Medicaid Payment Deferrals May Continue Into Second Quarter
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
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.
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.
Tags: Esty, greenberg, 5th congressional district, working families, independent party, cross endorsements
Connecticut Won’t Prosecute Workers in D-SNAP Food Stamp Fraud Case
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.
OP-ED | It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State Department of Education
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:
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.
Tags: Stefan Pryor, Tom Swan, SERC, Open Checkbook, SDE, Kevin Lembo
OP-ED | The Problem Isn’t Just the Police
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.
Tags: Police, police conduct, Susan Bigelow, dh
Coverage and Subsidy Issues Explained
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
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.
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.
Tags: Mark Greenberg, Elizabeth Esty, democratic congressional campaign committee, lawsuits, Andrew Roraback, dh
Malloy Boosts Education Funding, Defends Pryor’s Decision To Leave
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.
Tags: Malloy, pryor, pelto, education funding, alliance districts, dh
Rasmussen: Foley Up 7 Over Malloy
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.
Tags: Rasmussen poll, Election 2014, Malloy, Foley, Visconti, pelto, dh
Advocates Call For Outreach Workers
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.
Tags: outreach workers, in-person assistance, Frances Padilla, Kevin Counihan, Alycia Santilli, Affordable Care Act, dh
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Feds Stopped Medicaid Payments in January; Barnes Says Small Surplus Still Possible
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.
Biden Lauds Manufacturing, Raises Money In Connecticut
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.
Tags: Joe Biden, malloy, manufacturing, fundrasing, dga, democratic governors association, foley, dh
Visconti Qualifies For Ballot
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.
Pryor May Be Departing, But Common Core Is Here To Stay
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.
Tags: Allan Taylor, Stefan Pryor, Dannel P. Malloy, Tom Foley, Jonathan Pelto, Joe Visconti, Common Core
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Foley’s Name Likely to Appear Twice on The Ballot
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.”
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.
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
Tags: Tom Foley, Independent Party, John Mertins, Watertown, Danbury, court, two-party system, dh
Transportation Advocates Lay Out Their Agenda For Gubernatorial Candidates
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.
“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.
Tags: Roger Reynolds, Don Shubert, transportation, Karen Burnska, Special Transportation Fund, Lyle Wray, Transportation Department, dh
Foley Ad: Malloy is ‘Desperate’
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.
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.
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.
Tags: Wendell Potter, Insurance, Health insurance, Politics, Politics of the United States, National Federation of Independent Business, NFIB, Behavior, National Republican Congressional Committee, Deception, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, America's Health Insurance Plans
Officials Unveil CTFastrak Buses
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.
“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.
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.”
Tags: ctfastrak, busway, Nancy Wyman, jim redeker, joe markley, dh
GOP Voter Turnout Was 21 Percent
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.
Tags: voter turnout, GOP primary, Denise Merrill, dh
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Pryor Won’t Stay For Second Term
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.
Tags: Stefan Pryor, Education Commissioner, John McKinney, Jonathan Pelto, education reform, teacher unions, dh
Publicly Financed Candidates Buoyed By PAC Spending
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.
Tags: Malloy, Foley, super pacs, public financing, dh
Foley Says He’s Still Working On Urban Strategy
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.
Tags: Tom Foley, urban strategy, Republican Party, Bridgeport, Heather Bond Somers, Penny Bacchiochi, Dannel P. Malloy, dh
Malloy Promotes Sales Tax Free Week, Touts Employment Gains
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.
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.
Tags: Dannel P. Malloy, jobs, Mickey Finn's, T.K. Axel Brand jeans, Jerry Labriola, Labor Department, Berlin, dh
Sandy Hook Report Unlikely To Include Analysis of Gunman
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.
OP-ED | On Wall Street, ‘Right-to-Work’ Means a Wider Gap Between Rich & Poor
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.
