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OP-ED | This Isn’t Just A Vacation Day

by Lindsay Farrell | Sep 1, 2014 5:29am
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Posted to: Labor, Opinion

Today, Labor Day, many of us will have a day off. We’ll go to the beach, or host a BBQ, and enjoy the end of summer. But it is important to remember that today is not just a day off.

There is a purpose and a history behind the holiday. In 1887 Labor Day was officially established to commemorate the labor movement, and the economic advances of workers and laborers. But today as our economy shifts, many of the advances made by the labor movement are eroding. The Working Families Party was established to combat that. We give workers and their families a voice in our government, and fight for an economy that will work for everyone, not just the rich.

While many of us will have the day off, a growing number of workers will be on the job. Restaurant cooks and servers, retail workers, and grocery store staff, to name just a small segment, will not get the day off. It is a sign of our changing economy, and a prime example of workers losing ground. Our middle class is disappearing and economic inequality is reaching extreme levels. Wages are flat or falling, benefits like paid vacation time and retirement savings opportunities are a luxury instead of the norm, and job security is a thing of the past.

It has always been a struggle for workers to gain respect on the job, particularly for workers who do not have a labor union to help them negotiate. Increasingly state and federal policies are determining the quality of a workplace. And today, a flood of corporate dollars and armies of special interest lobbyists drown out the voices of workers. The result has been predictable: large corporations, and Wall Street banks have gained power, and can frequently defeat common sense legislation that would benefit workers.

That’s where the Working Families Party comes in. We exist to represent working and middle class families and the unemployed: to raise our voices at the Capitol, and advocate for legislation that will have a positive impact on our lives.

And it works. In the past few years we have won some incredibly victories. We passed the first statewide paid sick days program, ensuring hundreds of thousands of workers wouldn’t have to choose between their health and their paycheck. We helped Connecticut become the first state to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. We helped lay the groundwork for a public retirement savings program so that every worker has the ability to retire with dignity and security. When workers organize and stand up for themselves, they can win policies that improve their lives, even over the objections of corporate interests.

One of the major reasons for our success on these issues is our unique ability to support candidates, as a political party, who become champions on these issues once elected. The Working Families Party is different than other political parties because it only supports candidates who will stand up for families like ours. It isn’t about personalities or power. It is about values. That is what being an independent political party is all about: our hands aren’t tied by special interests or political bosses. We won’t let anything stand in the way of building a fair and inclusive economy and government.

So today, as you are heading to parades or BBQs, think about how much more we can accomplish for workers. We need to solve the student debt crisis. We need to expand family friendly workplace policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. We need to hold large profitable corporations accountable for poverty wages and shady tax dodging schemes. Then think about how we can accomplish these goals and more. Just as labor unions have amplified workers voices on the job, the Working Families Party amplifies workers voices at the polls. This November, vote on the Working Families Party ballot line and stand up for your values.

Lindsay Farrell is the executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party

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Malloy Reminds Labor To Vote For Him In November

by Christine Stuart | Aug 29, 2014 4:10pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Labor, East Hartford

Christine Stuart photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Lori Pelletier

On the eve of the Labor Day weekend, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reminded labor leaders from across the state why they should support him in November.

At a union hall in East Hartford on Friday, Malloy acknowledged that it wasn’t easy to ask state employees for concessions back in 2011, but the state was “in a pickle.”

The Malloy administration faced a $3.67 billion budget deficit. In order to close the gap, he asked the state employee unions, who had worked hard to get him elected, for $1.6 billion in concessions. That year, Malloy also increased taxes $1.5 billion to help close the budget hole.

The state “had been driven into a ditch,” Malloy said Friday as he rolled up his sleeves to address the labor leaders. “Its obligations had been underfunded. State workers and all organized labor was under assault. Something had to be done.”

He said his job was to figure out how to “protect people” and “get our house in order.”

Labor leaders felt Malloy could have handled the 2011 negotiations better, but they didn’t feel they would have gotten a better deal if Republican Tom Foley had been elected.

AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Lori Pelletier described labor’s relationship with Malloy as “solid.”

She said all you have to do is look at who the Republican Party and Malloy’s Republican opponent have brought into the state: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“You can call it guilt by association,” Pelletier said.

As far as Malloy’s relationship with Connecticut’s labor movement is concerned, Pelletier said over the past few years it’s grown.

“A relationship is like a stone wall so you keep putting rocks on the stone wall and it builds up,” Pelletier said. “Listen, labor was the difference four years ago and we’ve proved to be good allies over the course of four years and he’s proved to be a good ally by respecting us.”

She said the number of people they contacted in 2010 and got to the polls made a difference when Malloy won the election against Foley by 6,404 votes.

AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters, who introduced Malloy on Friday, said she wants a governor “who respects workers rights” and “has an open door policy.”

Peters said the union drafted a six-page document outlining the Malloy administration’s accomplishments, including two controversial executive orders that allowed 10,000 personal care attendants and family child care providers to organize and collectively bargain.

“I want a governor who returns calls no matter who calls,” Peters said.

Malloy said he was trying to live up to all the accolades Peters showered upon him in her introduction.

“I want a state where workers are respected,” Malloy said. “I want a state where people are making a good and decent living.”

Reflecting on his first debate earlier this week with Foley, Malloy said his opponent “promises to do something, but he doesn’t really promise what it is. And he says he has a way to get there, but he doesn’t explain it.”

Reached by telephone after Malloy’s speech on Friday, Foley said he wouldn’t change the relationship the state has with its state employees and he wouldn’t look to change the way collective bargaining works in Connecticut.

Foley made similar remarks in June when he addressed the AFL-CIO’s convention in New Haven.

In order to balance the budget, Foley told the group he would hold state spending flat for the next two years.

“I can do this without layoffs and without undoing the agreements public employees now have with the state of Connecticut. The governor and the state must keep their word. A deal is a deal. You can tell everybody you know I made that commitment,” he said.

On Friday, Foley said that it’s obvious Malloy would try and paint him as a person who is not going to be fair to state employees. He said his 35 years in business taught him it’s necessary to be fair to workers and give them the benefits they want and deserve.

“State government does a lot of things and those things mostly get done through people,” Foley said.

He said if he wants to be the “best governor the state has ever had,” then he’s going to have to be respectful and fair to the workforce. He said state workers would actually “feel more secure” under his administration.

As far as his relationship with labor, Malloy admitted Friday that “there are crises that pull at fabrics, but don’t tear them apart.”

He said he thinks labor recognizes the tough work they had to do during his first year in office.

“I then went out and kept my promises because it was good for the people who work for us and it was good for the people who we serve,” Malloy said.

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Pelto Officially Out of Race

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 29, 2014 3:19pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Christine Stuart file photo

Jonathan Pelto

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill confirmed in a press release Friday that petitioning candidate Jonathan Pelto will not be appearing on the ballot during this year’s campaign for governor.

Merrill, the state’s top election official, verified what Pelto signaled to his supporters almost a week ago — he had failed to collect the 7,500 voter signatures necessary to petition onto the ballot. According to Merrill, Pelto collected 4,318 signatures.

Pelto, a liberal critic of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and former lawmaker, had hoped to challenge Malloy’s re-election by picking off progressive voters dissatisfied with the governor’s education policies. He created the Education and Democracy Party in an effort to get on the ballot.

“While we failed to achieve that critical goal, we’re hopeful that our effort has and will continue to spur a more serious discussion about the critically important issues facing Connecticut,” Pelto said Friday.

He said he would stay involved in the political process and will partner with other third parties to “develop and advocate for a legislative package that will reduce the unfair aspects of the petitioning process.”

Malloy will appear twice on the ballot in November: as the Democratic candidate and as the candidate for the Working Families Party. His 2010 rival, Tom Foley, will also appear on two lines as the candidate for the Republican Party and the Independent Party. Meanwhile, Joe Visconti, a conservative candidate and gun rights activist will also appear on the ballot.

Pelto had objected to the rejection of some of the signatures submitted for him and publicly considered a legal challenge. But he has since acknowledged that even if a court accepted those dismissed signatures, he still wouldn’t have enough to qualify.

“It’s become apparent to me that we may not be close enough that those errors will make a difference,” he said Monday. “. . . I think we just failed to get enough signatures, part of it is organizational. We just dropped the ball.”

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OP-ED | We Treat Third Parties Like Pariahs, And Our Democracy Suffers For It

by Susan Bigelow | Aug 29, 2014 1:00pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Election Policy, Opinion

It looks like former State Rep. Jonathan Pelto will be left off of the ballot for governor this fall, which will be a relief to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election team. It’s also a sad commentary on the way we treat minor parties in this state, and how the two-party monopoly squeezes out much-needed competition.

I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of Pelto’s candidacy; I felt his important points tended to get lost in a sea of hyperbole and vitriol. He had every right to run, though, and he seemed poised to appeal to a constituency of teachers and union members that had felt slighted during the Malloy years. I fully expected Pelto would gather the signatures he needed, and maybe pick up the endorsement of some of the unions who have been furious with Gov. Malloy.

None of that happened. Unions who felt betrayed by the governor during the fight over state employee concessions in 2011 and again over teacher tenure and education reform in 2012 are now lining up behind his re-election campaign, leaving Pelto high and dry.

Union leaders actively shut Pelto out, and some went as far as attacking his record. SEIU 1199NE President David Pickus said that Pelto, who has been a consistent pro-union voice, “. . . had no support for unions in 2001 when he was strategizing against Connecticut workers and aligning himself with disgraced former governor John Rowland.”

It didn’t end there. The Connecticut Education Association, which on the issues should have been one of Pelto’s biggest allies, actually blocked him from collecting signatures outside their convention. They went on to endorse the governor’s re-election campaign.

Union members may agree more with Pelto or another minor party candidate, but the organizations don’t feel nearly strong or confident enough to actually break their alliance with the Democratic Party. Unions know that if they want to remain relevant at all, they have to align themselves with one of the two major parties — and one of those utterly despises them. So what choice do they have?

The upshot is that, of this writing, Pelto believed he had failed to gather the signatures he needed to qualify for the ballot. Part of this is his campaign’s fault, but fearful, weak unions and a system that makes ballot access for minor party candidates obnoxious and difficult didn’t help.

But it’s not just organized labor that’s feeling pressure to stay with the two party monopoly — the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League, a pro-Second Amendment interest group, endorsed Tom Foley today over independent Joe Visconti. This is puzzling: Foley’s views on gun control have been waffling and ethereal, while Visconti has made his entire campaign about restoring gun rights. Visconti, who did manage to qualify for November’s ballot, also said he’d received some “vitriolic” Facebook posts from CCDL board members, and was facing pushback from other organizations that favored Foley.

Even the two bigger “minor” parties in the state, the Working Families Party and the Independent Party, have largely made headlines in recent years not by winning elections on their own but instead by cross-endorsing Democrats or Republicans, respectively.

The problem here is that we’re stuck in a two-party rut, and we have no good way of getting out of it. This is our system, and it’s (mostly) worked for us since the Civil War, but there are a lot of very significant drawbacks causing problems.

First, this system actually works against democracy, because a lot of voices by necessity don’t get heard. Unions and progressives may not like where Connecticut’s Democratic leaders are going, but they have no real option other than running primary after primary and trying to drag the big party to the left. The same is true of groups on the right.

Another effect of having a two-party monopoly is polarization — the two big parties know that one or the other will win, so they can throw all their energy into blocking and winning at all costs instead of trying to build coalitions.

Voting reform might have an effect on this. California’s “top two” primary system is a good start, and so are a lot of alternative voting schemes that let people choose a second choice. Making ballot access easier and more straightforward would help, as well, as would more consistent inclusion of minor party candidates in debates and public campaign financing.

Our democracy needs to evolve to ensure everyone’s voice is heard — and make sure that the sort of election we’re facing, where the only real choices are between bad and worse, never happens again.

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

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Gun Rights Group Goes With Foley

by Christine Stuart | Aug 29, 2014 11:14am
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Posted to: Election 2014

Christine Stuart file photo

Tom Foley and Joe Visconti at a gun rally in April at the state Capitol

Upon hearing that the 15,000-member Connecticut Citizens Defense League endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley Friday morning, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy could barely contain his excitement.

“I’m shocked. I’m shocked,” Malloy said with a grin on his face.

Malloy said Foley would repeal the stricter gun laws passed post-Newtown, if a bill makes it to his desk.

“When a governor says he’ll sign a bill or he’ll sign a repeal he’s actually advocating a position,” Malloy said. “If people want to rollback regulations that have lowered crime and made children safer, and made teachers safer, and made parents safer and make communities safer ... then you know, I guess they know who their guy is because he just got endorsed by an organization that advocates doing every one of those things.”

The Second Amendment group, which saw its membership grow in response to the post-Newtown gun control measures taken by the legislature, said after carefully considering the issues it has decided to endorse Foley and his running mate Heather Bond Somers.

“Governor Dannel Malloy has a proven track record of supporting anti-rights legislation and has vilified and ostracized Connecticut gun owners throughout his term,” the group said in an email. “It is time for him to be to be replaced. We strongly believe that the team of Tom Foley and Heather Somers will take Connecticut in a new direction that is so desperately needed.”

In addition to Foley and Somers, the group endorsed the rest of the Republican ticket and Democratic Sens. Cathy Osten and Andy Maynard. Democratic State Reps. Ed Jutila, Linda Orange, Dan Rovero, Peggy Sayers, Buddy Altobello, Lou Esposito, and Kevin Ryan were also endorsed by the group.

Joe Visconti, the Republican who petitioned his way onto the ballot, and has made gun rights a central part of his platform was snubbed by the group.

On Monday, Visconti said he blocked on Facebook several board members from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. He said he had received several concerning and “vitriolic” posts from members of the 2nd Amendment group who support Foley.

“I don’t like to block folks, I’m a huge First Amendment guy, but it’s off the reservation,” Visconti said about the posts. “I know these guys, we’ve politically bled together for years. To watch my own go like this, I mean, wow.”

Foley said that he never sought the group’s endorsement, but was happy to “have anybody’s endorsement” in what is expected to be a close race.

However, it’s unclear how much their endorsement will help his candidacy.

“I don’t know if Tom wants their endorsement,” Visconti said earlier this week. “I don’t think he can run fast enough away from it.”

A Quinnipiac University poll in May suggested that 56 percent of voters support the 2013 gun control law.

Click here to read the rest of CCDL’s endorsements.

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Feds Accidentally Disclose Privileged Emails In Rowland Case

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 29, 2014 10:21am
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Posted to: Legal

Peter Hvizdak/New Haven Register File photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland walks with his attorney Reid Weingarten on the far left into court

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to prevent former Gov. John Rowland’s lawyers from using accidentally-disclosed privileged emails as evidence during his campaign corruption trial scheduled to begin Wednesday. 

Rowland’s charges stem from allegations that he conducted work for a congressional campaign and conspired to illegally hide his compensation from elections regulators. Prosecutors say the former governor drafted up false contracts, designed to mask the reasons for his pay.

A jury has been selected to hear the case and decide whether Rowland broke the law while accepting payments from Brian Foley, the husband of former Republican congressional candidate Lisa Wilson Foley. He made a similar proposal to Mark Greenberg, another candidate who is running again this year.

The trial is set to start next week and the proceedings are expected to include testimony from the Foleys, who have pleaded guilty to related charges. But according to court documents filed Wednesday, prosecutors are concerned the proceedings may be slowed down.

That’s because they accidentally shared with Rowland’s lawyers a set of privileged emails including messages sent between Brian Foley and his lawyer. According to the motion, the feds acquired the emails when they executed a search warrant on Brian Foley’s laptop.

Prosecutors wrote they did not read the privileged emails but they turned them over to Rowland’s lawyers when they were sending the defense team other data during discovery.

“The government has recently learned that, in the process of producing Mr. Rowland’s potentially privileged communications to him, it inadvertently produced to the defendant other electronic data that had been marked as privileged, including those originating from other accounts,” the Wednesday motion reads.

Now, the former governor’s lawyers want to use some of that information at trial and they have added eight emails to their exhibit list.

The emails likely contain statements made by Foley to his lawyers—before Foley began cooperating with prosecutors—which Rowland’s attorneys hope will undermine Foley’s more recent testimony against their client.

Prosecutors and Foley’s lawyers want the emails precluded from trial.

“Mr. Rowland has no right to make use of Mr. Foley’s privileged communications in his defense, even if they are in some way helpful to his position,” Hubert Santos, Foley’s lawyer, wrote. “... Mr. Rowland’s rights do not supersede the sanctity of Mr. Foley’s attorney-client privilege.”

In court documents, Rowland’s lead attorney Reid Weingarten said they assumed that Foley had waived his attorney-client privilege when prosecutors sent them the emails. However, he suggested the privilege may not apply to the emails under an exemption that applies to messages used for crime or fraud.

Weingarten said Foley has testified that his lawyer wrote letters to defend the relationship between Foley and Rowland then submitted the letters “knowing that his relationship with Mr. Rowland was illegal and that the letters were false.”

In a response, Foley’s lawyer said Rowland couldn’t have it both ways by maintaining the agreement between he and Foley was legitimate but arguing it was false in order to meet the fraud exception.

“It seems disingenuous and duplicitous, therefore, for Mr. Rowland to be able to argue to the court, on the one hand, that the statements in Mr. Foley’s communications to his attorney were false in order to breach the attorney-client privilege but then argue to the jury, on the other hand that the statements, which incidentally operate to support Mr. Rowland’s defense were true,” he wrote.

The government also wants Rowland’s lawyers blocked from introducing any other evidence from the communications they were accidentally sent. The communications were not limited to emails between Foley and his lawyers.

“Any attempt to introduce other communications with the referenced attorneys in the midst of trial would inevitably delay the trial… Courts have routinely addressed attorney-client issues before trial. Such arguments are fact-intensive and, if made at the time of trial, impede the flow of the trial,” prosecutors wrote.

Rowland, who previously served 10 months in federal prison on a conspiracy charge after resigning the governor’s office in 2004, was indicted on the recent charges in April.

Several political insiders could be called to testify or be referenced during the trial when it begins next week.

According to a list included on a questionnaire for prospective jurors, attorneys may call or name Greenberg, Supreme Court Judge and former congressional candidate Andrew Roraback, former FBI agent and candidate Mike Clark, WTIC radio show host Will Marrotti, WTIC program director Jeneen Lee, former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, and former state Speaker of the House Tom Ritter. Republican Sen. Kevin Witkos of Canton also confirmed Friday that he has been subpoenaed in the case.

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OP-ED | Deficit the Unspoken Word in Malloy-Foley Debate

by Suzanne Bates | Aug 29, 2014 10:00am
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Posted to: Opinion

In this week’s gubernatorial debate, moderator Ray Hackett didn’t ask — or get to ask — one of the most glaring issues facing the two candidates: What are they going to do about the projected budget deficit? Where will the money come from? Or what will they cut?

Republican candidate Tom Foley should have brought the deficit up during the debate, especially because Gov. Dannel Malloy keeps denying it exists. Despite his denials, non partisan analysts say the deficit will be $2.8 billion in 2016-17, and given this year’s track record — not once but twice we were told the surplus looked good, only to see the money evaporate — we may be looking at an even higher number.

Malloy likes to talk about the $3.67 billion deficit he inherited when he took office the beginning of 2011, but he doesn’t much like to talk about the deficit he’s leaving behind.

Maybe that’s because he told voters the deficit would go away after he signed into law the biggest tax increase in Connecticut’s history, worth an estimated $1.5 billion.

The question on many voters’ minds is where did the money go? And also, given that we in Connecticut pay among the highest combined local and state tax rates in the nation, why can we still not make ends meet?

The most obvious answer to that question is that Malloy increased spending every year he was in office, exceeding the constitutionally mandated spending cap and the rate of inflation.

The other reason is that Malloy’s policies did not work to get the economy moving.

Not surprisingly, significantly raising taxes, as the state limped through an economic recovery after one of the nastiest economic downturns in recent history, was not a good idea.

Looking closely at the job numbers from the past three years, as Foley was somewhat clumsily trying to do during the debate, a picture emerges of what happened after Malloy took the reins of the economy.

The number of people in the job market was ticking up even as the economy struggled during 2008, 2009 and 2010. But in 2011, just after Malloy took office, the number of people working or looking for work in Connecticut started to fall, and it kept falling for the next three years, from 1.92 million to 1.85 million.

That means 70,000 people left our workforce in three years, whether because they moved, or retired, or gave up.

Malloy keeps claiming he created 50,000 jobs, but during Malloy’s tenure the number of people employed went from 1.73 million at the beginning of 2011, to 1.74 million last month. Meanwhile, the state is still missing more than 20,000 jobs from before 2008, making us one of the last states in the nation to not have recovered all of the jobs lost during the downturn.

So how do our revenues catch up when we’ve lost so many jobs? Malloy assumed he would rev up the state’s economic engine with a tax increase, and the deficit would disappear, but he was wrong.

Increasing taxes during the best of times hurts job growth, but Malloy increased taxes on a middle class that was already stressed out by job losses, shrinking salaries, and disappearing home equity. Tack that on top of an already high cost of living, and you can see why Connecticut’s economy deflated.

Malloy also decided that a slow economic recovery was the best time to introduce an aggressively liberal agenda that included raising the minimum wage higher than the rest of the country; unionizing home daycare and healthcare workers, first by decree and then through the legislative process; and making Connecticut the only state in the nation with paid sick leave.

On his campaign website, Malloy touts the use of Project Labor Agreements, which make state contracts available for bid only to companies who agree to hire union-only labor, leaving the vast majority of in-state contractors out in the cold.

Malloy thought he was leading the way, that regionally and nationally others would follow suit. But they didn’t. Connecticut alone followed this path and now we are seeing the fruits.

The effect of paid sick leave on the state is a good example — even in the report issued by the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, which was seen as vindicating the new employer mandate, 10 percent of businesses reported reducing their employees’ hours, which may not sound like much until you read the part about how 88 percent of the businesses surveyed already offered paid sick leave for their employees before Malloy passed the law.

In his nine-page policy platform released this week, Foley says he’ll work to improve the relationship between the state and businesses. While his words make him sound like he really wants to pursue this agenda, his performance in the debate lacked energy. Foley needs to show voters he means it.

It remains to be seen if Malloy will continue to tell voters that they aren’t really hurting, and that the future is bright even in the face of all of the bad economic news. That will largely depend on whether voters and the media demand something more from him — expressly, how he will do things differently in a second term so that things will improve.

It isn’t any one thing that makes big and small businesses skittish about investing in Connecticut. Instead, there is a slow drip of greater regulations and higher costs that continually erode business confidence. And that lack of confidence helps explain where we are with the job market, which then helps explain our deficit.

If only someone would have brought it up.

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.

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OP-ED | Who Will Celebrate Labor Day In 2034?

by Leo Canty and James Hughes | Aug 29, 2014 8:00am
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Posted to: Analysis, Business, Economics, Jobs, Labor, Opinion

For more than 100 years workers and their unions have designated a day to parade and celebrate labor, working people, the jobs they do and advances they have made. Over that time, the nature of that work has transformed dramatically from farms and factories to offices and cubicles.

Those changes were hard on many as they fell by the wayside in the struggle to keep up with the need to improve skills and fit into the next level. But as hard as it was for some, the transition we will all soon face will be much faster and wilder and more difficult to keep up with than most will ever imagine.

With every previous change in work, in all of the revolutions, some jobs were destroyed but others were created. Humans always got a step ahead of the complexity and remained smarter than the labor-saving devices they created. By doing so, they kept the jobs to run them. The reward of that progress was a steady improvement of the standard of living for those who kept up.

We are now entering the next job revolution — the robot revolution. Debates are raging in academia, high tech, finance and in the military, about the impact all the new machines will have on humans and jobs. Every day new technology is launched that exceeds yesterday’s capacity. Technology cost is dropping so rapidly business hits the easy button to switch over and the ubiquitous transition from human jobs to automation is seen merely as a curiosity, like the receding sea before a tsunami. It’s quietly happening while most of us are just too busy and distracted at work to see the robot tidal wave coming or to focus on a plan to build a new economy around it.

Jobageddon is coming and many futurists believe we’ve passed the tipping point as job losses will accelerate over the next two decades. The proportion of Americans in the labor force has declined steadily since 2000 but now it’s being noticed more. An Oxford University study released last year suggested that half of American jobs can be automated by 2035, and a follow up study found the same for Europe.

Meanwhile the business press tells us not to worry — jobs are lost every day and new ones get created. Always have. Always will. That’s like saying we can survive nuclear war because we survived previous wars. Things change.

And change is happening as Google and others launch their robot vehicles — cars, trucks, cabs, buses, bulldozers, and forklifts that move smarter, faster, cheaper, safer than humans. America has over three million jobs in transportation and hundreds of thousands of others with humans in operated machines. As humans are replaced at the controls some people will still be hired to manufacture,  service and manage them, but far fewer than the jobs they displace.

Job replacing robot stories are just starting to be reported in main stream media. The Courant’s recent story about the new Saint Francis Hospital automated lab was big news. A machine tests blood samples and reports out results faster, better, and more accurately than the humans in those jobs. And by the way, it cuts “operating costs.” In other words, fewer lab workers jobs. But that wasn’t the main theme.

If you think your job is unique and only a human can do it . . . think again. Computers double their abilities every 18 months and costs are dropping rapidly. In 20 years they will be 8,000 times faster and smarter than they are today and dirt cheap. Everyone is now getting in the game.

A couple of college kids just invented a machine in their garage called Monsieur. It takes your drink orders from the Monsieur app and pours a perfect cocktail to your specs and remembers it so it can pour the next one exactly how you like it. Monsieur is coming soon to a bar near you. So, there’s a few hundred thousand bar keeps that’ll be looking for work, while a few thousand new Monsieur sales and repair jobs will be created . . . of course as technology races forward a Monsieur-fix-it-bot won’t be far behind.

It is not a matter of if most human jobs will disappear it is only a matter of when. Then we will be faced with significant social and economic policy meltdown. Unless we begin to act now.

Many workers, unions and activist groups are pushing hard to raise the minimum wage to $10 or $15 per hour. Opponents say it will harm the economy, drive up costs, and cost jobs. Supporters say humans should be able to pay their bills, and the wealth gap reduced.

Both sides ignore automation which becomes more cost effective as workers become more expensive. We need to improve wages and benefits, and make sure humans are funded but we also need to be aware as we do so that we are racing the robots to jobaggedon.

Raising the minimum wage puts the jobaggedon issue in play sooner and that’s good. The debate needs to include everyone with more focus on the future. We won’t stop the advance of technology, and we really don’t want to. We do need to plan smarter to be ready to adapt to rapid change. That includes activating commissions on the future of jobs and organizations and politics that work on the policies needed to ease us into our new future.

How will our economy function with many fewer human incomes and more free time?  Who will buy stuff if no one is working? Keeping the economy ticking over may require clawing back some of the wealth that has been accumulating at the top. Governments can employ people to do the things that robots still can’t, like teach and take care of folks. Some nations are already experimenting with giving every citizen a stipend. There is a small but growing cadre of people and countries that get this and are beginning to act — but we’re not and we surely need to get moving. The transformation is not that far away and big changes in our lives are coming soon.

When robots end up doing all the work we hope they and their unions will keep the tradition alive and celebrate Labor Day . . . and maybe we can watch the parade, we’ll surely have the time to do it . . . If we start planning now.

Leo Canty is a retired labor and political activist. James Hughes Ph.D is the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford.

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OP-ED | Confronting Evil: Grading Connecticut’s Washington Delegation On ISIS

by Terry D. Cowgill | Aug 29, 2014 5:29am
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Posted to: Congress, Opinion, White House

On one of the most crucial foreign policy and national security issues of our time, where do the members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation stand? Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to determine their positions on the menace that is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As of early this week, three had barely said anything on the issue while the others have been careful not to step on too many toes.

This is to be expected for two reasons. First, all of them are, at their cores, politicians. They all want to position themselves so as to maximize their deniability in the event of a catastrophe. And since they’re not being called upon to vote — not yet anyway — they can get away with it.

Second, Connecticut’s entire seven-member delegation is comprised exclusively of Democrats, so they don’t want to be seen as too critical of one their own. But that reluctance is no doubt limited by President Obama’s weak approval ratings in Connecticut, which last time Quinnipiac polled back in March was 45 percent — only slightly better than his current nationwide favorables of 44 percent.

The senior senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, released a statement on Aug. 8 — the same day as several other members of the state’s delegation. He began by stating his opposition to “open-ended military commitments” — a bold move. Really, is there anyone out there who is actually for open-ended military commitments?

Without mentioning ISIS by name, Blumenthal correctly characterized the current situation as “a consequence of the failure of the international community to contain the ongoing civil war in Syria.” And in exchange for continued U.S. military aid, Blumenthal also called for a new Iraqi government that is “inclusive and unifying.” This was the right thing to say and, combined with the similar words of other U.S. officials, surely hastened the departure of the inept and corrupt Nouri al-Maliki.

I’d give Blumenthal, a member of the Armed Services Committee, a B.

On the same day, Chris Murphy, the junior senator from Connecticut and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, showed a little less maturity. Like Blumenthal, Murphy bravely said he could not “support a new open-ended military campaign in Iraq.” Limited operations to prevent “genocide” and to “protect American personnel from imminent harm” were fine. But he did not call for a change in Iraqi leadership and snarkily likened himself to Obama in that both were “elected to end America’s recent history of military hubris in the Middle East.”

Murphy further distanced himself from Obama, predictably opining that “the president needs to better explain how this intervention is strictly time- and scope-limited.” Murphy gets a C-.

In the House, neither Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, nor John Larson could summon the strength to offer a substantive opinion on the volatile and potentially catastrophic situation in Syria and Iraq, where a heavily armed, bloodthirsty terrorist army bent on expansion prompted a U.S bombing campaign and recently beheaded an American journalist, kidnapped and raped girls, and summarily executed 500 Christians who refused to convert to Islam.

By far the most active House member in the Nutmeg State has been Jim Himes in the 4th District, which is perhaps to be expected from a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Unlike Blumenthal, Murphy, and Elizabeth Esty, his 5th District colleague to the north, Himes didn’t wait until Aug. 8 to address the exploding crisis in Syria and Iraq. Back in mid June, Himes addressed the “brutal sectarian conflict” and insisted that it needed to be “resolved by Iraqis” themselves.

Himes applauded President Obama’s statement that he would not send combat troops back into Iraq, but unlike other members of the Connecticut delegation, he wisely urged the president “to work closely with Congress to determine the next steps,” as did Esty. And that was about the only useful thing she said in her brief statement. Larson also has suggested the president needs to work with Congress, and he said he doesn’t think the U.S. should “go it alone.”

It also is worth noting that Congress is in recess until Sept. 6, and we are told that members are not being briefed on ISIS while they are away from Washington. Regardless, based on statements from the White House and news reports, it appears that our military is engaging ISIS already on a limited basis.


Himes also appeared on the Mike Huckabee Show on Fox News — hostile territory for a New England Democrat — and stated flatly that ransom payments to ISIS in exchange for captured Americans should be rejected out-of-hand because it would encourage more kidnapping and provide yet more money for the terrorist army. And he repeated many of these points on a recent tour of his district.

The ISIS problem is of critical importance to both the U.S. and international community. There can be no room for mealy-mouthed statements or outright silence from our elected officials.

Esty gets a C and Himes gets an A. Indeed, if Himes hadn’t been born in Peru, I’d urge him to keep his eye on national office. I’m half tempted to campaign for the repeal of Section 1, Article 2 of the Constitution. But then again, that nativist clause might be the only thing protecting us from the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ted Cruz.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this column was written, Rep. Larson’s office released a statement entitled “House Should Return to Washington and Work on Serious Situation in Iraq” and offered these comments to Fox Connecticut. We edited this op-ed to reflect his most recent statements.

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.

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New Security Measures At State Capitol Complex

by Christine Stuart | Aug 29, 2014 5:29am
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Rep. Pam Sawyer tries out the new turnstiles in the LOB

(Updated 4:10 p.m.) The new security measures at the state Capitol complex went live Thursday morning to mixed reviews from lawmakers and employees.

The new measures, which include metal detectors, security vestibules, and swipe card technologies, were all employed Thursday for the first time.

