.

The lawmakers staged a press conference Wednesday on the steps of the state Capitol to rebut a recent television ad by Foley, the Republican challenger to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. In the ad, Foley says he has a “plan for making every school in Connecticut great.”

“Five bullet points—that’s a postcard. That’s not a plan,” Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the legislature’s Education Committee, said.

Fleischmann was referencing a section of a general 9-page plan, which Foley released last month. The plan contains less than one page on education ideas, which included grading schools on an A-F basis and giving parents more ability to move their kids from underperforming schools. The section calls for implementing “money follows the child” and establishing new tests for third graders and high schoolers.

The Democratic lawmakers said the outline fails to live up to the claims in Foley’s new ad.

“Tom Foley’s recent ad also says he will ‘make our schools better.’ He might as well say ‘I’m going to make all of your children smarter and above average.’ It’s rhetoric with absolutely no substance,” Fleischmann said.

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz said the lack of detail in the plan insulted voters and legislators who worked on education reform.

To say ‘Everything is going to be great, A+ school systems’ and then offer five measly points with very little or no substance to them on how that’s going to happen is very insulting,” he said.

Malloy began running his own ad on education this week. The one minute-spot touts Malloy’s decision to increase funding to education even while facing a large budget deficit and a reduction in federal stimulus funds.

At the press conference, Aresimowicz said those investments have seen graduation rates rising in cities like New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport.

“Those are results we should be proud of. Those are what we said the people of Connecticut four years ago that we were going to take positive steps on education,” he said.

Fleischmann was critical of Foley’s support of “money follows the child,” a controversial funding mechanism that shifts money when a child leaves a public school district to attend a charter school. Under the proposal, the district would pay the charter school to educate the child. The state would deduct the money from the town’s Education Cost Sharing grant and send it directly to the charter school.

Public school advocates and teacher unions say the move would take money away from underperforming public schools and create winners and losers among school districts.

“It’s pretty outrageous when you consider that [Foley’s proposal] is one sentence with no explanation of how it would work,” Fleischmann said. “The one time that someone actually tried to put a bill forward on this topic, we ended up with 167 pages that even the proponents could not explain.”

In 2011, the legislature’s Education Committee refused to even give a bill that included the “money follows the child” concept a public hearing.

Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley on the green in New Britain

At a New Britain press conference Wednesday afternoon, Foley said he would ask local school districts with schools that are not performing to offer in-district school choice. He would combine that with “money follows the child.” Those two things combined means “the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools to perform better,” he said.

He said underperforming schools should be on notice if he’s elected governor because those are the schools that would receive fewer funds.

“They should start trying to be better schools right away,” Foley said. 

He said if they don’t improve with fewer resources and lose too many students then they’ll be reconstituted.

If the local communities have the ability to reconstitute the school then they should be allowed to do that, Foley said.

“The city should be able to fix these problems on their own with the state funding that’s available,” Foley said. “If they can’t then the state has a duty, an obligation to come in and help.”

Is this the tough love approach to education?

“I don’t see it as tough love. I see it as institutions that aren’t performing lose. Yeah, that’s kind of the way the private sector works and it ought to be the way the schools work.”

So some schools will close as a result of this and other schools will get more resources? “Yeah,” Foley said.

Christine Stuart contributed to this report.

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Connecticut’s Poverty Rate Remains Stubbornly High

by Christine Stuart | Sep 24, 2014 7:27am
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Courtesy of CT Voices for Children The 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was five months ago, but it wasn’t until last week that the U.S. Census released data confirming little progress has been made. While the report does not address how various anti-poverty programs have helped individuals and families over the years, it does provide an analysis of the rate of poverty overall.

U.S. Census data found that poverty in Connecticut, which was around 9.6 percent in 1959, climbed to about 10.7 percent in 2013. That’s the same place is was in 2012. The biggest increase in poverty was between 2003 and 2009 when it jumped from 8.1 percent to 9.4 percent.

Connecticut Voices for Children pointed out that one in seven Connecticut children or 14.3 percent lived in poverty in 2013, a rate unchanged from 2012, but a substantial increase from a decade earlier when it was 10.8 percent.

Childhood poverty in major Connecticut cities ranged from 6.9 percent in Norwalk to 47.6 percent in Hartford. Wade Gibson, director the fiscal policy center at Connecticut Voices, put the poverty rate in context, comparing the poverty threshold of $23,834 for a family of four to the state median income of $67,098. 

“Low income Connecticut families have been hardest hit by the recession,” Gibson said. “We can support these families, and improve outcomes for children, through continued support for programs such as the state Earned Income Tax Credit.”

The Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) and the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) pointed out that one-quarter of Connecticut residents live below twice the federal poverty level.

While poverty has grown since the recession, so has inequality. Between 2009 and 2013, inequality measured by the Gini index rose by 1.7 percent. That means the top 1 percent of earners in the United States saw their incomes grow 31.4 percent while 99 percent saw their incomes grow only 0.4 percent.

In Connecticut, residents are also paying more of their income in rent. An estimated 43.8 percent of tenants pay more than 35 percent of their income on rent. Nationally, 42.5 percent of renters pay more than 35 percent of their income on rent.

“These poverty estimates remind us that threat of falling into poverty is all too real, and should frame the bigger discussion of how Connecticut moves forward in the future,” Edith Karsky, executive director of Connecticut Association for Community Action, Inc., said.

She said the number of individuals walking through her agency’s doors seeking services has increased.

More than 365,800 people received services through one of the 11 Community Action Agencies in 2013 alone. That’s an increase of 2,273 individuals who were served by the agencies in 2012. The number of families served by the agencies between 2012 and 2013 rose by more than 20,000.
     
In 2013, more than 52,000 of the 365,800 people served by the agencies were employed. It’s unclear if their employment was full- or part-time.

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OP-ED | Health Insurers Turning Into Who Knows What?

by Wendell Potter | Sep 24, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Health Care, Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

Squeeze On Profits Will Continue To Transform The Industry

As I wrote last week, one of the nation’s biggest employers — Boeing — is pioneering a concept in providing health care benefits to its employees that eliminates insurance companies as middlemen.

What Boeing is doing represents a seismic shift in health care financing and delivery that potentially will have more far-reaching effects than Obamacare, primarily because it is coming from the private sector, not the government. It is a shift that the big health insurers have been anticipating and preparing for since long before the Affordable Care Act was enacted.

shutterstock We tend to think that insurers with well-known brands like Aetna, Blue Cross, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare have been around forever and likely will always be with us as they are currently structured.

But the large corporations dominating the health insurance landscape bear little resemblance to the companies they were when they first appeared on the scene. Their current metamorphosis is just a continuation of a corporate evolution.

I’m not suggesting they will disappear, but I am willing to bet that in a few years, they will not be providing our health insurance coverage — at least in the way they do now. Instead, they will have transformed into companies that make most if not all of their profits in non-insurance lines of businesses.

You only have to look back a few decades to see just how dramatically the big insurers remade themselves as a result of pressure from both Wall Street and the marketplace.

Take Humana, where I used to work, as an example. Humana began as a nursing home company in 1961. When I joined the company 27 years later, it had sold all of its nursing homes and become the world’s largest hospital company. A few years later, it sold all of its hospitals and became Humana the managed care company.

I left Humana to join Cigna in 1993. Cigna, which started out as a fire and marine insurance company, had by then morphed into one of the world’s largest multi-line insurance companies. Its peers were Aetna — which initially was just a life insurer — MetLife, Prudential, and Travelers. All were selling health insurance by this time. But within a year or so after I joined Cigna, Wall Street decided that multi-line insurers were dinosaurs and insisted that the companies divest some of their businesses so they could focus on just one or two.

MetLife, Prudential, and Travelers all sold their health care business and Aetna and Cigna decided to get out of the property and casualty business to focus on health care.

Over just the last 25 years, all of these companies had changed dramatically to concentrate on businesses that were deemed to be more profitable than other business lines that once defined them.

As for UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint, few people had even heard of them 25 years ago. But thanks to cash generated by the divestiture of their original non-insurance businesses, they were able to buy their way into managed care. They quickly ballooned in size to become the nation’s largest health insurers.

Now that the profit margins of those big companies’ core health insurance businesses are under intense pressure because of Obamacare and changes in the marketplace, you can rest assured that their top executives are at work on new transformation blueprints.

If you look at their websites, you’ll be hard pressed to even find the word “insurance.” They all are in the process of redefining their missions — and looking outside of the U.S. for new opportunities. Rather than describing what they sell in any explicit way, they use vague language that seeks to describe what they have become or aspire to be and do.

Humana says its primary focus “is on the well-being of its members.” Aetna says it is “transforming health care to create healthier communities, a healthier nation and a healthier world.” How? By “creatively destroying the current business model to enable a new one,” said CEO Mark Bertolini at a health care technology conference earlier this year.

Cigna CEO David Cordani says his team “is proud to serve as a catalyst for change in the more than 30 countries in which we operate around the world.”

According to UnitedHealth Group’s website, it is “the most diversified health care company in the United States and a leader worldwide in helping people live healthier lives…”

WellPoint says it is “working to transform health care with trusted and caring solutions.”

Even the nonprofit Blue Cross plans are reinventing themselves. Florida’s largest insurer, Florida Blue, earlier this month unveiled its new corporate parent, GuideWell. Said CEO Pat Geraghty at the Medifuture conference in Tampa: “We’re not here to be the best plan in Florida. We’re here to be the best health solutions company in the United States.”

What all of those companies’ executives understand is that if profit margins are to be maintained in the post-Obamacare world, finding greener pastures has once again become a necessity.

Former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter is writing about the health care industry and the ongoing battle for health reform for the Center for Public Integrity.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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OP-ED | Why Connecticut Lags: Part One

by Fred Carstensen | Sep 23, 2014 10:49pm
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Posted to: Economics, Opinion

It is quite frustrating to see an almost continuous repetition of the mythologies that people invoke to explain Connecticut’s economic malaise. The three mythologies are 1) Connecticut is a high tax state; 2) housing is too expensive; 3) energy costs are too high.

Even to the extent they are true, they have virtually no relevance to charting a path to full recovery. This post only addresses the first question of tax burden. Later posts will address the other two mythologies. And at the conclusion of each post I will suggest what the real reasons for Connecticut failing for more than 25 years to create net new jobs and a strong business climate.

Tax burdens: the most recent Ernst & Young analysis of business tax burden, aggregating state and local taxes, puts Connecticut as SECOND LOWEST in the nation, trailing only Oregon. It is true that tax burdens varied dramatically among businesses, and we need to look at tax incidence comprehensively. But it is simply not the case that Connecticut has high business taxes on average; they are among the lowest in the nation. Now let’s add to this that taxes never figure as primary drivers in business location decisions. Even if business taxes were higher in Connecticut, there is simply no evidence that they would play a major role in location decisions.

For households, tax burdens, aggregating state and local taxes, are in the middle range nationally, based on the Boston Federal Reserve analysis. Again, there are significant disparities, and Connecticut taxes are generally regressive, with lower income households paying a significantly higher share of their income in sales and property tax (they rarely pay much state income tax.)

The mythology, constantly repeated and displayed prominently by groups such as Connecticut Business and Industry Association, finds its primary support in the Tax Foundation studies. But that study does NOT say to whom the taxes are paid. Because many of the highest income Connecticut residents work in New York City and thus pay both New York state and New York City income tax, those taxes are counted against Connecticut; because many wealthier households in Connecticut own property in Florida or on Martha’s Vineyard, the heavy property taxes they pay there are counted against Connecticut. If you read the Tax Foundation study closely, you find that the study makes this exact point: it is only showing who pays the highest taxes, not to whom those taxes are paid.

A principal reason people in Connecticut often believe they have a heavy tax burden — beyond the constant repetition of the assertion — is that Connecticut is more heavily dependent on highly visible taxes — sales, income, and property — than other states. David Walker and I emphasized this point in the study “Navigating to Prosperity” — readily available online.

Bottom line: Connecticut does not have in aggregate a heavy tax burden. Even if it did have higher rates, there is no evidence in the extensive research on business location decisions to support the idea that tax burden plays a major role in such decisions. Critically, marginal changes in sales or income taxes will, in all likelihood, have little or no impact on Connecticut’s economic performance or significantly change its competitive position, especially in the short run.

A caveat: Connecticut is excessively reliant on the property tax, which is stunningly unequal across the state, and the sales tax is complex, with more than 600 exemptions, an almost incomprehensible business-to-business structure, and difficult for the Department of Revenue Services to track. A comprehensive reframing of revenue sources, including vastly simplifying, broadening, and lowering the sales tax, and learning from best practice in other states would both make the tax system more transparent, easily to administer for both the private and public sectors, and, in the long run, play a meaningful if modest role in improving the state’s business environment.

The Overview of Why Connecticut is Struggling to Recover its Economic Vitality:

Connecticut is working to recover from a trifecta of policy failures that extend back more than 20 years because it failed to invest in and strengthen its infrastructure and its human capital.

In 1992, Connecticut had no research universities in the modern sense of generators of significant intellectual property that then moved into the private sector, either through licensing or spinoffs. Yale University, under President Richard Levin, recognized that, and transformed itself. The University of Connecticut is only now beginning that process. And Connecticut is still far behind other states in developing strong worker training programs/pipelines critical to sustaining and attaching business.

For years, Connecticut also failed to create and sustain coherent, economic development policies and programs, or appreciate the value of central assets in the state’s economy. The poster child is the closure of our state parks and forests, which recent analysis revealed deliver more than $35 for every dollar of public expenditure, and the refusal to pay dues to the New England Tourism Council, which resulted in Connecticut disappearing into Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. This when tourism is at least 15 percent — and probably more — of the state’s economy. The Legislative Review and Investigations Committee issued a scathing report in 2009 that highlighted the persistent, pervasive ineptitude and weakness in this area.

We have begun to address these systemic, fundamental failures. We have been digging an economic/business hole for ourselves for more than a generation; there is no quick way to climb out. Though there is no easy path to recovery, Connecticut has extraordinary locational advantages and powerful underlying assets. If we address these failures and marshal those assets on a sustained basis, we will recover, with increasing success, and again become one of the top performing state economies.

Fred Carstensen is an economics professor at the University of Connecticut.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Panel Suggests Changes To Homeschool Oversight

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 23, 2014 2:59pm
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Sandy Hook Advisory Commission members

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission discussed controversial changes to the oversight of troubled home-schooled children Tuesday in its draft recommendations on mental health.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy created the group more than a year and a half ago in response to the murders of 20 school children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown. He charged the panel— made up of experts in education, mental health, law enforcement, and emergency response — with making recommendations to reduce the risk of future tragedies.

The commission expects to have a final report within the next few weeks. On Tuesday its members reviewed their likely recommendations on mental health during a meeting in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

The draft proposals include requirements for individual plans for students with significant emotional or behavioral problems. The group is backing extending those requirements to troubled youths, whose parents have chosen to homeschool.

“Continuation of homeschooling should be contingent upon approval of [individualized education plans] and adequate progress as documented” in progress reports, Susan Schmeiser, a professor of mental health law at the University of Connecticut Law School, said as she summarized the proposal.

The group wants to give local special education directors the authority to approve or reject the individualized homeschool plans.

During the meeting, Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, the commission’s chairman, said the proposal “sounds controversial.” It is a change from current requirements which are permissive. The parents of homeschooled children may choose to participate in school programing, but are not required to.

Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, said the commission’s mental health team considered the proposal at length before recommending it.

“We believe it is very germaine,” he said. “The facts leading up to [the Newtown shooting] support the notion of the risk in not addressing the social, emotional, learning needs of children who may have significant needs in that area when homeschooled.”

Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old perpetrator of the 2012 shooting, was homeschooled for years and suffered from social and behavioral problems.

Hugh McQuaid Photo “The purpose of this recommendation is to make sure that kids get what kids need. If they have needs that aren’t being addressed, just because the parent has chosen to remove them from the school setting… their needs are still going to be met,” Kathleen Flaherty, staff attorney for Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut, said.
Although she supported the proposal, Patricia Keavney-Maruca, a member of the state Board of Education, said there could be some pushback from parents of homeschooled children.

“It may be hard to implement because parents may want to get their back up and say ‘You can’t make me do that if I’m homeschooling,” she said.

Jackson said the commission has drafted more than 100 pages on the subject of mental health alone. An endorsement of a broader understanding of mental health is a theme running throughout those pages, Schmeiser said.

“Mental health involves more than merely the absence of mental illness. Instead, it encompasses overall psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing so any effective system of care must take that broader perspective,” she said.

Schmeiser stressed that a diagnosis of mental illness alone makes a “very weak predictor” of violence. Other factors like substance abuse, histories of violence, economic disadvantage, youth, and the male gender have a greater correlation with a risk of violence.

The panel is recommending establishing risk assessment teams in schools to intervene if a student appears to be at risk. Jackson said the teams will include social workers, law enforcement officers, teachers and others.

Hugh McQuaid Photo “They can say ‘There’s something going on. This kid used to be in chorus, he used to play football, now he barely comes to school. Something is happening,’” Jackson said. “There needs to be a lot of people around who can create a structured or supportive environment for a student who may be in trouble.”

The commission found no consensus on some proposals it considered. For instance, Jackson said the panel would not be making any recommendations on involuntary outpatient commitment and changes to the confidentiality of mental health records.

“We won’t make a recommendation on involuntary outpatient commitment and one of the reasons is we don’t have the infrastructure to support it anyway. Now the judge says you’re going to do this outpatient program and there’s no place to do it. So it doesn’t even make sense here right now,” he said.

The panel is also recommending scaling back a provision within the gun control law passed last year by the legislature. The panel said the law “cast the net too wide” by including voluntary psychiatric hospitalization as grounds for deeming someone unsuitable to purchase a gun.

“The commission urges reconsideration of this provision in light of its potential to deter people from seeking needed care and to stigmatize in-patient treatment and those who seek it,” Schmeiser said.

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Gubernatorial Candidates Focus On Education In Latest Ads

by Christine Stuart | Sep 23, 2014 12:30pm
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Posted to: Education

This week, two of the three gubernatorial candidates, have decided to focus on education policy in their TV ads and, like the candidates, the ads are vastly different.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who angered teachers in 2012 when he said that in order to earn tenure “the only thing you have to do is show up for four years,” released a 60-second spot Tuesday about how he overcame his learning disabilities as a child.

“As a child Dan Malloy overcame severe learning disabilities, got through school listening to books on tape for the blind,” a male narrator says. “With the help of great teachers Malloy graduated from college with honors then got his law degree.”

The ad goes onto explain how Malloy decided to increase funding to education even while facing a large budget deficit and a reduction in federal stimulus funds being used to prop up Connecticut’s education funding during former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration.

“He got his chance and he won’t rest until every Connecticut child gets theirs,” the narrator says as Malloy finishes reading a book with a child.

Over the past two years, Malloy has tried to repair his relationship with the state’s two teacher unions. That relationship was tested in 2012 when the legislature asked a committee to come up with a teacher evaluation process that would help determine tenure. Earlier this year, Malloy postponed tying the new evaluation system to a new standardized testing system related to the Common Core State Standards.

Malloy’s ad takes a more personal tone than Republican Tom Foley’s 30-second ad, which focuses more broadly on education.

Foley’s ad opens with his twins and his wife coloring and then pans to him sitting with a tablet and a group of children outside.

“Is there anything more important than a child’s education?” Foley asks. “Over 100,000 Connecticut children are in underperforming schools.”

The Foley campaign says the number comes from a 2012 statement by Ramani Ayer, the retired chairman and CEO of The Hartford. Ayer was the vice chair of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

“I have a plan for making every school in Connecticut great,” Foley continues in the ad. “Let’s make things fair for everyone, so everyone can be the absolute best they can be.”

The ad doesn’t say exactly what he plans to when it comes to education policy.

Those details are laid out in his 9-page plan titled “A Plan for Restoring Pride and Prosperity in Connecticut.”

The document, which was released the night of the first gubernatorial debate, offers Foley’s take on how he would “fix our underperforming schools with ‘real’ education reform.”

It includes implementing a controversial funding mechanism called “money follows the child.” It works like this: when a child leaves a public school district to attend a charter school, the district would pay the charter school to educate the child. The state would deduct the money from the town’s Education Cost Sharing grant and send it directly to the charter school.

Public school advocates and teacher unions say the move would take money away from underperforming public schools and create winners and losers among school districts.

In 2011, the legislature’s Education Committee refused to even give a bill that included the “money follows the child” concept a public hearing.

Foley has said he plans on making education a priority and even though he intends to hold spending flat he’s said he would find ways to improve education.

“Not all of the things that affect educational outcomes for example cost money,” Foley said during their first debate in Norwich last month. “A lot of the proven, high-impact factors on education reform don’t actually cost money.”

But Malloy’s campaign doesn’t believe Foley will keep the promise of improving education.

“For Tom Foley to keep the promises he has been making, he would take a different route slashing funding to public education and laying off teachers, firefighters and police,” Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign said. “He has already pledged to cut funding for the neediest schools. On public education, it’s a clear choice for Connecticut voters.”

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 46 percent of voters believe Malloy would do a better job than Foley on education policy.

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OP-ED | Of Smartphones & Middle Age

by Barth Keck | Sep 23, 2014 7:00am
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Posted to: Opinion

To app or not to app. That is the question.

At least that’s the question for this skeptical, 50-something English teacher.

Apple’s recently released iPhone 6 is no doubt of interest to the more than 60 percent of the U.S. population that now owns a smartphone. Meanwhile, I plod along with my non-touch-screen, imitation-Blackberry dumbphone. (I’d probably still have my original Nokia mini-brick if it weren’t for an unscheduled beverage bath.)

I’m such a dinosaur, I’m even a minority in my own age group:

But times change, and sometimes even technological skeptics change with those times. So I find myself actually contemplating the purchase of a smart phone.

Granted, I don’t take this decision lightly, given my documented circumspection regarding the effects of smartphones.

For example, I’ve been teaching high school English for more than two decades, and I’ve personally witnessed the decline in voluntary reading among teenagers. Recent studies back this up.

Even so, personal technology can also encourage reading, as “researchers also investigated the effects of e-reading, which appear to be gaining traction as a substitute for paper books, even among kids.”

Smartphones, therefore, have not killed reading. At least not yet.

“Evidence from laboratory experiments, polls, and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss,“ according to Scientific American.

Moreover, these screens “prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension.”

Another effect of excessive smartphone use could be memory loss.

“The constant, restless fingering of the phone’s shiny surface, this filling of every microscopic time-gap in the fabric of the day, is an issue,” explains Psychology Today.

In one experiment, “people in their early seventies listened to a story and then were asked to recall as much of it as they could. They then either just sat engaging in ‘wakeful resting’ for 10 minutes or they played a spot-the-difference computer game. Those who had rested for the ten minutes after learning the story remembered a lot more of it half an hour later than those who had played the game. Amazingly, and more importantly, these effects lasted a full 7 days.”