Tags: Lori Pelletier, labor, AFL-CIO, poverty, middle class, wage gap, 1-percent, unions, home health workers, Wall Street bankers, CEOs, dh
Governor Malloy: Jonathan Pelto Has No Shot
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.
OP-ED | What We Learned from Primary 2014
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:
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.
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?
It's easy to criticize from the cheap seats — just ask these guys: pic.twitter.com/JzYueTAWNP— Dan Malloy (@DanMalloyCT) August 14, 2014
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.
Tags: 2014 governor's race, primaries, Election 2014, Tom Foley, Heather Bond Somers, Penny Bacchiochi, John McKinney, David Walker, Dannel P. Malloy, Susan Bigelow, dh
OP-ED | Poll Shows State Supports Philosophy Behind ‘Right-To-Work’
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.
Tags: right to work, labor unions, op-ed, opinion, Suzanne Bates, dh
Was State Investment In Running Mate’s Company A Good Deal?
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.
OP-ED | GOP Not The Only Thing Dying in Connecticut
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.
Tags: unaffiliated, Republicans, Democrats, independents, party affiliation, partisan politics, partisanship, terry cowgill, dh
OP-ED | Dire Predictions Of Endless Waits For A Doctor Have Proven Unfounded
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.
Tags: Wendell Potter, Healthcare reform in the United States, Health, Health insurance, Health care in the United States, Medicine, Medicare, Health and Medical and Pharma, Health care, Primary care, Health care provider, Physician supply, Physicians, Nurse practitioner
OP-ED | A Campaign of Substance
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.
Tags: measurable results, Brian O’Shaughnessy, Election 2014, better instead of smaller government, economic development, dh
Connecticut Group Works on Racial Profiling With Issue on National Stage
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.
Tags: Ferguson, racial profiling, bill dyson, east haven, dh
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GOP Files Complaint Against DGA Affiliate
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.
Tags: Connecticut Forward, State Elections Enforcement Commission, independent expenditures, GOP, RGA, DGA, dh
State Pension Funds Post Investment Gains
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.”
Tags: Denise Nappier, pension funds, Dannel P. Malloy, Tim Herbst, Trumbull, dh
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Democrats, Malloy Take Aim At Foley
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.
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.
Tags: Dannel P. Malloy, Tom Foley, Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner, Convention Center, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, dh
Bacchiochi Concedes; Somers Declares Victory
(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.”
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.
McKinney Endorses Foley With Ice Water
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.
Tags: Tom Foley, Roy Occhiogrosso, Dannel P. Malloy, John McKinney, ALS, ice bucket, dh
Malloy Camp Releases Its First Ad Attacking Foley
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.
With 98 Percent of Precincts Reporting, Somers Leads By 718 Votes
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.
“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.”
Tags: Election 2014, Madeline Stocker, Lt. Governor, primary, republican, recount, dh
Foley Victory Sets Up Rematch In Gov’s Race
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.
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.”
Tags: Tom Foley, Dannel P. Malloy, John McKinney, rematch, concede, 2014, Waterbury, Fairfield, dh
For Lt. Gov. Candidates, A Roller Coaster Night of Primary Results, Recount Likely
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.
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.
Tags: Election 2014, Bacchiochi, Walker, Bond Somers, Lt. Governor, Republicans, primary, dh
Malloy Joins White House Call On Minimum Wage
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.
Voter Turnout In Republican Primary Varied
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.
Tags: GOP primary, 2014, voter turnout, Cornwall, dh
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Malloy Mum On Primary Vote
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.
Tags: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, voter turnout, primary, Hartford Seminary, Republicans, local election officials, New Haven, veto, dh
Will Second Amendment Supporters Make The Difference?
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.
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.”
Tags: John McKinney, Tom Foley, Republican primary, Scott Wilson, Connecticut Citizens Defense League, Newtown, gun control, dh
Voter Turnout In Republican Primary Expected to Be Around 25 Percent
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Senator Calls For End To ‘Predatory’ Lending Practices
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.