As with the first day of any new technology there were some glitches. Namely the shadows being cast in the vestibule used by staff and lawmakers periodically detected more than one person inside the glass booth.

The technology only allows for one person to enter at a time, so the person was asked by an electronic voice to step outside the vestibule and wait 10 seconds before trying to reenter the building. The glass around the vestibule, which is not bulletproof, is scheduled to be tinted in the next few days to resolve the issue. Other staffers had problems getting through the door with their backpacks or boxes of paperwork. It’s unclear at the moment how that problem would be solved. 

The public and lobbyists now have to go through metal detectors which are located at the entrance of the Legislative Office Building and the west side of the state Capitol. However, once inside the building they can walk freely between the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building, which are connected by an underground concourse.

Rep. Pam Sawyer, R-Bolton, who is retiring after 22 years in the legislature, said she remembers when all the doors in the building were opened and there were no badges or cameras.

She tried out the new turnstiles Thursday, but commented that “it’s a sad day” when all these security measures become necessary.

Although metal detectors are a common security measure at the Capitol buildings in many states, they have rarely been used at the Connecticut Capitol complex. Capitol police temporarily installed two metal detectors in the Legislative Office Building in January 2013, when more that 2,000 people came to the building for a public hearing on gun control.

The Capitol police announced the new security measures this January, but work on the project didn’t get underway until after this year’s legislative session.

Capitol Police Officer Scott Driscoll said the first day went well.

“We haven’t heard of any issues,” Driscoll said.

But Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the true test of the new system will come when large crowds of people show up at the complex for a public hearing. He said he’s going to reserve judgment of the new system until then.

Legislative Management said the estimated cost of the enhanced security measures is around $600,000.

Christine Stuart photo

Metal detectors in the LOB

But security measures like the ones installed in Connecticut are not unusual in state Capitols around the country.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, there are metal detectors installed at 23 state Capitols, including those in New York and Massachusetts. Some state Capitols screen all visitors with the metal detectors, while some — like California — exempt state employees and legislators.

Prior to installing the ones in Connecticut, Capitol Police visited capitol buildings in Albany, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; Trenton, New Jersey and Providence, Rhode Island.

Back in January information on deployment, protocols, and best practices were gathered on the trip and used by Connecticut Capitol Police to formulate their recommendations to legislative leaders, who accepted them.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Management chaired by outgoing Sen. President Donald Williams and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey never met this year to vote on the recommendations. In 2013, the committee met twice, but the security upgrades were never raised at either meeting.

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OP-ED | Docs, Drug Companies, Insurers Drive Up Medicare Costs

by Wendell Potter | Aug 28, 2014 10:00pm
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Posted to: Health Care, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

Obamacare Forced Cuts At Hospitals, But Not For Other Segments Of Industry

As one of an estimated 78 million baby boomers in this country, I was delighted to hear that Medicare’s Hospital Trust Fund won’t run out of money until 2030 — 13 years later than projected in 2009, the year before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act.

While it’s uncertain how much of that good news can be attributed to the health care law, some of the provisions aimed at slowing Medicare spending, such as requiring Medicare to reduce payments to hospitals with high readmission rates, are likely helping.

But the Hospital Trust Fund accounts for only about half of total Medicare spending. Most of the rest goes to cover physician fees, prescription drugs and to provide incentives for health insurance companies to participate in the Medicare Advantage program and administer the Medicare drug program.

The Affordable Care Act could have done much more than it does to curb spending in those areas. Because it doesn’t is a testament to the power and influence of the lobbyists who represent doctors, pharmaceutical companies and health insurers.

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wanted to include language in the law that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies. That’s something that has long been a policy priority for patient and consumer advocates. But drug companies and their lobbyists are far more powerful and have far more money to spend to influence elections than any patient advocacy group could ever hope to have.

Late last month, two of the advocacy groups — the Medicare Rights Center and Social Security Works — released a report suggesting that Congress could save taxpayers $141 billion over 10 years just by reauthorizing a program that was eliminated at the behest of drug makers when lawmakers enacted the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Part D) in 2003.

The groups noted that while the prescription drug benefit helped Medicare beneficiaries afford their medications, “the law also severely limited the government’s ability to control Medicare drug prices.”

Prior to passage of the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, which created Part D, the federal government benefited from discounts on prescription medicines for people covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. According to the advocacy groups, elimination of that program “resulted in windfall profits for pharmaceutical manufacturers.” They cited an analysis showing that drug companies’ profits soared by 34 percent to $76.3 billion in the first year of the Part D program.

The groups also recommended that Congress allow Medicare to create its own drug insurance plan that could directly negotiate drug prices in the same way as another big government agency — the Department of Veterans Affairs — has long been able to do.

Medicare could also reduce spending by billions of dollars if it wrested some control from the American Medical Association, which for more than two decades has largely determined how much doctors get paid by Medicare for the services they provide.

As reported in POLITICO Magazine last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the AMA/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC for short) the responsibility to determine the relative value of the “time, effort and skill that goes into performing a procedure.”

Over the course of several years, the committee’s recommendations to CMS have led to the major income disparity that now exists between primary care physicians and specialists, who are paid more because the work they do is deemed by the committee to have greater relative value. This not only has created the severe shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, but it has also contributed to soaring health care costs, especially for Medicare.

Congress has also allowed health insurers to enrich themselves, in both lawful and unlawful ways, since the creation of the Medicare Advantage program in 1997.

Under this program, Medicare pays privately run health plans a set monthly rate for each patient. As the Center for Public Integrity reported in a series of investigative reports this past June, about 16 million Americans have enrolled in these private plans at a cost to taxpayers of more than $160 billion. In addition to paying the private plans a bonus to participate in the program, the CPI investigation uncovered as much as $70 billion of improper payments to Medicare Advantage plans from 2008 through last year.

Will Congress act to save taxpayers billions of dollars — and protect the solvency of the Medicare programs — by taking on the AMA, the drugmakers and the insurers? Don’t hold your breath.

As Waxman said following the release of the report calling for Congress to allow Medicare to demand rebates and negotiate prices with drug companies, it’s unlikely that lawmakers will take any action any time soon.

“Republicans, but even a lot of Democrats, are looking to the drug companies for campaign support,” he said.

He could have included insurance companies and physicians and host of other special interests on that list.

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.

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Super PAC Buys Polling, Research, & Ads

by Christine Stuart | Aug 28, 2014 2:06pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

A Super PAC associated with the Democratic Governors Association spent a lot of money on the Connecticut governor’s race the same night Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican Tom Foley met for their first debate.

According to filings with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, a PAC called Connecticut Forward spent more than $188,000 of the $1.25 million it received from the DGA on polling, research services, and advertising.

It spent about $62,600 on polls with Normington, Petts and Associates of Washington D.C. The company lists a number of governors, including Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware who came to stump for Malloy earlier this month, as its clients.

It spent more than $54,037 on research services with New Partners Consulting, also of Washington D.C. The company boasts on its website that it helped defeat former President George W. Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security.

It hired Shorr, Johnson, Magnus Strategic Media of Philadelphia for more than $64,500 to produce a television ad against Foley.

Connecticut Forward paid its staff about $4,775 and its treasurer, Michael Belmont of Canterbury $2,500, according to a notice filed Thursday night with election regulators.

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State Storm Advisories Will Be Translated Into Spanish

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 28, 2014 1:18pm
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Posted to: Weather

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Emergency press conferences from the state armory in Hartford will be translated in Spanish and will include a sign language interpreter as part of an effort to improve crisis communications, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday.

The governor typically holds press conferences in the state Emergency Operations Center during severe weather events like hurricanes or blizzards. On Thursday, Malloy announced that his office will take steps to ensure those emergency messages reach more people

“Recognizing that Spanish is the second most common language spoken in Connecticut, and that many ethnic media outlets are overburdened with translation services during emergencies, we will include Spanish translations of materials during activations of the Emergency Operations Center. That begins immediately,” Malloy said.

The governor said each emergency press conference will also include a sign language interpreter to improve communications with people who have hearing disabilities. Malloy was joined by an interpreter Thursday.

“That’s you,” he told the translator, getting her to stop and laugh.

Sign language translators, like Heidi Catalan who was translating Thursday’s press conference, have been available for previous storm briefings through the state Department of Rehabilitation Services.

The two changes Malloy announced are recommendations from a 36-page interim report of a task force on emergency communications, which was published earlier this month. The report includes Census estimates that suggest more than 2.6 million Connecticut residents speak only English. Spanish-speakers make up the next largest group, with more than 368,000 people. Polish speaking residents are a distant third at around 39,000 residents.

Angel Fernandez-Chavero, a member of the task force, said the effort will help keep residents informed during emergencies regardless of where they are from and what language they speak.

“That’s an important thing, especially when you consider that some of us happen to have some challenges with the federal government, shall we say. So this is an assurance that when it comes to state and local government- that when it comes to our safety, hopefully we can all look to it to be our course and not something we should not go to,” he said.

During the press conference, Malloy noted it had been three years to the day since Hurricane Irene impacted the North Atlantic Coast early in his first term as governor. Malloy is now in a difficult re-election race and polls have suggested that voters believe he handles crisis well.

It’s a quality Malloy’s campaign has touted in its early campaign ads. Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora Schriro echoed those ads when she introduced the governor during Thursday’s press conference.

“It is my great pleasure to introduce the man who’s led the state through super storms and unimaginable tragedies, our governor, Gov. Dannel Malloy,” Schriro said.

Thursday’s announcement was part of Malloy’s official schedule and not a campaign event.

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Malloy Turns Focus To Foley’s Business Record During First Debate

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 27, 2014 9:08pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Norwich

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

NORWICH — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy sought Wednesday to keep the focus of the first gubernatorial debate on the business record of his opponent, Tom Foley, who dismissed the issue as irrelevant to Connecticut voters.

Malloy, a first-term Democrat, and Foley, his Republican rival, faced off Wednesday night before a crowd of about 400 people packed into a hot auditorium at Norwich Free Academy.

Although the debate covered several topics, moderator Ray Hackett, an editor at the Norwich Bulletin, allowed an open-format discussion between the candidates. During that discussion, Malloy returned several times to Foley’s record at a private equity firm and the closure of a Bibb Co. facility in Georgia, which shut its doors after it was sold by Foley’s firm.

The governor brought the issue up near the beginning of the debate, when Hackett asked both candidates if they considered their opponent dishonest. Malloy said records were important.

“I don’t think you told the truth about Bibb,” Malloy said.

During the 2010 election, Foley’s opponents used the Georgia textile facility’s closure against him and it has been the subject of several campaign ads already this year. Later on in the debate, he defended his record, saying the mill was shut down several years after he sold the company. He said the Bibb Co. did well during his tenure and he did not pay himself a salary while he was there. Foley said Connecticut voters were not interested in the issue. He called Malloy’s campaign ads revisiting the textile mill an “insult” to voters.

“You’re the governor of the state of Connecticut. People are feeling a huge squeeze . . . A lot of people can’t afford to live in our state anymore. Why are you spending so much time looking at some deal I supposedly did in the 1990s?” Foley asked, prompting applause from some of the audience.

Malloy said the mill’s fate was relevant to the future of Connecticut if Foley were to win the election.

“You told us it’s going to take eight years to solve the problems in the state of Connecticut. You had eight years to solve the problem at Bibb, to protect people’s livelihoods, to figure out how to get the job done. And you failed to do it,” he said.

Malloy also drew a line from the textile mill’s closure to a widely-publicized event Foley held in July outside the Fusion Paperboard Co. in Sprague, which was owned by a private equity firm when it closed and laid off 145 workers.

Hugh McQuaid photo

Tom Foley and his spokesman Chris Cooper

Foley insists he held the press conference, which devolved into a bickering match between he and Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten, in order to highlight Malloy’s policy failures.

“Let me ask you Tom, when the companies that you owned failed did you go to their governors and blame them?” Malloy asked as the audience interrupted with applause.

The candidates also spent about 10 minutes arguing over the gun control law Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature passed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Foley has said he would not push to repeal the law, but has said he would sign such a bill if the legislature passed it. He has called the bill inconvenient for gun owners, but has been vague about which provisions he opposes.

Malloy took the opportunity to quiz Foley about the law.

“Tom, should a person be able to buy a gun without a background check?” he asked. Foley answered “No.” Malloy kept going. He asked whether a person with a mental illness should be allowed to purchase a gun. Foley said it depends on the severity of the illness. Malloy asked about whether a gun owner with a protective order should be allowed to keep their firearm.

“Do you want to go over the whole bill,” Foley asked. Malloy said he would because Foley has avoided questions such questions. Malloy said he has been clear on the issue.

“I will never sign a repeal . . . If you’re talking about repealing the fundamentals of this legislation, which has led to lower crime, fewer homicides, and safer schools, teachers, and administrators — I want to be very clear, I would not repeal that,” he said.

Foley said he opposed one provision in the law that prohibited certain AR-15 style rifles and required gun owners who had already purchased them to register the weapons with the state or face felony charges. Foley said he would try to pardon anyone who was charged under that provision of the law.

“You say ‘If you don’t do something within two or three months, you’re going to be a felon?’ Governor, what were you thinking?” he said. “Absolutely, that aspect of the law, I would change.”

Education

Another hot-button issue in the governor’s race this year is education.

Foley has been critical of the increased amount of funding Malloy has spent on education.

Foley maintained during the debate that the percentage of education funding wasn’t as high as spending in other areas of the budget, even though dollar-for-dollar the funding has increased during Malloy’s tenure.

Hackett asked Foley why he thinks the percentage of education spending is more important than the actual dollars going to schools.

“It shows the actual commitment and priority of the governor,” Foley said. “Under Governor Malloy, he’s failed to do anything about state spending so it’s skyrocketing. It’s gone up 16 percent since he’s been governor.”

Foley has said he wants to keep spending flat and at the same time improve education.

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

Hackett also gave Malloy an opportunity to comment on a statement he made in 2012 that infuriated teachers and caused them to rally against his proposal on the steps of the state Capitol.

“I should admit that that was bad language,” Malloy said regarding his remarks. “It wasn’t actually about them, it was about tenure . . . I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying that.”

Despite the comment, one of the two teacher unions and a number of other labor groups have endorsed Malloy this year.

Foley said Malloy’s problem with education isn’t just spending, it’s also a “style issue.” Foley accused Malloy of not engaging teachers in a dialogue about what works best in the classroom.

Malloy told Foley that after running for governor for five or six years he still doesn’t understand the legislative process because “we actually got a bill that people agreed to.”

Christine Stuart contributed to this report.

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Board Promotes Information Technology Chief To Interim CEO

by Christine Stuart | Aug 27, 2014 5:07pm
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Posted to: Health Care

The Access Health CT Board of Directors unanimously appointed James R. Wadleigh Jr. as interim CEO of Connecticut’s insurance exchange on Wednesday.

The news comes just one day after Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan announced he had been recruited by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to help run healthcare.gov.

Wadleigh, chief information officer for Access Health CT, was one of three candidates the board considered during their closed-door deliberations Wednesday. The board also considered Access Health CT Chief Operations Officer Peter Van Loon and Chief Financial Officer Steven Sigal.

“Over the past two years, Jim has demonstrated great leadership in his role at Access Health, and we know he will continue to work collaboratively with the entire team,” Wyman said. “His strong background and experience will lead the Access Health team through the next open enrollment, as well as provide continuity on the overarching mission to provide residents of Connecticut with quality, affordable healthcare.”

Wadleigh, 47, has been working as chief information officer of the exchange since July 2012. Prior to that, he served as senior director of application development for call center technologies at CIGNA.

Wadleigh, Sigal, and Van Loon have all been encouraged by Wyman and the board to submit their application for the permanent position, which will now be the subject of a national search.

Wyman declined to put a timeline on the national search.

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Republican Leader, House Speaker Get Wet For Charity

by Staff Report | Aug 27, 2014 3:33pm
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Posted to: Nonprofits

Christine Stuart photo

House Republican Leader Lawrence Cafero gets doused

House Republican Leader Lawrence Cafero and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey made a trip to the state Capitol with staff members in tow Wednesday to take the ALS ice bucket challenge.

They flipped a coin to see which one would go first. Sharkey won the coin flip and doused Cafero first.

Cafero warned Sharkey that he has a “bad heart.”

Christine Stuart photo

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey takes his turn

Sharkey went next.

At the end they nominated, Sen. Martin Looney and Sen. Len Fasano.

They also made their donation to alsa.org.

 

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Report: Connecticut’s Living Wage Is $19.08 An Hour

by Christine Stuart | Aug 27, 2014 12:34pm
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Posted to: Economics, Education, Jobs, Labor

A national research group released a report Tuesday that concluded the living wage for a single adult in Connecticut is $19.08 an hour.

That number increases to $40.48 per hour for a Connecticut adult with two children.

The “Families Out of Balance” report is the first in the 2014 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series produced by the Alliance for a Just Society. The Connecticut Citizens Action Group helped contribute Connecticut-specific information to the report.

The overall report found that low-income households bear a dramatically disproportionate debt burden. The low-income group has $15.64 in income for every $1 of debt, while more affluent workers have $32.42 for every $1 of debt.

In Connecticut, students graduate with $27,816 in student loans and the average credit card holder in the state has an outstanding debt of $5,617. But those debt figures were not included in the calculation the group used to come up with the living wage, which varies from state to state.

The overall report found that making ends meet can be difficult for any low-wage worker, “but for households saddled with debt, supporting a family on low wages can be next to impossible.”

The living wage varied from $14.40 per hour in Montana to $19.08 in Connecticut, and $22.49 per hour in New York City.

This year, Connecticut was the first state in the nation to adopt a $10.10 an hour minimum wage by 2017, but the report found that “it is still not nearly enough to support a single person, let alone a family.”

A living wage, according to the report, is the hourly pay needed to cover the cost of housing, food, utilities, and other expenses, including modest savings.

“Gov. [Dannel] Malloy and the legislature should be applauded for enacting paid sick leave legislation and increasing Connecticut’s minimum wage to help working families and opponents of these policies should be ashamed of themselves,” Tom Swan, executive director of CCAG, said. “However, these laws are not nearly enough and we will continue to advocate for them to complete their unfinished business, including to demand that large profitable corporations like Walmart stop having taxpayers subsidize their low wages, to continue to fight to make the minimum wage a liveable wage, and to reinvest in higher education in a way that does not leave families struggling with such high levels of debt.”

Swan headed a coalition of labor advocates earlier this year in supporting legislation that would fine employers with more than 500 workers $1 per hour for any workers who are not being paid a standard wage, plus health care benefits or a 30 percent pay differential.

Under the bill, businesses would have the option of either raising wages or paying the fees to help offset what their employees cost the state in subsidies, Swan said.

But a drafting mistake may have contributed to the defeat of the legislation.

By citing the “standard wage”, business associations said labor advocates proposed legislation that would impact far more than what is traditionally considered “low wage” employers.

That’s because standard wage rates exist for every hourly occupation in the state — even those you might consider good paying jobs.

Labor advocates said it was their intention to have it apply only to businesses paying their workers less than the lowest standard wage rate in the state, which works out to about $11.31 an hour.

The legislation, according to the fiscal note, would have impacted about 100,675 of the 771,492 employees who work for firms with at least 500 employees.

Business groups warned lawmakers about the message that type of legislation sends to the business community.

Andrew Markowski, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said his organization has concerns the bill would set a terrible precedent “by imposing a tax on certain employers that the state deems to be underpaying certain employees.”

Tim Phelan, president of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association, called it “arbitrary and unfair,” especially when retail sales provide one in every five jobs in the state.

The bill passed the Labor Committee, but was defeated 16-27 by the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

The only other state to attempt to pass similar legislation was Maryland and that law was struck down by a federal court judge in 2006.

Markowski said studies like the one above often come from groups that “lack a fundamental understanding of the economy.”

He said the best way to raise wages is to have a vibrant economy and the best way to do that is by lowering the cost of doing business.

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First Gubernatorial Debate Tonight

by Christine Stuart | Aug 27, 2014 7:03am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Norwich

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican Tom Foley will debate for the first time tonight in Norwich for a crowd of about 400 people.

There may not be live television coverage, but Connecticut Network said it would try to air it live depending on the signal they’re able to get from the site.

The debate hosted by the Norwich Bulletin starts at 7 p.m. and will last an hour.

Malloy and Foley, who faced each other in 2010, are not unfamiliar foes. They debated each other six times in 2010 and will face each other five or six more times before this year’s November election.

The format of tonight’s debate will be more conversational and not the traditional question and answer format with a limit on how much can be said on each topic. Each candidate will be given 25 minutes to use as they see fit, taking as much or as little time as they feel is necessary to respond to the questions or each other. The two candidates will be seated on stage along with Ray Hackett of the Norwich Bulletin, who will be moderating the debate.

Joe Visconti, the third gubernatorial candidate whose name will be on the ballot in November, won’t be on stage tonight.

The Norwich Bulletin explained that the format for the debate was set prior to Visconti qualifying for the ballot.

It’s unclear if Visconti will be allowed to participate in future debates. Foley has said he has no problem with it.

A video recording of the debate will be available Thursday at NorwichBulletin.com.

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OP-ED | New School Year Brings Renewed Optimism

by Barth Keck | Aug 27, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Education, Opinion

As another summer ends and a new school year begins, I am optimistic.

Even as the pressures on schools and teachers mount, I begin yet another year with the belief that I can improve as a teacher and that my students can succeed.

Never mind the hullabaloo from education reformers who readily ignore the actual achievements of public schools with talk of charter schools, the Common Core, and the biggest evil of all: teacher tenure.

It’s the people on the front lines — classroom teachers — who understand this timeless reality: The best education reform takes place in the individual classroom.

So while I often use this space to question the current “educational reforms” sweeping the nation, I’ll begin the new school year by sharing practices that have had real, day-to-day effects on students in my own classroom. In short, my three-step recipe for education reform in the high school English class:

1. Professional Collaboration: Working with colleagues in my department and in my building is the best way to adapt to education’s expanding demands.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that conflict over reform in itself has been impeding educational progress — quantifiable progress that has been achieved in settings where educators have managed to move beyond unproductive battles,” writes Greg Anrig in his e-book, “Beyond the Education Wars: Evidence That Collaboration Builds Effective Schools.”

How best to “move beyond unproductive battles”?

“Recent research examining efforts to enhance collaboration in districts and schools strongly indicates that purposefully building trust works,” adds Anrig. “The weight of accumulating evidence suggests that it is time to reverse course from the ineffective reliance on the coercive ‘sticks’ that have dominated education policymaking to a new set of approaches that would promote effective teamwork and intensively collaborative practices.”

In other words, teachers and administrators must work together to create a community of learning throughout a school, just as teachers and students must do the same in the classroom. Not surprisingly, student achievement improves in this environment.

2. Independent Reading: Encouraging kids to read is the best way to make them better learners.

I have traditionally offered time for periodic SSR (sustained silent reading) in my English classes, but last year I collaborated with a reading specialist to institute daily, independent reading sessions. And I wasn’t the only one, as teachers throughout my department regularly set aside class time for students to read books of their own choosing. The reason is simple.

“Children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers,” according to research from the Institute of Education (IOE). “The IOE study, which is believed to be the first to examine the effect of reading for pleasure on cognitive development over time, found that children who read for pleasure made more progress in math, vocabulary, and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.”

Effective independent reading entails more than simply “letting kids read in class every day.” But the fact remains: Kids who read are better learners.

3. Connecting with Students: Kids are much more than “data points” on spreadsheets.

This idea should be obvious, but for the doubters, Texas A&M researcher Jan Hughes found that “when children have a supportive relationship with their teacher, one where they feel a sense of acceptance and security, they are more likely to work hard in school, follow rules and persist when they get stuck on problems. The children are also more likely to perceive themselves as more academically capable.”

Veteran teacher Rita Pierson makes the same point more emphatically in a rousing Ted Talk.

One way I make connections with students is to display an effusive passion for my subject, including a healthy dose of humor. But that’s just me. The key is for teachers to relate personally to the variety of individual human beings in the classroom.

So say all you want about charter schools and teacher tenure. A good deal of education reform is already occurring where it really matters — in the individual classrooms.

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)

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State Officials Criticize CL&P’s Proposed Fee Hike

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 26, 2014 4:00pm
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Posted to: Energy, Environment

istockphoto

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged state regulators Tuesday to reject a request by Connecticut Light & Power to increase a flat monthly fee on customers by nearly 60 percent.

In separate letters, Malloy and Blumenthal expressed their concern to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority about the 59 percent increase in a monthly service charge. If its application is approved, CL&P could increase the monthly charge from $16 to $25.50. The fee increase would apply regardless of energy consumption.

“Such a step is completely contrary to Connecticut’s energy policy, unfairly penalizes those who use the least electricity and unduly burdens small businesses and people on low or fixed incomes,” Malloy wrote.

In his letter, Blumenthal said the state’s energy rates were already too high.

“Connecticut electric rates are already among the highest in the United States — fifth highest according to the federal Energy Information Administration — and ratepayers cannot afford the additional burden imposed by CL&P’s rate request,” he wrote.

Mitch Gross, a spokesman for CL&P, said the rate request was necessary for the utility to make investment’s in the state’s electricity infrastructure.

“Last year, reliability was better than it’s been in over a decade due to the targeted system improvements and replacements we have made in our system. At the same time, we have worked hard to control our own operating costs, which have resulted in savings for customers,” he said in a statement.
 
Gross said it was important to remember that customer feedback would be part of PURA’s review process.

But Blumenthal and Malloy also objected to a proposal by CL&P to increase its rate of return from 9.4 to 10.2 cents per dollar. In his letter, Malloy commended the company for making infrastructure investments following major power outages caused by a devastating winter storm in 2011 and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

“While these investments are both necessary and appreciated, we are living in a time of low interest rates and lower returns on investments, as anyone with a savings account or an IRA knows. In the current economic environment, we do not need to further burden rate payers by increasing CL&P’s rate of return beyond what residents can expect in their own investments,” Malloy wrote.

During a press conference at the Legislative Office Building, Blumenthal called the rate request the most “outrageous” and “unfair” in his memory. State Consumer Counsel Elin Katz called the flat rate increase an “enormous jump” in an already-high fee.

CL&P has proposed to raise the fee to $25.50 a month. Katz said that far exceeds the rates in nearby areas. She said the fixed charge in the Boston area is $6.43 a month. In Western Massachusetts, the fee is $6 a month and in New Hampshire it’s $12.39, she said.

“If you look at from Maine all the way down here to Connecticut, Rhode Island, we’re talking about being by far the highest charge. It’s unwarranted. It’s unmerited,” she said.

Katz said her office has advocated for the utility to reduce the fixed charge to a little more that $11 per month.

State regulators expect to have a draft decision on the utility’s requests by early December. In the meantime, PURA will hold a series of public comment hearings on the proposed increases. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in New Britain with another in Stamford on Thursday. A third hearing will be held in New London on Sept. 3.

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Correction Commissioner Takes Job In New York City

by Staff Report | Aug 26, 2014 3:07pm
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Posted to: Public Safety

Hugh McQuaid file photo

DOC Commissioner James Dzurenda

Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner James E. Dzurenda will resign at the end of the month to take a job with the New York City Department of Correction.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Dzurenda to the position of commissioner in November 2013. Dzurenda served as interim commissioner for about nine months before receiving the job.

Dzurenda worked for the Connecticut Department of Correction for 27 years. He was first promoted to warden in 2002, and served as the chief administrator of both the Webster and Garner correctional institutions. After being appointed a district administrator with oversight over half the state’s prisons, Dzurenda was made deputy commissioner in 2010.

Under the direction of New York City Commissioner of Correction Joseph Ponte, Dzurenda will oversee the jails in each of the five New York City boroughs, including Rikers Island, as part of his new duties.

Malloy appointed Deputy Commissioner Scott Semple, who has 26 years of corrections experience, to serve as acting commissioner until a new commissioner can be named.

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Counihan Recruited To Run Federal Exchange

by Christine Stuart | Aug 26, 2014 2:08pm
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Posted to: Health Care, Insurance, White House

Christine Stuart photo

Kevin Counihan flanked by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Recruited by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the head of Connecticut’s insurance exchange will be leaving next month to start a new job in Washington.

Kevin Counihan, CEO of Access Health CT, will be leaving Sept. 5 to become Marketplace CEO at the Centers of Medicaid and Medicare Services. In his new position, Counihan will be responsible for the federal marketplace, managing relationships with state marketplaces, and running the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which regulates health insurance at the federal level.

“He brings additional operational and technological expertise to the position and will be a clear, single point of contact for streamlined decision-making,” U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell said in a press release.

His departure is bittersweet for him and state officials who credited his leadership for the success of Connecticut’s state-based exchange.

“Connecticut’s exchange has been held up to the national model,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. “And we’re very proud of that.”

The Access Health CT board of of directors will be choosing an interim CEO next week as the exchange heads into its second open enrollment period. At the same time, it will begin a national search for Counihan’s replacement.

“I’m very proud of him and very happy for him,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday before he quipped, “Going to Washington — you should have your head examined.”

Malloy said he received a courtesy call from Burwell who let him know she was bringing Counihan to Washington to work with her team on healthcare.gov.

But even before the phone call, Malloy said he knew Counihan was leaving. He said he could have played the phone call with Burwell two ways.

“I could tell her it was a terrible, terrible mistake that she would even consider Kevin for this new position,” Malloy joked. “But good people deserve to have good and wonderful things happen for them and to them and this recognition that Kevin really is the best in the land getting this work done is a high honor and privilege.”

Counihan said he’s proud of what Connecticut’s accomplished and tried to put it into perspective.

“Research shows that only six percent of government IT projects are successful,” Counihan said. “And we certainly went against that tide.”

Malloy said nine states are in negotiations with Connecticut for its information technology as it’s related to the exchange.

At least one healthcare advocacy group expressed concern Tuesday about a change in leadership at the exchange so close to the second enrollment period.

Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said she’s concerned there are still unresolved issues that the new CEO will need to handle immediately.

“With no funding or plan in place for in-person assistance for this upcoming enrollment period, we are truly concerned many residents won’t sign up for health insurance just because they won’t have the help they need,” Padilla said.

Malloy said he’s not concerned about the current staff handling the second wave of enrollments.

“If it was mid-stream after a terrible disaster, like a certain other project run by the national government, it would be bad,” Malloy said. “But the reality is that we have already done what no other state did and that is to reach the kinds of levels of participation that we have.”

He said it’s in the best interest of Connecticut that Counihan go help the federal government get their program in order because national news coverage of technology glitches with the federal exchange slowed enrollment in Connecticut.

“People just assumed we were down when the federal government was down,” Malloy said. “It is very important to the overall effort that the federal side get its act together and I think they’ve hired somebody who can do that.”

Wyman said there will be an interim CEO appointed and she anticipated most of the senior staff will remain at Access Health CT.

One question that’s remained unanswered as yet is whether those who purchased insurance plans through the exchange will have to renew their exchange enrollment status if they decide to stay with the same insurance carrier.

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Kiss of Death or Silver Bullet? Dems Await Foley Endorsement By Gun Rights Group

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 26, 2014 12:00pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid File Photo

Tom Foley speaks to CCDL in January

Democrats were eagerly awaiting Tuesday what they hope will be a politically-damaging endorsement of Republican Tom Foley by a state gun rights group, with one mayor accusing the candidate of selling “his soul to the devil” for support.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League will consider endorsing Foley, the Republican candidate for governor, during its Tuesday night meeting. Foley lost narrowly to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2010 and is hoping to unseat him in this year’s rematch.

The group, which has around 15,000 members, has been intent on defeating Malloy since he signed a sweeping gun control law following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Before the CCDL made an endorsement, state Democrats organized a conference call where Democratic municipal leaders decried Foley, gun rights advocates, and any attempts to roll back the 2013 law.

“It’s unconscionable to me that Tom Foley would sell his soul to the devil — not only his soul but the soul of all of my residents and the safety of my residents and my community,” East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc said on the call with reporters.

Democrats pointed several times to comments CCDL President Scott Wilson made to the New Haven Register, suggesting Foley had assured the group he would sign a repeal of the bill in the unlikely event the legislature passed one.

Although he has been vague on which aspects of the bill he opposes, Foley has made these statements publicly in the past. During a live interview broadcast on WTIC on Aug. 7, Foley told host Will Marotti the same thing.