The upshot? People who “rested” their memories were employing consolidation, an “automatic process of laying down the memory that goes on in the resting brain, but not the computer-dazzled one.”

In other words, the nonstop attention paid to brainy apps on our smartphones might be detrimental to our own brains.

And then there are the creepy tracking qualities of apps.

“Thanks to the explosion of GPS technology and smartphone apps, [cell phones] are also taking note of what we buy, where and when we buy it, how much money we have in the bank, whom we text and e-mail, what Web sites we visit, how and where we travel, what time we go to sleep and wake up — and more,” reports The New York Times.

Makes my dumbphone seem downright neighborly.

Despite the disadvantages of smartphones, there are obvious benefits. As with all new technologies, the costs must be weighed against the benefits. Or, as the late media guru Neil Postman http://mcluhangalaxy.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/neil-postman-on-technologys-faustian-bargain/ put it, one must make a “deal with the devil” if he chooses to upgrade:

“New technology is a kind of Faustian bargain. It always gives us something, but it always takes away something important. That’s true of the alphabet, and the printing press, and telegraph, right up through the computer.”

So, too, with smartphones: They take away certain privacies and cognitive skills, while they simultaneously offer a great deal of efficiency and instantaneous information.

If almost two-thirds of the American public has made such a deal, maybe I can, too. I do like the simplicity of my non-touch-screen, imitation-Blackberry dumbphone, but my switch to a smartphone is inevitable if I want to remain an active citizen in 21st century America.

I can only hope that whatever society is gaining in this changeover is at least equal to what is lost.

Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Herbst Tries To Engage Nappier

by Kristi Allen | Sep 23, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Pension

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Tim Herbst and Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola two weeks ago at the state Capitol

If a Republican challenger attacks a Democratic incumbent and no one responds, does he still make a sound?

Tim Herbst, Republican candidate for state treasurer, is doing his best to find out. The Trumbull first selectman has been waging a rather one-sided campaign against five-term Democratic incumbent Denise Nappier.

“If any other candidate for public office showed this level of disengagement with the public and media they would be rightfully rebuked on the editorial pages of every major newspaper in the state,” Herbst said in a statement.

Nappier disagreed with Herbst’s characterization Monday. In a phone interview, she said that she’s always debated her opponent and is looking forward to her first community forum with Herbst. The two are scheduled to appear on Oct. 7 at the Hartford Public Library.

“My campaign has been and will continue to be active,” Nappier said. “It has never been driven by political gamesmanship as is the case with my opponent. I tell people I consider myself a fiduciary first.”

Herbst has called for five debates and even started an online petition to try and encourage Nappier to accept the invitation. Nappier said her campaign staff received the debate request on August 14 and will be responding.

But is it too little, too late?

Despite all the recent hype over the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, there are few voters who know what the state treasurer does. The state treasurer is the sole trustee and fiduciary of state employee and teacher pension funds. The treasurer also manages the state’s cash and is responsible for issuing the state’s debt.

“By and large, with some exceptions, people don’t know about the candidates below governor…there’s an awful lot of party line voting,” Ronald Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said Monday.

While some Democrats may cross party lines in the governor’s race, it would appear that most still vote party line on lower-ticket offices, Schurin said. Democrats have controlled most of Connecticut’s constitutional offices for the last decade, even when there was a Republican in the governor’s mansion.

Election statistics corroborate that theory. In 2010, 50,000 fewer votes were cast in the treasurer’s race than the governor’s race.

That’s bad news for Herbst, who is running statewide for the first time this year.

Nappier, who rarely gives media interviews and admits she’s more comfortable with email communication, told the Courant Editorial Board last week that the media hasn’t given her office enough coverage over the years, particularly her advocacy for lowering the unfunded liability in the state’s pension plans or pressuring the legislature to enact pension and debt reforms.

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Denise Nappier

“Unfortunately, there’s been no media coverage and there’s been no public outcry about the growing unfunded liability. I ran on that in 1998…that was my number one issue,” Nappier said.

On the other hand, Herbst said he feels he’s getting adequate media coverage.

Of all the constitutional offices below governor, “I think we’re actually getting the most attention,” Herbst said Monday.

Yet, he’s still been unsuccessful in getting Nappier’s campaign to engage.

Until Monday, Nappier’s campaign had declined requests to comment. Nappier said that’s partially due to the fact that they didn’t hire a spokeswoman until last Thursday.

Two weeks ago, Herbst held a press conference at the state Capitol and made the unfunded state pension liability a central focus in his campaign. He also took issue with Nappier’s characterization of her record when it comes to the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.

“Denise said this four years ago, and she said it 2006 and she said it in 2002. It is very politically convenient to say these things 45 days before an election,” Herbst said. “Since she’s been in office [the state’s unfunded liabilities] have gotten worse, not better.”

Nappier’s campaign manager declined to comment on Herbst’s criticism following the press conference. However, Nappier explained Monday that the state’s pension fund didn’t start out as an investment fund. She said for years it was “pay-as-you-go.”

“The fact of the matter is when I became state treasurer the state had one of the worst-funded pension plans in the country and that has not changed,” Nappier said.

However, through agreements between the governor and state employees the state is making progress and contributing the actuarially required amount, she said.

She took exception to a report by an associate professor of finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who concluded the state’s pension fund could be insolvent by 2019.

She said the report, which Herbst is using to illustrate the state’s unfunded pension liability, “assumes the state would never contribute” to the fund and that’s not what’s happening. She said the state is contributing at least the actuarially required amount.

While they disagree on some issues, Nappier and Herbst actually agree on several issues, such as raising the retirement age, putting surplus money towards unfunded liabilities, and lowering actuarial rates of return on the state’s pension funds. Herbst has said that Nappier’s inability to accomplish these goals showed that she was disengaged and ineffective. But Nappier said she simply doesn’t have the jurisdiction to accomplish them so it’s an unfair criticism.

Actuarial rates of return are set by pension boards, employee benefit contracts are negotiated by the governor and the unions, and the legislature is in charge of appropriations. The treasurer is responsible for managing the investment of the state’s pension resources. Much of Herbst and Nappier’s strategies for fixing the unfunded pension liability rely on pressuring other politicians to enact the reforms they want.

Christine Stuart contributed to this report.

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OP-ED | Heroin: A Conversation I Wish I’d Had

by Lee Bodkin | Sep 22, 2014 4:30pm
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Posted to: Opinion

I went to my first funeral for a young person who died from a heroin overdose recently. I hope it’s my last.

This young person’s parents are friends of mine, not close friends, but friends. And I keep thinking — Could this senseless death have been prevented? Could a simple conversation have imparted enough information to keep this from happening? I will never know.

Heroin addiction does not discriminate; there really is no stereotypical person who gets addicted to this drug. Heroin is in our inner cities and our affluent suburbs. And the problem is growing.

If I could turn back time, these are the facts I would share with my friend or anyone who has a loved one coming out of rehab for heroin addiction.

  • Your kid is not a bad kid; he is a kid with an addictive disorder. He tried heroin and became addicted. Don’t be ashamed of him or this disease. This can happen to anyone’s child.
  • Heroin is an opiate and opiate addiction is relentless and incredibly hard to kick. (Other opiates include OxyContin and Vicodin.)
  • Why? Because heroin floods the pleasure centers of the brain. Users develop a tolerance and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect.
  • Over time heroin changes the brain; the brain stops making it its own opiates (something our bodies naturally produce and need to survive) and the only way a person can feel better is to keep using.
  • An opiate addict’s brain can take months to years before returning to normal function. A recovering addict may experience fatigue, symptoms of depression, and may continue craving heroin long after stopping the drug.
  • Ninety percent of heroin addicts relapse within the first year. Yes, 90 percent! Of course you want your child to be in the 10 percent — but wishing will not make it so.
  • The highest risk period for a heroin overdose occurs after a period of abstinence; new users are at the greatest risk. The body’s tolerance from the drug is lower and users think they can pick up where they left off.
  • You must have Narcan (injectable Naloxone) when your loved one comes out of treatment. Narcan can immediately reverse an opioid overdose and save a life!
  • Talk to your loved one about Narcan, and make sure it is available to those in his/her circle. It is available from any prescriber in Connecticut. To date, 22 states have passed legislation addressing naloxone access.
  • OxyContin and Vicodin are opioids and just as dangerous as heroin. Get them out of the house.
  • When your loved one comes out of rehab, recovery is not over. Ongoing support is critical: meetings, one-on-one counseling, relapse prevention groups. Take these words to heart and be vigilant.
  • We are not going to fix the heroin epidemic overnight. It is a systemic and pervasive problem, and it is on the rise.

    But we can start having an honest conversation about what can be done to keep one more young person from dying from an overdose. There really is no place for shame and stigma here, too many kids are dying and we need to start talking.

    Lee Bodkin is director of communications of the Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Malloy Welcomes Rival Republican Governors

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 22, 2014 3:00pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    C-SPAN screengrab

    Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday he was happy to have two of his Republican rivals — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — coming to Connecticut to support his opponent, Tom Foley.

    Malloy and Foley are locked in a close rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial race. Jindal and Christie will stump for Foley at separate events within the next month. Both events will raise money for the Connecticut Republican Party.

    Jindal will make a fundraising stop at a private residence in West Hartford on Oct. 17 and Christie will appear with Foley at a retailer in Stamford on Tuesday.

    Asked about the events Monday, Malloy said he was happy to have the two men supporting his opponent.

    “That’s a dynamic duo right there,” he said before criticizing both governors. “I’m all for it. It reminds people of who Tom Foley hangs out with.”

    Malloy said New Jersey has had its bond rating downgraded nine times under Christie’s tenure and Jindal has publicly opposed raising the minimum wage. About 72 percent of voters in Connecticut support increasing the minimum wage, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in May.

    In a phone interview, state Republican Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. defended both governors, calling Jindal a “visionary” working to eliminate the income tax in his state and saying Christie has been saddled with a legislature controlled by Democrats. He said the Republican Governors Association was committed to defeating Malloy.

    “We are fortunate to have two strong Republican governors willing to visit Connecticut to help us secure this victory,” he said.

    Labriola said his party’s fundraising activities were transparent compared to the fundraising efforts of state Democrats, who typically do not comment on their fundraisers. Malloy was in California last week raising money, but the party declined to offer details.

    “Unlike Dan Malloy’s secretive trips to New York City and Hollywood to raise money to run deceptive and misleading attack ads against Tom Foley, our party is open and upfront about our fundraisers. After all we are the party of the people,” he said.

    Malloy has engaged in high-profile dust-ups with both Jindal and Christie during his first term.

    Christie and Malloy have a longstanding rivalry and have verbally attacked each other on national political talk shows. At a July campaign stop, Christie vowed to play an active role in helping Foley defeat Malloy.

    “I know Governor Malloy is thrilled I’m here today and I know he’ll be thrilled when I come here again and again and again,” Christie told reporters at a diner in Greenwich.

    Christie also serves as the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. The organization has bankrolled a Super PAC called “Grow Connecticut.” The PAC has spent more than $2.2 million on television commercials opposing Malloy.

    Malloy’s feud with Jindal stems from a National Governors Association press conference outside the White House in February. During the press conference, Jindal was critical of President Barack Obama and his call for states to raise their minimum wages. Jindal said the policy was “waving the white flag of surrender.”

    Malloy, who this year signed a bill raising Connecticut’s minimum wage, looked uncomfortable as Jindal was speaking. He took the microphone after and pushed back on the Republican.

    “What the heck was a reference to white flag when it comes to people making $404 a week?” Malloy said. “I mean, that’s the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”

    The exchange received national attention and Obama visited Connecticut soon after to commend Malloy for his efforts to raise the minimum wage.

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    OP-ED | Let’s Develop Solutions to Connecticut’s Toughest Problems

    by Jennifer Alexander | Sep 22, 2014 2:30pm
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    Posted to: Education, Opinion

    Regarding Sarah Darer Littman’s Sept. 19, 2014, op-ed, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” the egregious twisting of facts and history buries the important message at the core of Littman’s argument. Sadly, the piece is also a distraction from the real issue at hand, which is improving schools for all children in our state.

    Underlying Littman’s murky musings, it appears that she believes that the manner in which Connecticut students are funded is inherently unfair. In this she is correct. Too often the funding of child’s public education is based on where that child lives or what type a public school they attend.

    ConnCAN believes that no child should be denied a great education based on race, where they live, or family income. I would hope that Littman agrees with this sentiment. However, nowhere in her op-ed does she offer any recognition that the quality of education in Connecticut varies wildly, based solely on what zip code a child calls home.

    I also agree with Littman when she suggests that the laws and regulations governing Connecticut’s decades-old public charter schools should be updated, a belief I have shared publicly and often following the revelations of alleged improprieties at Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

    As I said then, students and staff at every type of public school, including charter schools, must be allowed to benefit from the same legal and regulatory protections. At the same time, we must hold true to the basic premise of public charter schools: tough accountability in exchange for the flexibility needed to deliver results for kids.

    Where I differ from Littman is in tone and intention. ConnCAN is dedicated to advocating for solutions to the problems that have for decades plagued Connecticut’s schools. In Connecticut, only one out of every three African American, Hispanic, or low-income 3rd graders can read at grade level. In cities like Bridgeport, one-third of students never graduate high school. 

    That’s one out of three students not graduating high school ready for college and careers, prepared to become entrepreneurs or productive members of Connecticut’s workforce.

    Given that national and international research is clear that a great education is key to personal and community economic success,  Connecticut’s students, families, and communities need better schools and they need them now.

    That’s why public education options like magnet and charter schools are in demand. There are currently more than 4,000 names on waiting lists for those schools. But they are only one piece of the puzzle.

    We must also give every child a strong start with high quality pre-kindergarten, ensure an effective teacher in every classroom and effective leaders in every school and district, hold students to rigorous academic standards, and fix our broken school funding rules so that every child is funded fairly.

    I encourage her to join a real dialogue about how best to achieve these goals. It’s time to move away from tired personal attacks and unfounded conspiracy theories, roll up our sleeves and get to the real work of improving public education. Our kids are counting on it.

    It is, after all, our responsibility to ensure all kids have the opportunity to achieve their goals. Together, with hard work, dedication, and a bit of creativity, we can ensure Connecticut remains a place where people want to live, work, and invest in their future.

    Jennifer Alexander is the CEO of ConnCAN (Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now).

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Public Hearing Wednesday On Autism Services

    by Staff Report | Sep 22, 2014 2:08pm
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    Posted to: Health Care, State Capitol

    The Program Review and Investigations Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the availability of transitional services for young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

    The committee is studying the services available to young people with autism as they transition from school to young adulthood. The committee will review the adequacy of transitional services available from state agencies and other organizations.

    Wednesday’s hearing will be held at 1 p.m. in Room 2D of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

    In addition to services for people with autism spectrum disorder, the committee will also study policies for school paraprofessionals in Connecticut’s public schools.

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    Connecticut’s Municipal Lobby Focuses on Education Funding

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 22, 2014 1:10pm
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    Posted to: Education, Town News

    In its second report of the campaign season, Connecticut’s largest municipal lobby released a document focused on major issues facing pre-K through 12th-grade public school education funding.

    Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said Monday that the state is currently underfunding the Education Cost Sharing formula by more than $600 million and it has failed to address the skyrocketing cost of special education, which now accounts for $1.8 billion of the $10 billion in local public education funds.

    “Right now, the towns and cities pay the majority of the costs — slightly more than 50 percent — while the state pays about 42 percent,” Maloney said.

    But it’s unclear whether the legislature will tackle the education cost sharing formula this year or wait to hear what the court decides.

    The trial for the landmark education funding lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding was supposed to start Sept. 9, but it was moved to Jan. 6, 2015, after the November election.

    Maloney said the report issued Monday addresses a lot of the detail that “underpins this court case.”

    The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding sued the state in 2005, claiming it was not adequately funding pre-K through 12th-grade public school education. Jim Finley, the former executive director of CCM, is now a lobbyist for the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding.

    “Certainly, there’s got to be some progress made or that court case is going to continue to dog us moving forward. It’s worthwhile for the Connecticut economy and for Connecticut local governments to have the best possible local public education system,” Maloney said, adding that the numbers in the latest report, which he encourages candidates running for public office to use to discuss the issue, were checked against the numbers used by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding in their lawsuit against the state.

    “We worked closely with CCJEF,” Maloney said. “We shared the report with them to make sure our facts are in line with theirs.”

    He said they feel “like we have dual voices advancing the same issue.”

    And while there’s widespread agreement the education funding formula is broken, there’s no agreement yet about how to fix it.

    In 2011, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now helped draft a 116-page bill that would have changed the Education Cost Sharing formula to make ensure that public school funding followed the child to their school of choice, instead of staying with the home district. The bill also took into account various poverty measures. But the Education Committee declined to hold a public hearing on the bill.

    Instead, Malloy created a task force to look at the state’s funding formula for education. They issued a report in January 2012.

    Ben Barnes, Gov. Dannel P.  Malloy’s budget director who co-chaired that task force, said the recommendations were similar to what the governor included in his budget that year. Barnes said he hasn’t begun creating the budget for the next biennium, but added that the administration has increased education funding every year.

    “I think the track record speaks for itself,” Barnes said.

    Jennifer Alexander, president and CEO of ConnCAN, said there’s universal agreement that the funding formula is broken, but there have been few changes over the years.

    “We’re still left with a formula that’s not being faithfully followed and doesn’t direct funds where kids need them,” Alexander said Monday.

    She speculated that even if a judge decides more money is needed, it will likely be left up to the state legislature to distribute those funds in a way that makes sense.

    “There’s a growing sense that the formula as its exists is not working,” Alexander said.

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    Access Health Enrollees May See Subsidies Drop in 2015

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 22, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Health Care

    Courtesy of Wakely Consulting A healthcare actuary told the Access Health CT Board of Directors Thursday that even if an individual re-enrolls in the same health plan they purchased last year through the exchange they may see an increase in their premiums.

    Premiums vary by age, geographic area, family size, and choice of carrier. The amount of subsidy a person receives is based on income. In addition to the changes in the federal poverty level chart, the exchange now has four private insurance carriers and the benchmark plans used to calculate the premium subsidies also have changed.

    That means consumers may be paying more on a monthly basis than they did in 2014 because their subsidies from the federal government will be lower even if their income hasn’t changed and they remain on the same plan.

    The benchmark plan used in the calculation is the second cheapest silver level plan offered by all of the carriers in the exchange.

    “If you choose a plan that’s not the benchmark, you pay what you would pay for the benchmark and then you get credited the difference between the plans if you buy down or you pay the difference between the plans if you buy up,” Wakely Consulting’s Julia Lerche told the board Thursday.

    A large portion of the 59,256 Access Health CT consumers receiving subsidies purchased the lowest cost silver plan in 2014, according to Lerche.

    “The way the subsidy works, the results are a little counterintuitive,” Lerche said. “Even if the rate for the plan that you’re in does not change before subsidies because that rate has gone down, now that differential between your plan and the benchmark plan has changed and you could see a higher increase than the zero change in the rate.”

    Lerche used the example of Ted, a single 25-year-old from Fairfield County whose income is about $23,000, or 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2014, Ted enrolled in the lowest cost silver plan, which made the monthly premium amount about $91 after the subsidy. If he automatically re-enrolls in that plan in 2015, his monthly premium will go up to $120 per month because the benchmark premium has changed from $330 per month to $310 per month.

    That means Ted’s subsidy from the federal government will go down even though he hasn’t increased or decreased his salary. But Ted can shop around for a different plan starting on Nov. 15 when the second enrollment period begins.

    His lowest priced option in 2015 would be a plan that has him paying about $116 per month. Rates vary based on age and where individuals live in the state.

    Lerche said there’s very little claims data the insurance carriers used in order to set their rates for 2015. What the insurance carriers knew this year before setting their rates was the demographics of their members.

    There are currently about 59,256 individuals participating in Connecticut’s exchange and receiving a subsidy from the federal government. Total enrollment through the exchange is about 283,114 individuals. Most of them, or about 207,020, are on Medicaid.

    There are four medal tiers — platinum, gold, silver, and bronze.

    There is only one carrier offering a platinum plan in 2015. There will be seven new plans offered at the gold, silver, and bronze level in 2015, bringing the total number of plans offered up to 41.

    The carriers offering plans to individuals on the exchange include Anthem, ConnectiCare, HealthyCT, and UnitedHealthcare, which is new this year to the individual marketplace.

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    Jury Finds Rowland Guilty On All 7 Counts; Attorney Vows Appeal

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 19, 2014 2:44pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Douglas Healey file photo

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland walks into court last week with his daughter

    NEW HAVEN — A federal court jury unanimously agreed Friday that former Gov. John G. Rowland was again guilty of corruption. A decade after he resigned amidst scandal, jurors handed Rowland seven guilty verdicts related to two congressional campaigns.

    After 12 days of evidence, witnesses, and arguments, it took jurors about seven hours to agree the former governor was guilty of all the crimes prosecutors accused him of when they indicted Rowland in April.

    Those crimes are: falsification of records in a federal investigation, conspiracy, causing false statements, and illegal campaign contributions. Although it is unlikely to be imposed, the crimes carry a maximum penalty of more than 50 years. Rowland is scheduled to face a judge for sentencing on Dec. 12, but prosecutors offered to delay the hearing until after the holidays.

    The jury began deliberating Rowland’s fate Thursday afternoon after his attorneys and prosecutors made closing arguments. A court clerk announced a verdict had been reached at 2:27 p.m. Friday.

    Rowland stood, looking stunned as the jury foreman read the verdicts one by one. Members of his family wept quietly as they stood directly behind him in the first row of court benches. After the hearing, Rowland and his family left the courthouse without addressing the throng of news media assembled outside.

    Hugh McQuaid photo

    Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s lead attorney

    Reid Weingarten, his lead attorney, stood on the steps of the courthouse and promised to appeal the case. There were many “interesting” elements of the U.S. Attorneys’ case and Weingarten said he was looking forward to “litigating them further. We are going to appeal this case for sure.”

    “The prosecutors have made a very large mountain out of a very small molehill, all triggered by an all-too-mundane political dust-up in a congressional campaign,” he said.

    Prosecutors called the verdict a victory for transparency and the electoral process. The jury agreed that Rowland conspired to do work on two Republican congressional campaigns and had pitched a scheme to keep his pay hidden from federal election regulators.

    “It ought to be — no it has to be — that voters know that what they see is what they get. In this case, the defendant and others didn’t want that to happen,” Michael J. Gustafson, Criminal Division Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told reporters.

    Hugh McQuaid photo

    U.S. Attorneys Michael Gustafson and Christopher Mattei

    “The jury’s verdict today sends a very clear and simple message to candidates and people who work for campaigns. That simple message is this . . . put your name on it,” he said.

    Rowland was sentenced in 2005 to a year and one day in prison followed by four months of house arrest for corruption while he was governor. That conviction played a central role in the more recent charges against him.