Tags: military, servicemembers, lending, creditors, ProPublica, blumenthal, USA Discounters, dh
Children As Young As Ten Battling Eating Disorders
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.
OP-ED | It Doesn’t Take Captain Obvious to Identify A Stacked Deck
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.”
Republican Candidates Take Their Last Jabs In Televised Debate
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Tags: Tom Foley, John McKinney, tax credits, gross receipts tax, transportation, guns, Newtown, First Five, Sprague, dh
Audit Finds Amistad America’s Endowment In Deficit
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.
Tags: Amistad America, Hanifa Washington, Diana Urban, audit, OPM, CohnReznick
18 Legislative Primaries, 8 Incumbents Face Challenges
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):
State Senate District 2
(Parts of Bloomfield, Hartford and Windsor)
State Senate 20
(Bozrah, East Lyme, New London, Old Lyme, Salem, Waterford and parts of Montville and Old Saybrook)
State Senate 22
(Trumbull and parts of Bridgeport and Monroe)
State Senate 23
(Parts of Bridgeport and Stratford)
*Andres Ayala Jr.
House District 7
(Parts of Hartford)
House District 23
(Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and parts of Westbrook)
House District 32
Anthony “Tony” Salvatore
House District 44
(Parts of Killingly and Plainfield)
House District 47
(Canterbury, Chaplin, Franklin, Hampton, Scotland, parts of Lebanon, Lisbon, Norwich and Sprague)
House District 48
(Parts of Colchester, Lebanon, Mansfield, and Windham)
House District 64
(Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon and parts of Goshen and Torrington)
House District 122
(Parts of Shelton, Stratford, Trumbull)
House District 124
(Parts of Bridgeport)
House District 128
(Parts of Bridgeport)
House District 133
(Parts of Fairfield)
*Cristin McCarthey Vahey
House District 137
(Parts of Norwalk)
House District 140
(Parts of Norwalk)
House District 142
(Parts of New Canaan and Norwalk)
Probate District 27
Probate District 34
Registrar of Voters- Bristol
Registrar of Voters - Chaplin
*Eugene Boomer Jr.
Registrar of Voters - Danbury
*Susan Lewis Ward
Registrar of Voters - Hampton
Registrar of Voters - North Stonington
Registrar of Voters - Norwalk
Karen Doyle Lyons
Registrar of Voters - Somers
William Carl Walton III
Tags: Ernie Newton, Bridgeport, Christina Ayala, Andres Ayala, primary
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.
Tags: Wendell Potter, Presidency of Barack Obama, Politics, Politics of the United States, 111th United States Congress, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Political parties in the United States, Elections in the United States, United States Congress, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Frank Luntz, Lamar Alexander
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OP-ED | 6 Things To Watch For On Primary Night
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.
OP-ED | Doesn’t ‘Truth in Advertising’ Apply to Health Insurance Companies?
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.
Tags: health insurance, ConnectiCare, Healthcare Advocate, state insurance regulator, truth in advertising, asthma, dh
OP-ED | Do We Really Need the New Haven Trio’s Sugar Tax?
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.
Tags: soda and sugar tax, rosa delauro, Toni Harp, Martin Looney, New Haven, SNAP, Terry Cowgill, dh
Gubernatorial Candidates Have Already Spent More Than $1M For TV Ads With Out-of-State Firms
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.
Tags: John McKinney, Tom Foley, Dan Malloy, Ed McKeon, Bob Conover, AKPD, Jamestown Associates, Chatham Light Media, Pinpoint Media, dh
Poli-Sci Professors Make Their Best Primary Predictions
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 flowery rhetoric. They don’t suffer fools gladly and they’re not the slap-on-the-back, glad-handing kind of politicians,” he said “It won’t be so much who do voters love, but who do they dislike less in the end. That’s why it’ll be close.”