“People have asked me if I support repeal. What I’ve said is I think that’s very unlikely with this legislature, but if they came with a repeal bill, I’d sign it,” Foley said during the interview.

But Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, framed the comments as a secret, backroom deal between Foley and the gun rights group.

“What did he promise the CCDL? If he promised to sign the repeal, what else has he told them behind closed doors that he’s not telling us?” she said.

Wilson said Wednesday that gun owners feel they are being demonized by Democrats this election cycle. But he said CCDL members are “everyday people” and not radicals.

“We’ve been vilified, demonized and ostracized ever since Sandy Hook. It’s resurfacing again because it’s election season. But we have a right to challenge the laws signed by legislators. We’re doing that in the courts and we have a right to do what we can during an election cycle,” Wilson said.

Wilson said it was not a “sure thing” that his group would vote to endorse Foley Tuesday night.

Foley has addressed the group in the past and has attended fundraising events, but he is not likely to be actively seeking its endorsement. He resisted staking out clear positions on the issue of gun control during the Republican primary.

When the National Rifle Association declined to endorse Foley in July and awarded him a “B-” on gun rights issues, Foley’s campaign issued a lukewarm statement.

“A ‘B-’ in school would not have been okay with my parents but here a ‘B-’ is okay,” Foley said through a spokesman.

Joe Visconti, a conservative candidate for governor and longtime gun rights advocate, said Monday he did not believe Foley was seeking the CCDL’s endorsement.

“I don’t know if Tom wants their endorsement. I don’t think he can run fast enough away from it,” Visconti said.

A Quinnipiac University poll in May suggested that 56 percent of voters support the 2013 gun control law.

In a statement, Foley’s spokesman Chris Cooper said the Tuesday conference call with Democratic mayors was a distraction.

“This is another distraction by desperate Dan Malloy who does not want to talk about his record of Connecticut’s largest tax increase, unusually slow job growth and budget gimmicks.  Tom Foley has never said he would seek to repeal the gun bill,” Cooper said.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Foley said he never sought CCDL’s endorsement.

“I’d be happy to have anybody’s endorsement,” Foley said.

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State Insurance Regulator & Advocate Save Consumers Money

by Christine Stuart | Aug 26, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Health Care, Insurance

CTNJ file photo The Office of the Healthcare Advocate saved consumers $1.5 million and the Insurance Department recovered $1.8 million — a total of $3.3 million — in the second quarter of this year.

Most of the savings the Insurance Department recovered for policyholders were related to health insurance, even though that total also includes savings and fines related to accident, homeowners, and life insurance policies.

“The advent of the Affordable Care Act resulted in more people having health insurance – some for the very first time,” Insurance Department Commissioner Thomas Leonardi said in a press release. “Our staff of experts is well versed in the law and handled hundreds of questions from consumers on their new coverage.”

The Insurance Department’s Consumer Affairs Unit fielded more than 1,600 complaints and inquires between April 1 and June 30.

Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri’s office handled 2,245 cases in the second quarter.

She attributed the increase in the number of calls to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion.

“In a time when healthcare is evolving, the demand for the kind of services we provide, which range from real-time consumer education and assistance in selecting a plan to direct advocacy in the grievance and appeal processes, is increasing exponentially,” Veltri said.

She said the $1.5 million in savings during the second quarter included successful appeals of complex mental health treatment denials of medically necessary inpatient psychiatric care for adolescents and several complex medical cases.

She said the case volume her office is handling is “trending at double the volume of calendar year 2013.”

With the second period of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act starting in just three months, both Veltri and Leonardi said they are ready to help consumers with their issues and questions.

Consumer recoveries and industry fines for the Insurance Department have totaled approximately $3.4 million since January 1, 2014. The Office of the Healthcare Advocate saved consumers $1.3 million in the first quarter of this year. Last year, it saved consumers a total of $9.5 million.

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Malloy Would Support A Constitutional Amendment For Transportation Funding

by Christine Stuart | Aug 25, 2014 3:32pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Taxes, State Capitol, Transportation

Christine Stuart photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Standing near the Old Main Street bridge in Rocky Hill, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared that he had “no problem” with a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the legislature from raiding the special transportation fund.

He said when it comes to funding roads, bridges, and transit he believes his administration is spending more money on transportation “than any other administration.”

“You can slice this and dice this on an accounting basis . . . but when everything is said and done, we’re spending more than any other administration,” Malloy said Monday.

Between 2005 and 2014 about $1.3 billion raised by the gross receipts tax — one of the state’s two gasoline taxes — has been spent on non-transportation programs. But Malloy’s administration said that doesn’t tell the whole story since most of that happened during the previous administration.

According to the Malloy administration, the average investment in transportation under former Gov. M. Jodi Rell was $1.097 billion. Under the Malloy administration it’s been $1.265 billion. Rell was in office for six years. Malloy has been in office for three and a half years.

However, the Malloy administration has moved money between the special transportation account and the general fund. Malloy argued the amount being spent on transportation is still higher than in the past so the transfers between the special transportation fund and the general fund are negligible.

“If there are transfers back and forth for accounting purposes, on a net basis and a gross basis we’re spending more money,” Malloy said Monday.

The governor said Monday that his transportation investments are 165 percent greater than the ones approved under Rell in 2010.

Malloy’s Republican opponent, Tom Foley, believes the governor hasn’t upheld his end of the bargain when it comes to funding transportation.

Foley’s campaign considers the decision not to dedicate the full amount of tax revenue from the gross receipts tax to the special transportation fund to be a “raid.”

During a debate prior to the Republican primary, Foley said he would not have supported the increase in the gross receipts tax that helps support transportation. He said he supports improving transportation infrastructure and would use “savings” from other parts of the budget to do it, but didn’t offer any specific examples of how he would fund it.

Christine Stuart photo

Old Main Street bridge

Last year, Malloy signed legislation that would statutorily require the legislature — starting next July — to use all the revenue from the tax to go to the special transportation fund.

Rep. David Scribner, the ranking Republican member of the Transportation Committee, attended Malloy’s press conference Monday.

“I’d rather it not be political because we worked together to accomplish this,” Scribner said in response to a question about whether his presence undermined Foley’s argument.

Scribner said he would like to see a constitutional amendment because, “we all know statutes can be changed.”

“It’s a lot more difficult to unravel,” a constitutional amendment Scribner said. “I’d rather get the public’s thumbprint and their commitment on that because I think we’d get it.”

Three-fourths of the General Assembly would need to approve a constitutional amendment before it goes to the voters in the next statewide election. A bill that called for a constitutional amendment was passed by the Transportation Committee last year, but never made it to the House or the Senate.

Scribner said a constitutional amendment would have to be initiated by the legislature, so it won’t necessarily be up to the governor.

“If it’s good statutorily, it’s just as good and better to be constitutional because it will stick,” Scribner said.

Malloy’s office, not his campaign, held the press conference Monday to tout the additional $25 million over the last two years the state has dedicated to the local bridge program. In Connecticut, there are more than 3,400 bridges and culverts on municipally maintained roads.

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Pelto: ’We Just Dropped The Ball’

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 25, 2014 1:02pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Christine Stuart file photo

Jonathan Pelto

After months of speculation that he could spoil Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election chances, Jonathan Pelto seems poised to exit the gubernatorial race without enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Pelto signalled to supporters over the weekend that he had likely failed to submit the 7,500 signatures necessary to petition onto the ballot. The liberal former lawmaker had publicly considered a lawsuit to challenge the rejection of some signatures. But he now says a legal challenge appears unlikely to put him over the top.

“It’s become apparent to me that we may not be close enough that those errors will make a difference,” he said Monday. “... I think we just failed to get enough signatures, part of it is organizational. We just dropped the ball.”

Pelto said he will continue to monitor the signature process as the last forms “trickle in” this week to the Office of the Secretary of this State. The outcome will solidify the 2014 gubernatorial ballot.

Malloy will appear twice: as the Democratic candidate and the candidate for the Working Families Party. His 2010 rival, Tom Foley, will also appear on two lines as the candidate for the Republican Party and the Independent Party. Meanwhile, Joe Visconti, a conservative candidate and gun rights activist will also appear on the ballot. Visconti easily reached the 7,500 signature threshold to qualify.

Pelto applauded Visconti and his successful petition drive. He said the conservative third-party candidate’s presence on the ballot will be welcomed by the same Malloy supporters who discouraged him from running.

“The irony—the elephant in the room—is that after weeks of the labor people and Malloy people calling me a spoiler, I bet if we were to listen carefully we’d hear them chanting ‘Thank goodness for spoilers,’” he said.

Pelto’s candidacy, and his vocal opposition to Malloy’s education policies, have put him at odds with much of his old party. Even if he fails to qualify, Pelto said Monday he has no regrets about burned bridges.

“Most of them were already well on fire,” he said.

But he said was taken aback by the harsh criticisms he received from some of the state’s labor organizations. On his blog, Pelto said he was “stunned” and “more hurt than anything else” by the Connecticut Education Association’s refusal to allow him to collect signatures outside one of its events.

“I want to be clear I don’t think Malloy’s organization was involved in this, but I did underestimate the vitriolic response from some of the labor leaders,” he said.

Pelto insists Malloy has pursued an “anti-teacher” agenda and expected to gain support among rank and file educators. But he has not received union support. Connecticut’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers endorsed Malloy. CEA has not yet made an endorsement.

Meanwhile, Visconti said he also faces significant pushback from individuals and organizations associated with causes he supports.

On Monday, he said he blocked on Facebook several board members from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. He said he had received several concerning and “vitriolic” posts from members of the 2nd Amendment group who support Foley.

“I don’t like to block folks, I’m a huge First Amendment guy, but it’s off the reservation,” Visconti said about the posts. “I know these guys we’ve politically bled together for years. To watch my own go like this, I mean, wow.”

Pelto said it was disappointing to see special interest groups abandoning candidates in their corner in favor of more mainstream choices.

“We will abandon people if we think half loaf is better than no loaf at all. As if democracy can only be divided up between a Democrat or a Republican and anybody else is just ruining that paradigm,” he said.

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DGA Gives $1.25M To Super PAC

by Christine Stuart | Aug 25, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014

The Democratic Governors Association donated $1.25 million to Connecticut Forward, the Super PAC formed to help Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election efforts.

The group recently released this ad, which uses footage from Republican Tom Foley’s press conference outside the Fusion Paperboard Co. in Sprague. The company was owned by a private equity firm.

It draws comparisons between the paper mill’s closing and the closing of a textile mill in Georgia that declared bankruptcy shortly after Foley’s private equity firm sold it. The Malloy campaign is using a similar ad criticizing Foley’s tenure at the Bibb Co., and the Foley campaign has an ad accusing the Malloy campaign of distorting the truth when it comes to Bibb.

Connecticut Forward paid Great American Media $834,637 for the ad buy. Great American Media was the same company that was hired by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to do Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s advertising.

A separate Super PAC calling itself Grow Connecticut and which was largely funded by the Republican Governors Association is running an ad criticizing Malloy for his tax increase and other policies.

The RGA gave Grow Connecticut $500,000. That group paid Target Enterprises of California — which buys media for Republican candidates — $266,000 to run TV ads against Malloy. According to several media reports, it has done work for several PACs associated with Tea Party underdogs trying to unseat Republican incumbents in Congress.

Outside money, like that from the DGA and the RGA, is expected to play a large part in the governor’s race this year. That’s in addition to the increased role the state parties can play in the campaigns for publicly funded candidates like Malloy and Foley.

But interpreting election law and this new landscape created by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United isn’t always easy.

Election regulators fined Foley in February after another Super PAC, Voters for Good Government, paid $15,504 for a poll commissioned by Foley in March 2013. Regulators found that Foley was officially a candidate at the point he commissioned the poll and he had to pay a $600 penalty. Voters for Good Government paid a $15,504 penalty.

Elizabeth Kurantowicz, former executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party, was the managing director for the Voters for Good Government PAC and is the treasurer for Grow Connecticut.

The only other independent expenditure group to throw its hat into the ring so far this election cycle is CT Voters for Gun Safety. The group has received a donation of about $11,000 from Connecticut Against Gun Violence, which helped organize the protest of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s fundraising trip to Greenwich on behalf of the Republican Party. Christie had recently refused to sign legislation that would have reduced the size of gun magazines.

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, announced earlier this year that he would create a Super PAC to support candidates who supported legislation banning assault weapons and reducing the size of magazines.

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Medicaid Payment Deferrals May Continue Into Second Quarter

by Christine Stuart | Aug 22, 2014 3:00pm
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Posted to: Health Care, State Capitol, Transparency

cms.hhs.gov

The federal government has refused to reimburse the state for its expanded Medicaid coverage this year and despite efforts to come to an agreement, the deferrals may continue into September.

The feds have been holding out on the state over a technical dispute regarding eligibility. Because of the disagreement, the state was not reimbursed for $249.2 million for the first quarter. The second quarter deadline is approaching next month, but Budget Secretary Ben Barnes said it’s not clear whether that payment is coming.

“If this is not worked out we’re going to have to substantially pay,” Barnes said Friday.

At the very least, Barnes said he believes Connecticut should be receiving 50 percent reimbursement until they can negotiate for the rest to cover the cost of the care already delivered for this population of low-income adults.

“This could put Connecticut into another cash crunch,” Republican state Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford said Friday.

Candelora said he hopes this issue is resolved quickly because if it isn’t, then the state is going to have to take $249.2 million “that we can’t afford to be without” out of the state’s checkbook.

A spokesman for the Social Services Department said Friday that they were working on getting the federal government the additional information it requested when it received a deferral notice in July for $249.2 million.

“It was not until then that funding was deferred,” David Dearborn, a spokesman for the state agency, said.

According to state officials, the federal government agreed in March to reimburse Connecticut at the 100 percent level for services provided to the newly eligible Medicaid expansion group. This new group, which includes low-income adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, was created under the Affordable Care Act. In 2010, Connecticut was one of the state’s to embrace Medicaid expansion.

The preliminary March agreement between the federal government and Connecticut covered payments to the state for January through March. State officials said Friday that the $249 million payment for the first quarter was expected to be made prior to the approval of an amendment to the requirements for reimbursement eligibility.

Then, as the state was actively working on getting the feds’ questions answered, it received notice that the payment would be deferred.

Earlier this week, Barnes, hinted that there was an issue with the funding in his monthly letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo.

Barnes told Lembo that his office is “closely monitoring federal review of Medicaid reimbursements for a variety of programs and services.”

Barnes said his office, along with the department of Social Services, is “actively engaged with the federal government in addressing issues relating to claiming methodologies and allowable costs.”

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Barnes said the situation regarding Medicaid expansion is “less than ideal,” but he believes they will find a resolution at the latest by the end of December.

After learning about the federal government’s decision to defer payment, Connecticut submitted additional information regarding the situation to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services on Aug. 19. CMS has 90 days to review that information and reply.

Once the state plan amendment is approved, the federal funding for the increased reimbursement rates likely will be made available to Connecticut, state officials said Friday.

Meanwhile, the state has received closed to $1 billion in funding from the federal government for the first quarter of the year to reimburse other costs under Medicaid.

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Esty, Greenberg Will Appear On Ballot Twice

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 22, 2014 2:52pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

CTNJ File Photo

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty

Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty and her Republican challenger Mark Greenberg will both receive double-billing on this year’s ballot in the 5th Congressional District race.

Both candidates were cross-endorsed this week by a third party, meaning their names will appear twice on the ballot. Esty, a first-term Democratic congresswoman, received the nomination of the liberal Working Families Party on Thursday.

“The party focuses on economic justice issues like raising the minimum wage, creating good jobs with fair pay and quality benefits, finding solutions to the student debt crisis, and ensuring that all workers can retire with financial security and dignity. Elizabeth Esty is committed to standing up for these principles, and that is why they earned the support of the Working Families Party,” a WFP press release read.

The Working Families statement criticized Greenberg, saying he favored a tax structure that benefits corporation and supports privatizing Social Security.

Greenberg, a conservative property developer, also received a third-party endorsement this week when won the nod of the Independent Party during a caucus meeting.

Christine Stuart Photo In a statement, Greenberg’s campaign manager, Bill Evans, said the endorsement “demonstrates that Mark Greenberg’s message of being an independent-minded candidate who will vote his conscience is resonating with voters. Mark’s approach stands in sharp contrast with the standard partisan positions of Congresswoman Esty who continues to toe the Obama line on every issue, no matter how much her votes hurt working families.”

Two Independent Party caucus members suggested Esty’s name during the Tuesday meeting. Unlike Greenberg, Esty did not attend the meeting or address the group. Greenberg stressed that point when he spoke to the group

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am here,” he said and paused “to talk to you about why I’m running for Congress.”

It is common for both third parties to cross endorse candidates of one of the major parties. In this year’s gubernatorial contest, the Working Families Party has cross endorsed Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Independent Party has cross endorsed his Republican challenger, Tom Foley.

Despite similar nominating practices, the Working Families Party emailed a fundraising letter Thursday criticizing the Independent Party and its endorsement of Foley.

“The ‘Independent Party’ isn’t so much a party as a trick on the ballot. It doesn’t have a platform or a set of values. This move is little more than a cynical attempt to trick voters who aren’t paying much attention into thinking that independent-minded voters are backing Foley,” Working Families Party Communications Director Taylor Leake wrote.

The Independent Party is the third largest party in Connecticut and its candidates received more votes in 2012 than the Working Families Party.

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Connecticut Won’t Prosecute Workers in D-SNAP Food Stamp Fraud Case

by New Haven Register | Aug 22, 2014 11:45am
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Graphic from the state Auditor’s report of the D-SNAP program.

The Office of the Chief State’s Attorney has decided against pursuing criminal charges against any state employees or private citizens who received D-SNAP benefits they weren’t entitled to following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Len Boyle said, “It ultimately came down to the allocation of resources.”

Boyle noted there were administrative and other remedies applied in the cases, such as disciplinary action against the state employees.

“All of these cases involved dollar amounts under $1,000,” Boyle said.

Click here to read more from the New Haven Register.

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OP-ED | It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State Department of Education

by Sarah Darer Littman | Aug 22, 2014 9:24am
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Posted to: Education, Opinion, Transparency

As soon as the Hartford Courant reported that a state grand jury had issued a subpoena for “all emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor since January 2012,” it was obvious the controversial head of the state Department of Education was on borrowed time. Frankly, I’m surprised he survived this long.

From the start, Pryor presided over a culture of cronyism and opacity, rather than the transparency Gov. “Dannel” P. Malloy promised. 

Take his funneling of $255,000 in no-bid contracts through the State Education Resource Center, for example.

Back in 2012, Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, filed a whistleblower complaint regarding these contracts after learning about them through emails he’d obtained through an FOIA request.

Gov. Malloy’s legal counsel at the time, Andrew McDonald, who has since been elevated to the bench as an associate justice of the State Supreme Court, called Swan’s complaint “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

Except that it wasn’t.

According to the interim report released by the state auditors: “. . . contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services. Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the State Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.”

Pryor’s Education Department has been strong on accountability for teachers, but did it hold itself to those same standards? Not so much.

While the pro-corporate education reform Hartford Courant editorial page waxed lyrical about Pryor’s accomplishments, let’s not forget that these are the same folks who were singing Michael Sharpe’s praises and wanting to give him more taxpayer money only hours before the FUSE/Jumoke scandal blew up. Of course they’ve since scrubbed that embarrassing little detail, but as we warn our kids when we teach them about Internet safety, screenshots are forever.

Pryor’s reign at the state Department of Education has certainly been great for consultants. It’s hard for the average Nutmegger to know exactly how great, because of his administration’s opacity. But I have high hopes that the transparency initiatives of our state comptroller, Kevin Lembo, and our legislature will eventually yield some answers on this and so many other issues that concern taxpayers, be they Democrats, Republicans, or unaffiliated.

When Comptroller Lembo’s office first launched OpenConnecticut — http://opencheckbook.ct.gov/ —I wrote to congratulate him on providing a much needed dose of sunlight into our state’s financial affairs.

But the site isn’t perfect yet, and Lembo’s office acknowledged that it’s still being developed.

When you visit OpenConnecticut and click on “Follow the Money” and then the “Contracts” tab, you are sent to the legislature’s Transparency.ct.gov page where you can search for state contracts.

However, while a search under the keyword “education” for 2013 gets us 242 results, it’s hard to know from this search — unless you actually know about the contracts — if they are all related to the state Department of Education.

What did strike me from that search (although it didn’t entirely surprise me) were the numerous contracts awarded through non-competitive bids.

But if I try to drill down in the search through the state Department of Education category, it only gives me the category totals. There’s no way to cross check the data.

I asked if I was missing something.

Joshua Wojcik, Policy Director for Lembo’s office, provided the following answer:

Hi Sarah,

I don’t know if anyone has given you a response yet, but the issue you are having is something we seeking to solve in the next iteration of the site. Right now contracts and the General Ledger expenditure data are stored in two different databases without the ability to crosswalk the information. We are looking at adding contracts to [OpenConnecticut] site so you will be able and filter by agency, thereby solving the issue you describe below. It may be a few months before we get there, but we are moving in that direction.


Unfortunately we’re left thinking that because of our state’s byzantine accounting system, it’s appears to be difficult for anyone — including those who are responsible for fiscal policy — to figure out how our money is being spent. Witness the roller coaster deficit and surplus predictions. It’s too difficult to keep an accurate eye on how our money is spent — although how much of that difficulty has to do with political maneuvering and how much of it has to do with the antiquated accounting systems remains to be seen.

I’m looking forward to the day, hopefully in the near future, that OpenConnecticut has cross-functional transparency. Sadly, this state has done much to earn the “Corrupticut” moniker, and until we shine light into Hartford’s dark funding crevices, we’ll never be able to get rid of it.

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.

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OP-ED | The Problem Isn’t Just the Police

by Susan Bigelow | Aug 22, 2014 7:30am
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Posted to: Civil Liberties, Law Enforcement, Opinion

What’s going on with the police in this country? If, like me, you’ve been alternately shocked and deeply saddened by the actions of police against protestors, journalists, and residents in Ferguson, MO, then this is a question that demands an answer.

The current series of demonstrations and strong police reactions began when a police officer in Ferguson shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. There are many black voices out there talking about the racial aspect of this awful tragedy, and I strongly suggest you read some of them. Greg Howard’s powerful essay, “America is Not For Black People,” is a good place to start. There are many others.

But this isn’t just about one young man’s life stolen by police in one town, it’s about a bigger pattern that white America is finally waking up to. Some recent examples: a black man named John Crawford was shot dead in an Ohio Wal-Mart because he was holding a toy air rifle. In South Dakota, an 8-year-old Rosebud Sioux girl was shot with a stun gun because police couldn’t convince her to put down a paring knife. In New York, a black man named Eric Garner was strangled by police who had him in a choke-hold.

And it’s not just happening in other states. Here in Connecticut, witnesses say that a Hartford teen was complying with officers’ orders when they shot him with a Taser. In Enfield, charges against a man who was accusing the police of brutality were quietly dropped after video emerged of the incident. And lastly, preliminary analysis of Connecticut traffic-stop data suggests that there’s a higher chance police will stop you if you are black or Latino.

The police themselves seem to be acting more like military than ever before, as well. “I’m A Cop: If You Don’t Want to Get Hurt, Don’t Challenge Me,” the title of a recent essay in the Washington Post, sounds like the arrogant attitude of an occupying force. The scenes of police in Missouri wearing military-style desert camouflage gear and confronting protestors with heavy military vehicles have been seared into the national consciousness over the past few weeks, but thanks to programs that sell military surplus to police for pennies on the dollar, departments all over the country now have access to this sort of gear.

The Courant found that plenty of Connecticut police departments have picked up cheap weapons and vehicles. Stratford, Fairfield, Windsor, and Windsor Locks have picked up M-16s, for example, while Meriden, West Hartford, and Woodbridge now own grenade launchers. Eleven departments, including Madison and Windsor, possess mine resistant vehicles, and Stratford owns a Huey helicopter. I can’t imagine what they’re planning on doing with them, especially in an era where violent crime has been falling for two decades.

Unfortunately, none of this will be easy to undo. It’s like this country figured out the recipe to make the perfect bomb: take longstanding institutional racism and historic attitudes of the police toward nonwhite people, and mix in the toxic effects of white paranoia, white supremacy, bulging prisons, gun culture, sensationalist media, and cheap military surplus, and you get something that is going to explode. And it has, again and again.

Look, I know that there are fantastic cops out there. I’ve met a lot of them, and I’m grateful for the work they all do every day. It’s a tough, dangerous job, and it doesn’t come with a lot of rewards. Many officers risk their lives on a regular basis to keep us safe.

But that doesn’t change any of the facts above. The police are in this gray area, where on the one hand they’re doing great things and making the country a better place to live, but on the other hand they’re engaging in oppressive behaviors: racially profiling people, becoming more militarized, and using firearms when they don’t need to.

If that gray area seems familiar, it’s because the U.S. military has lived there since 2001. I do have to wonder if we’re seeing yet another effect of the long war, this twitchy nervousness, and this sorting of everyone — without exceptions — into camps labeled “friends” or “enemies.”

Whatever the underlying causes, this road we’re on is a dangerous one, and we must do what we can to turn around. Examining racial profiling here in Connecticut is a good start, but the next governor and the next session of the legislature must do more to heal the chasm that’s opened up between police and community.

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

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Coverage and Subsidy Issues Explained

by Christine Stuart | Aug 22, 2014 7:00am
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Christine Stuart file photo

Access Health CT storefront in New Britain

The Access Health CT Board of Directors got an update Thursday on a situation CTNewsjunkie was first to report back in July about why some of its customers were losing coverage or seeing a change in their subsidy.

An operations analyst told the board of directors that they started hearing from consumers as early as May that they had lost their subsidy or their subsidy had changed.

“This in itself is not a unique scenario,” Matthew Lynch, an operations analyst, said. “Throughout most of open enrollment we had individuals saying their subsidy had changed or disappeared.”

He said upon reviewing the data most was as a result of changes in income, which was not a system issue. However, the volume of calls they were receiving about this was “concerning.”

When the cases were reviewed they discovered there were other reasons this was happening.

Two of those were systemic and one he attributed to “worker error.”

He said one of the system errors zeroed out the subsidy for certain customers when their information was shared with the insurance carrier. He attributed another issue to an error in what’s called an 834 form. It’s how Access Health CT gives the insurance carriers information about a customers’ request. During transmittal of the form, the subsidy was zeroed out.

“If an applicant did certain things, a certain way it triggered this issue,” Lynch said.

He said they identified that there was a systemic problem on July 1. In order to stop this from happening to more customers they added a filter so no new problems would occur. A permanent fix was issued on July 18.

The health insurance exchange estimated in early July that “potentially 5,700 customers were impacted,” Lynch said.

All of those 5,700 customers received a letter explaining the situation and what Access Health CT planned to do by contacting them and redetermining their eligibility. After the redetermination process Lynch said they figured out that “2,400 were negatively impacted” by the issue. Of those 2,400 about 900 of those customers lost coverage completely.

Lynch said all of those 2,400 customers had their information corrected.

There are an estimated 77,700 customers enrolled in plans with one of the three private insurance carriers and about 60,847 receive subsidies, according to the most recent information from Access Health CT.

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OP-ED | Of Teabags And Torts: Greenberg In The Fightin’ 5th

by Terry D. Cowgill | Aug 22, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

The battle for control of Connecticut’s competitive 5th-district congressional seat has been simmering for awhile. But when opposition research is dumped into the public domain, you know the race has reached a full boil and the incumbent is worried.

The re-election campaign of first-term Rep. Elizabeth Esty, operating through a well-oiled surrogate, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, last week released a 99-page “research book” on Republican opponent Mark Greenberg. The DCCC report was ably chronicled by Courant investigative reporter Jon Lender. And a few days after his Lenderizing, Greenberg defended himself through a flack.

The are no earth-shaking revelations here. Greenberg, a wealthy real estate developer and landlord, has been sued a total of 58 times. The DCCC reports this tidbit breathlessly, as if it would make a great exhibit at the lawsuit museum Ralph Nader has planned for his hometown of Winsted.

But if Greenberg, as a developer and landlord, hadn’t been sued multiple times (with or without merit), I’d be shocked. For in this day and age, litigation has become the order of the day. Indeed for some, it has become the preferred method of settling disputes.

An innocent slip and fall on the front steps of an apartment building or an infestation of mice can attract the attention an ambulance full of lawyers whose profession is overpopulated anyway. But hey, politicians have voting records, academics have paper trails, and businessmen have tort trails.

The DCCC oppo dump also includes a peculiar reference to Greenberg’s religion: It says he “identifies as Jewish,” as if his faith were akin to sexual orientation or political affiliation.

But it appears that some of Greenberg’s past statements and positions, as enunciated two years ago when he ran in the GOP primary and lost to former state Sen. Andrew Roraback, will come back to haunt him. Those utterances have to do with public policy and are far more substantive than his legal history or religion.

For one thing, Greenberg favors privatizing Social Security — an idea so unpopular that in his second term, President George W. Bush couldn’t even get his fellow Republicans in Congress to support it. Never mind that the privatization mechanism would only have taken effect if the beneficiary specifically elected to join it, so no one would have been taking the money out of senior citizens’ pockets and gambling it on the stock market without their consent. Still, the idea remains poison, particularly in blue states like Connecticut.

Other policy positions and statements will also make Greenberg a tough sell. The DCCC document notes that Greenberg once bragged, “I don’t know of anyone more conservative than I am.” That might go over well in South Carolina, or even among a small band of right wingers in the politically mixed 5th district. But in general those kinds of pronouncements are not made in polite company in Connecticut, which has the “steady habit” of electing moderate Republicans in the mold of Lowell Weicker, Nancy Johnson, Roraback and, yes, even John Rowland.

According to the DCCC, Greenberg has at various times said President Obama is pursuing “a communist agenda,” has opposed comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, wants to repeal Obamacare, and supports voucherizing Medicare.

Hearst Connecticut Media Group Such views give Democrats an opening to brand Greenberg as some kind of wild-eyed radical. Oh, wait. They’ve already done that. A billboard on Route 8 in Waterbury brands Greenberg “too far to be right.” And if that message is too subtle, to the right of those words is a tea bag whose tab says “radical right.” Ironically, that ham-handed attack wasn’t the handiwork of the Democratic machine, but of the brothers who own the sign company. They launched similar attacks against former two-time Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

Esty and her fellow Democrats are right and they have nothing to worry about. Greenberg is simply too conservative to represent the fightin’ 5th. But when Esty wins in a landslide on Nov. 4, she will have one person to thank.

The boss of her husband, Daniel, the former commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, did them both a huge favor when he appointed Roraback a Superior Court judge after he lost to Mrs. Esty in the general election two years ago. In putting Roraback on the bench, Gov. Dan Malloy removed the only other candidate with the resources and clout to challenge Mrs. Esty. That left the door wide open for the wealthy Greenberg, who said he would spend whatever is “necessary to get elected.”

So not only has Dan Esty’s return to Yale and the resumption of his lucrative consulting gigs proven to be a boon for the entire Esty clan, but his old buddy (the other Dan) greased the skids for Mrs. Esty’s return to her $175,000 a year job in Washington. Not bad for a few years work.

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.

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Malloy Boosts Education Funding, Defends Pryor’s Decision To Leave

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 21, 2014 3:45pm
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Posted to: Education

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

NEW BRITAIN — Standing with his outgoing education commissioner, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday new funding for troubled school districts participating in a state-run improvement program.

Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said the state would spend about $133 million more this year on 30 troubled school districts than the state spent on those same districts prior to the passage of Malloy’s 2012 education reform bill. This year’s funding level represents about $45 million increase over last year’s funding.

“It is proof that we are making the kind of progress that we promised we would make when we undertook educational reform just a few years ago,” Malloy said at a Thursday press conference held inside a New Britain middle school.

In order to participate in the program, school districts are required to draft improvement plans and submit those plans to the Education Department for approval. So far, 28 of the 30 school districts have had their plans approved by the state. Their funding levels were announced Thursday by the administration.

Malloy said the Alliance District program balances state and local control. Although the state identifies the areas where a school district must improve, the governor stressed that local administrators draft the plans to make the improvements. He said the program does not use a “cookie cutter” approach.