    Prosecutors argued that Rowland’s past prevented him from working openly for political campaigns. That prompted him to propose to work for campaigns in secret, accepting payments from other entities for work he would do for candidates, they charged.

    “Mr. Rowland couldn’t sell his most valuable assets on the open market, but if he could keep it hidden, maybe then he could,” U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei told the jury Thursday.

    Rowland’s crimes stem from two campaigns.

    In 2010, the former governor aggressively courted Republican Mark Greenberg, who is now in his third consecutive run for the 5th Congressional District seat. Rowland pitched Greenberg a consulting contract, which included $35,000 a month in compensation. But the former governor wanted the pay to come from Greenberg’s nonprofit animal shelter, the Simon Foundation. The Greenberg campaign eventually rejected Rowland’s proposal.

    The former governor successfully entered into a similar arrangement with Brian Foley, the wealthy husband of Lisa Wilson-Foley, who ran for the seat in 2012. Foley paid Rowland $5,000 a month as a consultant for Apple Rehab, his nursing home company.

    Meanwhile, Rowland worked as one of two main consultants to the Wilson-Foley campaign and used his afternoon talk radio show on WTIC 1080 AM to echo the candidate’s messages and attack her opponents.

    Throughout the trial, Rowland’s attorneys maintained the former governor’s work at Apple Rehab was legitimate and his work on the campaign was a volunteer effort.

    However, prosecutors presented the jury with evidence that Rowland sent about 10 times as many emails to Wilson-Foley’s campaign staff than he did to the Apple Rehab executives with whom he was purportedly working.

    Rowland spoke publicly about rebuilding his life after he was released from federal prison in 2006. He was hired as Waterbury’s economic development director before becoming an afternoon radio host for WTIC. He resigned from the radio job in April just before being indicted by a grand jury.

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    New Malloy Ad Focuses On UTC Deal

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 19, 2014 11:18am
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    Screengrab of commercial

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign sought to defend Malloy’s economic development policies in an ad released Friday that touts a $400 million deal with United Technologies Corp. approved earlier this year.

    Malloy is hoping for a repeat of the 2010 gubernatorial election, in which he defeated Republican Tom Foley. But Malloy has trailed Foley slightly in recent public opinion polls.

    Foley has been critical of the tax incentives Malloy’s administration has offered employers during his first term. In an editorial published in the New Haven Register, Foley said Malloy has sought to bribe companies with “corporate welfare” rather than fix the business climate.

    In the 30-second TV spot, released Friday morning, a narrator accuses Foley of threatening Connecticut jobs by opposing a common practice.

    “Every state uses incentives to keep or attract jobs, but Foley says he won’t. The states that want to take our jobs are for Foley. Are you?” the female narrator says.

    The ad begins by highlighting a tax credit deal Malloy’s administration negotiated with United Technologies Corp. earlier this year. The agreement, which had bipartisan support from the legislature, allowed UTC to use $400 million in stranded tax credits to reduce their tax liability. In exchange, the corporation agreed to invest in Connecticut facilities and keep jobs here.

    Malloy’s new ad paints a dire picture, saying UTC’s departure from Connecticut was imminent in 2010.

    “Four years ago, our state’s biggest employer, United Technologies, was about to leave,” a female narrator says. “Then Dan Malloy fought and won the battle to keep them here.”

    The ad bases the claim that UTC was “about to leave” on a Hartford Courant article from 2010, in which UTC’s CFO Gregory Hayes paraphrased another company executive and said “Anyplace outside of Connecticut is low-cost.” Hayes did not state any specific plans to leave the state.

    The ad then transitions to attacking Foley.

    “Tom Foley opposed that deal, threatening up to 75,000 jobs. But Foley did support tax breaks for millionaires,” the narrator says.

    The 75,000 jobs referenced is the number of positions the Malloy administration estimated the deal could “impact,” when it announced the deal in February. The claim that Foley supported tax breaks for millionaires stems from a 2012 Hearst Connecticut Newspaper article. In the story, Foley called for the Bush-era tax breaks to be extended across the board.

    In a statement, Malloy’s campaign spokesman Mark Bergman said the UTC deal ensures that Connecticut will remain a leader in the aerospace industry for years.

    “As we’re competing against 49 other states, Tom Foley would have done nothing to keep these jobs at home — and that makes him a risk Connecticut workers can’t afford,” Bergman said.

    Foley’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment for this story. He was scheduled to tour businesses in Meriden and Bristol on Friday afternoon.

    However, Foley was critical of the deal during a debate with his primary opponent, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. McKinney voted to approve the agreement in the legislature.

    “John is using career politician talk. He’s saying tax credits are okay. Tax credits are spending,” Foley said.

    Last month, Foley was asked about the $1 million equity investment in his running mate Heather Bond Somers’ company, Hydrofera, by the Connecticut Development Authority in 2000, which then received $475,000 back when it was sold in 2012.

    The state told the New Haven Register that it was a routine investment in a startup. The firm paid $10,000 of an $80,000 fine for not meeting the 150-person job goal.

    Foley said he is “not against incentives for businesses that are properly conceived and administered. Many of the incentive programs that the government has offered long before Governor (Dannel P.) Malloy, I support.”

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    OP-ED | Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse

    by Sarah Darer Littman | Sep 19, 2014 11:00am
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    Posted to: Education, Opinion

    I’ve written a great deal — some complain too much — about the corporate education reform issues in our state. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like Cassandra of Greek mythology, but the reason politicians don’t believe me isn’t because I’ve denied them favors like the Cassie of yore. Rather, it’s because I haven’t given them big enough campaign donations.

    Then this week I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner, and realized that despite all I’ve written previously, it’s time for this Cassandra to revisit the Trojan Horse story.

    Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

    This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws, the Board is meant to act as a whole.

    But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

    On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012 — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

    The grant was paid through the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which receives 3 percent of the total ($150,000) for serving as fiscal agent. $150,000. Just think of all the Donors Choose literacy programs in Hartford that money would fund, saving teachers the indignity of having to beg donations for sets of classroom books.

    But that’s not the worst part about the Gates grant. What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

    I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions when it comes to transparency and accountability.

    But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

    One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

    I wrote to the Gates Foundation this week asking them what due diligence they did on Jumoke and how a foundation with the legal and accounting resources that surely must be available to them could have missed the kind of financial improprieties that were going on at the charter school management organization that managed the school. They did not comment prior to deadline.

    Family Urban School of Excellence (FUSE) — the charter school organization that oversaw Jumoke Academy and Hartford’s Milner Elementary School — no longer manages any Connecticut schools and is the subject of an FBI investigation. It’s also the subject of a state Education Department investigation. Those investigations were prompted after Michael Sharpe, the charter school management group’s CEO, resigned following news reports revealing his criminal past. Sharpe also admitted to a Hartford Courant reporter that he had lied about his education credentials.

    I’m also curious as to how the familiar alphabet soup of edreform organizations who were involved in the private meeting in June 2012, and who consistently showed up at Board of Education meetings supporting charter takeovers by Sharpe and FUSE, were so surprised by that organization’s financial and ethical improprieties. Aren’t these the same people who are telling us to run schools like businesses? Isn’t due diligence part of doing business?

    Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN, for instance, wrote a glowing recommendation of FUSE in support of the Booker T. Washington charter school application for New Haven shortly before the whole house of cards imploded. ConnCAN was founded by Jonathan Sackler and counts familiar names among its major 2013 contributors. There’s the Lone Pine Foundation — in other words, Stephen Mandel, who through his Zoom Foundation was instrumental in trying to change Bridgeport’s charter to give the mayor control of the city’s schools. Mandel is the treasurer for the national Board of Directors of Teach for America. In other words, yet another example of a “charitable” foundation trying to control policy away from the disinfection of sunlight. ConnCAN issues an annual report card on public schools. I think it’s time for a report card on ConnCAN.

    And let’s not forget others in this edreform circus, like the Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr., an ally of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Paul Vallas who said, and I quote from ConnCAN’s own blog: “Sharpe’s credentials are beyond reproach.”

    If it hadn’t imploded, the Gates Foundation grant conditions required Fuse/Jumoke to be managing two additional schools besides Milner by the end of the grant period in 2015. In return, the foundation would allocate FUSE/Jumoke Academy $1,054,143 of the $5 million grant.

    I wrote asking the Gates Foundation how much of the grant had been paid to Jumoke before the Feds showed up at the door. They didn’t respond.

    In January, I questioned why we were financing short-term technology for Common Core implementation with long-term construction grants. At the time, I asked the state Board of Education why certain charter and magnet schools were getting so much more funding per pupil than the surrounding district schools. Take for instance, FUSE/Jumoke.

    “The Jumoke Academy Charter Schools network, which are operated by an organization called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) received a $260 per pupil grant, whereas the districts in which its charters operate, Hartford and Bridgeport, received $30 and $45 respectively.”

    I was told by the state Education Department that I shouldn’t be looking at these figures on a per pupil basis, because they were construction grants. But interestingly, when I called a FUSE employee to get the most up to date pupil count for the story she went straight to per pupil when I explained the focus of my piece. It was pretty clear I wasn’t the only one thinking in those terms, yet the State Department of Education was most anxious that I shouldn’t.

    This week, I emailed to the state Board of Education to find out if there’s any chance that we’ll see any of that $360,000 technology grant back now that FUSE is under FBI investigation. After all, we taxpayers are the ones on the hook for those long-term bonds. Not surprisingly, the answer was . . . no answer.

    After the Gates grant was announced in December 2012, elected Hartford Board of Education member Robert Cotto Jr., who is chair of the board’s Policy Committee, proposed revisions to HPS’ existing policy on state and federal grants in early 2013 to that committee.

    “In support of these revisions, I referenced the Gates Foundation grant that committed the Hartford Public Schools to substantial policy changes (more testing and more charter schools) even though the Board never voted on the Gates grant itself, only to accept funds later on. The Mayor, as a member of the policy committee, and the Kishimoto administration would not support the revisions to this policy to require a Board vote before applying to a private foundation for a grant. Brad Noel, the final member of the committee, was undecided. This can be shown in the minutes and audio of the meetings in the policy committee,” Cotto said in an email.

    Mayor Segarra, Matthew Poland, The Gates Foundation, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Achievement First, and those who pushed for and agreed to these conditions outside public scrutiny, should now take the responsibility for their failure.

    Let’s recognize that just because someone is a wealthy business person doesn’t mean they always make the right choices. Look at Microsoft’s performance during the stacked ranking years. By accepting a gift from the Gates Foundation in this manner, Hartford admitted a Trojan horse to disrupt public education and disable democracy, submitting voters to the dictates of one wealthy man.

    That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

    Note: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the state Department of Education declined to comment on this piece by deadline.

    Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    OP-ED | Can’t Stop the Campaign Cash Flow

    by Susan Bigelow | Sep 19, 2014 8:00am
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election Policy, Opinion

    istockphoto


    About a decade ago, after John Rowland was chased from office, the state’s leaders decided once and for all to reduce the influence of campaign money on politics and government. The legislature passed a sweeping campaign finance reform bill, which, among other things, instituted a public finance system for state campaigns and banned campaign donations from state contractors.

    So, how did that turn out?

    To give you an idea, this week the State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled on a case where the CEO of Northeast Utilities, which quite obviously does plenty of business with the state, sent an email to company managers prodding them to donate money to the state Democratic Party’s federal campaign account in support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election bid. Sadly, while the SEEC noted that the email “violates the spirit and intent of the Connecticut state contractor ban,” the case was dismissed 5-0 because the email asked for donations to be sent to a federal account, not a state one.

    That’s quite the loophole.

    Basically, what’s happened since campaign finance reform was passed is that the money hasn’t stopped or even slowed down — it’s just found a different way to get where wealthy donors and activists want it to be. Campaign finance reform was supposed to be like a dam, but really all it did was chuck a big rock in the middle of a wide stream. There was a splash, and some of the water was forced onto a different course, but the flow never really stopped.

    Right now a lot of the money is flowing into political action committees, so-called “super PACs,” which are allowed to raise and spend as much money as they want, as long as they don’t actually coordinate with campaigns. However, a lot of these organizations tend to have close ties to campaigns and political parties.

    The PAC “Grow Connecticut,” for instance, is running ads opposing Gov. Malloy. Their ads focus on how miserable everyone is because of the economy, which is a similar message to the one Tom Foley is peddling. This may be because it’s run by a woman who was caught up in an election scandal last year, when her former super PAC came under fire for paying Foley’s pollster. The biggest donors to Grow Connecticut, according to the disclaimer at the end of the ad, are the Republican Governors Association, a little-known Colorado-based group called Citizens for a Sound Government, and Greenwich resident, former diplomat, and Foley ally Craig Stapleton.

    Republicans are by no means alone in this. There’s a PAC called “Connecticut Forward” that was created by the Democratic Governors Association. They have already spent at least $1.25 million on ads, including one bashing Tom Foley over his disastrous press conference in Sprague during the primary campaign. The Republicans have filed an election complaint over the group, pointing out that Malloy was a member of the DGA and has fundraised for them in the past.

    Both sides are using fear of the other side to pump even more money into their campaigns. Stapleton told the Connecticut Post that “there’s a lot of union money and concentrated public-sector employees who are funding campaigns. We need to offset it, and that’s why these entities are being set up.” Democrats, on the other hand, raised the minimum amount that could be contributed to the state party based on fears that Republican outside groups would outspend them.

    What we’re left with is the kind of campaign money arms race that ensures the wealthy, the connected, and the best of the fundraisers have plenty of leverage over the political process. Tom Foley, for example, was a major fundraiser for George W. Bush’s campaign, and he managed to land a job in Iraq and an ambassadorship.

    So how do we fix this mess? Sadly, there’s not a lot that we can do, because at the federal level campaign money is becoming less and less regulated. The Citizens United decision, coupled with a Congress that has zero appetite for looking into campaign finance, has all but guaranteed a cash free-for-all. Connecticut can tighten up some regulations, but actually stopping that flow of money is going to be viciously hard.

    Meanwhile, in New Haven, the man who started it all has been on trial for campaign finance violations during his time as a drive-time host on WTIC. John Rowland, at least, is always there to remind us of why getting money out of politics is the right thing to do, no matter how difficult it might be.

    Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    August Jobs Report Offers Mixed News

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 19, 2014 6:24am
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    Posted to: Business, Economics, Jobs

    The state of Connecticut lost 3,600 jobs in August and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.6 percent, according to the Connecticut Labor Department.

    It also revised downward its July numbers by 1,000 jobs. It had previously reported a gain of 2,400 positions that month.

    But it’s not all bad news.

    The core private sector, which makes up about 86 percent of Connecticut’s nonfarm employment, added 400 positions. The private sector has now added 13,000 jobs this year.

    “Despite the overall nonfarm job decline last month, Connecticut’s private sector continued to add jobs,” Andy Condon, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Research, said. “This summer appeared to be the best economically since the recovery began in 2010.”

    Condon said the lull in employment may be due to an early sample in August before educators returned to their classrooms. The biggest job losses in August came from the local government sector.

    Economist Don Klepper-Smith said the number that really matters is the year-to-date total, which shows nonfarm employment has risen only 0.5 percent for the first eight months of the year, which is below the long-term annual rate of 1.2 percent.

    “This one statistic, more than any other employment metric, tells the story about Connecticut job growth. In a word: lackluster! The good news is that we’re is positive territory, but not by much,” Klepper-Smith said Thursday.

    Connecticut Business and Industry Association Executive Vice President Joseph Brennan said the report contained “mixed news.”

    “We’re on track to gain 15,000 jobs this year, which is an improvement, but it shows that the Connecticut economy still has a long way to go,” Brennan said.

    Connecticut has regained 59.9 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession. That’s lower than the national figure of 108.6 percent.

    The politicians all wanted to spin the numbers Thursday.

    Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is in a tough re-election battle, tried to put a positive spin on the numbers.

    “For the seventh consecutive month, we are seeing the private sector do what we need it to do — add jobs,” Malloy said in a statement. “The unemployment rate is at a 5-year low, and we’ve added nearly 60,000 private sector jobs since 2011. All of these are positive signs of progress but we still have more work to do. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — until every resident who wants a job has one, our work is not done.”

    But Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola called Malloy’s statement a “desperate attempt to get re-elected.”

    “The fact is that Connecticut lost 3,600 jobs in the month of August — the governor can try to spin that however he wants but numbers don’t lie,” Labriola said. “Dan Malloy can claim that he’s ‘making progress’ and that Connecticut’s economy is in great shape as many times as he wants, but that won’t make it true.”

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    OP-ED | In Newtown, The Disaster After The Disaster

    by Terry D. Cowgill | Sep 19, 2014 5:29am
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    Posted to: Opinion, Newtown

    TERRY COWGILL

    They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And the saying — or some variation of it — is often true. Newtown was already in a living hell after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Unfortunately, well wishers who wanted to help the town heal made its agony even worse.

    The words of Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra, who spoke before the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission last week, confirmed the sentiments of so many disaster-relief specialists, fundraising professionals, and family therapists.

    hugh mcquaid / ctnewsjunkie For obvious reasons, small towns are ill-equipped to deal with disasters and what follows. Even large cities, such as New York on 9/11, struggle mightily when catastrophe strikes. So Newtown’s ability to cope during the mass shooting and in the immediate aftermath were to be expected.

    But unbeknownst to the layman, a larger logistical problem awaited. No, I’m not talking so much about grief counseling or about the gaping hole left in a family whose six-year-old has been executed by a mad gunman.

    After tragedy strikes, good people want to step forward and help. Most have no idea how to go about doing it, but they know they want to make a difference. Cash seems too impersonal, so they want to send items. This contributes to what relief workers call the “disaster after the disaster.”

    The logistics of sending, receiving, and distributing the donated items are often problematic. And the donor’s choice of items to send aren’t necessarily responsive to the most pressing needs demanded by the disaster.

    For every Walmart sending truckloads of badly needed bottled water to hurricane victims, there’s thousands of individual donors trying to send blankets to earthquake victims in tropical Haiti or still more who want to travel to the scene to offer their personal or professional services.

    Furthermore, sending items is often a poor use of resources. Transporting and distributing a simple can of donated food, for example can cost $15 to $25. So ask yourself: Is there a better way to give after a disaster? The answer is quite simple, if less satisfying: cash.

    An unrestricted cash gift allows relief agencies to marshal scarce resources, determine the greatest need, obtain goods and services locally and allocate them where needed. This is simple common sense, but too often donors either don’t consider it or they mistakenly think their case of chicken soup will get there faster and help more people than a check for $100.

    Consider the donations that came pouring in to wealthy Newtown after the massacre: 65,000 stuffed teddy bears, hundreds of backpacks, books, sneakers, candles and other gifts — most of which were simply unneeded and were either thrown away or given away to the deserving outside of Newtown.

    Dozens of mental health professionals descended on the town to offer their services, but overwhelmed town officials had no way of vetting their credentials. Town Hall received more than 200,000 pieces of mail and was getting about 6,000 phone calls a week after the shooting. Four town department heads and their staffs worked full-time to deal with these issues.

    The normal business of town government all but ground to a halt and was in danger of collapse. Things got so bad that General Electric, which employs about 150 Newtown residents, sent four executives over to town hall to help with the logistics of organizing and allocating the generosity.

    In Newtown’s case, there were problems even with cash gifts. A total of 77 organizations collected more than $28 million with about $13 million yet to be distributed, angering some of the families who wondered why the remaining funds were being held and leaving what Selectman Llodra called “a permanent fracture in the community.”

    The situation was reminiscent of a close-nit family coping well with the death of a patriarch, only to argue hurtfully over how the money was divided in his last will and testament.

    It looks like the problem was that cash wasn’t really the main obstacle to dealing effectively with the Sandy Hook tragedy. It was the sheer size of the afflicted who needed help coping with the violent loss of loved ones as the holidays were approaching. It was the pervasive and sometimes intrusive presence of a news media that insisted on hanging around for weeks on end covering funerals, trespassing on survivors’ property, and interviewing the gunman’s barber, among other transgressions.

    Perhaps the best thing that came out of the Newtown affair is Llodra’s suggestion that the state, independent of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, conduct a full review of her town’s response to the shootings. And to that I would add: a concerted effort to educate donors that good intentions can make things worse.

    Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    New Gun Safety PAC Endorses Candidates

    by Ellen R. Delisio | Sep 18, 2014 5:54pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Public Safety, Newtown

    Ellen Delisio photo

    Ron Pinciaro, chairman of CT Voters for Gun Safety, announces the endorsements Thursday

    Determined not only to maintain Connecticut’s status as home to some of the toughest gun laws in the nation but also to continue to promote gun safety, a new political action committee made its endorsements Thursday on the steps of the state Capitol.

    CT Voters for Gun Safety endorsed all six constitutional officers, including Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

    Ron Pinciaro, chairman of CT Voters for Gun Safety, said Malloy earned their endorsement for his “leadership and courage” and his calls for action –and willingness to act—after the Sandy Hook shootings that left 20 children and six educators dead.

    “No governor in the state’s history has shown as much courage in the area of gun safety,” Pinciaro said.

    Spurred largely by the Sandy Hook tragedy, the state’s General Assembly in 2013 passed legislation to strengthen gun regulations, including prohibiting the possession or transfer of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranked Connecticut’s gun laws the second strongest in the nation behind California.

    “Smart gun laws work,” Pinciaro said. “We want to keep Connecticut strong in terms of gun safety laws and want to keep things the way they are and improve them.”

    Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL), a Second Amendment group which has endorsed Malloy’s Republican opponent Tom Foley, said he is not surprised by the groups’ position.

    “We stand for liberty and individual rights. They stand for taking our liberty one chunk at a time,” Wilson said. “These are the people the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the Constitution.”

    Wilson’s group supported candidates who voted against or would vote against stricter gun laws.

    CCDL opposes any efforts to expand regulations on firearms’ possession or sale, Wilson said. “The reason is, we feel we have all been punished for the acts of one individual who was bent on murder anyway,” he said. “This is not how a free society should operate.” 

    Newtown activist Kate Mayer admitted that with so many reports of shootings in the media over the past several years, she had almost become immune to gun violence until the Sandy Hook tragedy. Now, she urges people to make their views known by voting for those who support gun safety laws.

    “This is about making sure your voice is heard,” Mayer noted. “Voting counts.That is the only way gun safety will win. American apathy got us into this and American action with get us out of it. Don’t wait for a reason for gun safety to matter to you.”

    Like many people, Jonathan Perloe, treasurer of the Brady Campaign’s Southwestern Connecticut Chapter, said he also became involved in the gun safety movement after Sandy Hook and wants to keep the momentum going.

    “We know these laws work,” said Perloe. “We’re working hard to make sure legislators who support gun safety are elected and re-elected.”

    Out of a total of 62 endorsements announced by the group Thursday, all but five are Democrats. Asked about if there’s a partisan divide on the gun issue, Pinciaro said he doesn’t believe it is a partisan issue.