Khalilah Brown-Dean, a professor at Quinnipiac University, said that Foley’s general opposition to the gun control policies passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting gives him an advantage among Republican voters, many of whom also oppose the law. The issue is especially damaging to McKinney in the primary because he supported and helped pass the law.
But Brown-Dean said that same position may hurt Foley in the general election against Malloy.
“McKinney is a stronger opponent in the general election because he has a better chance of picking up votes from moderates, independents, and disenchanted Democrats,” she said. “Republican voters will have to weigh their concerns over the singular issue of gun access against the broader goal of capturing the governor’s mansion.”
In recent years, national voters have proven more willing to vote for candidates with whom they are “philosophically comfortable” with, Schurin said. Still, Brown-Dean said she expects the Tuesday contest between Foley and McKinney to be tighter than expected.
“I think it’s going to be a lot closer than most people expect. McKinney has made a surge in the last couple of weeks,” she said.
Lieutenant governor’s race
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.
It is difficult to make predictions on the lieutenant governor’s race. It is less closely watched than the governor’s contest and no public poll has been published on the candidates. Two of the three political science professors who spoke to CTNewsJunkie this week declined to weigh in on the race.
However, Schurin was willing to make a guess.
“That’s a real interesting race. I’m going to out on a limb and predict Walker,” he said.
Schurin pointed to controversies related to Bacchiochi and Somers.
Just before the Republican convention, Bacchiochi was forced to apologize to Walker for publicly suggesting someone in his campaign was spreading rumors about her mixed-race family.
Meanwhile, Schurin said Somers has been criticized, perhaps unfairly, because a company she founded accepted economic development aid from a quasi-public state agency. Some voters may feel that Somers played “fast and loose” with former gubernatorial candidate and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton when she severed an early alliance with him, Schurin said.
“Bacchiochi and Somers have some negative baggage with them and Walker has presented himself as a thinking man’s candidate,” he said.
If Walker were to prevail on Tuesday, Republicans would have a ticket featuring two male candidates. Schurin said he did not expect that lack of diversity to impact the general election results.
“It’s always better to have gender diversity, but I don’t think it would be a significant negative in this race. Those people likely to vote on that basis, I think, are likely to support Malloy anyway,” he said.
Tags: Republican primary, tom foley, john mckinney, dan malloy, david walker, Penny Bacchiochi, Heather Somers, dh
OnTheHORN | Interview with David Walker
David Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller who is running for Lt. Governor in Connecticut this year, spoke Thursday with Brian Parker at the Hartford Online Radio Network in Avon.
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Executives: Connecticut Economy Still Lagging
A quarterly survey of business executives by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association found that 84 percent expect business conditions for their companies to improve or remain the same over the next three months.
That’s down slightly from the 86 percent the organization found during its last survey, according to a CBIA press release. The last survey the organization did was in the fourth quarter of 2013. There was no survey conducted for the first quarter of 2014.
Pete Gioia, a vice president for the association, said business optimism should be increasing.
“The numbers should be improving, but confidence among business leaders seems to be stalled,” he said. “More needs to be done to encourage growth and investment in Connecticut.”
The good news is that sales, production, and workforce trends held steady since the last survey. Thirty-nine percent of respondents expect increases in production and sales, while 19 percent predict decreases. The survey also found 24 percent plan to expand their workforce, while 15 percent see it shrinking.
The survey also suggested that the number of businesses who feel Connecticut’s economy is improving dropped from 18 percent to 14 percent. Meanwhile, the number who feel the national economy is improving increased from 26 percent to 30 percent.
“The numbers show that Connecticut’s economy continues to lag the nation and much of the Northeast,” Gioia said.
National employment increased by 209,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Aug. 1. Connecticut specific numbers for July are expected later this month.
CBIA mailed the survey out in July and the results are based on responses from 219 business executives. The survey has a 6.8 percent margin of error.
Tags: Pete Gioia, CBIA, business survey, labor market
UConn Trustees Approve Budget for Tech Park, Road Extension
The board approved a $162.3 million design budget for the Innovation Partnership building, and $20.3 million for the extension of North Hillside Road.