“The state’s going to increase funding and we have increased funding very substantially. We have an obligation to make sure that money is spent wisely. I think that is part of the give and take of providing hundreds of millions of dollars of additional funding to be concentrated on the districts most in need,” he said. “Do I think we’ve struck the right balance? I do.”

Not everyone agrees. Jonathan Pelto, a liberal blogger who has submitted signatures in an effort to challenge Malloy on the November ballot, released a statement claiming there were too many strings attached to the new funding.

“In order to get those funds, school districts were required to accept a series of new mandates and programs aimed at further implementing Malloy’s corporate education reform agenda and diverting scarce public dollars to private companies,” Pelto wrote.

For Pelto and other critics of Malloy’s education reform policies, Pryor, who co-founded a public charter school in New Haven, has been a lightning rod for criticism. Pryor announced this week that he does not intend to serve another term as commissioner, even if Malloy succeeds with his difficult re-election bid.

Thursday’s press conference was the first time the two men appeared together since the announcement. Reporters asked whether Pryor’s departure was a political calculation.

“I did not suggest that,” Malloy said. “It was a decision that we reached and we did have the opportunity to talk about it. I did receive his letter on Monday and as you note, I appear alongside my friend today. So let there be no doubt about that.”

Asked whether he felt his continued service may harm the governor’s re-election chances, Pryor answered that he was proud of the work he had done during Malloy’s first term.

“Sometimes when you look at a transition point — and a change in term is such a point — it makes sense to pursue opportunities and know that the contribution you’ve made is the right one and you wish to go on and make other contributions in your professional life. I maintain a superb relationship with this governor,” Pryor said.

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Rasmussen: Foley Up 7 Over Malloy

by Staff Report | Aug 21, 2014 2:49pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Poll

Rasmussen Reports conducted a telephone survey of 750 likely Connecticut voters this week and found that if the election were held today Republican Tom Foley would receive 45 percent of the vote and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would receive 38 percent.

Only seven percent of those surveyed would prefer to vote for another candidate and 10 percent were undecided — but the poll questions never mentioned any of the third-party candidates.

Republican Joe Visconti successfully petitioned his way onto the ballot this week and the Secretary of the State’s office is still tallying the petitions submitted by Jonathan Pelto.

The poll has a 4 percent margin of error.

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Advocates Call For Outreach Workers

by Christine Stuart | Aug 21, 2014 1:56pm
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Posted to: Health Care, Local Politics, Media Matters, Nonprofits

Christine Stuart photo Health care advocates told the Access Health CT Board of Directors Thursday that they need to consider hiring a group of outreach workers to help people enroll in health insurance.

The second round of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins in mid-November, but advocates say there’s been no steps taken by the board to renew the in-person outreach 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 board Thursday. “We are extremely disappointed that there may be no in-person assistance or navigation services available come Nov. 15.”

Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan said the extent of the funding for an in-person assistance program is something they are working on currently.

“We had about $2.6 million last year in federal funding,” he said.

That money was only for one year, but the exchange has been able to identify about $454,000 of its own, according to Counihan. That money could be used to create a smaller version of the program.

In the meantime, “we’re also looking to apply for some federal funding,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who chairs the Access Health CT Board of Directors, said the board has been discussing the in-person assistance program and she told the advocates “you haven’t been forgotten.”

Outreach workers who participated in the program earlier this year still receive calls and questions from individuals they enrolled.

Michelle Jimenez, an outreach worker at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, told the board that she participated in the program.

“In my role I have met many consumers in need of someone who can both advocate for them and take the time to explain everything they have the right to know,” Jimenez said.

She said the process of enrollment is complicated and many of her clients had more questions than they thought they would. Some had trouble understanding the questions, while others had difficulty producing the necessary documents to qualify for Medicaid or a subsidy.

“For them a face-to-face experience is critical,” Jimenez said.

The Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (C.A.R.E.) at Yale’s School of Public Health released a survey Thursday that found the in-person assistance program was extremely successful and helpful to consumers who were unable to navigate the helpline or website.

A survey by the group found a higher rate of satisfaction among consumers who used in-person assisters.

Alycia Santilli of C.A.R.E. said most of the consumers surveyed found out about Access Health CT through word of mouth and family and friends, even when compared to the news and commercials.

She recommended the board look at providing some type of in-person assistance program year round. She also suggested tailoring that support on the grassroots level for the different populations.

Community organizers like Alta Lash, executive director of United for CT Action Neighborhoods, said there are large segments of the Latino community that missed the last enrollment period, which ended in March.

“Especially in the Latino community the face-to-face contact is very, very important,” Lash said.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes, who is a member of the AccessHealth CT board, said as the number of uninsured in the state decreases it might be necessary to have more “high touch, high trust interaction with our customers.”

Jason Madrak, chief marketing officer for Access Health CT, said mass media and even TV commercials can target specific populations in specific geographic areas. He said they plan to use local community newspapers, local radio, and websites to reach the populations without insurance.

Access Health CT reported Thursday at that two-third or 67 percent of the remaining uninsured now reside in 10 key urban areas, including New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden, Stamford, West Haven, Windham, and East Hartford.

Access Health CT is also teaming up with Live Nation on a college road trip where a branded vehicle and street team will arrive on campuses with promotional items and educational information in both English and Spanish.

There’s also a plan to have six town hall style meetings called “Health Chats” in various parts of the state.

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Feds Stopped Medicaid Payments in January; Barnes Says Small Surplus Still Possible

by Christine Stuart | Aug 21, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Health Care, State Budget, State Capitol

CTNJ file photo Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director reported Wednesday that the state would end the 2015 fiscal year with a small, $300,000 surplus if the federal government agrees to begin reimbursing the state hundreds of millions of dollars for care provided to some Medicaid recipients.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services stopped payments to the state in January when it found discrepancies in the numbers the state was reporting. Connecticut decided to accept the federal government’s initiative to expand Medicaid eligibility up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and reimburse the state 100 percent of the costs for some of those individuals. Others in Medicaid would still receive a lower reimbursement rate.

Between January and March, according to the Department of Social Services, the federal government refused to pay the state $249 million for those Medicaid recipients. The number continued to grow through July, but state officials were unable to say Wednesday what exactly the federal government owes the state.

In the meantime, the state has been forced to find the money to make the payments to the health care providers as it looks to reach an agreement with the federal government over how many individuals qualified for the new higher reimbursement rate.

Budget Director Ben Barnes told state Comptroller Kevin Lembo that his office is “closely monitoring federal review of Medicaid reimbursements for a variety of programs and services.”

Barnes said his office, along with the departments of Social Services and Mental Health and Addiction Services, are “actively engaged with the federal government in addressing issues relating to claiming methodologies and allowable costs.”

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Barnes said the situation regarding Medicaid expansion is “less than ideal,” but he believes they will find a resolution at the latest by the end of December.

Ideally, “we should have this resolved long before then,” he added.

Barnes was unable to recall the exact amount the state was owed off the top of his head.

However, using the estimated loss of about $250 million for the first three months of the year, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that the state could be facing an additional $750 million shortfall in Medicaid reimbursements by December.

“It’s aggravating dealing with a federal bureaucracy,” Barnes said.

But he remained optimistic the state would resolve its differences with the federal government.

As far as maintaining the Medicaid program, Barnes said he wasn’t concerned about the state’s ability to continue making Medicaid payments to providers in the absence of federal funding. He said the state should have no problem with cash flow.

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Biden Lauds Manufacturing, Raises Money In Connecticut

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 20, 2014 3:41pm
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Posted to: Education, Election 2016, Jobs

Office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Vice President Joe Biden

The United States is “on the cusp” of regaining its status as the world’s leading manufacturing country, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday during one of three stops in Connecticut.

The vice president met with state officials and manufacturing executives at Goodwin College in East Hartford for a roundtable talk on workforce development. The event was taped by NBC Connecticut and streamed over the Internet.

During his remarks, Biden said the nation’s manufacturing industry has created almost 700,000 jobs over the past six years.

“The last 15 years, your children all heard the phrase ‘outsourcing.’ Your grandchildren are going to hear the phrase ‘insourcing.’ They’re not hearing about outsourcing and there’s a reason for that — manufacturing is coming back to the United States of America,” he said.

During the event, Biden heard from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Rep. John Larson about East Hartford-based manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. The vice president joked about the praise state officials were giving Louis Chênevert, CEO of United Technologies Inc., the parent company of Pratt & Whitney.

“Louis, if we keep going I think they’re going to canonize you,” Biden said. “But it sounds like there’s good reason for it.”

Biden said manufacturing jobs have evolved. Many assembly line functions have been replaced by robotic manufacturing systems. But Biden said the types of workers who once manned assembly lines can now adapt their skills to maintain robots.

“Pratt & Whitney, one of the great companies in the world that you represent, is a different company than it was 20 years ago. I mean, it’s fundamentally different than it was 20 years ago. The skillset required is different but they’re all within the wheelhouse of the same people who used to do those jobs before,” he said.

Biden praised programs at Goodwin College and other state schools that attempt to align educational programs with the training needs of the state’s manufacturers. He said the collaboration is a model for other states.

“You all got together, you got the leading corporations of your state together, you got the leading labor unions in your state together, you got the educational institutions in your state together to say ‘Hey look, man, we’ve got a problem, but we have a hell of an opportunity,’” Biden said.

The vice president was not just in Connecticut to praise the state’s manufacturing training programs. Biden also was expected to headline two private fundraising events in Fairfield County on Wednesday afternoon for groups helping Malloy’s re-election efforts.

Biden will attend a 4 p.m. fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association at a private residence in Greenwich. He will then appear at a private residence in Stamford where he will raise money for the Connecticut Democratic Party. Both fundraisers will be closed to the public and the press.

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Connecticut Democratic Party, declined to discuss the party’s fundraiser and referred all questions to the White House Office of the Vice President. According to a White House press advisory, Biden is expected to return to Washington Wednesday evening.

According to pool reports, Biden told reporters it is “important to keep really good men and women in office.”

“I’m prejudiced, he’s my friend. He’s a Democrat. I’m a Democrat,” Biden said. “I acknowledge that. But by any standard, this guy has done more. How can we be arguing about whether the minimum wage should go up? Sixty seven percent of the American people think the minimum wage should go up.”

Tom Foley, Malloy’s Republican opponent, said he did not think Biden’s visit would be effective. Foley, who in July hosted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie —chairman of the Republican Governors Association — told reporters he doesn’t believe voters will be swayed by vice presidents or other politicians who come from out-of-state to stump for candidates.

“The governor’s race is kind of a unique race,” Foley said.

He said it might make sense for the president or the vice president to come and ask voters to support a candidate to help them run the federal government, but “that’s a very different argument from somebody coming in and saying we need a Democratic governor in Connecticut.”

“I don’t think it will mean a whole lot,” Foley added.

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Visconti Qualifies For Ballot

by Christine Stuart | Aug 20, 2014 1:50pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Joe Visconti

The Secretary of the State’s office informed West Hartford Republican Joe Visconti via email Wednesday that his name will appear on the ballot in November.

After not receiving enough support at the Republican convention in May to automatically qualify for the Republican primary, Visconti decided to go the independent route and collected the 7,500 signatures he needed in order to run for governor without the backing of a major party.

“I had no doubt that I was going to qualify,” Visconti said Wednesday.

Visconti will appear on the ballot with Republican Tom Foley and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The Secretary of the State’s office is still tallying the petitions from Jonathan Pelto, another third-party candidate who is trying to qualify to run for governor.

The Secretary of the State’s office does not examine signatures for validity. That’s a process conducted at the municipal level by local election officials. The Secretary of the State’s office then tallies the numbers submitted by each town. Once a candidate meets the qualifying threshold of 7,500, a letter is sent to the candidate to inform them that they qualified. The deadline to submit signatures was Aug. 6.

Pelto has struggled with the petitioning process and claims that some local election officials are misapplying the law. He has said signatures are being disqualified for the wrong reasons. He said some were disqualified for not listing a date of birth, which is asked for on the petition form, but is not necessary under the law.

Visconti said he didn’t run into the same problems as Pelto, possibly because he stood outside polling places in towns that were having budget referendums and caught voters as they left. He said the strategy guaranteed those people were registered to vote because they had just voted.

What’s next for Visconti?

“We need to fund our ground game,” Visconti said.

He said they need palm cards and bumper stickers and lawn signs to “litter Connecticut with ‘Visconti for Governor’ campaign materials.”

Visconti said now that he knows he will be on the ballot in November, he expects it will be easier to raise money.

Visconti’s running mate, who also qualified for the ballot, is Chester Frank Harris of Haddam Neck.

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Pryor May Be Departing, But Common Core Is Here To Stay

by Christine Stuart | Aug 20, 2014 12:43pm
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Posted to: Education, Election 2014, State Capitol

Christine Stuart file photo

State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor with Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor in the background

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will be departing his position before January, but State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor made it clear that the state is still moving forward with the controversial national standards called Common Core.

“I know that there are many superintendents, and some of you may be here, who have basically said: ‘We don’t need the Common Core’,” Taylor told a group of 125 school superintendents Tuesday.

He said there’s a general belief among the Common Core naysayers that those national standards should be for “other districts.”

Connecticut doesn’t send inspectors to local school districts to make sure the district is “Common Coring it,” Taylor said. “If kids in your schools can not just do math, but understand it. If they are facile with all of the basics . . . and understand what they’re doing going into higher math, you’re probably teaching the Common Core.”

He said Common Core is “not a curriculum and it’s certainly not a lock step procedure.”

As chairman of the state board of education, Taylor said his board “will continue to focus on the Common Core because it insists on raising the level . . . for all of our kids.”

But the Common Core remains controversial in some districts and the political arena.

In 2010, Taylor and the state board of education adopted the Common Core and asked local school boards to begin writing curriculum with those standards.

Connecticut’s General Assembly never took a vote or had a discussion about the Common Core until last year when Republicans used a parliamentary procedure to force the Democrat-controlled Education Committee to hold a public hearing.

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said Wednesday that some towns she represents started to transition to the Common Core back in 2010 and are happy with it, while others seem to be overwhelmed.

Will it be an issue the legislature revisits next year?

Boucher, the ranking Republican on the Education Committee, said she’s taking a “wait and see” approach. With Sen. Andrea Stillman, co-chairwoman of the Education Committee, retiring and all of its members up for re-election it’s too soon to tell what topics will be raised.

However, Boucher said with something as big as the Common Core she would like to see “more disclosure and more discussion.” She said the state needs to find out where it’s working and where it’s not working and help the districts that are struggling.

The two petitioning candidates for governor, Jonathan Pelto and Joe Visconti, have said they would get rid of the Common Core, if they were elected.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has embraced the Common Core. When he unveiled the recommendations of his Common Core Task Force in June, Malloy said “there’s no going back.”

Republican Tom Foley’s position on Common Core isn’t as clear cut as the rest of the candidates.

“I’m not promoting Common Core. I do support standards,” Foley said last week during a press conference in Trumbull.

“We need standards to measure performance,” Foley said.

But as far as getting rid of the Common Core, Foley said he’s sitting down with teachers and school administrators to get their input on the issue.

“I think we need standards. Listen, a lot of schools in Connecticut already have standards and they’re different from Common Core,” Foley said.

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Foley’s Name Likely to Appear Twice on The Ballot

by Christine Stuart | Aug 19, 2014 8:41pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Watertown

Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley makes a pitch to the Independent Party

WATERTOWN —  Republican Tom Foley received the endorsement of one faction of the Independent Party on Tuesday night. Unless the other faction disputes that endorsement, Foley’s name will appear on the ballot twice on Election Day in November.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party and will also appear twice on the ballot in November.

“If Gov. Malloy was not allowed to be listed by the Working Families Party, I would have won the election,” Foley testified at a legislative hearing in 2013. Foley lost in 2010 by 6,404 votes. That year, the Independent Party endorsed Chester First Selectman Thomas Marsh, who received more than 17,000 votes.

After winning the endorsement with 24 votes Tuesday, Foley said he doesn’t recall making that statement and doesn’t believe the statement.

“I’ve never felt that way,” Foley said. “I actually thought I probably lost net 2,500 votes.”

Christine Stuart photo

Independent Party caucus

He said he thinks Marsh pulled votes from both Democrats and Republicans in 2010, adding that Marsh didn’t spend much money on the race so people really didn’t know who they were voting for. Foley said votes went to Marsh because people either didn’t like him or they didn’t like Malloy.

Trinity College Engineering Professor John Mertens challenged Foley for the endorsement Tuesday, but he wasn’t able to draw enough support from Independent Party members in attendance. He received 16 votes.

Before the vote, Mertens said he believes the Independent Party should nominate someone from its own ranks, instead of cross-endorsing another candidate.

“I’m fed up with the two-party system,” Mertens said. “Voters are too.”

He said neither candidate is talking about solutions to the problems the state faces.

Christine Stuart photo

John Mertens makes his pitch

The Independent Party has more than 17,000 members statewide, but two factions of the party have been fighting amongst themselves for the past few years.

That means that even though Foley received the nomination, the Danbury faction of the party could cancel it out if they nominate a different candidate. And that could ultimately cost the Independent Party automatic access to the ballot in the governor’s race.

The two factions of the party — the Danbury faction and the Waterbury faction — were in court earlier this month trying to work out their differences. They were able to reach a settlement regarding certain state Senate and state House races, but were unable to come to a conclusion about the statewide offices.

“We agreed not to agree on the statewide races,” Michael Telesca, who heads up the Waterbury faction of the party, said. “If they’re not happy with the results of tonight’s caucus they could challenge it.”

The Danbury faction of the party made some endorsements this week but is holding off on nominating a candidate in the gubernatorial election, according to an attorney for the faction’s chairman, John Dietter.

“They understand there are two candidates vying for the Independent Party nomination. The reason the Danbury faction has gone into recess at this moment is to look more in depth at the candidates before picking next week,” attorney Stephen Harding said Tuesday.

If the two factions arrive at different conclusions, the nominations will essentially cancel each other out and no gubernatorial candidate will appear on the ballot line for the Independent Party.

“We’re hoping that doesn’t happen. We’re hoping both parties will end up picking the same candidates,” Harding said.

The party has until Sept. 3 to submit its endorsement to the Secretary of the State.

Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report

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Transportation Advocates Lay Out Their Agenda For Gubernatorial Candidates

by Christine Stuart | Aug 19, 2014 3:04pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Transportation, Hartford

Christine Stuart photo

Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments

A broad coalition of advocates gathered Tuesday at Union Station in Hartford and called on the gubernatorial candidates to adopt a set of guidelines for approaching transportation policy.

“We all agree that the public deserves safe and efficient travel and a transportation system that provides transportation options for all the residents,” Karen Burnska, coordinator of the Transit for Connecticut coalition, said. “Transportation here in Connecticut affects the lives of every person, every day.”

The coalition is asking gubernatorial candidates for a debate focused on transportation issues. They are also asking the candidates to protect the current level of funding in the Special Transportation Fund, expedite projects that have already received funding, plan for a future reduction in the Federal Highway Fund, and invest wisely in highway and transit system improvements.

Roger Reynolds of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment said he believes people are willing to make an investment in transportation if they’re guaranteed that money will be spent on transportation improvements.

He cited a Quinnipiac University poll that found support for tolls went from 39 percent to 57 percent if people were told the money would be spent on transportation.

Christine Stuart photo

Roger Reynolds of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment

“People get this,” Reynolds said. “People understand that we need to invest in our crumbling infrastructure.”

Connecticut currently doesn’t have tolls, but it did increase one of the state’s two gas taxes in 2005 in order to replenish the Special Transportation Fund.

Reynolds advocated for protecting the money in the Special Transportation Fund but admitted that it will likely take a constitutional amendment to guarantee that lawmakers are not allowed to raid it and use it for general operating funds.

Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said the state can throw all the money it wants at transportation improvements, but unless it has the capacity to get the right projects out at the right time, then it’s all for nothing.

“To meet Connecticut’s transportation needs, the next governor is going to need to make sure every cent of Connecticut’s available funding is put to the best possible use,” Shubert said. “The sooner we get the projects going, the sooner we create jobs.”

But both major party candidates, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican Tom Foley, have said they won’t increase taxes, so how would the coalition propose paying for the transportation improvements?

Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, said as long as the money goes into projects people can see, then he thinks the public would support a tax increase.

“The issue for us in terms of dealing with an uncertain future, is having a broader conversation on tolls, I hate to say it, but sales and other taxes as long as the money goes directly to projects people can see we can have a conversation.” Wray said. “If it wanders off and goes to other places, the public is lost.”

But there are already more than $10 billion in projects on the Transportation Department’s Unfundable list.

Can the candidates make the promise of improving transportation with an expiration of federal highway funding scheduled to happen in May if Congress fails to act and without increasing any state taxes?

Shubert said Connecticut does have legislation, which allows for public-private partnerships in improving infrastructure, but beyond that there’s few options aside from raising taxes or implementing tolls.

“I don’t think there are any other options out there right now that are viable,” Shubert said.

He said the governor has three choices when it comes to funding transportation. He can pursue private funding, wait and see what Congress does next year, stop transportation projects, or find money to fund the projects.

At the moment the Connecticut Transportation Department has billions of dollars of unfunded projects.

However, Burnska pointed out that the first item on the coalition’s agenda was to use all the money the state currently has earmarked for transportation, which wouldn’t require an increase in taxes. The second item on the coalition’s agenda was to expedite how projects are completed.

“That’s not asking for more money. That’s being more efficient in how projects are delivered, so maybe those are the first two things to get going as the next governor faces reviewing how we will deal with the projected funding shortfall from the feds,” Burnska said.

The coalition said they plan to call the candidates shortly to try and schedule a debate on transportation.

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Foley Ad: Malloy is ‘Desperate’

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 19, 2014 12:33pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

screen grab

After nearly a week of television ads from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign, Republican Tom Foley responded Tuesday with his own commercial calling Malloy’s attacks “desperate” and “sad.”

Malloy, the Democratic incumbent, began a negative ad campaign against Foley almost immediately after Foley won the Republican nomination last Tuesday. Foley’s primary victory ensured a November rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial race, when Malloy narrowly defeated Foley.

In a television commercial and during his party’s annual fundraising dinner, Malloy hammered Foley over the past week. He has used footage from a press conference last month in Sprague to paint the wealthy Republican as hostile to working people.

Foley’s new ad, called “Hurting,” features a closeup and sepia-toned picture of Malloy as a narrator says Malloy’s attacks have been motivated out of desperation.

“Dan Malloy is desperate. That’s why he’s falsely attacking Tom Foley. It’s sad Malloy can’t defend his policies that have failed so miserably and Connecticut’s hurting,” the narrator says.

The female narrator then gives a series of negative bullet points.

“The largest tax increase in state history. Our economy struggles. Jobs are hard to come by. Companies are leaving,” the narrator says.

Malloy’s 2011 tax increase was technically the second largest tax increase in the state’s history, following former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker’s institution of the state income tax back in 1991.

The commercial switches gears and shows snippets of Foley chatting and shaking hands with people. The narrator says Foley will take Connecticut in a “new direction” then lists some generally positive things like jobs, “lower taxes, the best schools in America.”

Foley paid for the ad out of his own pocket while he waits for the State Elections Enforcement Commission to release his $6.5 million public financing grant for the general election, according to his campaign. The ad was produced by Doug McAuliffe Strategic + Creative, a firm based in Virginia.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign, called the ad a distortion of the governor’s record. In a statement, Bergman said the state has seen private sector job growth, lower unemployment, and improved high school graduation rates under Malloy.

“Tom Foley will do whatever he can to run away from his record of destroying jobs, bankrupting companies and insulting Connecticut workers who are about to lose their jobs. So he’s trying to distort the progress Connecticut has made over the last four years to avoid talking about the damage he would inflict on our state in the next four,” he said.

Foley was not the only one to attack Malloy’s record this week. On Monday, a conservative super PAC called Grow Connecticut began airing a commercial called “Good Intentions,” which suggests that Malloy has failed to deliver on promises to improve the economy, create jobs, and help the middle class.

“Instead, he delivered the largest tax increase in state history, we’re ranked at the bottom to do business in. No wonder people want to leave in record numbers,” a narrator says while citations from news reports are superimposed over highway road signs.

The group that paid for the commercial is largely funded by the Republican Governors Association, whose chairman New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has campaign for Foley and promised to have a presence in Connecticut until November.

The RGA released its own statement Tuesday morning calling the race between Foley and Malloy one of the “most competitive” in the country.

“The Malloy campaign is running scared,” RGA Communications Director Gail Gitcho said.

The Democratic Governors Association has also bankrolled a super PAC in Connecticut called Connecticut Forward. The group has spent about $12,000 to produce its own ad against Foley but, as of the last filing, had not yet purchased media time for it.

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OP-ED | Washington’s Cynical Misinformation Game

by Wendell Potter | Aug 19, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Business, Health Care, Insurance, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

Distortion Now A Standard Part Of Political Discourse On Health Care

In most of our country’s major institutions, we have little tolerance for cheating and lying. Whether it’s the court system, schools, businesses, even our sports teams, we impose stiff sanctions against those who deceive us to gain some advantage.

If convicted of lying on the witness stand, you’ll pay a fine and possibly wind up in jail. If caught cheating on a test, you’ll probably fail the course or worse. At the University of Virginia, a breach of the school’s honor code “has but a single penalty: immediate expulsion from the university.”

In 2009, Bank of America agreed to pay a $33 million fine after the SEC accused it of lying. Just last month, a federal judge ordered that same bank to pay a $1.27 billion fine after a jury found it liable for bad loans that were part of a “fraudulent and reckless” mortgage-lending program.

Some of our most famous athletes have been stripped of their medals and banned for life from participating on sports teams for doping and lying about it.

Our religions condemn such deception. In Proverbs we are told that “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who pours out lies” are among the seven things that the Lord hates and considers detestable.

Yet there is one arena in which misleading the public not only is abided but is the norm: politics. In fact, much of what constitutes political discourse in this country is now built on a foundation of dishonesty. One of the most effective — and perfectly legal — ways to win votes and influence public policy these days is to pour millions of dollars into deception-based campaigns designed to manipulate public opinion.

The most recent evidence: a National Journal article about a new tactic used by the National Republican Congressional Committee to attack Democratic candidates. Earlier this year, the NRCC created several fake Democratic candidate websites. The organization’s latest effort is a brand new set of deceptive websites, this time designed to look like local news sources.

Center for Public Integrity The NRCC has created about two dozen “faux news sites,” the National Journal reported, all of which feature articles that “begin in the impartial voice of a political fact-checking site, hoping to lure in readers.” After a few such paragraphs, the articles “gradually morph into more biting language.”

With no hint of irony, the NRCC’s communications director was quoted as saying, “This is a new and effective way to disseminate information to voters who are interested in learning the truth about these Democratic candidates.” To the organization’s credit, there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the page noting that the NRCC paid for the site.

Late last month, The New York Times disclosed another deception-based scheme designed to influence voters. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the big lobbying and PR group for health insurers, secretly funneled $1.593 million to its longtime ally, the National Federation of Independent Business, to pay for a TV ad targeting Democratic senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas. The ad blames Pryor for making it harder for small businesses to make a profit as a result of his vote for “Obamacare.”

The ad didn’t mention that the funds to pay for it came from health insurers or that the spot was part of a continuing effort by AHIP to get Congress to eliminate a fee that was imposed on insurers to help offset the cost of expanding coverage to the uninsured.

The Times connected the dots after reviewing tax records filed by AHIP and the NFIB. An AHIP spokesman acknowledged to the newspaper that his organization had indeed provided the money for the ad.

The relationship between AHIP and the NFIB goes way back. When I worked in the insurance industry, I attended many meetings in Washington with NFIB staff during which we planned a campaign to make sure Congress did not pass a Patient’s Bill of Rights. Insurers worried that a provision of the bill holding insurers more accountable would lead to profit-threatening lawsuits against them. The big for-profit insurance companies contributed the lion’s share of the funding for the campaign, which included the operation of a front group called the Health Benefits Coalition. Not wanting to be too publicly associated with the campaign, we enlisted an NFIB executive as a spokesman for the group.

Another organization insurers frequently call upon to front for them is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As the National Journal reported in 2012, AHIP funneled more than $100 million to the Chamber to finance it’s campaign to shape the health care reform debate in 2009 and 2010. As with the Times’ disclosure of the AHIP-NFIB alliance, the AHIP-Chamber of Commerce relationship was discovered only after a couple of reporters checked tax filings.

That’s the way the game is played in Washington, where ethical principles that apply elsewhere are blatantly flouted. And where the consequence of getting caught in a lie or deception is rarely more severe than a bad PR day.

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.

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Officials Unveil CTFastrak Buses

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 19, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Transportation

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CTfastrak bus

State officials unveiled the first in a fleet of new buses, which will soon carry passengers along a dedicated bus route running from Hartford to New Britain.

The project, known as CTfastrak, is expected to begin operation sometime in March and will have a fleet of about 70 new buses to compliment the state’s existing bus fleet. State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman showed off the first completed bus at a press conference Monday outside the State Capitol.

The buses are electric hybrid vehicles and will range in size from 30 feet to 40 feet. The green and gray bus at Monday’s press conference was of the 40-foot variety, which Redeker said will seat 35 passengers and will have space for about 15 people to stand.

Wyman said the project is a step in the right direction for Connecticut’s public transit system and would help to ease highway gridlock and greenhouse gas emissions.

Hugh McQuaid Photo “Public transit is widely successful in so many parts of our country, but in Connecticut we haven’t yet done all the things we need to modernize and update our system. Connecticut’s first bus-rapid-transit project changes that,” Wyman said.

The 9.4-mile bus corridor will have 11 stations between the two cities and is funded by $455 million in federal funds and $112 million from the state. Proponents say the transit system will encourage economic development along its route.

Hugh McQuaid Photo Opponents say the project is a waste of money because it will be under-utilized. Early in its construction, critics labeled the project as “the busway to nowhere.” One of those critics, Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, attended Monday’s press conference and spoke to reporters after officials opened the bus for attendees to board and take a look around.

“I think you’ve got more people on that bus right now than you are ever going to see once they start running it,” he said. “There’s no demand to go from New Britain to Hartford. We run a bus already, twice an hour . . . I’ve ridden that bus repeatedly. There’s a dozen people — 15 people on it. Now we’re going to be running 20 buses an hour.”

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GOP Voter Turnout Was 21 Percent

by Staff Report | Aug 18, 2014 9:46pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said 82,847 registered Republicans, or 21 percent of the 398,437 registered Republicans, voted last week.

The turnout is lower than Republican primaries in 2012 and 2010 when around 28 percent and 30 percent of the party voted, respectively.

“Compared to general elections, primaries consistently have a lower turnout, so exceeding 20 percent was actually a little higher than we originally thought,” Merrill said.

Click here for a town-by-town listing of voter turnout.

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Pryor Won’t Stay For Second Term

by Christine Stuart and Hugh McQuaid | Aug 18, 2014 12:23pm
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Posted to: Education, Election 2014

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Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor

If Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wins re-election, controversial Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will not be part of the package, the administration announced Monday.

According to a press release, Pryor does not plan to serve for a second term and is “actively seeking new professional opportunities.”

“Commissioner Pryor has worked hard and well on behalf of Connecticut students,” Malloy said in a statement. “In the three years he’s led the department, we’ve taken tremendous steps forward to improve education, with a particular focus on the districts that have long needed the most help. We needed someone who could act as a change agent, and Stefan fulfilled that role admirably.”

Malloy appointed Pryor after taking office in 2011. His background as the co-founder of the Amistad Academy, a New Haven public charter school, made him a controversial choice with the state teacher unions.

Since then, Pryor has become a lightning rod for critics of Malloy’s education reform package, which some regard as hostile to public school teachers.

As recently, as June, a coalition of state unions adopted a resolution that would require an Education Commissioner to have the same professional experience of a school superintendent. The symbolic requirement was a direct shot at Pryor, who does not have a doctorate in education or classroom teaching experience. The AFL-CIO and AFT Connecticut ultimately endorsed Malloy.

Connecticut Education Association President Shelia Cohen said that teachers didn’t disagree with the commissioner on the goal of maintaining and improving public education for all students in Connecticut, but “we did disagree at times on how to reach that goal.”