    The group’s endorsements were based on a number of factors, including positions candidates took with the media and their responses to a CT Voters for Gun Safety questionnaire. Far more Democrats voted for the 2013 gun safety legislation and responded to the questionnaire than did Republican legislators, he added.

    Voters have to keep the pressure on lawmakers and make their support for gun safety legislation known, Po Murray, chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, said.

    “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a vote,” Murray added.   

    The day of the Sandy Hook shooting was the day many who support the political action committee became “single-issue voters,” Murray said.

    “We are in it to win it,” she continued. “The corporate gun lobby is strong but we are stronger.”

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    Labor Unions Question Foley’s Business Record in Pennsylvania

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 18, 2014 4:51pm
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    Posted to: Business, Election 2014, Middletown

    Christine Stuart photo

    Tom Foley with Ted Xenelis of the Middlesex Fruitery

    The Democratic Party and labor leaders spent Thursday afternoon reminding Connecticut voters about what happened at a manufacturing company in Pennsylvania once owned by Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.

    Foley, a private equity manager, owned T.B. Wood’s Sons Co. in Chambersburg, Pa. for 17 years before selling it to its competitor, Altra Holdings Inc., in 2007 for $94 million.

    During the time he owned the company, which was a power transmission device manufacturer, news accounts detailed an ugly battle in the early 1990s with 260 members of the United Auto Workers Union Local 695. The vote to reject a contract, which included a 50-cents-per-hour pay raise, and to go on strike was decided by a slim 152-140 margin.

    A news article in the Baltimore Sun described the lives of union workers on strike and the hard choices they had to make. The 1992 story said a few strikers lost their homes, declared bankruptcy, or separated from their wives.

    “The union doesn’t always represent a rank-and-file well,” Foley said Thursday outside the Middlesex YMCA. “In this case they didn’t and they put their members at risk. The company did what it could under the circumstances to protect the jobs of those employees.”

    Julie Kushner, president of the United Auto Workers in Connecticut, said she doesn’t know the workers who were involved in the strike at TB Wood’s Sons Co., but based on the duration of the strike it’s easy to conclude that “they had something very important to them they felt they had to stand up for.”

    Christine Stuart photo

    Julie Kushner of the UAW and Lori Pelletier, executive secretary of the Connecticut AFL-CIO

    She also cautioned that labor unions are not against good businessmen.

    “What we’re opposed to is someone who profits off of destroying lives and destroying businesses,” Kushner said. “. . . He can walk down Main Street in any town in Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean he really understands and knows who we are and who the middle class are.”

    Foley spent his afternoon touring a businesses in Middletown, including a YMCA, a small fruit stand, a bank, and a cupcake shop.

    Kushner said Foley should have to prove to voters that he will focus on moving the entire state forward and not just businesses. She said there’s also a disconnect between Foley and the middle class.

    Foley said he doesn’t remember how much he sold T.B. Wood’s Sons Co. for, but he remembers that the company lost almost $12 million as a result of the strike.

    The Irish Times and The Associated Press reported that Foley was the largest shareholder and chairman of the company when it was sold at $24.80 per share. Foley owned 1.6 million shares, which means he would have grossed about $40 million on the sale.

    The union leaders also wondered how someone wouldn’t remember making $40 million in a business deal.

    “I don’t understand what this has to do with that,” Foley said. “. . . This is a union that failed their workers. So this is a story I’m happy to talk about as long as people want to talk about it.”

    Kushner said that if she made $40 million she guarantees she would not forget how much money she made.

    “That just shows the real divide between Tom Foley and the working people in the state of Connecticut,” Kushner said outside a union hall in Higganum.

    Christine Stuart photo If he’s elected governor, Foley has said he wouldn’t seek to change the current deal the state has with its public employee unions. But he also said he wants to see Connecticut have a “Wisconsin moment.”

    The Wisconsin quote has been repeated often by labor advocates who interpret it as a desire to see collective bargaining rights scaled back as they were in Wisconsin after Gov. Scott Walker was elected. Foley maintains that he meant he was hoping to see Connecticut repeat Wisconsin’s state government flip from Democratic to Republican control.

    “When a union recommends to its members that they go on strike, they put their members at risk of their jobs and benefits,” Foley said in a statement Thursday. “TB Woods worked hard to make sure the bad advice a union gave its members had the least impact possible on the company’s workers. I am neither pro-union nor pro non-union, I am pro-worker.”

    But Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Lori Pelletier wondered how Foley’s handling of the labor situation at TB Woods would make him a good governor.

    “If this is his example as a businessman, how can we think it will be any different when he’s governor?” Pelletier said.

    Asked what he learned from the experience,  Foley said “some circumstances in the business world, some circumstances in government — people, leaders have to make tough decisions and those are very tough decisions we had to make. We didn’t have any choice. Those decisions were handed to us by others and we did what we could.”

    He said he felt the outcome was good for the company and the workers.

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    Jury Deliberating Rowland’s Fate

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 18, 2014 11:44am
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Hugh McQuaid / ctnewsjunkie

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland enters court Thursday for closing arguments

    (UPDATED 4:25 p.m.) NEW HAVEN — Lawyers on both sides of former governor John G. Rowland’s corruption trial wrapped up their closing arguments Thursday afternoon and left a jury to decide whether Rowland is guilty of conspiring to hide his role in congressional campaigns.

    Jurors have listened to weeks of testimony regarding allegations that Rowland conspired to perform political work for two congressional campaigns while keeping the payments hidden from election regulators.

    In closing arguments, U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei told the jury that the conspiracy was born of the former governor’s desire to make use of his political expertise.

    But that expertise was overshadowed by the negative baggage Rowland carried from his 2004 corruption conviction, which saw him resign from office, Mattei said. On that charge, Rowland was sentenced in 2005 to a year and one day in prison, four months house arrest, and three years probation, and community service.

    “Mr. Rowland couldn’t sell his most valuable assets on the open market, but if he could keep it hidden, maybe then he could,” Mattei told the jury. In the process, the conspiracy hid Rowland’s compensation arrangement from election regulators and voters, he said.

    “This isn’t just politics. This is about hiding from the public what the public has a right to know,” he said. “You have a right to know certain things about [a candidate] and Mr. Rowland wanted to strip you of that. He didn’t want you to know. He just wanted to get paid.”

    Mattei said Rowland drafted a proposal to work for 2010 congressional candidate Mark Greenberg and to be paid as a consultant for Greenberg’s nonprofit animal shelter. That overture was rejected.

    Later, Mattei said, Rowland entered into a contract to work on 2012 candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign and sought to be paid by a lawyer for her husband, Brian Foley, who owned a chain of nursing homes called Apple Rehab.

    “Ask yourself, what was Mr. Rowland selling? Was he selling his business consulting expertise? Was he selling his devotion to an animal center? Or was he selling the thing that was most valuable — his political expertise?” Mattei told the jury.

    Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s lead attorney, argued that the former governor’s work for Apple Rehab was completely legitimate. He said Foley was “trying to get John involved in his company” and he only agreed to testify against Rowland after pleading guilty to his own related charges.

    Weingarten said Foley “only shifts after [prosecutors] threaten him with all sorts of things.”

    Weingarten pointed to business correspondence between Rowland and executives at Apple Rehab. “You can’t be half pregnant. Either this was a fraud or this was real legitimate business,” he said.

    “If this was all a sham, all a fake, all BS, why are they bothering?” he asked. Why are they “sending back and forth substantive information about their business?”

    Mattei described those communications as part of a cover crafted to hide Rowland’s campaign work and said, “These people aren’t stupid. They know they’re going to have to come into court one day. They’ve got to have something to wave in front of the jury.” He insisted the “whole thing is a sham.”

    Mattei presented a slideshow with snippets of the evidence against Rowland. He reminded the jury of what the government contends was a trend by the former governor to make offers to candidates who were political newcomers, but who also were independently wealthy. He pointed to the contract Rowland pitched to Greenberg. “Who is going to pay somebody $35,000 a month to raise money for an animal shelter? Please . . . ” he said.

    He showed the jury a slide comparing the 22 emails Rowland had sent to Wilson-Foley prior to his contract with her husband’s company with 321 emails he sent the candidate in the six months after the contract.

    “Look at that. That says it all,” Mattei said. “What’s the one thing that happened? The money tap got turned on. That’s what happened.”

    Weingarten said it was perfectly legal for Rowland to work for Apple Rehab and volunteer his time for a congressional candidate and close friend. “A significant part of this is they were friends. He wasn’t a beggar to the Foleys. They were friends for 20 years,” he said.

    “John wanted to work and he wanted to help a friend get elected. Those were his two motivations and they weren’t ignoble at all,” Weingarten said.

    Earlier Thursday, Judge Janet Bond Arterton prepared the jury for deliberations. During a two-hour charge Monday morning, Arterton explained the allegations against the former governor and how to weigh the government’s case against him. She said the prosecution needs to have proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

    “Although Mr. Rowland has been indicted you must remember an indictment is only an accusation. It is not evidence,” she said. “The law presumes the defendant innocent of the charges against him.”

    Arterton instructed the jury that a criminal conspiracy can be conducted without it being explicitly stated.

    “Since conspiracy is, by its very nature, characterized by secrecy, you may infer its existence . . . by the actions of those involved,” Arterton said.

    The jury began deliberations at 3:26 p.m.

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    Malloy Goes To Cali To Raise $$

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 18, 2014 11:14am
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election 2014

    Hugh McQuaid file photo

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

    Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be in California both today and Friday.

    For whom?

    “We do not comment on fundraising,” Connecticut Democratic Party Spokesman Devon Puglia added.

    The lack of information about the trip has the Connecticut Republican Party crying foul.

    “Who is Dan Malloy accountable to—the liberal California donors who are writing massive checks for his campaign or the Connecticut families who he has seemingly abandoned?” Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said in a statement.

    “Instead of hobnobbing with his Hollywood pals, Dan Malloy should be focusing on improving our state—which continues to struggle under the weight of his record-setting tax hikes and anemic economic growth.”

    Malloy went to California on a fundraising trip in October 2013 before he announced his re-election bid.  When he returned he had little to share about the trip, which resulted in one donation to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s account.

    Malloy’s October trip to California cost the state of Connecticut taxpayers about $13,760, according to information obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican from Wilton. The state party has declined to reimburse the state for the expense.

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    The Malloys Release Partial Tax Returns

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 18, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Taxes

    CTNJ file photo

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

    Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is behind Republican challenger Tom Foley in most public polls, released partial tax returns for his past four years of income on Wednesday and called upon his opponent to do the same.

    The former mayor of Stamford, who beat Foley in 2010 by 6,404 votes, seems anxious to see the tax returns of his opponent who, like Mitt Romney, manages a private equity firm. In 2010, a comparison of their taxes showed Foley paid more in taxes in 2009 than Malloy and his wife, Cathy, earned that year.

    “Today, Governor Malloy released four years of tax return summaries and Tom Foley should do the same,” Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Malloy campaign, said. “If Tom Foley has nothing to hide, he should release his returns immediately. He has had weeks to prepare for a release and this should happen without delay.”

    The Foley campaign said it will release his tax returns next week. In 2010, the Foley campaign released his returns about 13 days before the election.

    The Malloys’ partial tax returns showed that the adjusted gross income for the couple was around $280,031 in 2010 — the year he was campaigning for the office and working at Class Green Capital as a consultant. That year they paid about 38.19 percent of their income in federal taxes and 4.8 percent in state taxes.

    In 2011, after Malloy’s tax increase, the couple’s adjusted gross income dipped to $212,892. They paid about 20.7 percent of that in taxes to the federal government, while their state tax liability increased to 5.3 percent. In 2012, the Malloys had an adjusted gross income of $303,467. They paid about 25.3 percent of that to the federal government and 5.5 percent of it to the state of Connecticut. In 2013, their adjusted gross income was about $305,534. Their tax liability at both the federal and state level has remained about the same as it was in 2012.

    Only four pages of the Malloy’s tax documents were released for each of the years.

    Having the candidates release their tax returns prior to an election has become a common practice in Connecticut politics. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton released his taxes in April before he ended up dropping out of the Republican gubernatorial primary and Linda McMahon, a U.S. Senate candidate in 2010 and 2012,  released her tax returns as well.

    In August, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel let the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Illinois know that he should release more supplemental information regarding his tax returns.

    “Running for office and releasing your tax returns is like a rite of passage. You have to do it,” Emanuel told the news media.

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    Survey Shows Obamacare Enrollees Are Satisfied With Enrollment Process

    by Kristi Allen | Sep 17, 2014 4:27pm
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    Posted to: Health Care

    Christine Stuart photo

    Jim Wadleigh, CEO of Access Health CT and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman

    As Connecticut’s health care exchange gears up for its second open enrollment period this November, officials are touting the results of the state’s first enrollment effort.

    A survey of 6,015 individuals who purchased insurance through Access Health CT showed that more than 80 percent of enrollees were satisfied with the enrollment process. More than 250,000 people were enrolled earlier this year.

    Chris Barnes, senior vice president of client development for the Pert Group — the firm that conducted the survey — said that 54 percent of enrollees did not have insurance during the year prior to enrolling.

    Barnes also said the report showed that 26 percent of private plan enrollees and 44 percent of Medicaid enrollees were African American or Hispanic.

    “You can see that we’re closing the gap on the disparities in health care,” Barnes said. “We’re reaching underserved populations, which is one of the key goals of the organization.”

    Access Health CT customers will have their plans automatically renewed this fall, unless they’ve seen a change in income.

    “If their income has changed, then they will need to come back online and re-vet through our system,” acting Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh said.

    Access Health CT will be opening storefronts in New Britain and New Haven again in mid-October, although the report showed that less than 10 percent of enrollees received in-person assistance.

    Wadleigh said Access Health CT is still trying to get official documentation from about 2,000 immigrant enrollees with questionable legal status.

    He said Access Health CT has been calling the customers who have not sent in documentation for the past four months.

    “The expectation is, the beginning of November, they will be terminated formally” if they have not sent in official documentation, said Wadleigh.

    About 25 percent of enrollees have not yet used their health insurance, according to the report. Twenty three percent of private plan enrollees and 33 percent of Medicaid enrollees said they did not have a primary care physician.

    Barnes was optimistic about the upcoming enrollment period. He said that 45 percent of people who enrolled in a private plan did so through the website, without any help from Access Health CT.

    “They’re going to be able to re-enroll and navigate the process very well with the resources, whether it’s the website or even getting assistance, that population is going to be able to handle it because the process was smooth last time” he said.

    Advocates have expressed concern with the lack of focus on the in-person assister program.

    “The fact that at this date, Access Health CT has no clear public plan for the next enrollment period is very disturbing,” Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, told the Access Health CT Board of Directors last month. “We are extremely disappointed that there may be no in-person assistance or navigation services available come Nov. 15.”

    Wadleigh said there’s been a lot of confusion about the in-person assistance program and Jason Madrak, Access Health CT’s marketing director, will go into detail at Thursday’s board meeting about what resources will go into the program this year.

    “While that program has been at the forefront, it’s not any different than any other program we have in our open enrollment process,” Wadleigh said. “We are in the process of planning through open enrollment in total. At a high level, we are going to have an in-person assistance program for the 2015 enrollment period.”

    He declined to give further detail Thursday at the press conference about what exactly the in-person assistance program will include.

    Of the 27 percent of enrollees in private plans who reported that they were ‘somewhat satisfied’ with the enrollment process, Barnes said “they didn’t list any particular issues. It’s more a case of it has not met every expectation they had.” The survey found 36 percent of that same population were “very satisfied” and 20 percent were “extremely satisfied.”

    The full report, meaning all slides, will be posted online Thursday, according to Access Health CT officials. An abbreviated version of the survey can be found at http://bit.ly/AHCTcensus

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    New Report Touts UConn’s Impact On State Economy

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 17, 2014 2:26pm
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    Posted to: Economics, Education, Election 2014

    Hugh McQuaid Photo

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

    The University of Connecticut had a $3.4 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2013, according to an economic report paid for by the school and conducted by Pittsburgh-based consulting firm Tripp Umbach.

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and UConn President Susan Herbst released the report at a Wednesday press conference held in UConn’s Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford.

    “What this shows is something that many people have probably sensed all along — that UConn is a vital part of Connecticut’s economy,” Herbst said.

    Paul Umbach, the firm’s senior principal, said the report tries to quantify the economic activity the state would lose if UConn did not exist. The report concludes that the university has a direct impact of $1.5 billion and an indirect impact of $1.9 billion.

    In a per-capita comparison with other states’ flagship universities, “it is an impressive economic impact,” he said. Umbach said UConn “packs a lot of punch” given that the state’s size and geography are similar to metropolitan Houston.

    Malloy waived off the comparison

    “All right, you can stop now,” he said. “We’re a mid-sized population.”

    The governor said it makes sense for the university to have commissioned the nearly $50,000 study.

    “It’s important for the people of Connecticut to understand just how vital the University of Connecticut is to economic activity,” he said.

    However, Tom Foley, Malloy’s Republican opponent in the November governor’s race, panned the report as political posturing Tuesday before it was released.

    In a press release, Foley’s campaign predicted that the report would involve the UConn Foundation, a private entity that supports the university, and Fred Carstensen, director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. It was not done by Carstensen and the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis.

    “I highly suspect that this press conference tomorrow will affirm my suspicions, that this economic study is highly political. What is going on at UConn and The UConn Foundation doesn’t pass the smell test and it will stop the day I am sworn-in as governor,” Foley said.

    Asked about Foley’s statement during the press conference, Malloy said he wanted to answer “nicely.”

    “He’s a candidate. Right? He wants to make points. He’s become a cheapshot specialist and my hunch is he’ll never, ever read the report,” he said. “To be very specific, I had nothing to do with it. This was an undertaking by the university.”

    Foley’s statement questioned whether the study was commissioned as a “political puff piece” to tout projects Malloy funded during his first term designed to boost the university. Umbach said the study, which uses data from 2013, was conducted too early to assess the impact of those projects. But Malloy defended those projects during the press conference.

    “Tom may not understand this but what we’re trying to do is build a Connecticut for the long run. So much of the investments we have announced around the University of Connecticut have not actually taken hold yet. They’re only starting to take hold,” he said.

    Hugh McQuaid Photo Malloy and Herbst suggested the goal of the study was aimed primarily at boosting investments in UConn rather than helping Malloy’s campaign.

    The governor said he suspected Herbst was “probably going to use this when you approach the legislature in the next budget.”

    Herbst agreed.

    “We are getting ready to make our case to the legislature for continued investment in the university because we think that investment pays off for all the citizens in the state so beautifully,” she said.

    Ben Zimmer, executive director of the Connecticut Policy Institute, a group founded by Foley, said the survey failed to take into account what would happen if the state made the investments they’re making in UConn elsewhere.

    “What is missing is any assessment of whether that money is *best* directed to UConn versus another source,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “This isn’t to say that government spending on UConn is misplaced, or is too high.  It is merely to say that the report offers no actual evidence indicating otherwise.”

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    Judge Allows Witness Testimony, Defense Rests

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 17, 2014 10:43am
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Hugh McQuaid file photo

    Brian Bedard leaves court with his attorney Hugh Keefe

    Reversing course from previous rulings, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton allowed a defense witness Wednesday to testify about a conversation he had with Brian Foley, the government’s key witness in its case against former Gov. John G. Rowland.

    Rowland declined to take the stand in his own defense after being reminded by the judge of his right to testify.

    Meanwhile, Brian Bedard, the chief operating officer of a nursing home chain owned by Foley, testified Wednesday that he had a conversation with Foley at Foley’s home after Foley had pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor charge for his involvement in the scheme.

    “Did there come a time after Mr. Foley pleaded guilty that he had a conversation with you?” Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s lead attorney, asked Bedard.

    “Mr. Foley has told me that he never made a specific deal with Mr. Rowland,“ Bedard said. “There was no quid pro quo. He said I never made a deal with John.”

    The government fought hard to keep the jury from hearing the testimony even though prosecutors said they don’t believe it’s inconsistent with the testimony given earlier in the trial by Foley. Arterton made Bedard, who had a tendency to stray during his testimony, keep his answers short.

    Bedard, who was described Tuesday by Arterton as “woefully inaccurate,” was allowed to testify that during his conversation with Foley about the contract he used the word “sham” to describe it.

    “Mr. Foley has used the word sham,” Bedard testified.

    Foley testified the contract Apple Rehab had with Rowland was a sham to hide the fact that Foley was really paying him to work on his wife’s congressional campaign.

    Outside the presence of the jury, Bedard, who previewed his testimony for the judge, said he asked his attorney to call the government and tell them, “I was embarrassed that he [Foley] lied to me. I trusted him and I was lied to. I’m not good with that at all.”

    Bedard told the jury Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Foley’s wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley, should have ever run for office.

    “I never took her candidacy seriously. I don’t think she should have run,” Bedard said.

    He said business people don’t understand public service.

    “They’re clapping ‘cause they’re employees. They’re not clapping because they like you,” Bedard who participated in a mock debate with Wilson-Foley in 2010, testified.

    Bedard ended up being the only witness Rowland’s defense attorneys called during the trial. The defense rested their case Wednesday before 9:30 a.m.

    The government briefly called two rebuttal witnesses Wednesday before court adjourned at 10:10 a.m. Arterton instructed the jury that closing arguments would be given Thursday morning before the jury is charged.

    Arterton reminded Rowland again of his right to testify in his own defense. Rowland told the judge he understood and declined the offer to testify.

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    Foley Says He Supports Closing Restraining Order Gun Loophole

    by Eugene Driscoll | Sep 17, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Law Enforcement, Legal, Public Safety, Ansonia

    The Republican candidate for governor said Tuesday he would support proposed legislation prohibiting people who have temporary restraining orders against them from possessing a firearm.

    “I said I support it,” Foley said outside Ansonia City Hall before embarking on a tour of Main Street with Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti.

    “Can you put that in a longer sentence?” Ken Dixon, a state political reporter with the Connecticut Post, asked the candidate.

    “No. I support it. Is there anything unclear about that?” Foley replied.

    Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed the legislation last week during a campaign event in West Hartford.

    Click here to continue reading the Valley Independent Sentinel’s report.

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    Judge Wrestles With Allowing Nursing Home Execs Testimony

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 16, 2014 3:24pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    An exhibit in the case courtesy of the US government

    Brian Bedard, on the left, at a fundraiser for Lisa Wilson-Foley

    Calling a defense witness “woefully inaccurate” Judge Janet Bond Arterton rejected testimony, which would have been damaging to the government’s corruption case against former Gov. John G. Rowland.

    The former governor is on trial facing charges that he worked as a consultant for Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign, but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.

    Early in the trial, the government put Foley on the stand. Foley told the jury that Rowland’s contract with Apple’s corporate attorney was to cover his work on the political campaign.

    But in a move that surprised prosecutors, Rowland’s lead attorney Reid Weingarten tried Tuesday to solicit new testimony from an Apple executive, which undermined Foley’s testimony.

    With the jury recessed outside the courtroom, Brian Bedard told the court that even after he had pleaded guilty to related charges, Foley had told him there was never a secret deal with Rowland.

    “He said I never made a deal with John Rowland to work with Lisa’s campaign. I never had a direct conversation. There was no ‘you work at Apple get paid and work for the campaign,” Bedard said Foley told him. “He said it over and over again, whenever we would meet if we talked about the case.”

    Prosecutors heavily objected to the new testimony, which they said impeached Foley’s testimony and should have been offered by the defense when they cross-examined Foley.

    Weingarten insisted he had only learned of the statements over the weekend when he talked to Bedard.

    “I met with him on Sunday. That was the first time I laid eyes on the guy and he told me this story,” he said.

    Weingarten insisted the court should allow the new testimony.

    “What can be more relevant to this case?” he asked. “The one person they put on the stand to incriminate John Rowland, we now know told his CEO on more than one occasion, he never had a deal with John Rowland?”

    But questioned by prosecutors, Bedard indicated he had spoken with another lawyer on Rowland’s defense team and told her that same thing as much as two weeks earlier.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei accused the defense of withholding the information until late in the trial.

    “They knew about it. Now they’re coming in after Foley has testified and ambushing us, basically on the last day of trial. They knew about it,” he said.

    Arterton seemed to go back and forth as she considered allowing the testimony. When she eventually ruled against the defense, she said it was in large part due to Bedard’s unreliability as a witness.

    Throughout his time on the stand Monday and Tuesday, Bedard showed a tendency to ramble, offering more information than what he was asked. His testimony about Foley’s statement on the deal with Rowland also seemed to change, even during the short period he was answering questions about it before Mattei and Weingarten.

    “The problem is, I don’t know what he’s going to say. Even though I’ve heard what he’s going to say, it has many permutations,” Arterton told Weingarten.

    “This is so unclear, so murky, so unpredictable. I don’t see why it should be permitted as i hear it evolve,” she said.

    Rowland watched while the lawyers debated the issue with the judge. At times he shook his head as Mattei was speaking. Ultimately, Arterton said she would not allow the issue because it would mean having lawyers take the stand as witnesses to testify about when they first heard Bedard offer the testimony.

    “He may be woefully inaccurate,” Arterton said, adding that she had no reason to doubt the lawyers on Rowland’s defense team.

    “But there we are, it’s called a mess. And I’m not going to have it sort itself out with a witness whose statements, even in the proffer are, shall we say, in the alternative.”

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    Election Regulators Call NU Solicitation ‘Egregious’

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 16, 2014 1:55pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election 2014, Ethics, State Capitol

    Christine Stuart photo

    State Elections Enforcement Commission meets

    The State Elections Enforcement Commission dismissed a complaint against Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May Tuesday, but not before offering some harsh criticism of the solicitation the state contractor sent last September to his employees.

    “The next gubernatorial election is upon us, and I am asking each of you to join me in financially supporting Connecticut’s Governor Dannel P. Malloy,” May wrote in his Sept. 27, 2013 email to company managers. The email, which was sent from May’s private gmail account, suggested that donations be made to the Connecticut Democratic State Central’s federal account.

    State election law prohibits state contractors from contributing to state party accounts or the campaigns of statewide candidates. Even though the email solicitation mentioned Malloy’s accomplishments at length, the commission was unable to find that May violated state election law because the money went to the party’s federal account.

    “The Commission does conclude that the content of the solicitation by Mr. May is both offensive and disturbing and violates the spirit and intent of the Connecticut state contractor ban,” the 5-0 decision to dismiss the complaint reads.

    Michael Brandi, executive director of the SEEC, stressed that the contributions to the federal account are simply not regulated by state law.

    “However, the content of the solicitation was egregious and violated both the spirit and intent of the law,” Brandi said. “While we can not find a specific violation of the letter of the law in this case we certainly believe that the efforts through this solicitation were meant to circumvent the spirit, certainly meant to violate, the spirit and intent of the state contractor ban.”

    Going forward, Brandi said state regulators will continue to monitor all contributions to the Democratic Party’s federal account and will bring it back to the commission, if they find a potential violation.

    “Although I believe the solicitation and donations from NU to the DSCC’s federal account were a blatant diversion and total disregard of our strong campaign financing laws, the laws as currently written are the laws of our state,” SEEC Vice Chairman Sal Bramante, said.

    SEEC Commissioner Stephen Penny said he thinks the decision will come as a surprise to most people, since it was a surprise to the commission.

    “At first blush, the conduct of this respondent appeared to be an egregious violation of Connecticut campaign finance law,” Penny said. “But after careful review of state law we were unable to find any specific violations.”

    He said to direct money that was on its face being raised to support a statewide candidate and deposit that money into the party’s federal account “is an abuse not only of what that federal account is intended for, but clearly seems to be an effort to bypass the workings of the Connecticut finance law.”

    He suggested the state legislature needs to take a look at revising Connecticut’s law to prohibit this type of conduct.

    “We appreciate the conclusion that this was not a violation of the law,” Caroline Pretyman, a spokeswoman for Northeast Utilities, said in response to the decision. “Northeast Utilities takes its legal obligations very seriously.”

    In total, 28 of the 50 NU employees or officers who received May’s email contributed a total of about $50,750 to the Democratic Party’s federal account, according to SEEC Investigator William Smith.

    Smith told the commission Tuesday that state contractors are prohibited from soliciting contributions for or making contributions to a gubernatorial candidate or state party committee. Smith said there was never a dispute that Northeast Utilities was a state contractor, but there’s no state law that prohibits a state contractor from contributing to a party’s federal account.

    “It should be stressed that federal law does not create a loophole in Connecticut campaign finance laws that would allow federal committees to make expenditures that result in contributions to Connecticut candidates,” Smith said.

    Smith explained to the commission that the idea for solicitation was developed by Margaret Morton, vice president of government affairs for NU.

    “Ms. Morton claimed that the solicitation was an effort to further NU business strategy,” Smith said. “She also claimed that she was aware of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws and that her intent of the solicitation was for the federal account of the Democratic Central Committee and not the campaign of Gov. Malloy.”

    Smith told the commission that Morton denied that the Democratic State Central Committee helped develop the solicitation. Ben Josephson, a fundraising contractor for the Democratic Party, told investigators that he asked Morton for a contribution to the federal account. He denied asking for contributions for the benefit of Malloy, who wasn’t even a declared candidate until months after the email was sent.

    Click here to read the entire decision.

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    Witness Calls Relationship Between Nursing Home & Campaign ‘Incestuous’

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 16, 2014 12:21pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Hugh McQuaid photo

    Brian Bedard, at left, walks out of court with his attorney, Hugh Keefe, in New Haven

    NEW HAVEN — A witness testified Tuesday that Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign had an “incestuous” relationship with the nursing home company that federal authorities say was illegally paying former governor John G. Rowland for political work.

    The former governor is on trial facing charges that he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign, but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.

    The testimony came from Brian Bedard, an executive at Apple Rehab. Bedard was the first witness called by Rowland’s lawyers after prosecutors rested their case Monday.

    When Rowland’s consulting contract with Apple Rehab was exposed in news reports, Bedard said he was tasked with drafting a press release explaining it. He said he tried to keep it off email accounts associated with Apple Rehab.

    “This was so incestuous. The campaign, Apple, trying to keep it out … I did it initially on my private email, then subsequently sent it to my Apple email,” he said.

    The next day, Bedard said he delivered that statement to Foley at his wife’s crowded campaign headquarters.

    “The windows were all covered in paper. I walked in and I was a little surprised to see that many people there,” he said.

    But Bedard maintained that Apple’s relationship with Rowland was legitimate. Responding to questions from Rowland’s lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, Bedard said he never believed the former governor’s work at Apple to be a cover. “Not for a split second,” he said.

    Rather, Bedard told the jury he was worried Foley had brought Rowland in as his possible replacement.

    “I had some concerns. I thought, potentially, John was maybe there to take my job,” he said.

    But before prosecutors rested their case Monday, they presented the jury with evidence suggesting Rowland spent far more time calling and emailing Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign staff than he had with Bedard and other Apple executives.

    From October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls with Bedard compared to 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager, Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.

    Early in the trial, Foley told the court his relationship with Rowland was “primarily” designed to be a boon for his wife’s congressional ambitions.

    “I figured if I hired him as a consultant for Apple it wouldn’t have to be disclosed with the Federal Election Commission,” Foley said. And “he would be supportive of the campaign. That was a way not to have to report him to the Federal Elections Commission.”

    But Weingarten has painted Foley as desperate to avoid the repercussions of his own related charges and willing to sell out Rowland to avoid consequences for himself and his family.

    During his testimony, Bedard discussed work he said Rowland did for Apple including a more than three-page analysis of a report on trends in the nursing home industry. Bedard said he was uncomfortable with the ties between Apple and the Wilson-Foley campaign and viewed Rowland as an ally in an effort to detangle the two entities. 

    “I thought that I would now have assistance in keeping those kinds of activities outside of Apple,” Bedard said, describing his frame of mind after he’d had a lunch meeting with Rowland.

    Last week, an Apple executive testified that during Wilson-Foley’s 2010 campaign for lieutenant governor, 58 staff members were asked to gather in a seminar room for a mock debate. Bedard played the role of Wilson-Foley’s opponent during the debate.

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    Coalition Against Domestic Violence Reports Calls Have Increased Following Rice Video

    by Kristi Allen | Sep 16, 2014 7:11am
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    Posted to: Media Matters, Nonprofits, Public Safety, Hartford

    http://www.ctcadv.org/

    Since the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiance Janay Palmer Rice surfaced, the number of calls for domestic violence services in Connecticut has increased.

    Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Monday that calls to the domestic violence hotline have increased by a third and the number of women requesting services has increased.

    “All 237 of our beds in Connecticut were full last Friday night,” she said. “We’ve seen a significant increase in hotline calls.”

    This is in addition to a 16 percent increase in the number of victims being sheltered in Connecticut in the past four years. Sixty-nine percent of them are spending longer periods of time in shelters as well, Jarmoc said.

    Jarmoc also noted that CCADV operates at 95- to 98-percent capacity on average, but that they have multiple resources they can offer to victims even when their shelters are full.

    At a Capitol press conference Monday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for increases in federal funding to domestic violence groups, stronger criminal laws on domestic violence, and a sustained financial commitment from the NFL to supporting domestic violence prevention groups.

    At the press conference, Jarmoc applauded an increase in Family Violence Prevention and Services Act funding.

    The act, known as FVPSA, is the largest source of funding for emergency services for domestic violence victims, although it’s currently not fully funded.

    CCADV received $1.3 million this past year from that federal legislation.

    Blumenthal said when he returns to Washington he will urge his congressional colleagues and the NFL to take up the issue of funding for domestic violence services.

    “The NFL can provide a model as an institution. It can use some of the tens of millions of dollars that it takes from fans to help those fans who may be victims of domestic violence,” he said. “I’m going to hold the NFL accountable, as will many of my colleagues as they’ve indicated to me privately and publicly over the last few days.”

    Blumenthal and Jarmoc were at odds over NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s role in the scandal. Jarmoc said that she supported him retaining his position because he had admitted his mistake and was willing to fix it.

    “No one is more well positioned at this point to make a difference. He has a vested interested in getting it right now,” she said.

    Jarmoc said that the NFL worked with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to draft the league’s new rules for dealing with players accused of domestic violence.

    Blumenthal said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that Goodell should resign if he had seen the Ray Rice video prior to it being posted by TMZ last Monday. He did not comment on Goodell at Monday’s press conference.

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    OP-ED | Taking Insurance Companies Out Of Health Care

    by Wendell Potter | Sep 16, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Health Care, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

    flickr / Creative Commons

    Boeing’s factory in Seattle, Aug. 31, 2014.


    Boeing Experiment Will Be Closely Watched By Business CEOs And Insurers Alike

    There are many Americans who are beginning to question the contributions big insurance companies make to our health care system. And I’m not just talking about lefty advocates of a single-payer system. Corporate executives are also wondering why we need the big insurers and whether higher-quality and more cost-effective care could be provided to employees if they didn’t have to deal with health insurers at all.

    I wrote a few months back that my former CEO at Cigna once said that what kept him up at night was the possibility that Americans — business leaders in particular — would ultimately conclude that insurers were an unnecessary expense. He used the term “disintermediation,” a fancy word that means “cutting out the middle man.”

    News out of Seattle this summer undoubtedly has caused the big insurance CEOs to lose more than a bit of sleep. Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company and one of the Seattle area’s largest employers, announced that it has decided to forego the services of an insurance company and to contract directly with two of the Northwest’s largest hospital systems to provide care to its 27,000 employees and 3,000 retirees in the region.

    Boeing is actually teaming up with a couple of recently formed accountable care organizations, which represent a new way of financing and paying for medical care. Encouraged by the Affordable Care Act, ACOs typically comprise a set of physicians — specialists and primary care doctors — and hospitals that work collaboratively and accept some of the financial risk of providing care to a particular population of patients. Some ACOs also include insurance companies. But many do not.

    The idea behind the more than 600 ACOs that have been created nationwide is that when doctors and hospitals work together in such arrangements, they get rewarded financially for keeping and making patients healthy — rather than getting paid based solely on the number of tests and procedures they do.

    What distinguishes the Boeing ACOs, aside from the fact that no insurers are involved, is that they are among the first ACOs that are employer-driven. You can be certain that big employers all over America will be paying close attention. If the Boeing ACO experiment demonstrates savings, expect to see many more in the near future.

    “The advantage for Boeing will be that they can take the middle man out of the equation between the patients and the health system,” Dr. Elliott Fisher, director of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, was quoted as telling The Seattle Times. “It may be able to reduce cost, in part because of the simplification of not having the insurance mechanism in the middle.”

    While Boeing will continue to offer traditional insurance, the company believes many employees will be attracted to the ACOs because of what is expected to be an improved “patient experience.” The Times quoted officials as saying that the ACOs can coordinate appointments and treatment across their network of doctors, clinics and hospitals, relieving patients of that responsibility or the need to get prior approvals from an insurance company.

    In anticipation that this will become a national trend, and as a result of Affordable Care Act provisions that are squeezing profit margins, the big for-profit health insurers are quickly diversifying.

    Just two weeks ago, Modern Healthcare noted that because health insurers are now required to spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on actual patient care, they are looking for higher investment returns elsewhere. The magazine reported that insurers are increasingly putting money into technology ventures from which they expect to realize higher returns.

    The magazine cited as an example UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division, which works in technology and population health management, among other specialties. In 2013, Optum reported 26 percent growth in revenue and 61 percent growth in operating earnings. Meanwhile, in its core insurance business, UnitedHealth saw its 2013 operating margin decline to 6.4 percent, down from 7.6 percent in 2012.

    Mark Bertolini, the CEO of one of the other big insurers, Aetna, was quoted in the article as saying that his company has gotten “very active in the M&A (mergers and acquisitions) market,” particularly in the international and technology areas. Bertolini has been candid in saying that Aetna no longer sees itself as a traditional insurer.

    I predict that the big for-profits will eventually cede the health insurance marketplace to nonprofit insurers and provider-led organizations like ACOs — and even to hospitals that are looking to operate their own health plans.

    Health insurance in this country was initially provider-based and community-rated. The first plan, which was the forerunner of Blue Cross, was one developed by an executive of Baylor Hospital in Texas in the late 1920s. In the not too distant future, I believe we will be going back to the future, with today’s big health insurers being largely out of the picture. If the Boeing experiment flies.

    Former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter is writing about the health care industry and the ongoing battle for health reform for the Center for Public Integrity.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Election Regulators Scheduled To Rule On Fundraising Email

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 16, 2014 5:29am
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    Michael Lee-Murphy file photo

    Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May

    State election regulators are poised to make a decision today on whether Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May violated state election law last year when he asked company managers to contribute money to the Democratic Party to help Gov. Dannel P. Malloy win re-election.

    The State Elections Enforcement Commission has twice postponed making a decision on the complaint. This is the third time it will be on their agenda. The complaint was made by a Greenwich resident who read the Courant’s story last December about the Sept. 2013 solicitation email May sent to the utility company’s subordinates.

    The email, according to a Dec. 4, 2013 Courant article, encouraged the managers to give to the Democratic Party’s federal account. According to Federal Election Commission reports, NU employees quickly contributed $45,000 to that account.

    At the time, Malloy wasn’t even a candidate. He didn’t announce his re-election until March.

    In January, the Democratic Party refunded $40,000 in donations from state contractors who gave money to the party’s state account. Some of those donations were later given to the party’s federal account.

    NU is on the list of state contractors prohibited from contributing to state campaigns. Instead, the money sometimes finds its way to the federal account, which can indirectly be used to pay for state party administration and get-out-the-vote efforts.

    The SEEC is wrestling with whether May’s email violated state election law intended to keep state contractor money out of campaigns. The legislature passed campaign finance reform in 2005 in response to the corruption scandal involving former Gov. John G. Rowland.

    In late March, election regulators determined that Malloy himself didn’t violate any laws when he went on an October 2013 trip to California to raise money for the Connecticut Democratic Party.

    The State Elections Enforcement Commission will meet at 9 a.m. today.

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    Rowland’s Attorney Says Work for Nursing Home Was Legit, Feds Say He Worked More On Campaign

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 15, 2014 3:48pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Douglas Healey file photo

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland and his attorney Reid Weingarten

    Minutes after prosecutors rested their corruption case against former governor John Rowland on Monday, Rowland’s legal team called a witness whose attorney immediately accused the government of intimidation.

    The government concluded its case with evidence that Rowland communicated far more with Lisa Wilson-Foley’s congressional campaign than he did with the business paying him as a consultant.

    The former governor is on trial facing charges he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by her husband, Brian Foley.

    Rowland’s lawyers have argued that Rowland’s work with Apple was legitimate, while his work on the campaign was strictly a volunteer effort. On Monday, prosecutors presented the jury with stark numbers in an effort to debunk that argument.

    According to emails and phone calls reviewed by Mark Borofsky, an investigative support analyst and former postal inspector, Rowland communicated far more with individuals associated with the campaign.

    Jurors saw a graph indicating that 787 — or 89 percent — of the emails reviewed between October 2011 to April 2012 were between Rowland and campaign workers. Meanwhile, 63 — or 7 percent — of the emails were between Rowland and executives at Apple Rehab, where during that period he was a paid consultant.

    When prosecutors rested their case, lead defense attorney Reid Weingarten called one of those executives as his first witness. But an attorney for Brian Bedard, the chief operating officer of Apple Rehab, accused the government of trying to frighten Bedard by reading him his legal rights.

    “One of the things I’ve learned is that the government wants to intimidate Mr. Bedard. They want to intimidate and threaten him by having you advise him of his rights,” attorney Hugh Keefe told Judge Janet Bond Arterton. “I resent the government.”

    “I appreciate the show Mr. Keefe’s putting on,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei said. “I think we can move on.”

    The exchange occurred as the jury was out on a lunch break. Bedard waived the reading of his rights and when court resumed in the afternoon, he took the stand as the first witness called by Rowland’s defense team.

    The former governor’s lawyers sought to prove that Rowland did legitimate with Bedard as a contractor. He described several meetings in which Rowland was engaged with the business of Apple.

    “We talked about the industry, the labor unions, nursing homes closing. We talked about reimbursements,” Bedard said.

    Weingarten asked Bedard several times whether he believed the arrangement with Rowland was a sham or a pretext to cover for Rowland’s help on Wilson-Foley’s campaign.

    “No, absolutely not,” Bedard answered.

    However, prosecutors showed the jury graphs depicting the number of phone calls Rowland had with Apple Rehab executives. Between October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls to Bedard and six phone calls with Brian Foley. Meanwhile, he had 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager, Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.

    Before the jury entered the courtroom Monday morning, Rowland’s attorneys objected to prosecutors’ use of the charts and graphs.

    “It doesn’t speak to Mr. Rowland’s belief about his job at Apple,” attorney William Drake told the judge. “Mr. Rowland is free to volunteer as much or to whatever extent he wants on a political campaign. The amount of work on the campaign is not probative of whether the job at Apple was real.”

    Prosecutor Liam Brennan disagreed. He slammed a binder packed full of campaign emails onto a table in front of him.

    “This binder is emails from the campaign. This is highly probative of where Mr. Rowland put his work,” he said.

    Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed. The jury later saw both the graphs and the packed binder, which Borofsky compared to small packets of paper, which represented Rowland’s communications with Apple employees.

    Prosecutors also attacked the defense’s argument that Rowland and Wilson-Foley were close and therefore his campaign work was a “labor of love.”

    In 2010, when Wilson-Foley was running for lieutenant governor, neither Rowland nor his wife Patricia Rowland made any contributions to the campaign, according to an affidavit from state elections regulators.

    Meanwhile, Wilson-Foley and Rowland exchanged 10 emails that year. They began communicating more as the 2012 campaign geared up. Between January 2011 and August 2011, they emailed each other 22 times.

    But during the period when Rowland was being paid to consult with her husband’s company, the two exchanged 321 emails.

    The emails and phone records were collected by investigators through a series of subpoenas and search warrant seizures.

    The trial will continue Tuesday. It is not clear whether Rowland will take the stand himself as part of his defense. After prosecutors rested their case Monday, Arterton advised the former governor of his right to testify.

    “The pitfalls include cross-exam by government, in many areas not the least of which would be the 2004 conviction. Keep all those thing in mind. There’s an upside of what the jury will hear, and there’s a downside to what the jury will hear,” she told Rowland, who resigned in 2004 before serving 10 months in prison on corruption charges.

    Rowland, who has said little so far throughout the trial, said he understood.

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    Foley, Malloy Challenge Each Other Separately On Transportation

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 15, 2014 1:44pm
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    Posted to: Transportation

    Christine Stuart photo

    Republican Tom Foley addresses a group of transportation organizations

    Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he’s spending more on transportation than previous administrations, while Republican challenger Tom Foley said traffic congestion in Connecticut has gotten worse over the past few years.

    Malloy and Foley spoke separately Monday at a forum sponsored by a broad-based group of state and regional transportation organizations. Foley addressed the group first and was followed by Malloy.

    The two spoke separately about the balance between highways and public transit. Malloy wants to increase investment in both areas, but Foley would be focused mostly on highway expansion.

    “Any purposeful strategy to push people out of their cars and onto mass transit, I really don’t think is going to work,” Foley told the group at the Best Western in North Haven.

    He later clarified his statement for reporters exactly what he meant. “For some people mass transit doesn’t work for them and they need to be able to make that choice for themselves. I don’t think the government should be telling them what to do,” Foley said. “The traffic congestion isn’t getting people onto mass transit.”

    Malloy chuckled when he was told by reporters what Foley said during the forum.

    “What world is he in?” Malloy asked. “Does he understand how many people use buses? Does he know what a bus is? Has he ever used a bus? Or does he use the railroad? ... Can can you imagine Connecticut without the New Haven line?”

    Malloy added, “I think he has this idea that all transit is for people other than his class and therefore it’s not important.”