Cohen used the announcement to call upon the governor to select a successor with “extensive public education boots-on-the-ground experience.”

Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut, made a similar statement.

“While we have had policy disagreements over the past three years, we have never questioned his personal commitment to fulfilling the department’s mission,” Peters said. 

Sen. John McKinney, who lost the Republican primary to Tom Foley last week, called for Pryor’s resignation back in February after hearing from teacher unions about the messy rollout of the new teacher evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards. The Malloy administration has since delayed the rollout of both the teacher evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards, but many rank-and-file teachers remain skeptical of how the education reforms will be implemented.

Pryor has also been the frequent target of Jonathan Pelto, a former Democratic lawmaker and liberal blogger who is attempting to petition his way onto the ballot as a candidate for governor.

In the press release, Pryor thanked Malloy and said he believed it was important to “communicate [his] decision proactively” to Malloy and the public.

“Despite the admittedly long hours and the tremendous challenges, I have enjoyed this job thoroughly. We have accomplished a lot over nearly three years. The work has not always been easy but, start to finish and top to bottom, it has been extraordinarily worthwhile. I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made together,” he said.

But Pryor’s departure at the end of Malloy’s first-term is not a surprise to those who follow state politics.

It’s well-known that Malloy infuriated teachers back in 2012 during his state-of-the-state address when he said, “Basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”

That statement was followed by months of debate about how to write education reform legislation that held teachers accountable for their performance in the classroom. Teachers even rallied outside the state Capitol in protest to parts of the bill. While the final piece of legislation was accepted by the state’s two teacher unions, it left the perception that Malloy was anti-teacher.

Pryor also was perceived as being against public schools and public school teachers partly because he founded one of the state’s 18 charter schools with connections to well-funded organizations that have ties to corporate America.

Pelto, a critic of the corporate education reform movement, said Pryor’s announcement indicates that Malloy is “finally recognizing that his anti-teacher, pro-charter school, pro-Common Core agenda is bad news for Connecticut public schools or, at the very least, a political disaster for him has he aspires to a second term in office.”

As far as the governor’s support for public schools, Pelto said Malloy’s “true intentions remain unknown, but Pryor’s departure is a small step in the right direction.”

But not everyone has been a critic. Pryor also had his fans.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a statewide, non-partisan organization that works to close the achievement gap, applauded Pryor’s tenure and his expansion of charter schools.

“Stefan Pryor has been an outstanding Commissioner of Education and a real force for change,” CCER Board Chair Steve Simmons said. “He has shepherded improvements in K-12 education that will have a meaningful and long-lasting, positive impact on our public schools.”

The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now’s CEO Jennifer Alexander also praised Pryor’s leadership.

Alexander said that since Commissioner Pryor took office, he has worked to improve our lowest-performing schools and districts, collaborated with all stakeholders to hold educators accountable for their job performance, supported educators who deliver for children, increased the number of great public school options for parents and their children, and raised standards for all of Connecticut’s students.

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Publicly Financed Candidates Buoyed By PAC Spending

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 18, 2014 11:44am
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Posted to: Election 2014

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Publicly financed candidates technically campaign with the same limited budget, but as of last week both Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Tom Foley had super PAC allies pouring outside money into the race.

On Thursday, a conservative super PAC paid a California firm $193,000 to produce a television ad. The group is called Grow Connecticut, and its filings with state election regulators indicate that former state Republican Party Executive Director Elizabeth Kurantowicz is its treasurer.

The super PAC paid for the ad on the same day the state Republican Party filed a complaint with regulators, which alleged illegal coordination between another group, called Connecticut Forward, and Malloy’s campaign.

Connecticut Forward spent more than $91,200 in July on pollsters and consultants to help augment Malloy’s publicly funded campaign. It spent $12,000 to produce its own ad against Foley, another $6,000 on a website, and $4,200 on consultants.The group was created and bankrolled by the Democratic Governors Association. Malloy is a member of the group and previously served as its finance chair.

Meanwhile, Grow Connecticut has been largely bankrolled by the Republican Governor’s Association. RGA Chairman and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned with Foley in July. Grow Connecticut also received $25,000 from Craig R. Stapleton who, like Foley, served as a diplomat under President George W. Bush.

As participants in the state Citizens’ Election Program, the campaigns of Malloy and Foley are each operating with a limited $6.5 million grant paid for by taxpayers. The program was implemented to limit the influence of special interest dollars in state political campaigns. Outside groups are not bound by the same limitations.

Cherie Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, said the current spending by super PACs points to a need for tighter disclosure requirements.

“They are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. We are pushing for disclosure so voters have that information. They need to know how much is coming from independent billionaires, how much is coming from Republican and Democratic Governors Associations, and who are these super PACs — who is supporting and putting money into them?” she said.

In 2010, Malloy became the first governor elected using the program. He narrowly won against Foley, who self-funded his 2010 campaign.

Last year, the Malloy administration and Democrats in the legislature made significant changes to the state’s campaign finance laws. To account for super PAC spending, Democrats lifted fundraising and spending limitations that had been imposed on state party committees.

In a statement released Monday, Democratic Party spokesman Devon Puglia accused Foley and his “super PAC allies” of distorting Malloy’s record.

The Democratic group, Connecticut Forward, was created after a federal judge ruled that the Democratic Governors Association lacked standing to bring a lawsuit against state regulators. The DGA sued the state back in April in an attempt to find out whether Malloy’s fundraising for the group would limit its ability to spend its money on his re-election campaign.

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Foley Says He’s Still Working On Urban Strategy

by Christine Stuart | Aug 18, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Bridgeport

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Tom Foley

It’s less than 80 days before the November election and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley says he’s still working on his urban strategy.

Without giving too much of his strategy away, Foley acknowledged that he plans to focus on the state’s cities.

“The fate of our cities will be the fate of our state,” Foley said several months ago.

But it’s also a political calculation. The Democratic Party machines in cities like New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford gave Democratic Gov. Dannel P.  Malloy his 6,404-vote margin of victory in 2010. Foley acknowledged that he needs votes in those cities in order to win, but what exactly will his urban strategy look like?

Last week after winning the Republican primary, Foley said he’s in the urban communities now talking to them about a “framework for a policy related to schools, housing, restoring jobs, and getting crime rates down.”

He said he wants to make sure that before he comes out with a strategy, that “it’s a plan people in those communities embrace and believe will work.”

Foley said Malloy spent a lot of time in cities both on the campaign trail and during his term in office, but there’s still “a lot of unhappiness there.”

“They’re looking for an alternative as well,” Foley said.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign said he thinks the choice for urban communities is clear.

“If Tom Foley’s ‘urban strategy’ includes opposing Connecticut’s paid sick leave law, calling our smart, strict law to get illegal guns off the streets an inconvenience, saying we spend too much on mass transit, and cutting aid to cities, then he should re-think his strategy,” Bergman said.

What exactly Foley will offer as that alternative remains to be seen.

In March, the Connecticut Policy Institute that Foley founded released a report with recommendations on how to improve urban areas, but Foley said he would not adopt them directly as part of his campaign platform.

The report includes details on ways to improve housing, education, job creation, and to reduce crime.

“We need to talk to people in these communities. We need to talk to business leaders about whether these will work and which of them will work and make the most sense,” he said in March. “In terms of my campaign and developing an urban policy agenda of my own, this a good framework to start from.”

While Foley still has not produced a concrete plan, he made some specific comments last week about how these urban areas are perceived by business owners.

“It’s more about protecting employers in urban environments where there’s corruption against corruption and providing safe communities,” Foley said at a press conference with his running mate, Heather Bond Somers.

He said the state should develop a statewide municipal code to speed up permitting. According to the Connecticut Policy Institute report, “Connecticut’s cities, where a wide array of bureaus and departments each administer their own ordinances and permits, regularly take twice as long as equivalent processes in smaller Connecticut towns.”

Foley said the state should enforce one code so businesses “aren’t being shaken down by municipal governments that are corrupt.”

He said employers said they can’t operate in cities because they can’t get through all the red tape. But he was unable to give a specific example of a company that’s had that experience.

Asked which municipalities are shaking down employers, Foley said, “Well certainly in Bridgeport there have been problems.”

Asked to clarify what he meant by that, Foley said he was referring to former Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who was convicted of leveraging his position to receive kickbacks from city contractors. Ganim was released from prison on those charges in 2010.

“These are details I really don’t believe I need to provide because it’s public record. It’s obvious,” Foley said. “Corruption’s been a big problem in Bridgeport . . . The impression that these things are going on in Bridgeport would last a long time after Mayor Ganim’s gone.”

Asked if he was suggesting this was a current practice in Bridgeport, Foley said “no.”

In the meantime, Foley has retained Regina Roundtree as his urban outreach coordinator. Former lieutenant governor candidate Penny Bacchiochi, who lost the nomination last week to Somers, terminated Roundtree’s contract after she made comments on Facebook accusing Somers of “white privilege.”

Foley’s campaign declined to comment Sunday on his relationship with Roundtree, who is also the founder of the Connecticut Black Republicans and Conservatives.

“We don’t comment on personnel, vendors, or consultants. But we are going to have a very aggressive urban outreach strategy,” Mark McNulty, a campaign spokesman, said.

According to campaign finance reports, Foley has paid Roundtree’s consulting firm about $7,210.

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Malloy Promotes Sales Tax Free Week, Touts Employment Gains

by Christine Stuart | Aug 15, 2014 3:26pm
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Posted to: Economics, Election 2014, Jobs, Labor

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy promised the owners of Mickey Finn’s on Friday that he would be back with his son this weekend to purchase a pair of T.K. Axel Brand jeans.

That’s because this Sunday is the start of Connecticut’s sales tax free week where clothing, footwear, and some accessories under $300 will be exempt from the state’s 6.35 percent sales tax. The annual sales tax free week, which will cost the state between $7 and $9 million, runs through Aug. 23.

The T.K. Axel Brand jeans Malloy tried on Friday were designed by a Connecticut’s Jade Marketing Group, which names its styles after Connecticut governors and towns. Malloy tried on the Trumbull fit with a Greenwich wash. It’s their slimmest fit.

Christine Stuart photo When he came out to model the jeans for the cameras, Malloy asked of Jade Marketing’s Sean Connelly, “could you get me a Democratic town?”

Connelly laughed and told the governor, “thanks to you we’re hiring.” The West Hartford-based company has 75 employees and has been adding new jean designs every season.

Malloy asked the group of reporters if they had Connelly’s statement on tape because it validated the increase in jobs reported hours earlier by the Labor Department.

The Connecticut Labor Department reported Friday that the state added 2,400 nonfarm jobs in July. It also revised its June numbers up by 500 jobs to 2,200 for the month.

The private sector job growth in July was even higher at 3,100 jobs. Government sector jobs declined by 700 jobs last month. However, since the beginning of the year the private sector has added 17,300 jobs, according to the Labor Department.

Unemployment was 6.6 percent in July, which is down one-tenth of a percent from last month. The unemployment rate has not been this low in the state since December 2008.

“Connecticut experienced its first back-to-back June-July nonfarm employment gain since the recovery began in early 2010,” Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research, said. “This growth, along with continued declines in the number of unemployed, may be an indication that the moderate employment growth we have seen this year will be sustainable for some time.”

Malloy praised the numbers Friday during a press conference at Mickey Finn’s in Berlin.

“I got to be governor during some of the toughest times the state has ever faced and we’re growing jobs in record numbers,” Malloy said.

He said about 60,000 private sector jobs have been created since he and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman were sworn into office.

“I’m sure Republicans will pooh-pooh that,” Malloy said.

He was right.

Following the press conference, Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. released a statement critical of the progress Connecticut has made under a Malloy administration.

“Connecticut continues to suffer one of the worst job recovery rates in the nation,” Labriola said.

He pointed to the fact that Connecticut has yet to recover 100 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession. According to the Labor Department, it has recovered 76,400 positions — or 64.1 percent — of the nonfarm jobs lost in the state during the recession.

“Thanks to Governor Malloy’s ill-advised policies of higher taxes and excessive government overreach, Connecticut continues to lag far behind our neighboring states and the nation,” Labriola said.

Malloy said the state is adding on average about 1,400 private sector jobs per month.

“I understand that this is politics and people will say things that aren’t true,” Malloy said.

Malloy said he’s grown more jobs per month than either former Govs. John G. Rowland or M. Jodi Rell. Rowland averaged job growth of about 819 nonfarm jobs, while Rell averaged a loss of about 415 nonfarm jobs per month. Rowland averaged about 620 private sector jobs per month, and Rell lost about 407 private sector jobs per month.

“Connecticut’s economy is growing,” Malloy said.

If that’s true then when will residents see more tax relief?

The year-round $50 exemption on clothing and footwear will go back into effect in 2015. Malloy had eliminated it in 2011 during his first budget proposal when he increased taxes $2.6 billion over two years.

Malloy’s Republican opponent, Tom Foley, has said he can reduce the sales tax by a half a percent in his second year. He estimates that it would cost the state about $300 million in revenue.

Malloy said he thinks the state will be in a position to cut taxes further in the future.

“I look forward to a term in office in ever increasing better economic times,” Malloy said.

He added: “I want a tax structure that’s reducing taxes, doing it in the best way possible to promote growth in the state of Connecticut.”

But he made no specific promises about which taxes he would reduce or cut beyond the ones he attempted to scale back last year.

Malloy said he will let the commission created to review Connecticut’s tax structure do its work before he offers a definitive statement on the issue.

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Sandy Hook Report Unlikely To Include Analysis of Gunman

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 15, 2014 1:46pm
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Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson

When the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission releases its final report in about six weeks, it’s unlikely to include an analysis of Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old man who murdered 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown.

“Our report is not going to be a deconstruction of Adam Lanza,” Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, the panel’s chairman, said Friday.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy created the advisory panel soon after the 2012 shooting and charged the group with thoroughly reviewing the incident and making recommendations. The commission — made up of experts in education, mental health, law enforcement, and emergency response — issued an interim report before the legislature passed a bill including stricter gun laws last year. But the panel has taken its time in drafting final recommendations.

Jackson and other members have sought access to more information on Lanza before issuing a report. The group had sought the cooperation of the deceased gunman’s father, Peter Lanza, in an effort to obtain Adam Lanza’s mental health records. And in June, Jackson said his panel was waiting on a report from the Office of the Child Advocate, which he hoped provide the group with an accurate picture of the shooter.

On Friday, Jackson said the panel never received the information it was seeking regarding Lanza and would release its final report without that information. Instead, the report will focus on recommendations to make schools and communities safer places, he said.

“Given the adaptability of people intent on doing bad actions, you don’t want to fight yesterday’s war,” he said. “We have to set in place processes and procedure that allow for the development of safer schools and infrastructure.”

During a Friday meeting of the group in Hartford, some members said they would prefer not to finalize the report until more details about the shooter were released in the Child Advocate’s report.

Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, told the panel he would like the group to stick with its earlier goal of including more information about Lanza and the shooting. He said the Child Advocate’s office has met with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit and has had access to information that belongs in the group’s report.

“That would require, perhaps, a delay of another additional couple of months or a few months. I’m as eager as anyone else to get a report out, I understand the impetus to do so. At this stage of the game, I don’t know that a delay of this kind of additional time would have a significant impact on the public’s safety. I doubt it would,” he said during the meeting.

Jackson said he and Schwartz had a “difference of opinion” on the issue. But he said the panel could try to get a timeline from the Child Advocate’s office and he was open to revising the commission’s report to include new information when it is released.

Jackson told reporters it was time to start setting expectations for the report. He said the document would “not be an intellectual exercise.”

“We have a tragic circumstance that galvanized us for one of those brief moments in history, where class didn’t matter and race didn’t matter and which side of an invisible line you lived on didn’t matter. We were all hurting. We all had a moral response to that tragedy. Some reports can tend toward the intellectual, whereas I think we need to stake the moral ground on this,” he said. “We are recommending these things because they are right.”

Jackson said the report is likely to include recommendations on gun control policy. It’s an issue the panel addressed in its interim report before the state legislature passed its own firearm regulations. The bill expanded the number of firearms prohibited in Connecticut to include weapons similar to the gun used in the shooting and banned the sale of ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.

“There will certainly be a validation or a verification or a change to [the gun control recommendations] we issued in our interim report,” Jackson said.

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OP-ED | On Wall Street, ‘Right-to-Work’ Means a Wider Gap Between Rich & Poor

by Lori Pelletier | Aug 15, 2014 1:18pm
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Posted to: Equality, Labor, Opinion

One doesn’t have to look any further than Fairfield County to understand why Connecticut has one of the greatest income disparities in the country. A few miles from the estates of Wall Street brokers and bankers, Bridgeport’s residents are struggling to get by in the new economy. Good manufacturing jobs have been replaced by minimum wage shifts at McDonalds. A third of children in Bridgeport live below the poverty line.”

Yet organizations funded by ultra-wealthy and corporate special interests are blatantly advocating for further widening the wage gap between rich and poor. As part of “Employee Freedom Week,” a nationally coordinated effort to convince workers to drop out of their unions, ads are running in Connecticut urging home healthcare workers to opt out.

This is a thinly veiled attempt to convince these workers to act against their own self-interest, and could have lethal repercussions in an industry where collective bargaining rights have not only alleviated home health aides’ difficult working conditions, but also have helped prolong their patients’ lives.

Home healthcare workers are everyday heroes who perform the backbreaking, draining work of caring for our sick, disabled, and elderly. From changing bedpans to administering medicine, dressing wounds and washing their patients, their work allows them to live their lives at home, with dignity and respect.

A stable, qualified home care workforce is at the heart of ensuring that working families have an opportunity to secure the American Dream, and seniors and people with disabilities can live with dignity in their homes. Pulling together means that care providers can negotiate for improvements in training, hours and policies, which keep seniors and people with disabilities safe. This is the only approach that has proven effective.

Everyone benefits from working together in the union, so everyone should contribute a fair amount to pay for the value they receive. Fair share fees are democratic — if a majority votes to form a union, all workers are represented. So it makes sense that all workers should contribute their fair share to that representation. Just as all Americans, regardless of whom they voted for, must pitch in to maintain their roads, operate their schools, and keep their libraries open, this is a basic premise of democracy.

Opting out will weaken these workers’ ability to negotiate for better pay and working conditions, and hurt them and their patients in the long run.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the backers of this poll want. This attempt by Wall Street bankers and CEOs to strip working people of their rights would mean less freedom and fewer rights for both home care workers and clients. And it makes it easier for corporate CEOs to move people to part-time work, stamp out their opportunity to succeed, and eliminate the dignity and respect the elderly and disabled deserve.

The poll is far from a representative assessment of Connecticut residents’ feelings about workplace rights. The pollster, Jordan Bruneau, is a researcher for Berman and Company, an ultra-conservative PR firm that has launched attacks on healthcare reform. Bruneau also has worked for the Charles Koch Institute.

The Yankee Institute for Public Policy, which is among the supporters of the poll, is connected to a collection of groups that, while claiming to support “employee freedom,” have actually fought to take away workers’ rights. They are a part of the State Policy Network, an umbrella group of 59 right-wing “think tanks” across the country that are funded by national right-wing corporations and foundations including the Koch brothers — the same billionaires who bankrolled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to stamp out employee rights in 2011.

These national rightwing groups may claim that Connecticut needs right-to-work. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley may think that it’s time for our state to have its own “Wisconsin moment.” Yet those of us who live in Connecticut, who are faced every day with the reality of our rising poverty rates, know otherwise.

We know that in order to rebuild Connecticut’s middle class, we need to be creating opportunity for ordinary working people, not tearing down their chances for higher wages and safe working conditions. Leaders in our state and city governments have come together to fight our state’s growing income inequality, using strategies proven to work in Connecticut — increasing the tax rate for Connecticut’s top earners, opening up more slots in preschool for children from low-income households, and focusing on job growth. Instead of importing Wisconsin’s extreme agenda, let’s continue working together to find creative solution. That is the only real way to move our state forward.

Lori Pelletier is Secretary-Treasurer of the CT AFL-CIO.

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Governor Malloy: Jonathan Pelto Has No Shot

by Mary E. O'Leary | Aug 15, 2014 12:00pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, New Haven

New Haven Register photo Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hasn’t commented on the potential for Jonathan Pelto to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate and mount a challenge to him from the left.

In fact, he usually doesn’t refer to him by name.

But, that changed Thursday as he talked about the hypothetical election fight with Pelto, wrapping his answer within the Goldilocks children’s story that his agenda “is just right,” as opposed to Pelto’s and Republican Tom Foley’s.

In an interview with the New Haven Register, he was asked what would he say to someone who is thinking about voting for Pelto, a former Democratic Party insider who has been a critic of Malloy for the past four years over his education agenda.

“I don’t know who is on the ballot and if it is a question of voting for Tom Foley or Jonathan Pelto, please vote for Jonathan Pelto,” Malloy said, somewhat tongue in cheek.

Click here to continue reading the New Haven Register’s editorial board meeting with Malloy.

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OP-ED | What We Learned from Primary 2014

by Susan Bigelow | Aug 15, 2014 9:00am
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Posted to: Analysis, Election 2014, Opinion

The primary is over, and the main event has begun at last! Unfortunately, it’s a rerun from 2010: Tom Foley will be facing Dan Malloy during a year where the economy is lousy and everyone’s miserable.

But before we bid the primary goodbye, let’s take a look at some of what we learned:

Susan Bigelow

Tom Foley is resilient — We sort of knew this one already, but it bears repeating. Former Ambassador Thomas C. Foley has suffered through a series of self-inflicted wounds that would have doomed many other candidates, from the wild, unsubstantiated accusations he threw at Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the start of his campaign to the botched photo op outside a closing factory in Sprague a few weeks ago. Foley has looked lost in debates, his Republican opponent, John McKinney, savaged him in a series of ads. He lost the endorsement of nearly every major paper, and as the primary drew nearer, it seemed like Republicans might be wavering on him.

He won convincingly. The map of the primary for governor shows Foley winning all over the state by huge margins, losing only in McKinney’s own backyard. McKinney couldn’t even close the gap, much less win, anywhere except places near to his state senate district and a stretch along the coast. Foley even won Sprague.

But I have to wonder, is this resilience or is this luck? Foley hasn’t really had to take a clear position on gun rights, but McKinney, who represents Newtown, voted for the gun control bill. This infuriated gun rights groups. But, truth be told, the moderate McKinney has been on the outs with the party base for a long time. McKinney ran the better campaign, had better knowledge of policy, and had a better shot of grabbing Democrats disenchanted with Malloy in the fall. But McKinney’s party hated him, so Foley bumbled into the winner’s circle.

It may not matter whether it’s resilience, luck, or something else. Foley’s still standing.

Susan Bigelow

Bacchiochi lost at the convention — Yes, State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Stafford, won the endorsement of the Republican convention. But she also went after former U.S. Comptroller David Walker with a racism charge for which she later admitted she had no evidence. Things got worse in July when a campaign worker accused former Groton Mayor Heather Bond Somers of displaying “white privilege,” which is a very mild way of saying she’s clueless about race, but that turned already sensitive white Republicans off of her campaign.

The map of the lieutenant governor’s race is interesting — a lot of it is based on geography. Bacchiochi won in the north, Somers in the southeast, and Walker in parts of Fairfield County. But Walker was also able to win in parts of Hartford County that Bacchiochi should have picked up, like Windsor and East Granby, and Somers did pretty well in Fairfield County as well. Somers and Walker should have been regional candidates. But Bacchiochi’s troubles meant Republicans actually gave her opponents a look, and so what should have been an easy run to victory turned into a tight three-way scramble.

Bacchiochi wasn’t helped by a campaign that seemed disorganized and slow to respond to quick hits from Somers, but in the end she lost this one by triggering Republican twitchiness about race.

Voters aren’t interested in taking chances — Primary night left us with a slate of relatively safe choices. Foley’s a known quantity, and Republicans are comfortable with him. Somers is something of a question mark, but Republicans seemed a little worried Bacchiochi might blow up in their faces. Most incumbents won their races, with two exceptions in Bridgeport. One of those was freshman state Rep. Christina Ayala, whose legal problems ranged from a hit-and-run to a later-dropped charge of domestic violence.

It’s going to be a nasty fall — It only took one day for the Malloy campaign to release their first anti-Foley ad, bashing him for insulting and blaming workers and local officials for a plant closing Sprague. It’s very similar to an ad the McKinney campaign cut during the primary. On Thursday, the Malloy campaign’s Twitter account released an image of Foley sitting in with balcony hecklers Waldorf and Statler from “The Muppet Show,” with the caption: “It’s easy to criticize from the cheap seats — just ask these guys.” Zing?

Democrats are in a funk, and a righteous fury aimed at Foley might actually get some of them to the polls in November, so get ready for an onslaught. If this primary has taught us anything, it’s that campaigns are ready to do whatever it takes to win.

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

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OP-ED | Poll Shows State Supports Philosophy Behind ‘Right-To-Work’

by Suzanne Bates | Aug 15, 2014 7:00am
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Posted to: Labor, Opinion

If you told someone the people of Connecticut would support a “Right-to-Work” law, they’d probably think you were crazy. This blue state would never support a law that is so completely a red state phenomenon, right?

And if we asked people directly if they support instituting a right-to-work law in Connecticut, they might still say no. However, when you ask them if they support the idea behind right-to-work — that people should have a choice about whether or not they have to belong to a union — they overwhelmingly say yes.

The evidence: A poll of 500 residents, conducted in July by Google Consumer Surveys, found that 75 percent of respondents said “yes” when asked: “Should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?”

Which is another way of saying that they support what ‘right-to-work’ stands for — a person’s right to choose whether or not to belong to a union, and by extension, whether or not to give that union money. Presently in Connecticut, workers do not enjoy that right.

The term “right-to-work” has become so politically charged it is likely harming the chance that any pro-choice labor union laws could pass here. Both Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley have said they won’t consider giving workers the right to choose. They are both wrong.

Connecticut’s job growth is anemic and a right-to-work law could help. According to a 2011 Office of Legislative Research report, right-to-work laws positively influence job growth, while they have no affect on wages (when cost of living is factored in).

Unions have used our fears about jobs and wages when arguing against right-to-work laws. That is understandable given that the clearest outcome of right-to-work laws is that they weaken labor unions. That is because, when given the choice, many workers choose to give up their union membership.

But shouldn’t that be their right?

One of the most common arguments against right-to-work laws — and what the U.S. Supreme Court said when it upheld forced unionization laws in 1977 — is that if people leave their unions and don’t pay union dues but still get to enjoy the fruits of their union’s contract negotiations they are essentially free riders.

But what if you don’t like what your union is doing? What if you are a teacher who doesn’t believe in tenure? (It could happen!) Or a state employee who is concerned about our pension debt and doesn’t agree with the contracts negotiated on her or his behalf? In those situations in Connecticut, a person would be forced to pay for something they don’t believe in and that they are opposed to. That’s wrong.

Right to work laws do not stop people from unionizing, nor do they keep people from staying in a union if that is what they want to do. They just give people a choice.

Connecticut’s economy is stuck in the 20th century. Despite the big increase in state spending under Gov. Malloy, he hasn’t been able to jolt the economy awake.

A right-to-work law would move us firmly into the 21st century.

These laws favor younger workers, who often look for greater mobility and flexibility when making employment decisions. Traditional union jobs don’t offer that. Unionized workers, like teachers and state employees, often have to work decades before they get many of the benefits their unions have negotiated.

A right-to-work law would also show businesses that we are prepared to make it easier to grow here in Connecticut. For too long we have sent the other message — that you play by our rules or you leave. So they left.

We are part of a global economy now. Wealth is mobile in a way that it wasn’t just a few short decades ago. That makes us uneasy, which is understandable. But this globalization has lifted a billion people out of extreme poverty worldwide, even as it has left our middle class stagnant.

But look ahead 20 years — if we can continue to spread wealth and prosperity globally, it will eventually lift us all.

We should be grateful for the work the unions did last century to make the U.S. a safer and better place to live and work. But after the important battles were won times changed and the world market opened up, only unions didn’t adapt to the new economic reality. Instead they clamped down, forcing many of our best jobs overseas.

It’s time to refocus our energies, to give up this union/anti-union battle. One of the ways we can do that is by passing a right-to-work law in this state, and then let the people decide.

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.

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Was State Investment In Running Mate’s Company A Good Deal?

by Mary E. O'Leary | Aug 15, 2014 6:58am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Trumbull

Mary O'Leary photo

Heather Bond Somers and Tom Foley

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley didn’t know if the state’s equity investment in his running mate’s company met every criteria he feels is important on the use of state tax dollars.

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

The state said 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.

A CDA spokeswoman said it was all routine as the the entity has a double bottom line: One is to get businesses off the ground and the second to create jobs in the state.

Somers said at the time of the state’e investment she had an estimated 9 workers and now there are more than 40.

Click here to continue reading more from the New Haven Register.

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OP-ED | GOP Not The Only Thing Dying in Connecticut

by Terry D. Cowgill | Aug 15, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Election Policy, Opinion, Darien, Goshen, Hartland, Middlebury, New Canaan

The headline last week in The New Canaan Advertiser caught my eye. With a mixture of bemusement and bravado, the paper declared, “Red Canaan: Last Connecticut town with GOP majority.” And at 51 percent, it’s a bare majority, at that.

Actually, I was surprised to learn there were any towns remaining in my state that had more Republicans registered than Democrats or independents. Indeed, according to figures released by Secretary of the State Denise Merrill in advance of last November’s municipal elections, only three other towns even have a plurality of registered Republicans: Darien (47 percent); Middlebury (45 percent); and Hartland (40 percent).

Fifty of the state’s 169 municipalities have more Republicans registered than Democrats, though in 90 percent of those towns, unaffiliated voters still outnumber those in either major party. One of those is in my neck of the woods. Goshen has long been known as the Northwest Corner’s GOP bastion. But even there, voters who declined to enroll in any party outnumber Republicans 827-802.

So what’s going on here? On many levels, this phenomenon isn’t surprising. Since 2001, Republican enrollment in Connecticut has dropped 8 percent, while Democrats have surged by almost 9 percent. But the largest growth has been in unaffiliated voters — “independents” who can’t bring themselves to register in either major party. In the last 13 years, they’ve grown by 9 percent to 917,535, or upward of 42 percent of the electorate, the very same percentage we find on the national level.

The migration away from the GOP has been well documented. Ask Republicans seeking office in Connecticut what their biggest problems are. Aside from fundraising, they’ll tell you one of their greatest burdens is defending themselves against the GOP kooks in places like Missouri and Texas. “Why is your party waging a war on women?” is a common but baseless question on the Connecticut campaign trail.

Voters also want to know why Republicans are so inclined to support Wall Street over Main Street — a fairer question, but one that has been blunted by Wall Street Democrats such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as President Obama, who has been the recipient of record levels of support from the financial sector in both his campaigns for president.

Republicans in Connecticut are also part of a growing national trend in which the politically inclined conclude that they’re more comfortable living among people who think like they do. So conservatives in Connecticut might move to North Carolina or Texas, while liberals in those states pull up stakes and head to New England or the west coast.

More than 75 percent of those who label themselves independents also say they lean toward one party or the other, so it’s not clear why they refuse to actually register in a party. Maybe they just prefer the sound of the word “independent,” connoting as it does the spirit of freedom and autonomy.

In my case, it’s because I don’t check enough boxes on the laundry list of the parties’ pet issues. For example, I’m a capitalist and free marketeer who also believes there are a few cases where the markets don’t serve us well, which is why I think a single-payer healthcare system is preferable to what we have now. This makes me persona non grata in the Republican Party. But I also believe abortion beyond the point of viability is essentially infanticide, which puts me very much at odds with the just about everyone in the Democratic Party.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that from flag-burning to the Second Amendment to same-sex marriage to education to taxes, I don’t line up enough to have a home in either party. And I suspect there are a lot of people who feel the same way.

When you think about it, it’s rather shocking that a state like Connecticut hasn’t done a better job of keeping its voters in the two major parties. As someone who has also been a working journalist in New York and Massachusetts, I’ve been struck by how partisan my home state is.