    Foley opined that he thinks traffic congestion has gotten worse during Malloy’s administration. As he drives around the state Foley said he sees highway projects, but “I don’t see them increasing the capacity of those roads.” He said he understands the need for the deferred maintenance, but “I don’t see a whole lot being done that increases capacity.”

    Malloy said Foley needs to educate himself on the subject.

    “The guy says traffic is worse than its ever been and then he says we spend too much money on transit,” Malloy said. “The reason we need to spend more money on transit is because traffic is bad. Traffic is bad because we underinvested in the system for the better part of 20 years before I became governor.” 

    Malloy seemed excited to talk about his record on transportation and even asked the group for more time.

    Christine Stuart photo “Quite frankly, I’m happy to let the last three-and-a-half years speak for itself,” Malloy told the audience of more than 100 people.

    He said he had his staff compare the amount of money he’s spent on transportation with past administrations and adjusted for inflation he’s spent more money on transportation than the past two Republican administrations, which spanned nearly two decades.

    “This administration is committed to building out the infrastructure of the state,” Malloy said. “Quite frankly, this administration is committed to building out the infrastructure that should have been built over the last 25 years.”

    He said the state needs to be serious about “transportation and transit.”

    “My opponent says he wants to cut funding to transit,” Malloy said. “I think that’s the wrong way to go. Nor do I think we should cut our roads and bridges and highways account to pay for transit.”

    He said that means spending more money on both highways and transit. The state has already put $1 billion in transportation projects out to bid this year.

    Neither, went into great detail about how exactly they would fund the projects, but Malloy emphasized the need to get federal funding for these large projects, such as the replacement of the 118-year-old walk bridge in Norwalk.

    “One way or another the bridge has to be replaced,” Malloy said. “It is our highest priority.”

    But he said his administration has also put highway funding aside in that corridor to fix the entrance and exit ramps onto Interstate 95.

    “If I don’t get re-elected there still will be a lot of projects to do,” Malloy said. “There still will be work under way and I will never turn over an empty cabinet when it comes to transportation infrastructure projects that need to be engaged in by the state of Connecticut … We can never, never turn over a state in as bad a shape as we allowed this state to get in.”

    Foley said he believes the federal government will help support the expansion of Connecticut’s roads, but if they don’t he’s ready to continue funding these projects with state dollars. However, it’s unclear where he would find to billions of dollars he needs in order to fund the projects already in the pipeline.

    “We have the sources of financing and we have the credit worthiness to do this,” Foley told reporters. “. . . I’m not just going to enter into a long dialogue about this. We’re going to find solutions and we’re going to implement those solutions and solve these problems for the citizens.”

    Asked about the New Britain-to-Hartford busway, which has been rebranded CTFastrak, Foley said since the money has already been spent it wouldn’t make sense to shut it down. The busway will open in 2015.

    “Well keep it going and see if it pays for itself,” Foley said. “If after that it isn’t paying for itself. That’s a challenge, I don’t know if we should be subsidizing the operation of that route.”

    It was pointed out to Foley that all public transportation is subsidized to some extent. Asked if the state should continue subsidizing any form of public transit, Foley said “well it depends. If it’s the only source of public transportation available for people then I think it’s worth while to subsidize it, but there are many alternatives for people between New Britain and Hartford.”

    Walking and biking were two forms of transportation not raised at the forum Monday.

    “This may be the heart of the matter — he does not understand people who take buses,” Malloy said. “He does not understand buses. He does not understand how widespread the use of buses is in the Greater Hartford area. He doesn’t understand that Hartford is one of the greatest users of buses in the nation.”

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    Feds Say Emails Show Rowland Spent Far More Time On Campaign

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 15, 2014 12:04pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Douglas Healey file photo

    Former Gov. John Rowland

    Through a series of charts depicting emails and phone calls, prosecutors argued Monday that former governor John Rowland communicated far more with Lisa Wilson-Foley’s congressional campaign than he did with the business paying him as a consultant.

    Rowland is on trial facing charges he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by her husband, Brian Foley.

    The former governor’s lawyers have argued that Rowland’s work with Apple was legitimate, while his work on the campaign was strictly a volunteer effort. On Monday, prosecutors presented the jury with stark numbers in an effort to debunk that argument.

    According to emails and phone calls reviewed by Mark Borofsky, an investigative support analyst and former postal inspector, Rowland communicated far more with individuals associated with the campaign.

    Jurors saw a graph indicating that 787 — or 89 percent — of the emails reviewed between October 2011 to April 2012 were between Rowland and campaign workers. Meanwhile, 63 — or 7 percent — of the emails were between Rowland and executives at Apple Rehab, where during that period he was a paid consultant.

    Emails consisting of both campaign and Apple communications made up 3 percent of the emails and 2 percent were discussions of Rowland’s contract.

    Graphs depicting phone calls showed a similar balance. Between October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls with Apple employee Brian Bedard and six phone calls with Brian Foley. Meanwhile, he had 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.

    Before the jury entered the courtroom Monday morning, Rowland’s attorneys objected to prosecutors’ use of the charts and graphs.

    “It doesn’t speak to Mr. Rowland’s belief about his job at Apple,” defense attorney William Drake told the judge. “Mr. Rowland is free to volunteer as much or to whatever extent he wants on a political campaign. The amount of work on the campaign is not probative of whether the job at Apple was real.”

    Prosecutor Liam Brennan disagreed. He slammed a binder packed full of campaign emails onto a table in front of him.

    “This binder is emails from the campaign. This is highly probative of where Mr. Rowland put his work,” he said.

    Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed. The jury later saw both the graphs and the packed binder, which Borofsky compared to small packets of paper, which represented Rowland’s communications with Apple employees.

    Prosecutors also attacked the defense’s argument that Rowland and Wilson-Foley were close and therefore his campaign work was a “labor of love.”

    In 2010, when Wilson-Foley was running for lieutenant governor, neither Rowland nor his wife, Patricia Rowland, made any contributions to the campaign, according to an affidavit from state elections regulators.

    Meanwhile, Wilson-Foley and Rowland exchanged 10 emails that year. They began communicating more as the 2012 campaign geared up. Between January 2011 and August 2011, they emailed each other 22 times.

    But during the period when Rowland was being paid to consult with her husband’s company, the two exchanged 321 emails.

    The emails and phone records were collected by investigators through a series of subpoenas and search warrant seizures.

    When it was Drake’s turn to cross-examine Borofsky, he stressed that Borofsky and others spent more than 50 hours reviewing emails and that emails from other members of the campaign staff were analyzed.

    “And none of those numbers are included in any of the charts you provided to us,” he said.

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    OP-ED | Shining a Light on Tom Foley

    by Ron McClellan | Sep 15, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Economics, Election 2014, Labor, Opinion

    In a July 2013, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley said that he was waiting for Connecticut to have its “Wisconsin moment.” This type of careless and offensive comment should be a red flag for every union member, every worker, and every taxpayer in Connecticut.

    Over the past few months, Mr. Foley has tried to explain the comment away by saying he wants to have a balanced government or two-party rule in Connecticut. But if he had taken the time to check his facts, he would have seen that Wisconsin still has one-party rule. In fact, the moment that Republican one-party rule was in place, all the campaign issues took a back seat and the assault on workers commenced.

    In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law the anti-worker bill known as Act 10, despite hundreds of thousands of protesters at the Capitol telling him that this was the wrong direction for their state.

    Act 10 prohibits collective bargaining on pensions, health insurance, safety, vacation, sick leave, and hours of work for public-sector workers. It also limited collective bargaining on wages so that employees could only negotiate base pay and receive an increase that is at or below inflation. Bargaining rights that had been in place for more than 50 years for Wisconsin’s public sector workers were eliminated. This is much different from saying that we have to limit pay raises or restructure benefits in difficult times. Walker’s message, that Mr. Foley echoed, is that you, working families of Wisconsin will never, ever be able to have a voice on the issues most important to the security of your family.

    Act 10 hasn’t just affected public-sector workers. It continues the race to the bottom for all workers in the public sector, private sector, union and non-union.  This bill has had negative effects on Wisconsin’s economy, hurting every taxpayer in the state. Gov. Walker’s “Wisconsin moment,” which Mr. Foley wants for Connecticut, caused more than 15,000 public-sector jobs to be lost, which meant that there were more than 15,000 people out of work and not spending money in their local economy.

    Additionally, the pay cuts that the remaining employees took resulted in nearly $1 billion being taken out of Wisconsin’s economy. These employees weren’t the people investing in Wall Street, but instead they were spending their money on Main Street. A “Wisconsin moment” is one that takes spending money out of the local economy and hurts small businesses at a time they need every dollar possible.

    This whole narrative may seem like a dream to Mr. Foley and the rest of the predatory corporate raider crowd; however for workers and their families in Wisconsin, Connecticut, or any other state, it is a nightmare.

    Is this the direction that Mr. Foley keeps talking about? It is a direction for Connecticut that will be devastating for hard-working men and women who teach, build, repair, protect, respond, service, manufacture, and care for the elderly, sick, and injured in our communities.

    Our economy and the quality of life in our state are not measured by how many billionaires we produce. It is measured by how many families have health insurance, can buy a home, send their kids to college, have disposable income to spend in their communities, and can retire with dignity. For the average family that needs two or more full-time incomes to survive, Tom Foley is a bad choice.

    Ron McLellan is President of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent. Founded in 1967, Connecticut Employees Union Independent is a member-run organization of over 7,000 active and retired blue-collar state and municipal maintenance and service workers.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Poll: Connecticut Investors Not As Bullish As Investors Nationwide

    by Cara Rosner | Sep 15, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Business, Economics, Pension

    dreamstime

    Most high net worth investors nationwide are optimistic that the economy will hold steady or improve in the coming year, but those in Connecticut don’t appear as confident as their peers elsewhere, according to a new poll.

    Just 18 percent of high net worth investors in Connecticut expect the state’s economy to improve over the next 12 months, according to the Morgan Stanley Investor Pulse Poll released last week.

    Affluent investors outside of Connecticut are much more bullish.

    Throughout the Tri-State area — which includes Connecticut, the New York City metro area, and New Jersey — 78 percent of investors believe their respective local economies will be the same or stronger in a year, the poll found.

    Similarly, 87 percent of investors nationwide expect their local economies to be the same or better in a year.

    One distinction when it comes to the Connecticut figure is that the 18 percent only takes into account those who feel the state economy will improve, not those who expect it to stay the same. That broader figure was not available.

    Despite Connecticut’s relatively low figure, widespread optimism nationwide and in many large metro areas is encouraging, according to Morgan Stanley officials.

    High net worth individuals’ comfort level gives a meaningful insight into the economy, said Joe Matthews, branch manager and first vice president at Morgan Stanley.

    “High net worth investors are an important component of our economy,” he said, adding they drive the purchases of cars and other durable goods “in a meaningful way” that bolsters the economy. “That trickles down.”

    The poll surveyed 1,008 U.S. investors between the ages of 25 and 75 who have $100,000 or more in investable assets. Among those polled were 300 people from the Tri-State area. The poll took place in May, June, and July and was done for Morgan Stanley by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.

    Most were not only confident about their local economy but they said they believed the national economy is rebounding as well. Seventy-one percent nationwide and 77 percent of Tri-State investors feel the U.S. economy will be the same or better in a year.

    They are being buoyed in large part by “general improvement in the overall economy, which is being reflected in the stock market,” Matthews said.

    The stock market is strengthening for the second straight year and investments in bonds are performing particularly well, he added. The Dow Jones Industrial average was around 12,400 in early 2012 and Thursday topped 17,000.

    That’s leading investors to feel good about their portfolios as well. In the Tri-State area, 89 percent expect their investments to perform the same or better in the next year, while 90 percent of those polled nationwide share that sentiment.

    Most individuals rely on professional guidance when dealing with their investments, said Matthews, which likely makes them more confident in their decisions.

    Some investors wonder how long the bull market will last, and worry about the timing and impact of higher interest rates in the future, Gregory Fleming, president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Morgan Stanley Investment Management, said in a statement.

    “It’s no surprise then that two-thirds of high net worth investors say they rely on a financial professional for advice and guidance,” he said.

    In the Tri-State area, 76 percent of those polled expect the overall investment climate to “stay the course” or strengthen in the next year.

    When asked about retirement, 82 percent of Tri-State investors who haven’t retired yet said they are confident in their planning efforts. Among those who already are retired, 31 percent said their portfolio is exceeding their expectations; another 41 percent said theirs are performing as they planned.

    Investors in Connecticut expect to need $2.7 million to have “their desired retirement lifestyle,” the poll found. Neighboring New Yorkers said they would need $4.1 million in retirement.

    Just more than half, 54 percent, of Connecticut investors polled said they are at least halfway to their retirement goal. By comparison, 70 percent of New Yorkers are halfway to their goal.

    The poll also found investors largely plan to stay put. Though Connecticut and the surrounding area have relatively high taxes on income and property, the poll found 89 percent of Tri-State area investors plan to stay where they are, rather than move to a state with a lower tax burden.

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    Nursing Home Executives Testify They Never Met Rowland

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 14, 2014 10:21pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Christine Stuart file photo

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland and his wife Patty walk out of court last week

    Two nursing home executives testified Friday that former Gov. John G. Rowland did little work for a nursing home chain, even though he was being paid $5,000 per month for his services.

    Rowland has been charged with trying to use the contract with the nursing home owned by congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley’s husband to hide his involvement with her campaign. Rowland’s defense team has tried to prove that the contract with Apple Rehab was legitimate.

    Jack Boynton, vice president of human resources for Apple Rehab, was in charge of negotiating contracts with the unions at Apple Rehab’s facilities. Boynton said he never met with Rowland in 2011. That’s when Boynton was in negotiations with the Service Employees International Union at its Rocky Hill facility. Only two of the 26 nursing homes owned by Brian Foley are unionized.

    “How high on your priority list does dealing with unions rank?” prosecutors asked Boynton. “It’s number one, two, three, four, five, and six,” he replied.

    Boynton worked closely on negotiations with Brian Bedard, the COO of Apple Rehab, who once told him Rowland had said to “stay the course” when it came to the union negotiations. But that’s the only time Boynton heard the former governor mentioned.

    Ann Collette, the vice president of business development and marketing, testified that she became aware of Rowland’s contract with Apple Rehab when she received a 9 p.m. phone call at her home from Bedard. She said Bedard instructed her to read a draft press release he had sent to her personal email account.

    The press release was a response to the news stories that had begun to trickle out about Rowland’s involvement with the Wilson-Foley campaign and his contract for work with Apple Rehab. But what was surprising to Collette was that the press release said Rowland was involved in areas of the company she oversaw.

    She said she never worked with Rowland during the six-month period he worked for the company, and she had to cancel the one nursing home tour she planned to give him because of an unexpected medical procedure.

    Collette, who breezed through her testimony and job description for the jury Friday, became tearful when she was asked by prosecutors to explain the strain the incident put on her relationship with Bedard, who is her boss.

    “It’s been horrible,” Collette said as she broke down in tears.

    Collette testified that she also was asked by Bedard and Brian Foley to dub Lisa Wilson-Foley into a television commercial for Apple Rehab.

    Those ads aired, but at some point she was asked to take them down.

    She said Bedard and Foley “tag teamed me and asked they be taken down.” It was later relayed to her that “Rowland advised they be pulled.”

    Collette also testified that in 2010, when Wilson-Foley was running for lieutenant governor, about 58 employees were asked, during work hours, to watch a mock debate between her and Bedard. That same year she was encouraged to put a Wilson-Foley sign in her front yard. She said nothing like that happened during the congressional campaign.

    Federal prosecutors plan to rest their case on Monday, at which point Rowland’s defense team will have an opportunity to call their own witnesses. It’s unclear whether they will call Wilson-Foley or Rowland to testify.

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    Campaigns Quarrel Over Debate Schedule

    by Staff Report | Sep 14, 2014 8:34pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    CTNJ file photos

    Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign is criticizing Republican challenger Tom Foley for not agreeing to more debates even though there will be at least one more debate than there was in 2010.

    The day after the Republican primary, when Foley was asked about how many debates he would like, he said “the more the merrier.”

    Foley added that “the last time around I was climbing two points a week once the debates started.”

    Mark Bergman, Malloy’s spokesman said, Foley has declined to participate in three events, including a debate sponsored by the CT Mirror, another sponsored by the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and News 12, and a forum sponsored by the CT Tourism Action Committee.

    “So much for the more debates the merrier,” Bergman said.

    Foley and Malloy debated each other six times in 2010.

    “I think the Malloy folks are desperate to create an issue out of anything,” Chris Cooper, Foley’s campaign spokesman, said Sunday.

    He said the campaign has agreed to seven debates, five of which will be televised. There are also a number of forums scheduled like the one on transportation Monday.

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    Roraback Testifies That WTIC Listeners Said Rowland Told Them To Call

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 12, 2014 4:29pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Josalee Thrift file photo

    Andrew Roraback when he was in the state Senate

    When Andrew Roraback’s brother called to tell him former Gov. John G. Rowland had given his cellphone number out over the radio, “he seemed alarmed,” Roraback testified Friday.

    Roraback, a former state Senator who is now a sitting state judge in Waterbury, recounted his telephone conversation with his brother, Chip Roraback, who testified before him Friday.

    “He asked me what I ever did to John Rowland,” Roraback said.

    Roraback was the last candidate to enter the 5th Congressional District race in 2012. He was viewed as a threat by the other three candidates already in the race that year because of his popularity and name recognition in the district.

    Roraback testified that when he started receiving calls from WTIC AM 1080’s listeners, he was told to vote against repealing the death penalty. They also told him “John Rowland had said to call me,” Roraback said.

    Rowland is facing federal charges that he conspired with Brian Foley and Lisa Wilson-Foley to hide his work on Wilson-Foley’s campaign from election regulators.

    Roraback testified that he was unaware of Rowland’s contract with Chris Shelton, the compliance attorney for Brian Foley’s nursing home chain. He also said he was unaware of the involvement Rowland had with Wilson-Foley’s campaign, including Rowland’s role in the production of a radio advertisement calling on him to oppose legislation to repeal the death penalty.

    The radio ad was played for the jury on Friday.

    “What was remarkable to me was it was coming awfully early, coming almost a year before the election,” Roraback said.

    The ad painted Roraback as a liberal and asked people to call his legislative office to get him to vote against legislation to repeal the death penalty.

    Asked for his position on the death penalty in court, Roraback said, “philosophically I have difficulty with the death penalty.”

    But that year his goal was to help victims by repealing a 2011 law that allowed inmates to shave up to five days a month off their prison sentences by participating in programs. He said the amendment he proposed was defeated, so he voted against the legislation.

    Roraback ended up winning the Republican primary for the Congressional seat in 2012, but he went on to lose the election to U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

    Roraback said he never complained to WTIC, the radio station where Rowland was working as an afternoon host.

    On Thursday, Chris Syrek, one of Wilson-Foley’s campaign managers, testified that on Feb. 23, 2012, Rowland emailed him during the show. He was talking about the death penalty on the air and wanted Roraback’s personal phone number.

    “Rohrback [sic] home phone number ? givuing [sic] out his and [Democratic Sen. Edith] Prague contact info,” Rowland emailed Syrek.

    “Ha that’s awesome,” Syrek responded. “Want his cell?”

    Rowland read the number on the air and asked listeners to call Roraback.

    Roraback told the court he was not a regular listener of the WTIC radio show and didn’t know if Rowland gave out the cellphone numbers of any of the other state Senators who were on the fence about the death penalty that year.

    The trial will continue on Monday.

    Prosecutors don’t plan on calling Wilson-Foley to testify, but Rowland’s defense attorneys have not ruled out putting the former Congressional candidate on the stand.

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    Newtown First Selectwoman: Charity Distribution Caused ‘Permanent Fractures’

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 12, 2014 12:31pm
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    Posted to: Newtown

    Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

    Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra

    The distribution of donations after the Newtown shooting may have caused “permanent fractures” in the town, First Selectwoman Pat Llodra told the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission on Friday.

    Llodra was Newtown’s top executive on Dec. 12, 2012, when a 20-year-old gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 20 school children and six educators. During a Friday meeting of a panel created by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, she described how her town struggled to deal with the flood of inquiries and generosity after the incident.

    Well-wishers sent millions of dollars in donations. A United Way fund set up immediately after the shooting had around $12 million and distributed about $8 million last year. Llodra said there were many other funds and the dispersal of the money has caused problems in Newtown.

    “The distribution decisions for those funds has been problematic, has created significant conflict, which I believe endures and may in fact be a permanent fracture among some in our community. People so badly hurt in such horrific events need to be protected from that kind of conflict,” she said.

    Llodra said there should be clear processes for determining how donated money is spent.

    “Town government should not be put in the position to try to arbitrate those differences or be the conduit for funds, as happened in Newtown,” she said.

    Llodra said the town was fortunate to receive help from some partners. She praised General Electric several times during her remarks to the commission. She said the corporation paid four executives to aid her office with handling the various logistical hurdles faced by the small town in the aftermath of the shooting. Llodra said about 150 GE employees live in Newtown.

    Logistical hurdles included challenges created by other types of generosity like documenting and distributing all the gifts sent to Newtown. She said the town would have “collapsed under the weight of the generosity” if not for the efforts of the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response group.

    “At one point we logged 65,000 stuffed teddy bears. Not to mention all other types of stuffed animals, hundreds of backpacks, bicycles, skateboards, school supplies, candles, gift wrap, crayons, thousands of books, sneakers, and more,” she said.

    Llodra said the volume of mail sent to Newtown prompted U.S. Postal Service employees to set up shop in the town hall’s basement. Volunteers helped sort more than 200,000 pieces of mail, she said.

    Llodra told the group she wanted to stress how important logistical coordinators are in the aftermath of disasters. She said it was difficult to maintain the town’s day-to-day operations as town staff was tied up in disaster response.

    “At one point we had four department heads and their staffs almost fully engaged in managing products, activities, mail, and volunteers. None of us regret the time we spent helping in these small ways, but the business of running the town was severely impacted,” she said.

    Llodra described difficulties trying to coordinate providers offering mental health support. She called for one state agency to be designated as the lead agency for mental health response.

    “There was a lot of noise and confusion in the early days when it comes to mental health support. Many, many therapists and clinicians came to our town, all well meaning and anxious to serve. We had no way to vet the credentials of these providers,” she said.

    Commission member Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, praised Llodra’s handling of the tragedy as First Selectwoman.

    “You have set a new standard. To those of us observing from a distance your personal performance as a human being, set into a crisis that no one could ever have prepared for, has been remarkable,” he said.

    Llodra’s testimony comes as the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is wrapping up its work. The group discussed some of its draft recommendations during the Friday meeting. The panel will meet again on Sept. 23.

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    OP-ED | Connecticut’s Inversion and the Treasurer’s Race

    by Suzanne Bates | Sep 12, 2014 11:00am
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    Posted to: Economics, Opinion

    All of this talk about people leaving Connecticut to move to cheaper places to live has me thinking about the national conversation on corporate inversions.

    When Burger King announced it was moving to Canada (a wonderful country which also happens to be my birthplace), to take advantage of a lower tax rate, there should have been a collective pause so we could all say, ‘Really, Canada has a lower corporate tax rate than America?”

    Yes, as it turns out, Canada has a lower corporate tax rate than America, as does most of the rest of the world. The United States is also one of the only countries that forces its companies to pay taxes on profits earned abroad.

    Our national leaders have responded to corporate relocations with accusations that the people who run them are unpatriotic tax-dodgers. Bills have been introduced to try to force corporations to keep their headquarters here by “closing tax loopholes.”

    But, as John Samuels, General Electric’s vice president of tax policy and planning, said earlier this week, “I don’t think any anti-inversion activity can be effective in a global economy where capital is mobile.”

    Yes, capital is mobile. That is true for the global economy, and it is true at the state level as well. Corporations — or individuals — can gather their capital and move it across state lines, whether to New Hampshire or North Carolina or Florida.

    And while there are probably state officials who’d love to tax people or companies that leave Connecticut to set up shop where taxes are lower, that (thankfully) isn’t possible either.

    The discouragement is real, which we saw at the Yankee Institute earlier this year after we sent out a mailing to our supporters with information about some recent public policy work, outlining ways we think Connecticut can prosper again. We received several unsolicited responses from people who told us they’d given up on the state.

    “I left! Good luck, but I think it’s a lost battle!” said one. “Connecticut is lost! I do not plan on going down with the Titanic!” said another.

    While I’m sympathetic to those who feel discouraged, I don’t think Connecticut is lost. Not yet, anyway. We don’t have to be Detroit 2.0.

    But the people who respond to the collective malaise by saying, ‘If you don’t like it, get out,’ aren’t being helpful. I heard that same sentiment expressed in red states, but in those states it was said to environmentalists and liberal activists. It wasn’t nice there, and it isn’t nice here.

    That response also ignores the real pain many state residents feel because of our sluggish economy. Like the pain felt by those dealing with long-term unemployment, or the stress felt by retirees who are forced out of their homes because of rising property taxes, or the disappointment of young families who struggle to afford to even buy a house.

    There are some people who get it — who want to make changes so Connecticut can be a more affordable place to live.

    At a press conference earlier this week, Tim Herbst, the Republican candidate for state treasurer, who is facing long-time incumbent Denise Nappier, spoke about how he would act as a “firewall” in state government to protect residents from more debt and runaway spending that is often put on the state credit card.

    He also said he would refuse to take part in the state’s defined benefit pension plan, and would instead elect to take a defined contribution, 401(k)-style, plan.

    Nappier, who was first elected as state treasurer in 1998, oversees the state’s pension funds, which are not in good shape.

    Connecticut has the second highest pension debt in the nation, as ranked by Moody’s Investors Services. The Yankee Institute calculates that the debt is $76 billion, with another $24 billion in debt for the healthcare and life insurance plans owed to state employees. The state pegs its pension debt at around $24.5 billion, and doesn’t assess money owed for other benefits in its accounting.

    Yankee’s numbers are based on a lower discount rate than the state’s — basically, the economists who did the study calculated the debt assuming a 5 percent return on investments, while the state assumes a robust 8.5 percent. It’s great to be optimistic, but when dealing with tax dollars, and with the money saved for benefits that were promised to state employees, it is better to be safe.

    One bad downturn can wipe out years of good earnings, as we’ve seen in the years since the 2008 recession. We don’t want the state to be in a position where we won’t be able to pay for promised benefits if another crisis hits.

    Other states — like Rhode Island and Kentucky — have made some tough choices to fight pension debt, but the political will seems to be lacking in Connecticut.

    Any way you look at it, our pension fund is in trouble, and the small changes made by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2011 didn’t make much of a difference. And, getting back to our inversion problem, businesses notice — a state’s long-term fiscal health is part of the assessment businesses make when looking at whether or not to invest more capital, and create more jobs, in a state.

    It seems cold to people, these calculations businesses and individuals make about when to stay and when to go. But, in all likelihood, Burger King did not want to move to Canada — as lovely as it may be.

    And in all likelihood, many of the people who have left Connecticut in recent years didn’t want to go either. Those of us still here shouldn’t be encouraging the discouraged to get out, instead we should ask ourselves how to make Connecticut a vibrant, prosperous state again so our friends and neighbors can stay put.

    Suzanne Bates is the policy director for the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. She lives in South Windsor with her family. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Reporter’s Questions Confirm Campaign Manager’s Suspicion About Rowland Contract

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 12, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Courtesy of LinkedIn Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager told a jury Thursday that a call from a reporter confirmed his suspicions about the existence an arrangement to pay former governor John Rowland off the campaign’s books.

    Former campaign manager Chris Syrek said it was not until that call from a journalist that Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign began crafting an explanation for the total of $35,000 Rowland had been paid through Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by the candidate’s husband Brian Foley.

    The call came from New Haven Register reporter Jordan Fenster in April 2012. He was asking about Rowland, whose involvement the campaign had tried to keep quiet. Fenster was also asking whether Rowland had been paid by any company owned by the candidate or her husband.

    Syrek said he told Fenster he didn’t know, then hung up and called Wilson-Foley.

    “You’ll have to talk to Brian,” Syrek said Wilson-Foley twice told him. So he called Brian Foley, who acknowledged there was a “professional relationship” between Apple Rehab and Rowland.

    Hugh McQuaid photo “I was incredibly distressed. The suspicions I had were essentially confirmed for the first time. I was seriously concerned what our response would be as a campaign,” Syrek said.

    Foley has testified that he hired Rowland as a consultant to his nursing home company “primarily” as a benefit to his wife’s campaign. The hope was to avoid publicly disclosing the involvement of the former governor, who spent 10 months in federal prison on corruption charges after resigning office in 2004. Rowland’s past was seen as a “negative” for the campaign.

    “I figured if I hired him as a consultant for Apple it wouldn’t have to be disclosed with the Federal Elections Commission” and “he would be supportive of the campaign,” Foley, who has pleaded guilty to related charges, told the court Monday.

    The arrangement now has Rowland again facing corruption charges.

    Rowland’s attorney contends that the former governor did legitimate work for Foley’s rehab company and volunteered his services to Wilson-Foley’s campaign as a “labor of love.” The argument is similar to the explanation Syrek said the campaign devised after Fenster began asking questions about Rowland.

    The campaign’s talking points downplayed Rowland’s involvement and said “he volunteered freely on his own time.” Syrek said it was an effort to avoid damage to the campaign. But the issue continued to dog them.

    “We started to receive questions from delegates, local officials, and supporters. There were subsequent follow up stories,” Syrek said. “A few days later a candidate in the race came out and took a pretty good shot at us.”

    That candidate was Mike Clark, a Farmington Republican and retired FBI agent who helped with the investigation that sent Rowland to prison in 2004. Clark eventually filed a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission based on Rowland’s payments from Apple. Clark is expected to take the stand before the end of the trial.

    Lauren Casper, another staffer, testified that her phone began lighting up with news alerts.

    “I was receiving tons of Google alerts about John Rowland’s involvement on our campaign and that there was an investigation—that Mike Clark had an investigation,” Casper said. The mood at campaign headquarters became “stressful and uncomfortable.”

    The press coverage also prompted an admission by another candidate, Mark Greenberg, who said Rowland had unsuccessfully pitched a similar arrangement to him during his 2010 congressional campaign. Greenberg was the government’s first witness when the trial began last week.

    Prosecutors asked Syrek if he considered leaving the campaign after the Rowland arrangement came to light.

    “I thought about it,” he said. “I stayed for a lot of different reasons. I’m by no means independently wealthy person. I need to work for a living and can’t afford to be unemployed. I don’t consider myself person who runs away at the first sign of trouble, I think I’m a little tougher than that.”

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    OP-ED | Foley & Malloy: ‘Pessimistic’ Beats ‘Desperate’ Every Time

    by Terry D. Cowgill | Sep 12, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

    At this point, it’s almost become a cliche to label your political opponent “desperate.” It evokes images of a boxer on the ropes lashing out lamely at a superior fighter who is destined to roll over the injured warrior. But it’s hard to find another word to describe the tactics of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who personally and through surrogates, has unleashed a torrent of ugly attacks on Republican nominee Tom Foley.

    And just think: these attacks came before Wednesday’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Foley leading Malloy by six points. Now we can only guess what kind of offensive awaits Foley in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

    It really was surpising to see Malloy once again raise the issue of Foley’s actions 20 years ago during his stewardship of the Bibb Company. Granted, Foley does not come up smelling like roses in any reasonable examination of his company’s ownership of the troubled Georgia textile company.

    But you would think that Malloy, in one of his most frequently aired TV ads, could do better during his rematch with Foley than to resurrect an issue that was litigated four years ago. I’m sure Malloy’s people thought they were clever to mix the Bibb attacks of some of Foley’s former GOP rivals with clips from his disastrous appearance at a dying mill in Sprague.

    Still, if it’s true that comedians need fresh material, it’s doubly true in the political arena, where bored voters suffering from Bibb fatigue will change the channel faster than you can say Kenny Bania’s Ovaltine bit.

    Then there was the matter last week of state Sen. Beth Bye and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, two openly gay politicians who held a press conference calling on Foley to reject an endorsement he received from the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee.

    Lembo and Bye were in high dudgeon over Foley receiving the nod from an “anti-gay” organization. In a fit of hyperbole, Lembo called the endorsement a “kiss of death.” This despite the fact that Foley is pro-choice on abortion and, while he’s opposed to gay marriage, has vowed to do absolutely nothing to change Connecticut’s law permitting it if he’s elected governor.

    As evidenced by the backdrop of the Malloy-Wyman campaign signs, the event was obviously coordinated with the governor’s re-election machine. It gave the impression that two respectable gay public servants were being used as props to attack Malloy’s opponent, not for a public policy position, but because a group they object to thinks he would make a better chief executive than the current governor.

    I used to have a man crush on Lembo. He’s an independent voice and one of the only elected officials telling the whole truth about the state’s fiscal health. Now he’s resorted to performing as a political hack.

    In an attempt to capitalize on Bill Clinton’s enduring popularity in Connecticut, the Malloy campaign had the former president come to New Haven last week to give a shot of adrenaline to Malloy’s moribund gubernatorial campaign. Clinton spoke to a half-empty ballroom at the Omni and was followed by Malloy, who trotted out the argument that Foley is — get this — a pessimist.

    That’s as tired as the assertion that your opponent is desperate. Are we expected to believe that any political candidate is rooting for his opponent to succeed? Yes, Malloy is desperate all right. And he is probably dumbfounded that he could lose to a cranky guy who’s never even run for dogcatcher and who has yet to offer much at all in the way of specific solutions to the many problems facing the state.

    But that’s what happens when you’re guiding the ship of state through a painfully slow economic recovery. You can lose to a pessimist because a lot of voters are also pessimistic. And you can lose to someone who’s just as unappealing as you are because — he’s not you.

    Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    OP-ED | Pendulum Swings Back On Standardized Tests, History Repeats Itself

    by Barth Keck | Sep 11, 2014 9:00pm
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    Posted to: Education, Opinion


    It’s easy to dismiss Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s recent plea to “reduce the time Connecticut students spend taking standardized tests” as an election-year ploy, given the most recent public polls on the topic.

    But Malloy’s seeming shift in educational policy is as much a lesson in history as it is a political gambit.

    Take Texas, for example.

    Widely considered the trailblazer of the current standardized-testing movement in America, Texas initiated test-based accountability in 1993. One year after former Texas Governor George W. Bush was elected President, “the Texas model went nationwide when Bush signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) into law, in January 2002.”

    Standardized testing quickly became a cornerstone of education reform: NCLB morphed into Race to the Top under President Barack Obama, requiring states to use “cutting-edge data systems to track a child’s progress throughout their academic career, and to link that child’s progress to their teachers so we know what’s working and what’s not working in the classroom.”

    Standardized testing, it seemed, was here to stay.

    In 2013, however, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus underscored a shift in emphasis: “The goal of education is not to teach children how to pass a test but to prepare them for life. To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing, the Texas House has heard you.”

    Subsequently, “a resolution opposing high-stakes testing has now been signed by more than 80 percent of the school boards in the state. Longtime observers of education policy are openly speculating that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the accountability movement [in the very state] where it was born.”

    Standardized testing proponents in Texas were not the first reformers to do an about-face.

    Diane Ravitch served as George H.W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993. At the time, she was “a passionate advocate for injecting greater competition and accountability into the U.S. education system.” Nowadays, not so much.

    “Test scores became an obsession,” Ravitch said in 2010, explaining the change of heart that inspired her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. “Many school districts invested heavily in test-preparation materials and activities. Test-taking skills and strategies took precedence over knowledge.”

    Ravitch has continued her campaign against reform based on standardized testing with another book — Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools — as well as a widely read blog.

    Critics could question the collective backbone of people like Ravitch and Texas lawmakers, but standardized testing and its ensuing pushback have a long history in this country.

    “The testing groundwork was laid in 1837, when a lawyer and legislator in Massachusetts named Horace Mann became secretary of the newly created State Board of Education, part of the Whig Party’s effort to centralize authority and make schools modern and accountable,” writes University of Wisconsin professor William J. Reese. “After a fact-finding trip abroad, Mann claimed in 1844 in a nationally publicized report that Prussia’s schools were more child-friendly and superior to America’s.”

    Consequently, more than 30,000 written tests were administered in Boston-area schools as a way to “identify the many teachers who emphasized rote instruction, not understanding. They named the worst ones and called for their removal.”

    Long story short, the 19th century tests became highly controversial, sounding “eerily familiar: cheating scandals, poor performance by minority groups, the narrowing of the curriculum, the public shaming of teachers, the appeal of more sophisticated measures of assessment, the superior scores in other nations, all amounting to a constant drumbeat about school failure.”

    Fast-forward to 21st-century Connecticut where the governor wants to scale back testing in schools. Is it a political maneuver? Certainly. At the same time, it’s neither bold nor original, considering the historical pendulum of standardized testing in America.

    Apparently, that pendulum is now headed back in the other direction.

    Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Data Shows Minorities Are Stopped At Higher Rates in Connecticut

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 11, 2014 4:46pm
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    Posted to: Law Enforcement, State Capitol, Transportation

    Statewide data on 366,060 traffic stops shows that if you are a black or Hispanic driver in Connecticut, you are twice as likely to get stopped by police and more than twice as likely to have your vehicle searched.

    The data compiled by researchers at Central Connecticut State University was mandated by a state law that requires traffic stop data to be collected and analyzed.

    Connecticut’s driving population is 84 percent white, 8 percent black, and 10 percent Hispanic.

    According to the eight months of data provided in a 500-page report, the driving population of blacks in Connecticut — about 8 percent — accounted for about 14 percent of all the stops. The Hispanic driving population — about 10 percent — accounted for 11.84 percent.

    The data from 91 municipal police departments, state police, and seven university police departments showed officers were twice as likely to search the vehicle of the black or Hispanic driver even though police found contraband more often in the vehicles driven by white drivers than they did in the vehicles driven by black and Hispanic drivers.

    “The data shows police in general treating drivers of color with more suspicion for less cause,” Sandra Staub, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said Thursday.

    She believes there’s more than enough evidence of a “systematic bias” in the report for police departments to begin to take action.

    Christine Stuart photo

    Bill Dyson

    But researchers and lawmakers who championed the collection of this data cautioned the news media against drawing any conclusions about the information until January when there will be a full year of data to analyze.

    “This report is a presentation of data,” Ken Barone, policy and research specialist at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, said. “The analysis will come in January. One of the purposes of doing it, besides the fact that we were legislatively required to get this report out, the data is there for the public to consume and for folks to draw their own conclusions.”

    Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, who was instrumental in passing the 2012 law requiring the collection of the data, said he’s content to wait six months for more information.

    “I recognize the importance in many people’s minds of having a conclusion, but as someone who has experienced racial profiling both prior to being elected and after being elected, in my car, in my suit, I think what is most important is that we actually move the ball,” Holder-Winfield said.

    He said if the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board was perceived to be operating with an agenda as opposed to analyzing data and thinking about what it means for the future, “I think that would be a problem.”

    It would run counter to what the group is trying to do by having an open dialogue about these issues in order to get participation from all the various stakeholders, including law enforcement, Holder-Winfield said.

    The data collected by the group is also complicated because it tries to account for the estimated driving population. The estimated driving population calculation takes into account how many people of a specific race or ethnicity are over the age of 16 and have access to a vehicle. The estimated driving population is much lower than the population of residents living in any of the cities and towns.

    In New Haven, black drivers account for about 20 percent of the driving population, but they are stopped 46.4 percent of the time, according to the report. The white driving population in New Haven is 66.51 percent, but they are stopped only 51.12 percent of the time. The Hispanic driving population is around 16.47 percent, and they are stopped 21.59 percent of the time.

    In Hartford, where 18.54 percent of the estimated driving population is black, they are pulled over at a rate of 35.33 percent. The number of Hispanic drivers getting pulled over is similar. The group estimated 18.80 percent of the Hispanic population in Hartford drives, and they are pulled over at a rate of 32.92 percent.

    “I think the data shows what it shows,” Bill Dyson, chairman of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board, said. “That’s not intended to be double-talk in any way. We didn’t create the numbers. They are the numbers we’ve gotten.”

    He said the information has to be there so that law enforcement and the community can have a discussion.

    Redding Police Chief Douglas S. Fuchs, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said the dialogue about this started after the U.S. Department of Justice found that the East Haven Police Department engaged in racially profiling Latino motorists.

    The past two years have been “a wonderful collaboration,” Fuchs said.

    However, that’s not to say he agrees with the decision to use “estimated driving population” as the benchmark. The number, according to Fuchs, has a 10 percent error rate.

    The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission also was unhappy with the decision to use the “estimated driving population.”

    “For the record, LPRAC is highly concerned that such high margins of error may result in an EDP value that could mask racial profiling, which would be counterproductive to the overall goals of our legislative mandate,” Werner Oyanadel, executive director of LPRAC, wrote in a letter to Dyson.

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    Internet Poll Shows Connecticut Governor’s Race Is A Dead Heat

    by Staff Report | Sep 11, 2014 3:36pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Poll

    An Internet poll of 1,808 likely voters shows Connecticut’s gubernatorial race in a dead heat.

    The poll released Thursday shows Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican Tom Foley tied with 37 percent of the vote.

    On Wednesday, Quinnipiac University released a telephone survey of 1,304 likely voters that showed Foley six points ahead of Malloy.

    In July, Foley had a 42 to 33 percent advantage over Malloy, according to a CBS News and New York Times poll conducted by YouGov.

    The latest poll shows that 14 percent of the voters are undecided and 3 percent plan to vote for “other.” Joe Visconti, the third candidate on the ballot, was not mentioned in the poll.

    The poll shows Malloy winning younger voters under the age of 44 and women. Foley does well with male voters and voters over the age of 45.

    The polls was conducted between Aug. 18 and Sept. 2.

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    Evidence Shows Rowland Pushed Campaign to Attack Roraback On Death Penalty

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 11, 2014 12:00pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    ctnewsjunkie file photo

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland frowns through the glass at a crowd of reporters Tuesday

    From his host chair at WTIC, John Rowland emailed Lisa Wislon-Foley’s campaign manager asking for the personal phone number of a political opponent — he told the campaign he would give the number out on the air.

    That testimony came during Thursday proceedings of the former governor’s campaign corruption trial. Rowland is accused of working for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign while taking payments from her husband Brian Foley’s nursing home company.

    Prosecutors contend those payments also bought the campaign an on-air attack dog in Rowland, who was the host of an afternoon political talk show on WTIC. In emails, Rowland coached the campaign on attacking candidate Andrew Roraback, then a state senator, for his opposition to the death penalty. The legislature was considering repealing the law that year.

    Late in Rowland’s radio show on Feb. 23, 2012, the host emailed Chris Syrek, Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager. He was talking about the death penalty on the air and wanted Roraback’s personal phone number.

    “Rohrback [sic] home phone number ? givuing [sic] out his and [Democratic Sen. Edith] Prague contact info,” Rowland emailed Syrek.

    “Ha that’s awesome,” Syrek responded. “Want his cell?”

    Rowland read the number on the air and asked listeners to call Roraback.

    DOUGLAS HEALEY / CTNEWSJUNKIE Syrek was the third campaign manager for Wilson-Foley to testify during the trial. All told the court they were uncomfortable with her arrangement with the former governor. One, Chris Covucci, said he began looking for a new job on his first day, when he learned of the nature of Rowland’s involvement.

    On Thursday, Syrek said the campaign tried to hide Rowland’s involvement.

    “It was important to keep Mr. Rowland’s role with the campaign quiet and keep him off the radar, if you will, to avoid any types of criticism, backlash, or distractions it might cause,” Syrek told the jury.

    But behind the scenes, Rowland played a key role in crafting the campaign’s message. In early February 2012, Rowland emailed Syrek and former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy. He sent them a CTNewsJunkie article on lawmakers weighing a vote on the death penalty. “This is the whole primary,” he wrote in the email admitted as evidence.

    Hugh McQuaid photo The campaign decided that Roraback’s support of repealing the death penalty should be central to Wislon-Foley’s message. Rowland, Healy and other staffers began corresponding as they crafted a radio ad. At one point Healy wrote that a script he had written was “as solid a kick in the nuts as I have put together in a long while.”

    In emails, Rowland kept pushing for Roraback’s office phone number to be given out during the commercial. When the radio spot ran later that month, a female narrator urged listeners to call Roraback and “urge him to keep families safe by supporting the death penalty.” Prosecutors played the ad for the jury in court Thursday.

    The ad drew criticisms from Rowland’s WTIC colleague, Jim Vicevich, who has voiced opposition to the death penalty. Wilson-Foley emailed Rowland saying Vicevich was upset the ad implied death penalty opponents were “liberal.” Rowland said Vicevich was wrong on the death penalty issue.

    “We knew there would be some moaners. There is a reason Republicans can’t win in this state . . . hang tough,” he wrote.

    In court documents supporting Roraback’s eventual testimony before the court, prosecutors contend that Rowland also used his role as host of the WTIC radio show to “ambush” the former candidate during an on-air interview in December 2011.

    “These circumstances strongly suggest and the jury could infer that the defendant’s conduct on [Dec.] 6, 2011 and during the subsequent on-air attack relating to the death penalty was not legitimate opinion broadcasting, but a political ambush paid for by Brian Foley,” prosecutors wrote.

    In emails to Wilson-Foley, Rowland reminds the candidate that the attacks on Roraback’s death penalty position were his idea.

    “I know, but we can’t give you credit,” she wrote back.