It seems like every office, from the local level to the state level, has a Republican and Democratic nominee. Each municipality has both a Democratic and Republican registrar of voters. The state makes it difficult to run without party support — particularly for higher offices. Ask Jonathan Pelto and Joe Visconti about that. And Connecticut’s absurd minority representation law mandates that no party completely dominate the other in smaller towns.

Most school board elections in Massachusetts and New York are nonpartisan, meaning that everyone runs as a petitioning candidate. But not here. Strong parties are everything to the powers that be. To make matters worse, both parties close their primaries to the unaffiliated, which deepens the polarization of the electorate as candidates pander to their activist bases in order to secure the nomination at the conventions or the primaries.

On a personal level, there’s a silver lining. It gives me perverse pleasure to see that, despite the best efforts of party officials to keep us in line, we refuse to cooperate. We’re slowly eschewing the Democratic and Republican labels. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before independents outnumber all the party loyalists combined. And that will be a good thing.

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.

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OP-ED | Dire Predictions Of Endless Waits For A Doctor Have Proven Unfounded

by Wendell Potter | Aug 15, 2014 3:00am
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Posted to: Health Care, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

Critics Falsely Claimed Obamacare Would Make Matters Worse

Among the many predictions of Obamacare-related catastrophe was that the law, by enabling millions to join the ranks of the insured, would force us all to wait longer to see a doctor and very possibly lead to a code blue for U.S. health care.

“Doctor shortage, increased demand could crash health care system,” A CNN report warned last October.

A few months earlier, a Forbes headline predicted that, “Thanks to Obamacare, a 20,000 Doctor Shortage Is Set to Quintuple.”

“America is suffering from a doctor shortage,” wrote Forbes blogger Sally Pipes, president of the Koch brothers-funded Pacific Research Institute, a think tank advocating “personal responsibility” and “free-market policy solutions.” “An influx of millions of new patients into the healthcare system will only exacerbate that shortage — driving up the demand for care without doing anything about its supply.”

Pipes cited numbers from a 2010 analysis conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges. But unlike Pipes’ organization, which says the Affordable Care Act should be repealed, the AAMC called the law’s expansion of coverage “long overdue.” The doctor shortage would be alleviated, the AAMC says, if rather then repealing Obamacare, Congress would lift a freeze in Medicare’s support for physician-training positions that has been in effect since 1997.

It’s true that the number of doctors per capita in the U.S. likely will continue to decrease, especially in rural areas. But even though an estimated 13 million Americans have become newly insured since the first of this year, the predictions of the gloom-and-doomers have not panned out.

To find out if the critics’ were prescient or way off base, Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz went looking for problems. He didn’t find many. “Five months into the biggest expansion of health coverage in 50 years,” he wrote after interviewing officials from more than two dozen health centers and multi-group practices across the country, “there are few reports of patients facing major delays getting care.”

One reason the system has not been overwhelmed is that, although we might not have as many doctors as some think we should have, we do have a rapidly growing supply of mid-level medical providers — like physician assistants and nurse practitioners — who now treat many of our health problems. It probably won’t be long before most of us are treated — and treated just fine — by a well-trained professional who doesn’t have an M.D. after his or her name.

A couple of weeks ago, I sustained an injury that my wife felt was serious enough that I should either go to the ER or see my doctor. When I called my doctor’s office, I was told that while the doctor was on vacation, a nurse practitioner could see me right away. And she did. And I lived to tell about it.

I had no misgivings. When I was at Cigna, many of my colleagues and I were treated by one of the nurse practitioners who staffed the company clinic. I went years without going to a doctor. The nurse practititoner not only was able to take care of any problems I had, she also was able to prescribe medications.

Thousands of nurse practitioners and physician assistants are joining the medical work force every year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician assistants — who can do anything from physical exams to ordering lab tests — are among the fastest-growing professions in the country. An estimated 90,000 PAs are already seeing patients, and that number is expected to increase 38 percent by 2022.

One of the reasons for this growth is the roles they are now playing as part of patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations, both encouraged by the Affordable Care Act, to help coordinate patient care more efficiently. They are becoming an accepted and welcome part of the medical team, even by physicians.

Other mid-levels are also joining those medical teams in growing numbers. According to a recent study by the Brookings Institution, workers with less than a bachelor’s degree now account for nearly half of the total health care workforce in the country’s 100 largest metro areas. They include licensed practical nurses, personal care aides, and even registered nurses, although most RNs now have bachelor’s degrees. The Department of Labor predicts that an additional 3 million pre-baccalaureate health care professionals will join the medical workforce by 2022.

In the not too distant future, expect to see mid-levels in your dentist’s office too. Three states — Alaska, Minnesota and Maine — are the first to license dental health care therapists, who can and will help make up for a growing shortage of dentists.

So while we might not be seeing our doctors and dentists as often as we did in the past, we will be finding out that we didn’t really need to see them so often anyway.

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.

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OP-ED | A Campaign of Substance

by Brian O'Shaughnessy | Aug 14, 2014 5:26pm
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Posted to: Economic Development, Economics, Election 2014, Equality, Opinion, Poverty, State Budget

Campaign season is officially under way. We will hear a great deal about issues that candidates believe will influence votes. This does not mean, however, that we will be analyzing the information we need to make informed voter decisions.

We especially will not be hearing about strategies that will move Connecticut out of the economic doldrums in which it is perpetually mired.

The majority of our issues are economic in nature. Academic achievement, crime, jobs and rising healthcare costs are all tied to poor economic conditions. How we raise money, how we spend the money we raise and the impact of both of these decisions is central to the quality of life in Connecticut. 

Why then during the campaign will the only economic issue we discuss be how much we spend?

I have bored folks for the past 18 months writing about the pressing need to measure the effectiveness of how government operates. How can we promote investments that have a positive economic impact and how do we ensure that this benefit is being achieved?

Why is this concept so important? Because we can’t spend more, but we can most certainly spend better.

Prior to the implementation of the state income tax, Connecticut was noted as a state with great income equality. That is not a typo. An interesting study of Connecticut’s travel toward intense disparities in economic condition can be accessed here

Subsequent to the implementation of the state income tax, state government grew from approximately $4 billion to $19 billion and economic disparities accelerated dramatically. As government grew, so did economic disparities and urban poverty.

Connecticut traveled from a state in the top 10 when it came to economic parity to the state — behind New York — with the greatest disparity in the nation. All in 30 years.

Many believe it is not a coincidence that these negative population results have coincided with the growth of government.

To want change is not an anti-government sentiment. To the contrary, it is driven by people that still believe government has a fundamental role in shaping how we live, but we need to adjust. We must follow the money we spend in the most intense manner possible to see if it achieves purported goals.

In a recent article in Governing magazine, urban planner Aaron Renn wrote about the challenges in promoting real economic development, using Detroit as an example: “There are a lot of people who are personally doing quite well even in the midst of decay. In fact, the cold reality is that they are benefitting from that decay.  In places long in decline, it’s likely to take some outside shock to the system to break the rackets that are producing civic stasis and dysfunction.”

We are not Detroit. Not even close. The point, however, should be well taken. The interplay between an economy and government policies produces certain results. We should honestly appraise these results. When the results are bad, we need to adjust.

Simply, we need to “reallocate” increasingly limited public assets. This is no small effort. No mechanism exists to reallocate funds based upon results. The appropriation of funds appears to be an annuity, not an honest annual appraisal of merit.

New approaches are evolving that measure the impact of taxpayer funded public investments. They should be imbedded in how our state spends money. They should also be discussed during the campaign.

“Pay-for-success” initiatives are prodding government to evaluate the efficacy of programs when making funding decisions. Social financing concepts seek to promote the enormous financial benefits that flow from addressing root causes that avoid later “reactive” costs tied to criminal justice, special education, supportive housing or unemployment. The manner in which we spend money directly impacts our ability to later raise money with tax revenues. These are all such basic concepts that most are unaware that they are absent in the world of government finance.

I wrote some time ago that government does not necessarily need to be smaller, just better.  Government jobs are important to our state’s financial health. With arguably the worst job market in the country, a somewhat constricting economy and a decreasing median income, the jobs of those that rely on government are important to the overall health of our state’s economy. Jobs do not need to go away, but they need to be different. 

Government can do better and that should be a campaign topic.

Brian O’Shaughnessy of New Haven is a principal in the firm Community Impact Strategies Ltd. The mission of CIS is to facilitate the investment of public and private capital for the purpose of creating measurable improvements in human productivity and living conditions.

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Connecticut Group Works on Racial Profiling With Issue on National Stage

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 14, 2014 4:00pm
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Posted to: Public Safety

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Bill Dyson and Ken Barone of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project

With the eyes of the nation on a racially-charged conflict between protesters and police in Missouri, a small group of Connecticut policymakers met Thursday to discuss their ongoing efforts to identify racial profiling during traffic stops.

Last weekend’s police shooting of Michael Brown, an African-American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked five nights of protests and violent confrontation between demonstrators and police. The shooting and ongoing fallout have gained national attention. President Barack Obama addressed the conflict in a Thursday afternoon briefing.

During a meeting of Connecticut’s Racial Profiling Advisory Board, former state Rep. Bill Dyson said Connecticut has taken steps to get ahead of the curve on issues related to police interactions with minority groups.

“It’s not as if this issue didn’t manifest itself [in Connecticut] sometime in the past. It did. Did we deal with it as we should have? I would think it best to say ‘No, it wasn’t dealt with.’ Are we doing what we need to do now? Yes,” Dyson told reporters.

Connecticut’s latest efforts were motivated by a series of incidents in East Haven, which culminated with the U.S. Department of Justice charging four officers with targeting Latinos for harassment and beatings.

In 2012, the East Haven incidents spurred the legislature to strengthen a law requiring Connecticut police departments to collect and report data on the racial identity of motorists they stop. The bill also created the Racial Profiling Advisory Board to analyze the data.

The group is beginning to finalize a report, which will attempt to assess the information on a town-by-town basis.

Given what is transpiring in Missouri, Dyson said the public is likely to be more interested in the group’s report.

“People are going to be keenly interested in the demographics of a town. Yesterday’s [New York Times] editorial talked about profiling in other places. And here we are, bringing the issue up. But it’s something that’s not new to us, something we’ve worked on for a long time,” he said. “. . . We’re in front of this, not behind it.”

In June, the group released an overview of its findings, which suggested that police stop Black and Latino motorists at a rate that is disproportionate to the population of those groups living in the state.

Of the 303,863 drivers pulled over between October 2013 and April 2014, about 14 percent were Black and 11.9 percent were Hispanic. Meanwhile, Census data suggests that about 8 percent of the state’s driving population is Black and about 9.7 percent are Latino.

However, Michael Lawlor, the governor’s criminal justice policy adviser, said it is difficult to draw real conclusions from those numbers until they are broken down further.

“It’s the subcategories that really tell you the story. You’ve really got to dig down pretty deeply,” he said. “What you’ll see soon is town-by-town, police department-by-police department.”

The panel is hoping to have those figures ready for public consumption by Labor Day. The group spent more than an hour Thursday discussing how the figures should be presented to provide the most accurate picture.

Rather than compare traffic stop data to a city’s Census population, the advisory panel is planning to estimate the racial makeup of the people driving through the city during the work day.

The hope is that the adjusted estimates will more closely mirror the population police actually encounter on the roads, but even these estimates are controversial.

Orlando Rodriguez, an analyst for the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, said the estimates may be based on questionable data. Sometimes no data is better than bad data, he said.

“We can talk statistics all day, but public perception trumps statistics,” he said. “. . . You have to think about the real-world implications of this. You may not want it to be used a certain way but it will be used. If a reporter puts something very inflammatory — it could undo everything you tried to do here.”

Others in the group insisted their efforts put Connecticut far ahead of most other states on the issue of racial profiling.

“What we’re doing in Connecticut is extraordinary when you look at what has happened in other places,” Jim Fazzalaro, a project manager for the panel, said. “With the exception being Rhode Island and Massachusetts, almost no one has attempted a statewide analysis.”

Dyson said Connecticut has had reason to take action on the topic following the East Haven controversy.

“We are far ahead of many other states on this issue because we had our awakening sometime in the past and we responded to that and put together an advisory group to begin to rectify some of these issues,” he said.

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GOP Files Complaint Against DGA Affiliate

by Christine Stuart | Aug 14, 2014 1:41pm
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The Connecticut Republican Party filed an election complaint Thursday against a super PAC affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association.

The complaint alleges illegal coordination between the group called Connecticut Forward and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign.

According to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Connecticut Forward spent more than $91,200 in late July on pollsters and consultants to help augment Malloy’s publicly funded campaign. It has since spent $12,000 on production of a television ad against Malloy’s Republican opponent, Tom Foley, another $6,000 on a website, and $4,200 on consultants.

Connecticut Forward was created by the DGA after a federal judge ruled that the group lacked standing to bring a lawsuit against the State Elections Enforcement Commission. The DGA sued the state back in April in an attempt to find out whether Malloy’s fundraising for the group would limit its ability to spend its money on his re-election campaign.

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall concluded that the DGA’s fear the state would accuse it of illegal coordination with the Malloy campaign was unfounded since the law was not based solely on the statutory scheme.

A month later the DGA created Connecticut Forward, a tax-exempt organization that can make unlimited expenditures in support or opposition to a candidate, as long as those expenditures are not coordinated with a campaign.

The Republican Party alleges in its complaint Thursday that Connecticut Forward and the Malloy campaign did coordinate the more than $91,000 in consulting and polling services.

“The expenditures DGA made by and through Connecticut Forward are in fact illegal coordinated expenditures and are not independent expenditures,” the complaint reads. “It is undisputed that the DGA made expenditures in 2010 to support Governor Malloy’s election, that Governor Malloy is a member of the DGA, that Governor Malloy solicited significant contributions for the DGA and the that the DGA formed and made expenditures through Connecticut Forward for the purpose of benefitting Governor Malloy’s re-election efforts.”

The party requested a full investigation to determine whether Malloy should receive any more public funds during the 2014 election cycle.

“This claim is utterly baseless, totally unsubstantiated, and unbelievably reckless,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said. “There are fewer specifics in this claim than the GOP’s policy proposals — and that’s next to nothing.”

Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, issued a statement calling the complaint “frivolous.”

“While it’s nice to see erratic millionaire Tom Foley is taking time off from blaming workers for losing their jobs and driving his company into bankruptcy, he and his Republican hatchet men should use the opportunity to come clean about the devastating impact his hidden policies would have on middle-class families instead of filing frivolous legal complaints,” Kanner said.

The Republican Governors Association headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has pledged to support Foley’s campaign, but has not created an entity similar to Connecticut Forward. The SEEC reports show that no money has been spent by the RGA in Connecticut since 2010.

In July, during a stop in Greenwich, Christie said he didn’t know how much money the Republican Governors Association would dedicate to the race, “but we don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.” He said he would dedicate the resources necessary to get Foley’s campaign over the finish line.

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State Pension Funds Post Investment Gains

by Christine Stuart | Aug 14, 2014 12:00pm
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While an actuarial analysis of Connecticut’s pension funds isn’t due until after the November election, state Treasurer Denise Nappier announced this week that the two funds posted net investment returns of more than 15 percent for the 2014 fiscal year.

The State Employees’ Retirement Fund saw returns of 15.62 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund saw returns of 15.67 percent. That exceeded the actuarial investment assumption of 8 and 8.5 percent.

Investment gains totaled $3.8 billion and after combined net withdrawals of $760.4 million, including benefit payments, fees, and expenses, the two pension funds jointly had a total value of approximately $26.7 billion as of June 30 — a net increase of $3.06 billion over the previous fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.

“These two pension funds — representing 91 percent of the state’s pension and trust fund portfolio — profited handsomely from the market’s performance, ” Nappier said in a press release.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy congratulated Nappier in a statement Wednesday.

“This is great news and I want to commend Treasurer Nappier on her good work,” Malloy said.

But Nappier’s Republican opponent, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, said there’s nothing to be cheering about.

“The hard reality is that the State of Connecticut has one of the most underfunded pensions in the United States,” Herbst said. “This press release by Denise Nappier and Dan Malloy is their attempt to try and rewrite the facts.”

The most recent actuarial valuation of the pension funds showed that as of June 30, 2012, the State Employees’ Retirement System was funded at 42.3 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund was funded at 55.24 percent.

That means the State Employees’ Retirement System had $9.7 billion worth of assets, which is enough to cover 42.3 percent of the $23 billion in liabilities. The Teachers’ Retirement Fund did slightly better because in 2008 the General Assembly agreed to put $2 billion on the state credit card to help make payments to the fund. That means the teachers’ fund had $13.7 billion in assets, which is enough to cover 55.24 percent of its $24.9 billion in liabilities. Experts say an 80 percent funding level is considered healthy.

The next actuarial valuation of Connecticut’s funds isn’t expected to be completed until after the November 2014 election, which isn’t unusual because the valuation of the pension funds is conducted every other year.

“Connecticut’s pension fund is funded at 42 percent, one of the worst in the nation, and Denise Nappier and Dan Malloy want us to celebrate?” Herbst asked.

Last year, the funds saw an 11.49 percent return on their investments.

Nappier also noted that the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, which includes the State Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement Fund, and 13 other funds, added $4.15 billion of investment gains to pension assets in fiscal year 2014. After net withdrawals, the fund ended the fiscal year with assets of $29.4 billion — a $3.5 billion net increase from the previous year.

“What is noteworthy about our investment experience over the past five years is that pension fund assets have grown at a faster pace than the payment of benefits and other expenses,” Nappier said. “In light of the State’s significant unfunded pension liability, the substantial growth of the fund assets is good news for its beneficiaries and taxpayers.”

Herbst argued that Nappier uses a higher rate of return than the national average and what has been recommended by the financial rating agencies.

“This continued game of smoke and mirrors actually masks the true unfunded liability which is actually worse than Governor Malloy and Denise Nappier would have us believe,” Herbst said. “This isn’t fair to the retired state workers and teachers that deserve an honest assessment of their retirement security.”

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Democrats, Malloy Take Aim At Foley

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 13, 2014 9:52pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Hartford, Convention Center

Hugh McQuaid photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy laid into his newly anointed Republican opponent Wednesday night before an audience of about 1,000 Democrats at the party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey fundraising dinner.

Malloy was joined by Democratic governors from New Hampshire and Delaware at the dinner held at the Connecticut Convention Center. Tickets to the event went for about $185 a plate.

The event served both as pep rally, where Democrats lauded policies Malloy passed during his first term, and as the first round of what is shaping up to be a contentious rematch between Malloy and his 2010 Republican rival, Tom Foley, who again received his party’s gubernatorial nomination Tuesday.

During his 19-minute speech, Malloy said Foley had spent the last three years rooting for Connecticut’s failure.

“Tom Foley was standing on the sidelines, hoping for rain on a sunny day, wishing that Connecticut would not move forward, hoping that people don’t notice that we’re making progress and that we’re on the road to recovery. He was in the cheap seats, saying cheap things while we were working hard — and that’s unacceptable,” Malloy said.

Several speakers made reference to Foley’s July press conference outside a closing paper mill in Sprague. The event and Foley’s bickering match with some of the mill’s workers and Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten were the basis of an attack ad released by Malloy’s campaign earlier in the day.

Hugh McQuaid photo

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell characterized Foley as a wealthy businessman, unconcerned with the lives of working people.

“Tom Foley seems to think that running a state involves hopping out of the back of a BMW to tell a bunch of workers they were to blame for their factory closing,” Markell said to applause. “Maybe he just can’t see it from the cabin of his private jet, the tens of thousands of people who are back to work since the Malloy administration took the reins.”

Malloy called the event the culmination of “a gigantic putdown” made by Republicans at the expense of Connecticut. He seemed unsure whether Foley arrived at the paper mill in the back of a BMW or a limousine.

“Someone got out of the back of a limousine or a BMW and went forward to tell people who lost their jobs that it was their fault they lost their jobs . . . this is unacceptable in our state or any other state. We can not have leaders like that,” he said.

The governor also criticized his newly-nominated opponent for refusing to offer specific policies on issues like the gun-control legislation passed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Malloy said the shooting was “too raw” for him to dismiss as something that happened in the past.

“He calls [the gun law] an inconvenience. I know what an inconvenience is, sir, and making children safer is not an inconvenience,” he said.

Malloy said he plans to lay out specific plans for his second term on issues like sustainable infrastructure funding and assisting senior citizens.

“This is not something to be pulled from behind a curtain or out of a hat. Futures are to be discussed and embraced and cared for and nurtured and invested in,” he said.

Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, framed the election as a referendum on many of the policies Malloy has passed during his first term, including strict gun control regulations, paid sick days, and increases in the state’s minimum wage.

“Over the last three-and-a-half years, we have made progress. We are jump-starting national conversations about important issues. We have become trend-setters for the rest of the country. That’s why Nov. 4 is so important. We can’t turn back after coming so far,” she said.

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Bacchiochi Concedes; Somers Declares Victory

by Christine Stuart | Aug 13, 2014 2:57pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Christine Stuart file photo

Penny Bacchiochi touring a manufacturing company in Danbury

(Updated 3:41 p.m.) Penny Bacchiochi conceded the three-way race for lieutenant governor Wednesday after reviewing updated election returns. 

Unofficial results showed that Bacchiochi was about 700 votes behind Heather Bond Somers of Groton when the polls closed Tuesday night. But Bacchiochi concluded that a recount was not likely going to give her enough to win.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill determined Wednesday that Somers’ margin of victory didn’t trigger an automatic recount.

Merrill said the margin between Bacchiochi and Somers is currently 771 votes. And while that margin is less than 1,000 votes, there won’t be a mandatory statewide recount because it’s greater than half a percent of the total votes cast for lieutenant governor.

Unofficial results showed Somers with 27,083 votes, Bacchiochi with 26,312 votes, and David Walker with 25,026 votes.

“So while this is an incredibly close result in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, it is not close enough to trigger an automatic statewide recount in the race,” Merrill said Wednesday. “Therefore, I have determined that there will be no statewide recount of the votes for lieutenant governor.”

Christine Stuart file photo

Heather Bond Somers at the Republican convention in May

Bacchiochi said she would accept the results of the election and move forward.

“I believe that the wisest decision for our party is to accept the results and get back to work on delivering a Republican victory in November,’’ she said in a statement.

It was not the outcome she had hoped for, but “I fully accept the will of the Republicans voters,’’ Bacchiochi said. “I want to thank all of our supporters, family members and staff for what was truly an exhilarating experience.”

Bacchiochi pledged to work with the Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor despite the acrimonious campaign between her and Somers.

Somers — a newcomer to statewide politics who many thought was a long shot to win — didn’t acknowledge Bacchiochi’s concession Wednesday in her statement to supporters. She did thank her opponents and all the other candidates who wanted to serve the state but lost Tuesday.

Jon Conradi, Somers campaign manager, said his candidate clearly won this election “and we’re moving on.”

Walker, the third candidate in the race, said Wednesday that he will also support the outcome of the race.

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McKinney Endorses Foley With Ice Water

by Christine Stuart | Aug 13, 2014 2:21pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Trumbull

Christine Stuart photos

John McKinney grins as he dumps ice water on Tom Foley’s head

In a show of unity following a bruising primary battle, Tom Foley, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, allowed his opponent, Sen. John McKinney, to dump a bucket of ice water on his head at his campaign office in Trumbull.

Foley beat McKinney Tuesday night by 12 percentage points, but the two united Wednesday morning to show there were no hard feelings.

Following a press conference, McKinney challenged Foley to take the ALS ice bucket challenge. He explained to Foley that you nominate three other individuals to take the challenge before pouring the bucket of ice over your head. The challenge, which raises awareness and money for for ALS, has taken social media by storm.

“I’m going to take the bucket and I’m going to contribute $100,” Foley said.

The two walked outside Foley headquarters in Trumbull and Foley tried to think of who he should challenge besides Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

He chose the head of the Democratic Party Nancy DiNardo and Democratic strategist Roy Occhiogrosso, who is working on Malloy’s campaign.

“Nice,” McKinney said when he heard Foley say Occhiogrosso.

“Not until he learns how to pronounce my name,” Occhiogrosso responded on Twitter.

Asked if he was taking just a little bit of pleasure in dumping a bucket of ice on the head of the guy who just beat him in the primary, McKinney said “no.”

But when it came time to dump the ice on Foley’s head, McKinney’s conscience may have gotten the best of him.

“Oh, my God, I can’t believe I’m doing this. My mother wouldn’t be happy,” McKinney said before dumping the bucket of ice over Foley’s head.

McKinney asked the news media not to forget that they had also challenged Malloy.

Malloy’s campaign tweeted that the governor will take the challenge Saturday after the MADD dash in Stratford.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman will be pouring the ice water over Malloy’s head.

McKinney was challenged by his daughter and got ice water tossed on his head Tuesday night. Once challenged a person has 24 hours to complete the challenge.

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Malloy Camp Releases Its First Ad Attacking Foley

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 13, 2014 11:59am
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Posted to: Election 2014

Screengrab

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign waited about 13 hours after Tom Foley won the Republican gubernatorial nomination before releasing the first negative ad of the general election.

Foley, who lost narrowly to Malloy in 2010, clinched a rematch Tuesday when he beat his primary challenger Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.

The ad released by the Malloy camp Wednesday morning tries to capitalize on video footage from Foley’s press conference in July, which was widely-regarded as disastrous for the candidate.

Foley scheduled the event outside a shuttered paper mill in Sprague, hoping to use the business’s closure as evidence that Malloy’s policies weren’t working. However, the event devolved into a bickering match between Foley, some of the plant’s workers, and Democratic Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten.

The 30-second TV spot shows Foley accusing one of the plant’s employees of attempting to “malign management.”

“Listen, you have failed because you’ve lost these jobs,” Foley says.

Following the clip, a narrator accuses Foley of attacking workers and defending the management company that shut down the paper mill. The narrator draws parallels between the mill’s closure and to the closure of a Bibb Co. facility in Georgia. The facility was shut down after a firm founded by Foley sold the company.

The Bibb plant was a subject Foley’s opponents cited often during his unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Democrats were widely-expected to use the Sprague incident to highlight Foley’s record as founder of a private equity firm.

McKinney aired a similar ad less than a week before Tuesday’s primary election. A press release with McKinney’s ad said his commercial was “mild compared to what Democrats will do with with this unfortunate episode.” The Republican’s ad did not directly point to the Bibb facility’s closure.

Malloy’s ad ends with the narrator saying, “Foley and his company made $20 million. Tom Foley: some things never change.” The campaign named the TV spot “The More Things Never Change…”

At a press conference Wednesday morning, Foley said he had not yet seen the ad.

“Listen, these are character attacks. They’re attacks on people’s motives,” Foley said. “I think it’s inexcusable. First of all they’re not true. But second of all why is the governor spending money talking about things like that rather than talking about, engaging in a dialogue about what is the right policy direction for the state?”

Just before Malloy released the ad, the Republican Governors Association sent reporters an email that also pointed back to the 2010 election. The email referenced a Courant story on the final 2010 debate between Malloy and Foley. According to the story, Malloy said “we’re not raising taxes” during the debate.

“Malloy’s jaw must have broken telling that lie to voters. Months later, Malloy did raise taxes. In fact, he signed into law the ‘largest tax increase in state history.’ Come November, voters will remember Malloy can’t be trusted to keep his word and will hold him accountable by electing Republican nominee Tom Foley,” RGA Communication Director Gail Gitcho said in the email.

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With 98 Percent of Precincts Reporting, Somers Leads By 718 Votes

by Madeline Stocker | Aug 13, 2014 12:09am
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Posted to: Election 2014

madeline stocker / ctnewsjunkie

With the election too close to call, both Lt. Governor candidate Heather Bond Somers and her supporters said that they were confident that the final count would see her as the winner of the primary.

-RELATED: For Lt. Gov. Candidates, A Roller Coaster Night of Primary Results, Recount Likely

“It’s a close call, but I’m confident that we’ll come out on top,” Somers said from the patio of The Spot, the Groton restaurant where Somers’ supporters gathered to await the primary results. “I really think we can win this.

As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Somers was holding onto a 718-vote lead over state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi with 98 percent of the precincts reporting, according to NBC. Broadcasters reported Somers with 27,148 votes, Bacchiochi with 26,430, and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker with 25,123.

If the two candidates remain within 1,000 votes once all precincts are in, the state will conduct an automatic recount.

Although some supporters found that to be a cause for concern, Somers’ campaign manager, Jon Conradi, said that he was confident that the count would remain relatively similar.

“With the machines nowadays, the numbers are never overturned,” Conradi said. “It’s hardly going to change.”

Flocked by family, friends, supporters, and volunteers, Somers went on to say that, regardless of the turnout, she was happy to have come this far.

“I’m thrilled that someone with hardly any name recognition has been able to garner this much support,” she said. “It’s time to get southeastern Connecticut a seat the table.”

Somers also said that starting tomorrow her campaign would “put the first foot forward in defeating Gov. Dan Malloy.

“I’m tired of Hartford; tired of Washington,” Somers said to a cheering crowd. “We need someone accountable to take the stage.”

Although they admitted starting off the night unsure of what the results might yield, the majority of Somers’ supporters seemed to grow confident with time and individuals traded words of encouragement across the patio: “I like where we stand” . . . “The numbers are good.”

Not everyone shared that confidence, however, and many of Somers’ family and friends were left with their doubts.

“We won’t know until we know,” Dr. Mark Somers, Heather’s husband, said as the votes were being counted. “It’s a little overwhelming.”

While several of her supporters expressed concerns, Somers remained confident that the final vote would clinch her victory.

“Ninety-eight percent of the votes are in, and we’re ready, and we’re excited,” Somers said. “People know we’ve got the best Republican team in the running.”

Somers also said that, as of tomorrow, she would begin to take action.

“Once we know the results we’re going to sit down and have a conversation with Tom Foley,” Somers said. “The next step is figuring out how to best defeat Dan Malloy.”

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Foley Victory Sets Up Rematch In Gov’s Race

by Christine Stuart and Hugh McQuaid | Aug 12, 2014 10:28pm
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Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley accepts the nomination

Republican primary voters handed Greenwich Republican Tom Foley his second consecutive gubernatorial nomination Tuesday, setting up a rematch between Foley and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. 

A last-minute surge and strong support in Fairfield County were not enough to save Foley’s primary opponent, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield. McKinney lacked the Foley’s name recognition and the longtime state senator representing Newtown may have suffered opposition among GOP voters for his support of gun control legislation passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

During a televised debate Sunday, the two promised to endorse each other no matter what happened Tuesday. When McKinney called Foley he pledged his support Foley during a phone call around 9:30 p.m.

“You guys have 100 percent of my time and effort,” McKinney told Foley.

Foley had 56 percent of the votes and McKinney had 44 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. That means, as of midnight, Foley had 44,464 votes to McKinney’s 35,563 votes.

Hugh McQuaid photo

John McKinney

McKinney conceded the race shortly after when he joined his supporters at a bar near his Fairfield headquarters.

“The race does not end tonight. The goal was to elect a new governor. The goal is to make Dan Malloy a one term governor and get a fiscally responsible Republican in the governor’s office,” McKinney told supporters after conceding.

The statement caused Foley supporters in Waterbury, who were watching the speech, to applaud the statement.

Malloy’s campaign was ready for Foley’s victory. Minutes after the Associated Press called the race around 9 p.m., Malloy spokesman Mark Bergman released a statement that attacked Foley’s experience as founder of a private equity firm and a widely-criticized press conference the candidate held outside a closing papermill in Sprague.

“He has spent his career making millions while destroying jobs. This is the same Tom Foley who in July told workers in eastern Connecticut that it was their fault their factory closed. And, instead of telling Connecticut what he would do, he’s spent the last three years chirping from the cheap seats, rooting for Connecticut to fail, and avoiding specifics, tough questions, and details,” Bergman said.

McKinney’s supporters slowly acknowledged the results as they ran across the screens of silent televisions in the noisy Fairfield bar where his reception was held. Fairfield RTC Chair Jamie Millington took the stage around 9:45 p.m. to break the bad news.

“It’s not looking so well there,” he said. “. . . John has been our state senator for many years. We have known him — I’ve known him, my entire life and he has served us well. Tonight is a little bit bittersweet but I know John has a future ahead of him.”

Foley painted his victory Tuesday as a referendum on Malloy and his policies.

“Dan Malloy has had his chance and change is coming,” Foley said during his speech to supporters.

Foley also thanked McKinney for his public service and “defending Republican principles.”

Like his television advertisements, Foley promised to take the state in a new direction with new policies.

“Our families deserve better, we must lower the tax burden on our families,” Foley said.

Supporters at the Foley victory party were milling around, noshing on Italian food, and watching national news coverage of Robin Williams death on Fox News at the Pontelandolfo Community Club in Waterbury an hour after the polls closed. There was little excitement in the room for the candidate shortly after 9 p.m. when the Associated Press called the race for Foley.

But many supporters said that’s because they knew Foley would win.

McKinney’s support of the gun control legislation earned him opposition from Second Amendment groups like the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. In a blog post, the group said it planned to “celebrate the end of John McKinney’s political career” at a monthly meeting Tuesday in Middletown.

However, after his speech, McKinney told reporters he did not believe the gun issue sunk his candidacy among Republican voters. He said most voters who disagreed with his support of the bill prioritized other issues.

“It had an effect but at the end of the day, in the conversations I had and the polling we did, the overwhelming majority of Republican voters were most concerned about spending, taxes, jobs and the economy,” he said.

As he waved at vehicles Monday in West Hartford, Foley also didn’t believe it would be the Second Amendment supporters who would help him claim victory.

“I’m very grateful for their support, but . . . I think that support for my candidacy both in November and here in the primary is very broad,” Foley said Monday during a stop in West Hartford. “We’ve seen no movement from our supporters in 2010 or more recently in this primary away from me.”

The Republican Governor’s Association headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned for Foley, quickly congratulated the former Ambassador to Ireland in a statement.

“It’s time to put Tom Foley in the governor’s office,” Christie said. “Foley has the experience in both the public and private spheres which will help him promote policies that create jobs, attract business, and reboot Connecticut’s economy.”

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For Lt. Gov. Candidates, A Roller Coaster Night of Primary Results, Recount Likely

by Susan Bigelow | Aug 12, 2014 10:17pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

susan bigelow / ctnewsjunkie

Bacchiochi thanks supporters at her headquarters in Enfield

ENFIELD — The mood among the small crowd at state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi’s headquarters went from quiet to upbeat and then back down to tense as results of the Lt. Governor’s race tightened up in the hours after polls closed on Tuesday and appeared to be heading for an automatic recount.

According to the Associated Press, unofficial results showed former Groton Mayor Heather Somers with a slight lead (34.4 percent) over state Rep. State Rep. Penny Bacchiochi (33.6 percent) with 87 percent of precincts reporting as of 10 p.m. Tuesday. Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker was trailing in third place.

According to spokesman Av Harris of the Secretary of the State’s office, if the candidates are all within 1,000 votes, then the law requires a machine recount within seven days of the primary for all three candidates for Lt. Governor statewide. If just the top two are within 1,000 votes, then the recount is for only the top two vote-getters.

Bacchiochi, one of three Republicans running for the party’s nomination for Lt. Governor, was up early in districts across most of northern Connecticut. But as the evening wore on the numbers showed Walker and Somers drawing closer; by 10 p.m. it was a dead heat. Bacchiochi still hadn’t made an appearance.

She was still returning from criss-crossing the western part of the state throughout the day, according to volunteers.

Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie Walker took the podium in Fairfield shortly after John McKinney’s concession speech and told supporters to relax and enjoy the evening, because the results of the race were going to be late.

Walker said he was happy to have put 21,000 miles on his car as he spoke at 100 events throughout the campaign. He also said he planned to support, in the general election, whomever was declared winner of the Republican nomination, adding, “But as we know, politics is not necessarily a merit-based business, which is why I haven’t been in it previously.”

Around 10 p.m., Somers arrived at her headquarters amid talk that she had taken a slight lead.

Somers said she had started the day at 3 a.m. and said the race was a nailbiter, but touted her victory by more than 400 votes in Stamford, and both she and her campaign manager were feeling confident based on results from other large suburbs.

“What’s so important in this election is that we need to vette our candidates to put the best foot forward to beat Dan Malloy,” she said on CT-N, adding that the state needs candidates who are outsiders and who are not connected to Hartford or Washington — a clear shot at both Bacchiochi and Walker.

Regardless, Bacchiochi was upbeat when she finally entered her headquarters to cheering supporters. She told CT-N that she was preparing for a recount because the results where within a half a percent.

To her supporters, she said she wrote two speeches.

“A concession speech and a victory speech,” she said. “I didn’t plan on a razor-tight race! So I’m gonna wing it for a little bit.”

Bacchiochi said she didn’t know when the final numbers would be in, but she thanked everyone for coming out before quoting Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…” She paused and looked around her supporters. “That’s us, guys.”

“That’s right!” a supporter called back.

“I present to all of you,” Bacchiochi said, “that is us. We are in the arena.”

Win or lose, Bacchiochi finished, “I hope you will all relish this time we spent together.”

Asked about Somers’ attack ads, she said she made a conscious decision not to go negative.

“It’s very hard for women to build themselves up, especially in the Republican Party,” Bacchiochi said.

As the numbers drew to within 1,000 votes, staff and volunteers withdrew into their smartphones as the crowd settled in for a long wait. “Keep smiling,” one person said. As the cheering died down, volunteers started pacing.

Enfield Mayor Scott Kaupin wondered which districts were still being counted. The geography of the race mattered, given that the candidates were separated into southwest, southeast, and north. Did he think Bacchiochi would pull it out? “I hope so,” he said, shaking his head. “I hope so.”

The race was acrimonious, particularly in the days leading up to the Republican convention in May.

Bacchiochi did a guest appearance on WTIC AM 1080 and made unsupported accusations that Walker had make racially charged statements about her husband. Under pressure, she later suggesting it was someone connected with Walker’s campaign, and then was forced to publicly apologize.

Somers pounced on Bacchiochi’s comments with an attack ad accusing her of being an “insider” who accepted money to lobby for medical marijuana and who had called Walker a “racist” before being forced “to retract her ugly comments.”

“Don’t let Penny Bacchiochi blow Republicans’ chances to take down Dan Malloy’s job-crushing agenda,” the narrator says in the ad.

Bacchiochi made no apologies for lobbying for medical marijuana, the only drug that eased the terminal cancer pain of her now-deceased former husband. And she said she’d apologized for the comments she made about Walker.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns and if you’re losing you go on the attack and if you’re winning you don’t,” Bacchiochi said.

susan bigelow / ctnewsjunkie

Supporters discuss the possibilities as results in the Lt. Governor’s race tightened up over the course of the evening on Tuesday.

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Malloy Joins White House Call On Minimum Wage

by Christine Stuart | Aug 12, 2014 4:25pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Jobs, Labor, White House

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

While his Republican opponents were duking it out at the polls Gov Dannel P. Malloy joined White House officials Tuesday afternoon for a conference call on the minimum wage.

The call followed the release of a White House report that showed 13 states and the District of Columbia increased the minimum wage after president Barack Obama called for the boost during his 2013 State of the Union Address. The increases at the state level and the boost in pay for federal contractors approved by executive order will benefit about 7 million workers, according to the report.

Back in March, Connecticut became one of the first states to pass legislation increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017. Under the law, the minimum wage will increase to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2015; $9.60 on Jan. 1, 2016; and finally to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017. Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate voted against the increase and a handful of Democratic lawmakers joined them.

Malloy maintained his support of the legislation Tuesday.

“The vast number of people earning the minimum wage in the United States and this is certainly true in Connecticut, I think it’s true in all of New England, are adults well over the age of 22 years old,” Malloy said. “For one of those individuals to be stuck in a job that pays them the old minimum wage and therefore to be living in poverty as they struggle to raise their children makes no sense.”

He said it also doesn’t make them a good consumer. He said these are the people most likely to put their money back into the economy.

In Connecticut, the first phase of the minimum wage increase won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said recent studies show job growth in states that have raised the minimum wage is higher than in states that haven’t.

“Time and time again we see talking points that don’t bear a resemblance to the reality on the ground,” Perez said. “There’s a pretty robust evidence base showing that when you raise the minimum wage, you do good by the economy.”

Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients said raising the minimum wage over time has no meaningful negative impact on unemployment.

Malloy said he believes the increase in the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and the Earned Income Tax Credit are programs that would be at risk if he was defeated by one of the Republicans in November.

“A candidate for governor said he would support it on a national level, of course knowing it’s probably not going to happen, but he wouldn’t support it on a state level,” Malloy said. “Well, that sounds like a promise to roll it back to me.”

One of Malloy’s Republican opponents Sen. John McKinney voted against the minimum wage increase earlier this year. Tom Foley, who ran against Malloy in 2010, has said he’s more comfortable with a national minimum wage increase.

“The minimum wage is a fairness issue, so I support raising the minimum wage nationally to help people who struggle the most to earn a living,” Foley has said.

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Voter Turnout In Republican Primary Varied

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 12, 2014 2:29pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

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Secretary of the State Denise Merrill votes in Hartford in one of 13 Democratic primaries across the state Tuesday.

Based on mid-day calls by the Secretary of the State’s office, Republican voters in the small, northwestern town of Cornwall had the strongest Tuesday morning turnout in the GOP primary with 15.4 percent voting as of about 10:30 a.m.

Asked for a rough estimate, Av Harris, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State, said turnout in the GOP primary seemed “pretty low” based on calls conducted between 10:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

“It’s probably going to be overall in the 20s [percent range]. But that’s an educated guess, nothing more,” he said.

Morning turnout numbers were low throughout the state. Just 2.7 percent of Republican voters in Derby had voted by mid-morning. Meanwhile, about 7.6 percent had voted in New Britain. In Newtown, 7.6 percent of Republicans had cast ballots as of 11 a.m.

Republicans are voting in several statewide primary contests including the gubernatorial race between 2010 nominee Tom Foley and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. In the lieutenant governor’s race, Republicans are picking between convention-endorsed candidate state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, former Groton Mayor Heather Bond Somers, and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.

Voters tend to head to the polls in two large groups: in the morning and in the evening before polls close at 8 pm. This year’s turnout seems on track to be much lower than it was during the 2010 election cycle, when 29.76 percent of Republican primary voters went to the polls.

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Malloy Mum On Primary Vote

by Christine Stuart | Aug 12, 2014 11:48am
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Posted to: Election 2014

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his Wife Cathy Malloy after voting Tuesday

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy started his day Tuesday at the Hartford Seminary where he cast a vote in a Democratic state senate primary with his wife, Cathy, before heading down to New Haven to do some campaigning.

Malloy, who is seeking a second term in November, was mum on his choice between state Sen. Eric Coleman, Hartford Council President Shawn Wooden, and Len Walker of Windsor.

“Votes are private,” Malloy said.

Malloy said he’s doesn’t have a favorite opponent in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Republican voters will decide Tuesday whether Sen. John McKinney or Tom Foley, the 2010 Republican nominee, will challenge Malloy in November.

“I’m just happy we’re going to cut the Republican field in half,” Malloy said.

Malloy is expected to head to New Haven later today where Democratic voters far outnumber Republicans.

There are 2,424 Republicans in the Elm City and 48,166 Democrats. This year there is no Democratic primary in New Haven, which means the polls will be open for the 2,424 Republican voters. It will cost the city $40,000 to open and staff the 30 polling locations, according to the New Haven Independent.

In 2012, Malloy vetoed legislation that would have given local registrars discretion over how many polling locations were opened. The bill gave local election officials 60 days to announce polling place consolidation efforts.

Asked Tuesday about the veto, Malloy said what you don’t want to have happen in Connecticut, which has happened in places like Florida, where voters are forced to stand in line for more than eight hours to cast their vote.

“You try to make laws and decisions for the long haul to protect people’s rights and sometimes that may be an inconvenience,” Malloy said.

He said he understands it would help municipalities save money, but it has the potential to undermine a person’s right to vote.

After stopping in New Haven this afternoon, Malloy is expected to return to the residence in Hartford where he will watch the election returns and find out who will challenge him in November.

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Will Second Amendment Supporters Make The Difference?

by Christine Stuart | Aug 12, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Civil Liberties, Election 2014, Fairfield, West Hartford

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Tom Foley waves at drivers in West Hartford Monday

A Quinnipiac University poll in May found that 69 percent of Republicans surveyed opposed stricter gun control laws passed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. But it’s unknown how many of them will show up Tuesday to vote in the Republican gubernatorial primary between Sen. John McKinney and Tom Foley.

McKinney, who represents Newtown, voted in favor of the bipartisan legislation and as a result received criticism from Second Amendment supporters. Meanwhile, Foley — who hasn’t said he would repeal the legislation or whether he supports restrictions on assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines — is poised to benefit from McKinney’s support of that one bill.

Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said he’s hoping today’s primary is McKinney’s “political swan song.”

Wilson said his group didn’t endorse Foley. But by not supporting McKinney, Foley will be getting their vote.

“A number of our members along with other interested parties have been phone banking in opposition to McKinney,” Wilson said Monday.

Voters who believe in the Second Amendment and the rest of the constitution will help Foley win, he said.

Courtesy of the McKinney campaign

John McKinney and his campaign team at Grand Central Station in NYC

However, Foley doesn’t believe his position on the Second Amendment will lead him to victory.

“I’m very grateful for their support, but . . . I think that support for my candidacy both in November and here in the primary is very broad,” Foley said Monday during a stop in West Hartford. “We’ve seen no movement from our supporters in 2010 or more recently in this primary away from me.”

He said his support includes the “Second Amendment people, but is much broader than that.”

Foley claims his campaign has telephoned 50,000 voters since last Friday who said they plan to vote for him today. If voter turnout remains low, around 100,000, Foley said he feels good about his chances based on the math.

In the absence of any public polling, Ron Schurin, a professor at the University of Connecticut, opined last week that McKinney has a chance to beat Foley if he can capitalize on low statewide voter turnout, strong support in Fairfield County, and the perception among some in the party that he would make a stronger candidate against the incumbent Democrat.

“It would be a very significant upset,” Schurin said.

McKinney spent all of his time Monday in Fairfield County reaching out to senior citizens and commuters.

During their last televised debate on Sunday, McKinney said that as governor he’s not going to focus on the gun bill or making modifications to that law.

“I’m going to focus on growing our economy and creating jobs,” McKinney said.

He said he was proud to represent his constituents in Newtown.

“At the end of the day my job was to represent my constituents,” McKinney said. “You know a lot of times in politics people stand on the sidelines and criticize what we do rather than roll up their sleeves, get in, and try to work on things. I’ve never been the type that wants to sit on the sidelines and criticize.”

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Voter Turnout In Republican Primary Expected to Be Around 25 Percent

by Christine Stuart | Aug 11, 2014 3:00pm
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Based on past primary data, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill predicted voter turnout in Tuesday’s Republican primary will be around 25 percent.

“I think 25 percent will be the high mark,” Merrill said Monday. “I’m thinking it will be pretty quiet.”

She said it’s her impression that people weren’t paying any attention to the Republican gubernatorial contest between Sen. John McKinney and Tom Foley “until about two days ago.”

Merrill opined that the televised debate on Sunday generated some interest, “otherwise I would have said this would be a really low turnout.”

In 2010, in a three-way primary between Oz Griebel, former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, and Tom Foley, there were 120,171 Republican voters who cast their ballots, which is 29.7 percent of registered Republicans. During that primary, Foley defeated Fedele by more than 3,800 votes.

Merrill said since there is no statewide primary on the Democratic side this year, she’s predicting turnout in that party will be much lower.

In 2006, the first year the party primaries were held in August, turnout out on the Democratic side was about 43 percent. The contest that year featured a hotly contested race between then-U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. Lamont defeated Lieberman, who went onto win the general election as an independent. There was also a pitched battle that year between now-Gov. Dan Malloy and former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. DeStefano defeated Malloy to win the nomination, but he went on to lose to former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

With voter turnout predicted to be around 25 percent in this year’s Republican primary for governor between McKinney and Foley, their “get out the vote” efforts will be crucial.

On Monday afternoon, McKinney was addressing seniors at the Fairfield Senior Center before boarding a Metro-North train to New York City where he planned to talk to commuters.

Jodi Latina, a spokeswoman for McKinney’s campaign, said they are going down to get out the vote and make sure that commuters remember to vote Tuesday before boarding the train. She said McKinney as a kept a “rigorous” schedule leading up to tomorrow’s primary and his one-on-one contact with Fairfield voters is going to put him over the top.

After Sunday morning’s debate on WTNH News 8, McKinney said neither he or Foley will be able to predict the voter turnout.

“All the people looking at it agree turnout is going to be lower than it was four years ago,” McKinney said.

He said not as much money has been spent leading up to the primary this year. Last year, Foley self-funded his campaign.

“I think in the last seven to 10 days, which are the most important . . . we’ve hit our stride,” McKinney said. “We’ve gotten support from places across the state that I didn’t expect to get support from, and I feel like we’re doing everything I wanted to do at this point.”

The unexpected support came from eastern Connecticut and the 2nd Congressional District, where McKinney is less well known than in the 4th Congressional District — where his father served as a Congressman for many years.

McKinney said the support from eastern Connecticut wasn’t there two months ago, but he thinks his aggressive advertising campaign and the “specificity of our plans have helped.”

Meanwhile, Foley did not release a comprehensive schedule of public events. A campaign spokesman said he greeted voters this morning at the train station in Greenwich before doing a series of radio and television interviews. Later this afternoon he’s expected to be in West Hartford.

The convention-endorsed candidate, who lost to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2010 by less than one percent, planned to campaign at polling places in Trumbull, Oxford, Southington, and Waterbury on Tuesday.

“I think people understand that I represent a change in direction and that I’m not a career politician,” Foley said Sunday after the debate. “I’m not an insider. I’m not part of the problem.”

Foley said his message has been consistent since 2010.

“I think when a career politician all of a sudden comes up with kind of a new twist on things right before an election, people are very skeptical,” Foley said. “I think people, particularly in a Republican primary, don’t like when Republicans are attacking another Republican.”

Foley said he doesn’t see McKinney’s aggressive campaign techniques, including some hard-hitting commercials, eroding his support.

Meanwhile, Merrill reminded voters Monday that they should report any problems at the polls to 1-866-733-2463 or email elections@ct.gov.

Both the hotline and the email account will be monitored by staff from the Secretary of the State’s office and the state Elections Enforcement Commission, who will be available to assist voters with any problems.

In order to vote in Tuesday’s primary, voters will need to be registered with a party.

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Senator Calls For End To ‘Predatory’ Lending Practices

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 11, 2014 12:22pm
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Posted to: Courts, Legal, Veterans Affairs

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U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called Monday for the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on “predatory” debt collection tactics of certain retailers targeting military servicemembers.

Blumenthal said he was one of six senators to write last week to the FTC as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau asking that the agencies close a loophole, which he said creditors like USA Discounters have exploited at the expense of military families.

“Literally, servicemen and women while they are fighting, have their bank accounts frozen, their pay seized, and their lives disrupted without a fair fight, without being able to return fire,” he said at a press conference Monday in the Legislative Office Building.

Blumenthal pointed to an investigation by ProPublica and the Washington Post, which found that USA Discounters guarantees servicemembers credit on expensive items and then takes them to court if they do not stay up-to-date on their payments. He said the contracts issued to military members require those court cases to take place in Virginia, near where USA Discounters is based.

That puts the litigation out of reach for servicemembers across the country, some of whom are deployed overseas, he said. Virginia rules permit the court to pick an attorney to represent the military members, under the recommendation of the creditor, Blumenthal said.

“Almost all of these actions are assigned to a single lawyer, who is not required to provide any standard defense. It’s justice in name only. There really is not aggressive or avid defense of the servicemen,” he said.

Mel Hewston, former state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said it is more difficult on members who are deployed.

“If they’re deployed overseas to Korea or even to a combat zone, the likelihood of them being able to come back and defend themselves are nearly impossible,” Hewston said.

Blumenthal said USA Discounters has locations near many of the major military bases across the country and servicemembers hear commercials pitching credit deals. He said the deals also come with high interest rates, price markups, and layered warranty fees.

The FTC and the CFPB have the authority to issue regulations ending the practice, without the need for legislative action, he said. The letter signed by Blumenthal and five other senators asks the agencies to issue regulations and “explicitly prohibit” creditors from suing servicemembers in courts far from where they are located.

Blumenthal said he had not heard any feedback from the two agencies in response to the letter sent last week. He said he was “troubled” by the federal government’s inaction on the issue so far.

“One way or the other, they should act now and they can under existing authority,” he said. “We may need to close that loophole legislatively, but this practice is unfair and deceptive. So they have authority under existing law.”

A spokesperson for USA Discounters issued a statement Monday from the company’s vice president, Timothy W. Dorsey. The statement rejected the underlying ProPublica report as “irresponsible allegations and inaccurate reporting.” He said the piece omitted information which refutes the story’s premise.

“Given how wrong of a picture the story portrayed, it is not surprising that it has raised questions and concerns from elected officials. The company has reached out to Senator Blumenthal and we welcome the opportunity to speak with him in an open and transparent way to address any questions or concerns he has about the company and, in particular, its relationship and dealings with the men and women serving our country. If there are changes that can or should be made we want to be at the forefront of that change,” he said.

The company defended the use of Virginia courts, pointing out that military personnel move frequently.

“Military customers are often no longer residing in the purchasing jurisdiction when court action must be taken — making the purchasing jurisdiction irrelevant, at best, to the military customer,” the statement said.

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Children As Young As Ten Battling Eating Disorders

by Magaly Olivero | Aug 11, 2014 10:00am
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Posted to: Health Care, Insurance

Thousands of Connecticut adults and children – some as young as 10 – struggle with eating disorders with many suffering secretly because the life-threatening psychiatric condition has gone undiagnosed and untreated, experts in the field report.

“We used to see eating disorders start at 13 or 14. Now we frequently see 10- and 11-year olds,” said Dr. Diane Mickley, founder and director of the Wilkins Center for Eating Disorders in Greenwich, which has treated females and males for three decades. Mickley is a founder and past president of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

“We’re concerned that there are many boys and girls flying under the radar who could be struggling with eating disorders that aren’t diagnosed or treated,” said Craig Brown, a founder and chief executive officer for Center for Discovery, which since 2011 has opened two adolescent residential treatment centers in Fairfield County for youth ages 11 to 17.

“We’ve been getting calls throughout the years that have progressively involved younger and younger children.”

Click here to continue reading this C-HIT report.

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OP-ED | It Doesn’t Take Captain Obvious to Identify A Stacked Deck

by Barth Keck | Aug 11, 2014 8:00am
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Posted to: Education, Opinion

Bill Gates might be the most notable celebrity wanting to reform education, but he’s certainly not alone.

Campbell Brown, former CNN news anchor, has joined the celebrity reformers by filing a lawsuit in New York to overturn teacher tenure laws.

Considering the publicity these celebrity reformers receive, it seems like the little guys in public schools need their own big name to speak for them.

I nominate Captain Obvious. Who better to serve as spokesman for the issues of public education since most issues are, well, rather obvious?

Among the obvious realities of public schools:

1. A disadvantaged family life negatively affects educational achievement.

“A family’s resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children’s life trajectories,” says Johns Hopkins sociologist Karl Alexander, whose research tracked nearly 800 Baltimore schoolchildren for 25 years. “This view is at odds with the popular ethos that we are makers of our own fortune.”

Another recent study from the Washington University School of Medicine found that “children who are exposed to poverty at a young age often have trouble academically later in life” since poverty “appears to be associated with smaller brain volumes in areas involved in emotion processing and memory.”

Brain scans of 145 children between 6 and 12 showed that “poverty also appears to alter the physical makeup of a child’s brain; those children exposed to poverty at an early age had smaller volumes of white and cortical gray matter, as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes.”

This is especially bad news for Connecticut, as poverty among children has increased by 50 percent since 1990, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

I can hear Captain Obvious now: “The better off a child’s family, the better she will do in school.”

2. Measuring schools and teachers with an annual standardized test can be misleading and limiting.

Journalist Ron Berler spent the 2010-11 school year (before the onset of the Common Core) observing students and teachers at Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk, just one of thousands of “failing schools” as classified by standardized test results. Berler chronicled his observations in the book “Raising the Curve: A Year Inside One of America’s 45,000* Failing Public Schools.”

In a U.S. News and World Report interview, Berler said that “we’re doing way too much of this testing, and it is changing the way in which we educate our children.”

According to research reported in Educational Leadership, “standardized tests can only assess a small portion of the curriculum.” In the end, “it’s more likely that what’s missing from the tests will disappear from the curriculum, especially in schools with low-performing students.”

As Captain Obvious might say, “Standardized tests do not improve the overall education process.”

3. Charter schools’ effectiveness is directly related to their exclusive student population.

Parents with kids in charter schools absolutely love charter schools. And why not, considering the anecdotal and statistical success of those schools? But a closer look at charters is quite telling.

“An analysis of [charter schools’] enrollment by the Connecticut Mirror shows that students who speak limited English or have special education needs have been largely left out of most of the state’s charters.”

Specifically, “Public schools (in Connecticut) serve twice the percentage of limited-English students in the districts where 12 of the 17 charter schools are located, the data show. No charter in the state has a higher percentage of ELL students than their local district, and only four enroll more special education students.”

Captain Obvious’ interpretation? “Schools that serve fewer special-needs students face fewer challenges.”

The obvious realities of public education are endless. Unfortunately, the solutions that receive the most attention often disregard these issues because they are proposed by education-reform celebrities like Bill Gates and Campbell Brown. And, like it or not, people tend to see such celebrities as the “Wizards of Educational Oz.”

But not Captain Obvious. He says, “Pay no attention to those celebrities behind the curtain.”

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)

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Republican Candidates Take Their Last Jabs In Televised Debate

by Christine Stuart | Aug 10, 2014 11:01am
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Posted to: Election 2014, State Budget, Taxes, Transportation, New Haven

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WTNH debate with Tom Foley and John McKinney. The debate was moderated by Mark Davis and Susan Haigh

Would he have supported a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines? That was one of the questions Republican Tom Foley wouldn’t definitively answer during the last televised debate before the Republican gubernatorial primary against Sen. John McKinney.

McKinney, who represents Newtown in the state Senate, voted in favor of the legislation which cost him the endorsement of Second Amendment groups. On Sunday morning he defended his vote during a WTNH debate and questioned Foley about what he would have supported after Foley accused him of endorsing restrictions that infringe on the rights of law abiding gun owners.

“One of the things that is frustrating is the fact that Tom you talked about how the bill would have been different and the restrictions went too far, but you still won’t say whether you would support a ban on assault weapons or [if] you would support a ban on large capacity magazines,” McKinney said. “. . . I know we may disagree and I respect those disagreements, but I think we need to be specific about the answers we give people.”

Foley replied: “Those restrictions have already been made and I recognize they’re unlikely to be changed unless the legislature takes some action.”

He said he’s been very clear that this bill failed to address the root cause of what happened in Newtown and would not prevent another Newtown from happening. He said the legislature failed to fill in the institutional support needed for families with children with serious mental health issues.

“Why you as a legislator for 15 years couldn’t help this governor figure that out is beyond me,” Foley said.

McKinney countered that the legislation did make positive changes toward helping people with mental health issues. He said there’s still debate about whether people with mental health issues should be in the community or in an institutional setting and the system can’t afford to spend overwhelming amounts of money on both.

Taxes and Spending

Christine Stuart photo

John McKinney after the debate

McKinney said he has a plan to cut $1.4 billion in spending and end of the income tax for about 1 million residents making less than $75,000 a year. It will cost $750 million to cut taxes for those making less than $75,000 per year.

“We know we can do it. We reduce spending $1.4 billion a year the first year, hold that tight in the second year, you’ve got almost $450 million towards the $750 million tax cut,” McKinney said.

Foley said he would tackle the sales tax first. He would hold spending flat in the first year and cut the sales tax by a half percent in the second year from 6.35 to 5.85 percent and “that puts money in everybody’s pocket.” The proposal would cost about $300 million in revenues.

Foley argued McKinney’s proposal is very narrow because it would help some people, but not everyone.

He also argued that in order for McKinney to reduce taxes for the middle class he would have “to raise somebody else’s taxes in order to provide that tax relief.”

“That’s kind of the unanswered question, whose taxes are going to be raised?” Foley asked.

McKinney said Foley’s tax proposal would put $300 million back in the economy, while his proposal would put $750 million back into the economy.

“It’s hard to argue that having $300 million back in the economy is better than $750 million,” McKinney said.

He said those who make less than $75,000 a year comprise about 50 percent of the taxpayers in the state and would cover retirees, which would allow them to continue to live in the state.

Transportation

Foley capitalized on a question about road congestion and construction to point out that McKinney voted in 2005 to increase the gross receipts tax in order to boost the amount of money in the special transportation fund by about $140 million year.

“You’ve had some kind of epiphany here in the last few weeks and all of a sudden you’re a fiscal conservative,” Foley told McKinney. “When I’ve been talking about these kinds of changes needed for Connecticut’s government for over four years.”

Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley after the debate

McKinney whipped out a piece of paper that showed every budget he’s voted on for the past 16 years as a state lawmaker.

McKinney and Foley were both able to agree that he had voted for an increase in the gross receipts tax, which is a percentage of the wholesale price of gas, and a cigarette tax increase.

He said the bill containing the 50 cent cigarette tax increase also created the film tax credit program. He said in Foley’s hometown of Greenwich, Blue Sky Studios has brought in hundreds of jobs because of those tax credits. There’s also NBC Sports and ESPN, two companies benefiting from the film tax credit program.

“Are you telling me that you would vote against the film tax credit because you wouldn’t want to increase the cost of cigarettes?” McKinney said.

“No,” Foley said.

“Well that’s the choice you had, Tom,” McKinney said.

“You’re talking like a career politician,” Foley replied.

“I’m talking about leadership,” McKinney said in the back and forth exchange.

Foley tried to steer the conversation back to the gross receipts tax and the special transportation fund. In 2005 the legislature passed and former Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill that set aside $1.3 billion to upgrade the state’s transportation infrastructure, including its railroads.

McKinney said that increase in the gross receipts tax helped purchase the new M-8 rail cars for the New Haven line and make improvements to the New Haven Rail Yard.

“Tom you have to pay for things,” McKinney said. “You don’t want to answer a single question. You want to be devoid of specifics.”

Foley said McKinney was simply defending raising taxes.

Following the debate, Foley said he didn’t say whether he would vote for it or against the transportation bill. He was simply citing McKinney’s vote to increase taxes.

“I support investment in transportation infrastructure,” Foley said. “I don’t support the aspects of that bill, which was raising the gross receipts tax, going into the general fund, and promising payments back into the special transportation fund that were never honored.”

But how would you pay for improvements to transportation infrastructure?

“There are a lot of other ways to preserve the special transportation fund without that bill,” Foley said. “They should have left the funds in the special transportation fund.”

How would you pay for it?

“Savings in other aspects of the state government,” Foley said.

Tax Credits

Foley criticized McKinney’s vote in October 2011 for a bipartisan jobs bill that created Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s “First Five” program. The program allows the state to create large tax credit programs for companies that agree to create more than 200 jobs over a specified period of time.

“The state’s anti-business so they have to bribe employers to stay here,” Foley said.

He said the state gave nearly $300 million to Jackson Labs for 300 jobs.

McKinney pointed out that he voted against the Jackson Labs bill, which was separate from the October 2011 jobs bill. And as far as the “First Five” is concerned there was never any vote to give money to specific companies, just legislation authorizing the administration to negotiate the deals.

When the program was first created it was thought the governor would use it to bring out-of-state companies to Connecticut, but very few of those deals have been struck. Most were given to companies like Cigna and Alexion, which were already here in the state.

McKinney pointed out that Connecticut government has given tax credits to get big companies for years and some deals have been more successful than others.

McKinney said he did vote for a bill this year that would allow United Technologies Corporation to use about $400 million in stranded tax credits they’ve earned over the years. McKinney suggested that approach should be used for other companies as well.

Foley was critical of the UTC deal.

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

McKinney said a tax credit is not taxing something. He said that’s not spending. “That’s letting people keep their own money,” he added.

Foley countered “it’s spending money.”

“You’re a good Democrat if you believe that,” McKinney replied.