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    OP-ED | Tea Party Stress Test

    by Joshua H. Sandman | Sep 11, 2014 10:00am
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    Posted to: Opinion

    Tip O’Neill, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said “all politics is local.” In the locally oriented upcoming mid-term Senate and Congressional district elections, the Democratic Party is in danger of losing their majority in the Senate and continuing to be the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, after losing their majority in 2010.

    Republican Party candidates, to survive Tea Party-inspired primary challenges, in many states and districts, are moving further to the right. And, overall our national politics has become broken and dysfunctional.

    The political blame for much of this situation can be laid at the doorstep of Timothy Geithner, treasury secretary during President Obama’s first term in office, and others in the Obama administration, like Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council.

    Geithner was the most important advocate for a bailout of Wall Street and the financial service industry and not Main Street and American families. He maintained his position despite many citizens facing mortgage debt they could no longer carry, the prospect of home foreclosure and bankruptcy — this resulting from job loss or having work hours or wages reduced.

    From the exclusive rescue of Wall Street and the failure to address the distress of Main Street emerged a popular dissent in and contributed to the rise the Tea Party and created an antipathy to central government. It is puzzling and difficult to understand how a supposed liberal Democratic Party and president could so ignore the plight of middle and working classes American families.

    Geithner, in a recent book, Stress Test, has argued that helping home owners would not have changed the course of the recession. He maintains in self-justification, and incorrectly, that a more substantial program focused directly on those in distress in the housing sector would not have had a significant impact on the overall economy. 

    A number of economists have convincingly argued that the Great Recession would not have been so great had the federal government acted assertively to assist homeowners in reducing their mortgage debt. They are especially critical of Geithner and others in the Obama administration who seriously misunderstood the depth of the recession and who had a focus on saving the financial system without dealing with the pervasive problem of family debt.

    The unfortunate result of this focus is an economic recovery that has been and continues to be weak and slow. This is evidenced by the large numbers of Americans who are still unemployed, underemployed, employed part-time, struggling in a low-wage economy and having dropped out of the labor market.

    Geithner and many in the Obama administration reflected a post-material Democratic Party. This party is liberal from a social and cultural perspective and more comfortable with the well educated and affluent who populate Wall Street and the hedge fund industry. They were willing to bail them out (even though Wall Street excesses precipitated the recession crisis).

    The neglect of Main Street has had negative consequences for the economy and both political parties. This is illustrated by the recent loss of Republican House of Representatives Majority leader Eric Cantor, in a primary contest, to a Tea Party- oriented candidate. One major criticism against Cantor was his close attachment and support for Wall Street and corporate interests. Further, the mainstream Republican Party candidates, to stay afloat, have become more conservative to reflect Tea party opposition on issues such as immigration reform and government spending.

    Nations that cannot adequately respond to economic and political crisis face the emergence of radical political movements. The Tea Party, mildly radical by historical standards, emerged just as Geithner and others in the Obama administration ignored Main Street mortgage distress, debt, and unemployment difficulties.

    The economic recovery will remain weak and the disruptive Tea Party strong unless we address, from the bottom up and not the top down, issues that impact many average citizens — still troublesome mortgage and foreclosure situations, family debt, inequality, a low-wage job market, dropouts from the work force, and job displacement through technology and globalization.

    Joshua H. Sandman, PhD, is a professor of political science at the University of New Haven

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    OP-ED | In Bridgeport, Green Energy Park is a Win for Our Kids and Families

    by Bill Finch | Sep 11, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Opinion, Bridgeport

    We face an amazing opportunity in Bridgeport.

    Working in partnership with my administration, United Illuminating plans to install 9,000 solar panels atop a closed and unused landfill, as well as a 2.8 megawatt fuel cell. The site of this project is in the midst of a formerly rundown section of the city that has been transformed into Eco-Technology Park.

    This project simply makes sense –  for our future, for our environment, for our economy, for our taxpayers and, most importantly, for our children.

    Here are the facts: Once complete, Green Energy Park will provide enough electricity to power more than 5,000 homes using clean and green solar panels situated on top of the old city dump. The project would reclaim unused land and transform it into one of the largest solar arrays in New England.

    But it is much more than that. It is smart public policy and good for our community.

    This project will reduce our carbon footprint and make the air cleaner to breathe in the state’s largest city. In Hartford, in New Haven and in Bridgeport, the asthma for our kids is three times the state average. This is a chance to do something meaningful that will help future generations breathe easier.

    Beyond that, this project will create up to 92 green jobs, further building on a foundation that has made Bridgeport a community where people want to raise their families.

    Bass Pro will open creating hundreds of additional jobs, which will be a catalyst for the Steelpointe Harbor development that will transform the city’s waterfront with a mix of commercial, residential and retail development.

    Further, Green Energy Park will generate up to $7 million in revenue for the city over the next 20 years.

    This helps us beat back climate change, but projects like this also will help our cities experience population growth. To accomplish that, we need to create jobs, a goal which this project also accomplishes.

    By turning an old and unused landfill into a hub for clean energy production, we’ll create 21st century jobs while powering thousands of homes with cleaner energy. And, by investing in cleaner energy our kids will breathe cleaner air.

    Collectively, my administration has championed creating green jobs in Bridgeport and already helped create hundreds of jobs at businesses in the Eco-Technology Park, which serves as a hub for clean energy production. North America’s largest fuel cell is housed within the Park, and generates enough virtually emission-free energy to power up to 15,000 homes.

    I view this as just the beginning.

    The benefits of Green Energy Park are undeniable. Municipalities across the country are launching efforts to revitalize old and unused land in order to make properties more economically viable.

    It creates jobs. It produces clean energy. It provides cleaner air for our kids to breathe. It helps reduce asthma rates. It grows our tax base. And, it’s proof that our city can heal from the sins of our past and move toward a cleaner and more prosperous future.

    Bill Finch is the mayor of Bridgeport.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Republicans Say Recent Murder Highlights Deficiencies In Risk Reduction Program

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 11, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Law Enforcement, Public Safety, State Capitol, Bristol

    Hugh McQuaid photo

    Sen. Len Fasano

    The August murder of an infant in Bristol highlights deficiencies in a state program aimed at rehabilitating prisoners, a group of Republican senators said at a Wednesday press conference.

    Arthur Hapgood, the man accused of stabbing a young girl to death on Aug. 19, was permitted to participate in the Correction Department’s Risk Reduction Credit program despite repeated offenses during his time as an inmate, Sens. Len Fasano and John McKinney said.

    The program was adopted under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and passed by Democrats in the legislature. It allows inmates to earn credits for participating in recidivism reduction programs. The credits can be used to reduce an inmate’s prison sentence by up to five days a month.

    According to records obtained by Fasano, Hapgood earned credits for participating in rehabilitation programing, despite failing several drug tests in prison and committing other violations. Fasano said drugs appeared to be factor in the murder Hapgood is accused of committing and Hapgood tested positive for the drug PCP following the August murder.

    “This is a system that’s fundamentally wrong,” he said. “With a lack of oversight and a lack or responsibility, this is a conveyer belt for releasing people without regard to their record.”

    Following an unrelated event, Malloy said crime was down under his administration and Republicans were trying to win elections “by scaring people.”

    “This is an individual who did 90 percent of his sentence as opposed to 85 percent, which is the minimum,” he said. Republicans “also didn’t point out to you that this crime that [Hapgood] committed was after 100 percent of his sentence would have been completed. They’re trying to grab information, distort facts around the information, and use it as a way to scare people.”

    McKinney and Fasano said there were plenty of warning signs in Hapgood’s case and he should have served his entire sentence or been charged for additional crimes due to his conduct in prison.

    “The guy’s doing drugs in prison and what? He isn’t charged with anything for that?” McKinney said. “. . . This incident has highlighted failures.”

    Fasano said the administration “stonewalled” him and his staff while they were researching Hapgood’s case.

    “There’s no transparency here and I understand why — because there’s Hapgoods all over this system and they don’t want us to know about them,” Fasano said.

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    Wilson-Foley’s Campaign Chief Says He Tried to Dissaude Her From Hiring Rowland

    by New Haven Register | Sep 10, 2014 10:32pm
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    Douglas Healey file photo

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland outside federal court in New Haven

    Lisa Wilson-Foley’s former 5th District congressional campaign manager Chris Syrek testified in federal court Wednesday that he repeatedly tried to dissuade the candidate from hiring former Gov. John Rowland for the campaign, in part because his name would show up on public campaign spending reports.

    Rowland’s defense, during cross-examination of another witness, tried to show there were other people not on the campaign’s payroll who also were doing senior campaign work similar to Rowland’s, including Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, and state Sen. Kevin Witkos, who was co-chairman of her campaign.

    During Rowland’s corruption trial in U.S. District Court, Syrek recalled a car ride with Wilson-Foley on Sept. 14, 2011, during which he tried to dissuade her from hiring Rowland, which was not the first time he had done so.

    Click here to continue reading the New Haven Register’s report.

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    Malloy Would Remove Guns Early In Restraining Order Cases

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 10, 2014 3:09pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Public Safety

    Hugh McQuaid Photo If he wins a second term, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy plans to advance a bill to remove firearms from recipients of temporary restraining orders. Malloy announced the bill during a West Hartford roundtable talk Wednesday.

    Malloy is locked in a close re-election race against his 2010 Republican rival Tom Foley. Throughout the week he has been announcing proposals he will seek to pass if elected for a second term.

    During a discussion on domestic violence at the West Hartford town offices, Malloy said he would seek to bar access to firearms from anyone who is the subject of a temporary restraining order.

    The law currently leaves access to firearms in temporary restraining order cases up to a judge. A judge typically makes the decision at a hearing, which may be held two weeks after the initial order is issued.

    “What we’re saying is, if it’s bad enough to justify a restraining order being issued, it’s bad enough to take the additional precaution of making sure that the weapons . . . can no longer be accessed,” Malloy said. “There is no longer a wait for a hearing. Let’s get it done.”

    Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, praised the proposal during Wednesday’s discussion. Jarmoc said women who have applied for restraining orders are at significant risk during the period when their former partner retains access to guns.

    “This is the type of legislation that is going to save lives,” she said. “Different things get proposed along the way, but this is the real deal.”

    Connecticut’s U.S. senators have pushed unsuccessfully to pass similar law at the federal level. They named their legislation for Lori Jackson, an Oxford resident who was shot to death by her estranged husband in May. Jackson had a temporary restraining order against her husband at the time.

    Malloy said his proposal was also designed to remove barriers to women leaving violent relationships.

    “The mere presence of a gun is a control that one person can use against another. It’s that kind of outstanding threat. So at this very dangerous time when somebody comes forward and says ‘Enough is enough,’ that control item — that button to be pushed needs to be removed,” he said. “. . .It’s relatively easy to return [a gun], un-firing a shot is a lot harder.”

    Foley’s campaign was not immediately available to comment on the proposal, which was not among the recommendations Foley outlined in his nine-page plan.

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    CAGV Gets Organized, Launches New PAC

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 10, 2014 2:27pm
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    Posted to: Civil Liberties, Election 2014, Public Safety, West Hartford

    Christine Stuart photo

    Ron Pinciaro, executive director of CAGV

    The executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence told supporters Tuesday that their pro-gun opposition wants to send a message to lawmakers who voted in favor of stricter gun laws.

    “Put them on the unemployment line is what they say,” Ron Pinciaro, executive director of CAGV, said Tuesday. “We will not let that happen.”

    He told the 85 people who attended a lunch at the Pond House in West Hartford that they are the “silent majority” awakened by the tragedy in Newtown, but they can’t be silent anymore.

    Pinciaro said the group has 50,000 members across the state and they all need to bring a friend and get out and vote on Nov. 4.

    “Our opposition says that they’re approaching 15,000 members,” Pinciaro said referring to the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. “ We have triple that. But you know what? The one thing they know how to do is show up.”

    Pinciaro warned the group that “if the perception is people have lost their seat because their vote on the gun safety bill you can bet it will probably be another decade before we can again pass significant gun safety legislation.”

    Gun control is an issue that has divided Connecticut voters. A Quinnipiac University poll released in May suggested that 56 percent of voters support the 2013 law with 38 percent opposed.

    Officials and members of “CT Voters for Gun Safety,” a political action committee formed to help candidates who supported the legislation, will meet in Middletown Saturday to learn more about how to organize and get out the vote. At that meeting they will also endorse a gubernatorial candidate and it’s more than likely to be Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who signed the 2013 bill into law.

    The Connecticut Citizens Defense League, which opposed the 2013 legislation, has endorsed Republican Tom Foley.

    The CCDL used video of Sen. Donald Williams from Tuesday’s Connecticut Against Gun Violence event as a way to motivate their own members.

    “Watch the video, and listen to what the anti’s really think and say about your constitutional rights, and what their plans for the future are,” a CCDL official wrote in a blog post.

    The post goes onto say, “If Malloy and his anti-Constitution cronies get re-elected after passing one of the worst gun laws in the country, they will know they have free reign to go as far as they want with no repercussions.”

    During his speech Tuesday, Williams, who voted against an assault weapons ban in 1993 but in favor of the 2013 bill, opined that when gun owners know facts they support gun safety and gun violence prevention legislation. But he also acknowledged the challenge groups like Connecticut Against Gun Violence face.

    “You’ve heard them on radio talk shows and elsewhere [say] ‘that gun legislation that the state of Connecticut passed would not have done a single thing to have prevented the tragedy at Sandy Hook’,” Williams said. “Has everybody heard that said by folks? They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

    He said he worked with Democrats and Republicans to craft that legislation.

    “I know what’s in that bill and I know they have not read it,” William said. “If this legislation had been in effect there’s a chance, not a guarantee, there’s a chance there would have been a deeper understanding of this young man’s issues and intervention at that time and a possible different path.”

    Williams was referring to the 20-year-old gunman who took his own life after killing 20 children and six educators. Williams said the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines may also have prevented the extent of the tragedy because would not have been allowed to be purchased by the gunman’s mother.

    “The truth of the matter is virtually everything in that bill could have changed the outcome of that tragic day,” Williams said. “So when you hear someone say there was nothing there that makes a difference they haven’t read the bill. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

    Christine Stuart photo

    Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford

    Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said the group needs to organize to “keep this issue in the limelight.”

    She said the fight doesn’t get easier. She said there was the raw “emotion and openness to change” following the tragedy in Newtown and then “people get on with their lives.”

    She said people may have gotten complacent and the “other side has very powerful corporate interests” backing them.

    One of the other “motivating factors” for the pro-gun rights advocates is that they “they use fear so effectively,” Bye said.

    “After you sit through a 17 hour public hearing, when person-after-person tells you they’re convinced that they need a submachine gun to protect their home, you leave with great sympathy for people who walk around with that much fear,” Bye said.

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    Malloy Calls Rowland ‘Massive Disappointment’

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 10, 2014 1:14pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012, Election 2014

    Hugh McQuaid photo

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

    Regardless of whether a jury finds former governor John Rowland guilty of campaign corruption, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said his predecessor’s behavior has been a “massive disappointment” for Connecticut.

    Malloy told reporters Wednesday that he has been following Rowland’s criminal trial, which is in its second week at a federal courthouse in New Haven.

    “It’s, I think to everyone in the state, a massive disappointment that these behaviors were engaged in by the former governor. Whether he’s convicted of a crime or not, the discussions he had over a period of years with candidates—and quite frankly, at least in one of those cases, that candidate, Mr. [Mark] Greenberg’s failure to bring that to the attention of the authorities immediately—is pretty disappointing,” Malloy said.

    Rowland resigned from office in 2004 before serving 10 months in federal prison on corruption charges. He is now facing new charges stemming from allegations he conspired to do campaign work for two congressional campaigns while keeping his involvement hidden from election regulators.

    One of those candidates, Greenberg, ultimately declined Rowland’s proposal to work for his campaign in 2010. However, Greenberg acknowledged in court that he did not notify authorities of Rowland’s plan to be paid by an entity outside the campaign.

    Greenberg is running for Congress again this year as the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

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    OP-ED | Voter Frustration Drags Malloy Down in Latest Poll

    by Susan Bigelow | Sep 10, 2014 12:03pm
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    Posted to: Analysis, Election 2014, Opinion, Poll

    The good news in a Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy? It’s still September, meaning there’s time to turn things around. The bad news? Everything else.

    Let’s break down the numbers.

    First, the big one — Foley is leading Malloy 46-40 percent while independent Joe Visconti brings up the rear at 7 percent. Interestingly, with Visconti removed from the equation both candidates gain 3 points, and Foley beats Malloy 49 -43 percent. Visconti is drawing from both candidates equally, meaning any spoiler effect is basically canceled out.

    Foley also bests Malloy in several vital areas. Voters ranked jobs and the economy as their top priority and said that Foley would do a better job handling that by 54-37 percent. Voters also think Foley would do better handling taxes, 59-31 percent. Malloy slightly edges Foley on education, 46-40 percent, and on gun policy, 46-41 percent, but neither of those issues were ranked highly as priorities.

    Tellingly, Foley voters said they were voting against Malloy instead of for Foley by a whopping 62-33 percent. The opposite was true of Malloy voters, who said they were voting for Malloy instead of against Foley by 58-33 percent. What this means is that the scare campaign to make voters afraid of Tom Foley really isn’t working, and that Malloy is doing a lousy job of selling his own policies.

    This puts the governor in a very bad position heading into the fall campaign, and a lot of it is his own fault. Malloy has never been particularly good at defending his policies in ways that connect with people, and that’s shown in his campaign. He’s struggling to find a message that works; so far hitting Tom Foley for being too gloomy or painting him as a ruthless capitalist isn’t cutting it.

    Foley has found his own very simple and effective message: the Malloy years have been a disaster. Voters are inclined to agree, which is why Foley can run an uninspired, gaffe-prone campaign and still get lots of votes based on how bad the other guy is.

    To make matters worse, Democrats, usually the driving force in Connecticut politics, have been given very little to rally around. The party is divided over education and labor, and Malloy’s attempts to patch things up have seemed like tokens at best. The visit from Bill Clinton could have been a game-changer, or at least it might have stopped the bleeding a little bit by getting Democrats excited about the race again. Instead, Clinton’s speech, delivered before a less-than-capacity crowd in a hotel ballroom instead of outdoors in front of a cheering throng, turned into an optical disaster. Democrats, instead of getting pumped up for the campaign, have been left grumbling.

    Because of that Malloy hasn’t had much luck countering Foley’s economic accusations. Part of the reason is that he’s rowing against a strong current; Foley and the Republicans have been beating this drum basically the entire time Malloy has been in office, while Malloy didn’t even deign to get into the race until just before the convention in May.

    How did we get to this point? The economy of the state is actually not doing that badly, all things considered. Unemployment is lower than it was four years ago, there are more jobs, the state’s finances are in somewhat better shape, and the economy is stronger. But after four years of economic hardship, bitter fights over education, higher taxes, and natural disasters, people aren’t really inclined to think positively. They’re frustrated, and — justified or not — they’re about to take it out on the governor.

    It’s hard to fight that longstanding feeling that Connecticut is headed in the wrong direction. People might be better off than they were four years ago — marginally — but nobody wants to sign on for another four years like the ones we just lived through.

    This doesn’t mean that Malloy can’t turn it around. Foley’s support is soft — people seem to like him mainly because he isn’t Dan Malloy. He still hasn’t really defined himself beyond the basics, which does give the Malloy campaign an opening. Some 30 percent of voters say that they might change their minds before Election Day, and Democrats have a long pattern of flirting with other candidates only to return to the party fold when the time comes.

    But if nothing else, this poll could either give Democrats the kick in the rear they need to get moving, or it could send them into an even deeper funk. Given how bad Malloy’s luck has been lately, though, I’d bet on the latter.

    Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    OP-ED | Maybe Ray Rice Will Change, But Will the Rest of Us?

    by Karen Jarmoc | Sep 10, 2014 9:22am
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    Posted to: Opinion

    There have been a number of disturbing videos related to Ray Rice’s assault of his then-fiancé, now wife, that have been released to the public. Each one worse than the last. First was the video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious partner out of an elevator and dropping her on the floor.

    The second horrific video was the press conference Ray Rice held in May with a Baltimore Ravens backdrop and his victim by his side. He apologized to a number of people that day, none of whom were his wife. As a domestic violence advocate, I saw a woman terrified to say anything wrong. Terrified to have her true voice heard, instead talking about her supposed role in the assault.

    The third horrific video was the second press conference Ray Rice held in July following the announcement of a lenient two-game suspension by the NFL. Mr. Rice stood before the cameras and repeatedly referred to an “incident.” He never once said that he punched his wife and needed to get help for committing domestic violence.

    The fourth horrific video? I don’t think anyone needed to see the interior elevator footage to know what happened. And it’s irrelevant if anyone with the NFL or the Baltimore Ravens saw it before this week. The unconscious body being dragged out of the elevator is truly all the proof that was needed.

    So what’s next? How do we move forward from an extremely negative situation and create positive change? There is the obvious need for the stricter penalties instituted by the NFL at the end of August following public outcry that domestic violence results in a shorter suspension than drug use. This is something that all professional sports teams should ensure, strong anti-domestic violence policies. Of course the key to stricter penalties is follow-through, and not just when TMZ leaks a video.

    But change isn’t just needed at the corporate level. Mr. Rice has plenty of supporters. He was cheered when he walked out onto the practice field after the initial video had been released. You remember, the video where he drags his unconscious partner out of the elevator. Maybe the fans were giving him the benefit of the doubt since few seem to be cheering this week. It’s not to say that you can’t support a known abuser in getting help to change his or her behavior, but publicly lauding a sports figure or celebrity who clearly assaulted someone is questionable at best.

    The NFL is well-positioned to raise awareness about domestic violence. It can partner with the National Network to End Domestic Violence and statewide domestic violence coalitions across the country. It can help raise awareness among its fan base about what domestic violence is because it’s not just a violent punch to the head. It’s a pattern of control and coercion that can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and financial. And it escalates over time. It’s unlikely that this highly publicized elevator assault was the first time Mr. Rice abused his wife.

    And whatever we do, let’s not give credence to Mr. Rice’s opinion that he was provoked. The thing about change is that you have to accept responsibility for what you did wrong. This can be a difficult step for many domestic abusers, but it’s certainly not impossible. Although you won’t get there by saying that you were provoked, because nothing anyone says should ever be responded to with a fist. And you won’t get there by referring to the physical assault you committed against your partner as an “incident.”

    This horrible situation for one woman has shed a very public light on what so many others face every day, including the more than 20,000 domestic violence victims served annually in Connecticut alone. I’ve heard many well-intentioned people respond to this situation by saying that “real men don’t hit women.” Yes, real men and real women do not hit their partner. They also don’t try to control their partner, call their partner names, tell their partner they’re worthless, become extremely jealous when their partner wants to spend time with someone other than them, or any other number of controlling, coercive actions that are just as troubling as hitting them. Share that message with just one person and you’ll be well on your way to making a difference.

    Karen Jarmoc is the chief executive officer of Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Please call the statewide domestic violence hotline at 888-774-2900 if you or someone you know needs help.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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