After The Debate

McKinney came out with a hard-hitting ad late this week that shows a clip from Foley’s press conference in Sprague where he accused the First Selectwoman Cathy Osten of failing.

“You have failed because you lost these jobs,” Foley says to the first selectwoman of Sprague and a group of mill workers after the global investment firm that owns Fusion Paperboard decided to close the business, leaving 140 people out of work.

“That’s Tom Foley, blaming workers for the Sprague paper mill closing,” the narrator says in the ad.

Foley accused McKinney of violating Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

He said when he was in Sprague he was supporting the workers. He was being critical of the government’s handling of the situation.

As far as the election is concerned, Foley still feels good going into Tuesday.

“I have very loyal support. We’re not seeing that what he’s doing is eroding our support at all,” Foley said. “We feel very comfortable about the outcome on Tuesday.”

McKinney defended the ad. He said it wasn’t his words he was using, but the reaction to the press conference by editorial boards who called the performance a disgrace.

“Everyone criticized his performance in Sprague and I think it’s fair for me. I know it’s fair for me to say to Republicans this is what the world of Connecticut thought of his performance in Sprague,” McKinney said. “I wasn’t speaking ill of him. I was telling Republicans what he did.”

McKinney said what Foley did was very divisive and “people of the state need not somebody whose going to divide us, but someone whose going to bring us together.”

McKinney’s campaign, which had to move its party Tuesday night to a larger location, seems to have the momentum coming into the last few days before the Aug. 12 primary.

Click here to watch the hour long debate on WTNH.

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Audit Finds Amistad America’s Endowment In Deficit

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 8, 2014 3:42pm
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Posted to: Ethics, Nonprofits, New Haven

Helen Bennett photo

Amistad schooner replica

As of 2012, the state-subsidized Amistad America had liquidated its endowment assets to fund its operating expenses, leaving the fund more than $49,000 in deficit, according to an audit released Friday.

The four-year audit was conducted by a third-party firm, CohnReznick, and released Friday by the state Office of Policy and Management. It reviews the 2008-2012 finances of the troubled organization which operates the replica of the Amistad, a schooner taken over by African captives in 1839. The organization lost its tax-exempt status last year because it did not file tax returns with the federal government.

The state has invested millions in the ship and, until recently allocated $379,000 for it annually in the state budget.

But according to the audit, the organization has had to burn through its endowment funds to cover its operating expenses.

“In prior years, investments amounting to approximately $49,153 have been liquidated to fund the organization’s operating needs. It is management’s intention to restore the investment account to an amount equal to permanently restricted net assets. As of March 31, 2012, the endowment fund was deficient by $49,153,” the audit read.

Rep. Diana Urban, a North Stonington Democrat who has been critical of the organization’s management, said she wants to see auditors look at the organization’s financial records at least as far back as 2006.  She said things “started to fall apart” in 2006 and the group began drawing down on its endowment in 2008.

“You don’t draw off the endowment unless its desperation,” Urban said. “You don’t go after it ever. That’s where you’re building equity.”

Auditors also found that Amistad America has not complied with legislative reporting requirements and hasn’t had the money to hire enough staff members to balance the books.

“The organization does not have sufficient resources to attract and retain a sufficient
complement of accounting staff,” the audit reads. “We recommend that the organization continue to work with the recently engaged fee accountant not only on the review of years 2010 – 2013 but also on an on-going current basis.”

Hanifa Washington, executive director of Amistad America, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Gian-Carl Casa, the Office of Policy and Management’s under secretary for legislative affairs, said the agency would review the audit with other state entities.

“That is the first step in crafting a plan, in collaboration with stakeholders and the New Haven community, that will protect the state’s investments, the educational mission of the ship, and help ensure that vendors get paid,” he said.

Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokesperson for Attorney General George Jepsen, said the attorney general’s office is also assessing the audit.

“Following a full evaluation of the available information, and with cooperation and input from relevant stakeholders, we will determine next steps to strengthen the Amistad’s ability to continue its important historical mission,” she said.

Urban and other state lawmakers asked Friday that Jepsen review how the closure of Ocean Classroom Foundation will affect the ship. The foundation is run by Amistad America’s former director, Greg Belanger. Amistad America has been paying the foundation $5,000 a month to maintain the ship, according to the audit.

Lawmakers are concerned the ship could be seized by a bank when the foundation closes later this year.

“The demise of Ocean Classroom Foundation prompted us to request that the attorney general look into irregularities surrounding the Amistad. We are focused on protecting the taxpayer and retaining the Amistad as the flagship of the state of Connecticut,” Urban said in a press release.

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18 Legislative Primaries, 8 Incumbents Face Challenges

by Christine Stuart | Aug 8, 2014 12:55pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid file photo

The Republican primary for governor and lieutenant governor may have garnered the most attention over the past few weeks, but there are 18 legislative primaries on Aug. 12.

Of those 18 legislative primaries 13 are Democratic primaries and five are Republican. At least eight incumbent Democratic lawmakers will face challenges from candidates in their own party.

In Bridgeport, there are four Democratic primaries for two state Senate seats and two House seats.

Former state Sen. Ernie Newton, who regained his voting rights in October 2010 after serving a prison sentence only to be charged again in 2012 of illegally obtaining $500 to meet the fundraising threshold in the race for his old Senate seat, will run for state Rep. Don Clemons seat.

Clemons decided not to seek re-election this year. On Tuesday, Newton will face Andre Baker, a funeral director and former city councilor who has been endorsed by House Speaker Brendan Sharkey.

Newton has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case is headed to trial after the fall election.

Rep. Christina Ayala, whose has also been the subject of several court proceedings since taking office, is facing three challengers. Christopher Rosario received the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee in Bridgeport, but Dennis Bradley, an immigration and personal injury attorney,  and Teresa Davidson, a retired corrections officer, received enough support to challenge Ayala who had to petition her way onto the ballot.

Ayala and her mother, Santa Ayala, the Democratic Registrar of Voters in Bridgeport, are under investigation by the state for allegedly conspiring to let Christina Ayala use a false address while voting, campaigning and participating in the public campaign finance system. Ayala was stripped of her committee assignments by Sharkey after the investigation was announced, but with no outcome yet in the case he restored her assignments.

Her cousin, Sen. Andres Ayala of Bridgeport, faces a Democratic primary challenge from Scott Hughes, Bridgeport’s library director.

In the other Senate race that includes a portion of Bridgeport and Trumbull, Marilyn Moore is challenging Sen. Anthony Musto. Six years ago Moore came close to beating Musto, who co-chairs the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee.

In parts of Hartford, Bloomfield and Windsor, Sen. Eric Coleman is being challenged by Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden and former Windsor Town Councilor Len Walker. Wooden, a young attorney, received the party’s endorsement in the race, but Coleman—who has served for 32 years in the General Assembly—received the support of organized labor.

Wooden’s endorsement came before he appeared at a press conference with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announcing that the city planned to bond $60 million to build a minor league baseball stadium. Coleman quickly aligned himself with opponents of the stadium and Wooden changed his stance on the funding for the stadium saying he prefers private funds be used to build it, a position Segarra has also embraced. Political observers say the race has become a referendum on the stadium.

In Hartford, state Rep. Doug McCrory faces a challenge from Donna Thompson-Daniel, a crossing guard and community activist.

Another Democratic primary to watch will be the bitter battle between veteran state Rep. Linda Orange of Colchester and Jason Paul, a young Democrat who stepped up to challenge Orange for her vote against tougher gun restrictions.

Two Democratic state Reps. from Norwalk, Chris Perrone and Bruce Morris, are also being challenged from members of their own party. Perrone faces a challenge from two-term Common Councilman David Watts, who won a narrow victory for the party backing at the May district convention. Four-term incumbent Morris won the party backing over challenger Warren Peña by a comfortable margin in his district’s May convention.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill reminded voters that in order to cast a vote on Tuesday, Aug. 12 they must be registered with a party before noon on Aug. 11.

Click here to find your polling location.

Here is a list of all the Aug. 12 primary races, according to the Office of the Secretary of the State (* denotes party endorsed candidate):

Governor          
Republican          
*Thomas Foley
John McKinney

Lieutenant Governor        
Republican          
*Penny Bacchiochi
Heather Somers
David Walker

Comptroller          
Republican
*Sharon McLaughlin
Angel Cadena

State Senate District 2
(Parts of Bloomfield, Hartford and Windsor)
Democratic  
*Shawn Wooden
Eric Coleman
Len Walker

State Senate 20        
(Bozrah, East Lyme, New London, Old Lyme, Salem, Waterford and parts of Montville and Old Saybrook)     
Democratic
*Elizabeth Ritter
William Satti

State Senate 22
(Trumbull and parts of Bridgeport and Monroe)
Democratic
*Anthony Musto
Marilyn Moore
 
State Senate 23
(Parts of Bridgeport and Stratford)
Democratic
*Andres Ayala Jr.
Scott Hughes  
 
House District 7
(Parts of Hartford)
Democratic
*Douglas McCrory
Donna Thompson-Daniel

House District 23
(Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and parts of Westbrook)
Republican
*Devin Carney
Vicki Lanier

House District 32
(Cromwell, Portland) 
Democratic
*Kathleen Richards
Anthony “Tony” Salvatore

House District 44
(Parts of Killingly and Plainfield) 
Democratic  
*Christine Rosati
Michael Cartier

House District 47    
(Canterbury, Chaplin, Franklin, Hampton, Scotland, parts of Lebanon, Lisbon, Norwich and Sprague)
Republican
Doug Dubitsky
Noah Enslow
Michael Meadows  

House District 48                  
(Parts of Colchester, Lebanon, Mansfield, and Windham)
Democratic
*Linda Orange
Jason Paul

House District 64
(Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon and parts of Goshen and Torrington)
Republican
*Brian Ohler
Mark Lauretano

House District 122
(Parts of Shelton, Stratford, Trumbull) 
Republican
*Ben McGorty
Michael Vickerelli

House District 124
(Parts of Bridgeport)
Democratic
*Ernie Newton  
Andre Baker

House District 128
(Parts of Bridgeport)
Democratic  
*Christopher Rosario
Christina Ayala
Dennis Bradley
Teresa Davidson

House District 133  
(Parts of Fairfield) 
Democratic
*Cristin McCarthey Vahey
Matt Waggner  

House District 137
(Parts of Norwalk)
Democratic
*David Watts
Chris Perrone    

House District 140
(Parts of Norwalk)
Democratic
*Bruce Morris
Warren Pena

House District 142
(Parts of New Canaan and Norwalk)
Republican
*Emily Wilson
Fred Wilms

Probate District 27
(Plainfield, Killingly)
Democratic  
*Andrea Truppa
Anna Zubkova

Probate District 34
(Madison, Guilford) 
Republican
*William Bilcheck
Gail Kotowski

Registrar of Voters- Bristol
Democratic
*Kevin McCauley
Mary Rydingsward

Registrar of Voters - Chaplin  
Republican
*Eugene Boomer Jr.
William Jenkins

Registrar of Voters - Danbury  
Democratic          
*Susan Lewis Ward
Margaret Gallo

Registrar of Voters - Hampton  
Democratic          
*Marilynn Higgins
Matthew LaFontaine

Registrar of Voters -  North Stonington  
Democratic          
*Marilynn MacKay
Joan Kepler

Registrar of Voters - Norwalk  
Republican          
*John Federici
Karen Doyle Lyons

Registrar of Voters - Somers          
Republican          
William Carl Walton III
David McCaffrey

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OP-ED | Message-maven Culture Killing Compromise In Washington

by Wendell Potter | Aug 8, 2014 12:30pm
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Posted to: Economics, Health Care, Insurance, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

Public Relations Techniques Rule As Dialogue Gives Way To Talking Points

Former congressional staffer Scott Lilly, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, testified at a hearing on Capitol Hill in July that lawmakers might be able to reach a bipartisan consensus on how to improve the congressional budget process if Washington were not ruled by public relations people and message mavens.

Lilly, who served as clerk and staff director of the House Appropriations Committee before moving to the liberal-leaning think tank, suggested to lawmakers, who are considering a move from an annual to a biennial budget, that the “biggest failing of the current process is that it has truly failed to inform our citizenry as to why the federal budget is growing at such a rapid pace.”

In a commentary shortly after his testimony, Lilly added that, “The current Congressional budget process is too elaborate, too time consuming and worse off controlled by message makers instead of legislators.” (Emphasis added.)

Lilly’s words could have applied to every other issue members of Congress take up, especially health care. Had message-makers not been in control of the debate over health care reform from the get-go, our citizenry would not be so ill informed about “Obamacare.” Even that word itself was coined by message-makers for no reason other than to persuade us to think a certain way about the Affordable Care Act and to vote against any politician who supported it.

Obama had not been in office more than four months when pre-eminent pollster and message-maker Frank Luntz sent Republican politicians and operatives a 28-page document entitled, “The Language of Healthcare 2009: The 10 Rules for Stopping the ‘Washington Takeover’ of Healthcare.”

This was not a policy paper. There was hardly a word about what Republicans should do to improve the U.S. health care system. It was a PR strategy for how Republicans could capitalize by using emotion-laden words and phrases to condemn anything the Democrats came up with. Keep in mind that congressional leaders and the White House were still in the process of exploring options for legislation at the time. Actual bills that Congress would ultimately vote for or against would not materialize for many months.

“This document is based on polling results and Instant Response dial sessions conducted in April 2009,” Luntz wrote. “It captures not just what Americans want to see but exactly what they want to hear. The Words That Work boxes that follow are already being used by a few Congressional and Senatorial Republicans. From today forward they should be used by everyone.”

And they were. Especially the phrases “Washington takeover” and its cousin “government takeover of health care.” They were used repeatedly even though the legislation that was enacted was based in large part on Republican proposals from earlier years.

While message-makers have plied their trade for decades to influence public policy and to help candidates win elections, I can remember a time not so long ago when bipartisanship, civil debate, and compromise were possible not only in Washington but also in the state capitals.

As a young reporter, I covered politics in Tennessee when Republican Winfield Dunn was governor and Democrats controlled both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Dunn, and later Republican Gov. and now Sen. Lamar Alexander, who also served while Democrats controlled both houses, had to reach across the political aisle to get any of their policy initiatives enacted. They both succeeded by doing exactly that.

Later I covered Congress and the White House when Jimmy Carter was president, Democrat Tip O’Neill was House Speaker and Republican Howard Baker of Tennessee was Senate Minority Leader. Baker, who died last month, was a true moderate and a master at brokering compromises and getting legislation enacted. He was proud to be called “The Great Conciliator.”

Fast forward to today. Thanks to the rule of message makers, the term “moderate” and “compromise” have become descriptors Republican candidates seeking re-election fear most.

Alexander, who is running for a third term, bears little resemblance to the man who governed Tennessee in a bipartisan fashion and who was first elected to the Senate as a moderate in 2002.

Because he is facing a primary challenge from the right — Sarah Palin just last week endorsed his opponent, state Rep. Joe Carr — Alexander is trying to persuade Tennessee GOP voters that, despite allegations to the contrary, he’s a dyed-in-the wool conservative.

Undoubtedly following the advice of message-makers, he of course is running against Obamacare — and stooping to misinform the citizens of Tennessee about the law — to burnish his conservative bona fides. The Washington Post’s fact check column awarded him “two Pinocchios” earlier this month for misleading folks with his fuzzy math and suggesting that health insurance premiums have risen 50 percent since the law went into effect. The truth is that hundreds of thousands of his constituents now have health insurance they can afford, thanks in part to subsidies made available by “Obamacare,” and that many of them couldn’t buy coverage at any price prior to the law because of pre-existing conditions.

Politicians have misled voters for as long as there have been politicians. At times, though, and not so long ago, it was not a death wish to claim to be a moderate willing to work with members of the other party. That’s hardly possible when message makers call the shots.

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.

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OP-ED | 6 Things To Watch For On Primary Night

by Susan Bigelow | Aug 8, 2014 11:00am
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Posted to: Analysis, Election 2014, Opinion

Chances are that you’re probably not going to be among the hardy souls voting in Tuesday’s primaries. It’s still going to be an interesting election night. Here are six things to keep tabs on:

How Big Is Tom Foley’s Win?

Let’s be honest, everyone expects Tom Foley to crush John McKinney in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Anyone who is familiar with the GOP base’s dislike of McKinney, who struggled to get the 15 percent of delegates required to make it onto the ballot at the Republican convention in May, came to that conclusion a long time ago.

But late summer primaries are strange critters, and you just never know who will actually show up for them. No one’s done any polling, so without access to the campaigns’ internal polls no one has much of an idea what this race really looks like. It might be a huge blowout — but it might not be, either.

A closer-than-expected race isn’t impossible. McKinney’s helped himself out lately by running a strong closing campaign and picking up plenty of newspaper endorsements, while Foley’s campaign seemed to be taking on water. For instance, Foley recently made headlines with a cringe-inducing run-in with workers and the First Selectwoman of Sprague outside a closing factory there. McKinney made that encounter into a devastating ad.

Despite this, McKinney will almost surely still lose. He’s just too unpopular with the sorts of people who vote in Republican primaries. But what if it’s only by about 10 percent instead of 30 percent? What if the result is in doubt, even for a moment? The margins, not the win, would be the story then. That could be a very worrisome sign of weakness for the Foley campaign as they prepare to face Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the fall.

Which Lt. Gov Candidate Wins in the West?

The other major statewide primary happening Tuesday is the three-way Republican race for lieutenant governor between state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, and former Groton Mayor Heather Bond Somers. That race, like any statewide Republican primary, will be decided in Fairfield County, as well as pieces of New Haven and Litchfield Counties. That’s where Republican voters tend to live, either on the southwestern coast or, increasingly, in the interior western third of the state. Watch towns like Greenwich, Brookfield, Waterbury, New Milford, and Darien to get a sense of where the night might go.

This contest, unlike Foley vs. McKinney, is entirely up in the air. It’s been close-fought and nasty, and there’s no clear favorite. Bacchiochi had a strong win at the convention, but since primary voters and convention delegates often live in different worlds, that may not mean anything. My guess? Walker.

How Does Ernie Newton Do In Bridgeport?

The most compelling stories of the night may unfold in Bridgeport. Ernie Newton was an outspoken, flamboyant state senator from Bridgeport before going to prison on bribery charges. But now he’s back, and running for a seat in the House of Representatives. He tried this in 2012 and came up short, but this is definitely a race to watch. Bridgeport has a couple of other races where incumbents may lose their seats, as well.

Can Sen. Eric Coleman Survive a Tough Challenge?

The state senate primary in Hartford, Windsor, and Bloomfield between incumbent Sen. Eric Coleman and challengers Shawn Wooden and Lenworth Walker is interesting not only because a longtime incumbent has a strong opponent in Wooden, who is Hartford’s city council president, but because Coleman has put his opposition to the Rock Cats stadium proposal front and center. The stadium issue may be less important here, though, than the potential handoff of power from one generation to the next. The Hartford Courant made just that point when it endorsed Wooden.

Where is Dan Malloy?

Gov. Malloy has been busy on previous primary nights. Will he show up to anyone’s victory party? Will he be seen at all, or will he let whoever wins the GOP primaries have the night to themselves? I kind of doubt the latter.

Can Turnout Break 20 Percent?

This is the big wild card. Turnout for the 2006 U.S. Senate election between Ned Lamont and Sen. Joe Lieberman reached a whopping 43 percent, which is amazing for a late summer primary. This isn’t going to get that high. It’s often the case that the smaller the crowd, the weirder the results of the election are likely to be. Dragging voters off the beach and to the polls is going to be critical for each and every campaign.

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

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OP-ED | Doesn’t ‘Truth in Advertising’ Apply to Health Insurance Companies?

by Sarah Darer Littman | Aug 8, 2014 8:00am
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Posted to: Business, Health Care, Opinion, Health Care Opinion

Last year, I was one of the many small business owners and sole proprietors who had their health insurance cancelled, as the big insurers used the specter of approaching health care reform to clear their rolls. My brother and my boyfriend, also self-employed, were in the same boat.

I started looking for new insurance on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, but once I realized I wasn’t going to qualify for a subsidy, I decided to buy my insurance on the private market, because there were more options available.

After looking at various available plans, I decided to go with ConnectiCare, because I could get a plan that was comparable to my previous insurance coverage, and offered dental, which my previous insurance didn’t.

Before I signed up, I checked two things carefully: that my current doctors were in-network, and that all my current medications were listed in the formulary as being covered.

Everything checked out, so I bought the insurance.

All seemed well until last week, when a summer cold triggered the worst asthma flare-up I’ve had in years. I sounded like Darth Vader in the middle of a panic attack.

When I went to use my inhalers, they’d expired two years ago — thanks to taking generic Singulair daily, my asthma is usually pretty well controlled so I’d barely ever used them.

I called my doctor’s office and asked them to call in refills, which would normally be no problem. But then I got the calls back from the nurse. First my insurance wouldn’t cover Ventolin, only ProAir. My doctor tried to fight for Ventolin, because that has a dose counter, so you know when the cartridge is almost empty. ProAir doesn’t. But my insurance company wouldn’t budge.

The next day, as I was still gasping for air, apologizing to my students for my constant wheezing and coughing, and struggling to function, I got a message on my cell. “Your insurance won’t cover Advair — even though the doctor has argued with them.”

Advair was listed on the formulary before I signed up with ConnectiCare. But as it says on the bottom of the list, “This formulary list is subject to change.”

The day I found out that I wasn’t going to get my Advair, I left the house at 8:50 a.m. and didn’t get home until 9 p.m. because I taught morning and afternoon/evening writing workshops. When I returned home that evening, I collapsed into bed, feeling like I was about to die.

The next morning I tried to make an appointment to see my doctor to see if I could get some alternative steroid, because I wasn’t sure how I’d survive the weekend. Unfortunately, the only appointment he had was while I was teaching. I spent most of the weekend in bed, exhausted and gasping for breath.

On Sunday, my sister-in-law called me from England. When she heard that my insurance company wouldn’t cover something as basic as Ventolin or my usual steroid, she was gobsmacked. “Don’t they realize you could die from asthma?” she said, with no small amount of anger, followed by lengthy conversation about the insane healthcare system in this country vs. the National Health Service (NHS) in Great Britain.

People here love to bash the NHS and “socialized medicine,” but even conservatives in the U.K. look to our country and think our healthcare system is inhumane — particularly because they know that it’s still possible to get private insurance and see consultants privately — and that insurance is much cheaper.

The anti-Obamacare folks constantly use the catchphrase “the government will come between you and your doctor,” but they ignore the reality of what has been happening every day in the U.S. since long before Obamacare was even proposed — that it’s insurance companies who come between us and our doctors. What’s more, these same insurance companies are using the cover of healthcare reform to try and shaft consumers even more than they were doing in the past — and politicians are happy to pocket their campaign contributions and let them do it.

When I finally got to see my doctor on Monday, he gave me some samples of a steroid, because at that point he and I were both sick of playing games trying to figure out what my insurance company (the one to whom I’m paying monthly premiums) was going to cover, and he wanted me to be able to breathe again so I could function effectively at the many jobs I work to support myself and my family.

I also saw my neurologist last week for a follow up appointment, and she told me that she’s hearing similar stories from her patients.

What I want to know, from our legislators, our healthcare advocate, and the state insurance regulator is: How can insurance companies get away with listing drugs in a formulary before you sign up for their insurance, yet refuse to cover them after you’ve committed?

Doesn’t “truth in advertising” apply to insurance companies? Or do Connecticut’s politicians just pander to them, too?

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.

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OP-ED | Do We Really Need the New Haven Trio’s Sugar Tax?

by Terry D. Cowgill | Aug 8, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Health Care, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Poverty, Taxes, New Haven


What is it with New Haven and soda pop? Does the Elm City consume more soda than comparable cities? Is its obesity rate higher? Not as far as I can tell, which makes me think there must be something in the water — or perhaps in the energy drinks sold at the Stop & Shop on Elm Street.

In the last six months, three high-profile politicians have proposed new taxes on sugary drinks, the vast majority of which is consumed as Pepsi, Red Bull or the like. Do they know something the rest of us don’t know?

Back in February, newly elected Mayor Toni Harp proposed a statewide tax on soda. The mayor, who had just arrived at City Hall after 20 years in the state Senate, proposed a tax that would go beyond New Haven’s borders because Connecticut law doesn’t permit municipalities to enact new methods of taxation. Such authority must be granted by lawmakers in Hartford — a long shot.

Perhaps in response, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, another New Havenite, introduced a like-minded bill during this year’s legislative session but it never made it out of committee.

As if on cue, Rep. Rosa DeLauro from — you guessed it — New Haven, revived her proposal to enact a national soda tax that would, in effect, impose a 16-cent tax on a bottle of sugared soda pop and other high-calorie drinks like Gatorade. The proceeds would go toward federal health initiatives. Like the dreaded gross receipts tax on petroleum products in Connecticut, the 16-cent tax would not remain fixed, but would instead rise with the price of the product starting in 2016 when the tax would be indexed to inflation.

Make no mistake about it: there are some compelling reasons to reduce America’s consumption of these nasty drinks. Over the last 40 years, the nation’s obesity rate has risen right along with its consumption of sugary beverages.

But there is also compelling evidence suggesting that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be fat. And most poor people benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

Will poor people who buy soda with food stamps pay DeLauro’s tax or will they be exempt on the grounds that it would be self-defeating for the federal government to tax itself? DeLauro doesn’t say.

My fear is this will be another one of those revenue-raising schemes — like tobacco taxes and the lottery — that are really nothing more than taxes on the poor. Under DeLauro’s proposal, a needy individual buying a 12-ounce Mountain Dew with 47 grams of sugar would be subject to the tax, while a large (16-ounce) Starbucks salted caramel mocha frappacino (66 grams) purchased by a K Street lobbyist would not.

Rather than impose a tax that will disproportionately fall on lower-income people and racial minorities, why not take those same sugary drinks off the list of items that can be purchased with food stamps? One recent study indicated removing soda from the SNAP list would lead to significant drops in obesity and diabetes rates among the poor and prevent at least 141,000 kids from getting fat and another 240,000 adults from developing Type 2 diabetes.

That would send a powerful message that would be far more compelling than a 16-cent tax: if you want to pollute your body with Mountain Dew or Monster, then you must do it on your own dime, not the state’s. After all, we don’t permit SNAP recipients to buy cigarettes or alcohol with food stamps, so why should taxpayers foot the bill for Fanta Orange? The N in SNAP stands for nutrition, which is precisely what DeLauro tells us that soda does not have.

I know. Many advocates for lower-income people argue that such a ban would unfairly stigmatize them and send the message that they’re uniquely unqualified to make good choices about their diets. But by giving them food stamps, aren’t we already doing that? There’s a reason the government enrolls the poor in SNAP rather than just giving them cash and trusting them spend it on food. SNAP exists precisely because we want to help the poor but don’t always trust them to make the right choices.

At this point, the soda tax is basically an academic argument anyway. DeLauro’s bill has about as much of a chance getting through the Republican House of Representatives as a handgun ban.

But I applaud the New Haven Trio for putting their proposals forward. We might disagree about the need for a new tax, but we do need a meaningful conversation about how to handle obesity and its very expensive impact on our healthcare system.

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.

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Gubernatorial Candidates Have Already Spent More Than $1M For TV Ads With Out-of-State Firms

by Christine Stuart | Aug 8, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Media Matters

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The two remaining Republican gubernatorial candidates have each spent more than $1 million of their public campaign funds on a litany of activities — things like political consultants, polls, television commercials, and media buys.

However, more than $1 million of those public tax dollars, according to State Election Enforcement Commission reports, have been spent on television commercials created, produced, and directed outside of Connecticut.

As of Aug. 5, Tom Foley had spent $490,111 with Chatham Light Media LLC of Stowe, Vt. and Pinpoint Media of Alexandria, Va.

Meanwhile, also as of Aug. 5, John McKinney had spent $544,789 on television ads with Jamestown Associates of Princeton, N.J.

McKinney’s campaign had also spent $30,000 on direct mail with the same New Jersey firm.

Two veteran Connecticut video producers say it’s part of a disturbing trend away from hiring in-state companies and labor. The campaigns say the companies they hired were just better suited to serve their clients than those in Connecticut.

But Ed McKeon, co-owner of Motion, Inc. in Rocky Hill, doesn’t buy that argument.

McKeon says that all the campaign ads he’s seen thus far could have easily been done by his company. He said it’s rare that a campaign ad would need special effects or editing equipment beyond what most local companies use on a regular basis.

“The irony is that they all talk about creating jobs, and decisions like these are an insult to the people here who know how to do it,” McKeon said.

He said it’s an even bigger “slap in the face” because it’s being done with taxpayer money.

Bob Conover, a freelance producer and director, said it’s strange when he hears “that all these people want to say they’re job creators.”

Conover said that 20 years ago the Washington consultants would hire Connecticut labor to work as cameramen or sound people for a statewide campaign. But he said that trend seems to have disappeared, as many of these companies look to hold onto as much of the money as they can.

Conover and McKeon said it’s an even harder slap in the face when you consider that the same out-of-state firms could qualify for state tax breaks if they shoot and edit the commercials in Connecticut. He said he knows one Connecticut resident who worked on one of Linda McMahon’s campaign ads in 2012, but he said his friend told him she was one of only a few Connecticut locals involved in the production.

Asked about their decision to use a New Jersey company for their commercials, McKinney campaign spokeswoman Jodi Latina said the campaign interviewed several firms, including Connecticut companies.

“Every firm we interviewed was qualified and each offered a mix of services,” Latina said in a statement. “We also had feedback from former clients of these firms. Jamestown was the right fit for what we needed in this particular primary.”

The company is the same one former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele used in 2010 to go after Foley in a Republican primary.

“There’s no state law that requires SEEC funds be used for only Connecticut firms and so we don’t see the problem with selecting the firm that offers the best fit for the client’s need,” Latina added.

Foley’s campaign made a similar argument.

“Chatham Light Media and Pinpoint Media are the production and ad placement affiliates of our media consultant,” Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the Foley campaign, said. “We chose a Washington-based media consultant because they have the most experience and are best qualified to handle a governor’s race in Connecticut.”

Cooper said that while the television ads may have been produced by out-of-state firms, several in-state vendors were hired to produce printed materials and direct mail.

And it’s not only the two Republican gubernatorial candidates using out-of-state firms for television ads.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign used David Axelrod’s company, AKPD, of Chicago. It’s the same firm President Barack Obama used for his two campaigns.

John DelCecato, a partner with AKPD who helped write and produce Malloy’s latest ad, was responsible for writing, directing, and producing many of Obama’s nationally broadcast television ads.

“Just like any campaign, we have the best talent from Connecticut and across the country who are committed to helping to re-elect the governor and continue the steady progress made for Connecticut families under his leadership,” Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Malloy campaign, said Thursday.

Like the Foley campaign, the Malloy campaign also hired a Connecticut firm for direct mail. Malloy hired Mission Control Inc. of Mansfield for his campaign mailings.

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Poli-Sci Professors Make Their Best Primary Predictions

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 7, 2014 3:00pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

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John McKinney and Tom Foley

Tom Foley is likely to win next week’s Republican primary election even if John McKinney has a better chance of defeating Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, several Connecticut political science professors predicted Thursday.

Three Connecticut political science professors weighed in on next week’s Republican primary elections, which are more difficult to predict this year in the absence of recent public polling data.

Gubernatorial primary voters Tuesday are choosing between Foley, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee and the party’s convention-endorsed candidate, and McKinney, the leader of the Republican minority in the state senate.

“Conventional wisdom is Foley has it wrapped up,” Ron Schurin, a professor at the University of Connecticut, said.

However, Schurin and others said McKinney has a chance if he can capitalize on low statewide voter turnout, strong support in Fairfield County, and the perception among some in the party that he would make a stronger candidate against the incumbent Democrat.

“It would be a very significant upset,” Schurin said.

Scott McLean, a professor at Quinnipiac University, agreed. He said it was “ironic” that the candidate most likely to win against Malloy will likely be defeated in the primary.

McLean said that Foley has been vague and wary of controversy during the primary race, something that will hurt him in the general election. He also said McKinney is better equipped to capitalize on Malloy’s difficulty connecting with voters.

“Malloy and Foley have similar personalities. They’re kind of testy. They don’t talk in flowe