The Innovation Partnership building will be the first of several buildings in the new tech park, which will be located a half mile north of the Storrs campus.
When it’s completed in 2017 the building is expected to be 112,000 square feet. It will house shared, speciality laboratories with highly specialized equipment for use by industry scientists and business entrepreneurs, who will work side-by-side with UConn researchers.
In order for the tech park to be accessible to those coming from outside the campus, North Hillside Road will be extended about 3,400 feet to join Route 44. The final budget for the road extension is $20.3 million. About $5.8 million will come from the federal government and rest, $14.5 million, will come from the state.
At Wednesday’s meeting, UConn Master Planner and Chief Architect Laura Cruickshank announced that construction of the road extension has already started.
But aside from the bricks, mortar, and asphalt, UConn also has focused on creating partnerships with the businesses and industries that will occupy the buildings.
Several partnerships already have been developed, including a $10-million partnership with the United Technologies Corporation Institute of Advanced Systems Technology, a $7.5-million partnership with the GE Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, and a $7.5-million partnership with Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center.
UConn Provost Mun Choi introduced these Next Generation Connecticut partnerships at a legislative meeting Tuesday.
“We’re very pleased at the amount of industry involvement,” Sen. Gary LeBeau said Tuesday. “I think it’s precisely what we’re looking for, precisely what the state needs. The partnerships you are forming with industry will have tremendous benefits down the road.”
Sen. Steve Cassano also praised the efforts, but expressed concern that UConn is not doing enough to communicate its expansion plans.
“My concern is we are not doing the job of letting people know who UConn is. It would make it a lot easier for this building to appropriate the money when people understand what it’s being spent for,” Cassano said Tuesday.
UConn President Susan Herbst addressed Cassano’s concerns at Wednesday’s meeting. She said that UConn needs to keep the conversation going by telling the public how research ties into education.
Herbst said that the two tie together because research brings in federal grants to Connecticut, which in turn multiplies their effect on the state economy. She also noted that research creates new jobs, leads to the creation of start-up companies, and is what will put UConn on the map.
Herbst said UConn is very late in their acceleration of scientific partnerships with industries, relative to their peer universities, but they can catch up with these initial projects.
“If UConn is to reach the very top tier of universities, public and private, we have to innovate. We have to invent. There’s no other way to get ahead,” Herbst said.
The tech park is set to open in 2017.
Retirement Board Worries $400K Won’t Be Enough
A board that is working toward offering a state-administered retirement plan met for the first time Wednesday and discussed its aspirations for the future, and its funding challenges.
The Retirement Security Board was commissioned to conduct a “Market Feasibility Study” to investigate the financial and legal challenges of setting up a public retirement program, in addition to recommending how it should be implemented.
State Treasurer Denise Nappier, who co-chairs the board, said that she was excited for its future, but still had some looming concerns.
“One of the concerns I do have is a need to make sure that this board has adequate resources to fully carry out its mandate,” Nappier said.
No definitive decisions were made during Wednesday’s meeting and the discussion continually returned to the subject of funding. Asked by a member how the board was expected to accumulate more funds, Josh Wojcik, policy director for the comptroller, said it was expected to solicit businesses.
However, in conferring with Grant Boyken, the acting executive director of California’s Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board, board members discovered that the $400,000 the legislature allocated for the market study may not be enough to cover the cost of legal fees.
Grant, whose board is currently undertaking a similar study, said that his board has received proposals for legal services ranging between $200,000 and $600,000.
“The biggest hurdle is definitely fundraising. If you have a chance to receive funding, don’t turn it down,” Boyken said.
Boyken added that his board has raised about $311,000 from private sector sources.
Aside from investigating funding options, the requirements for the market study include gauging likely participation rates and contribution levels, predicting the rate of account closures and rollovers, and determining the legal compliance necessary to ensure the individual retirement accounts qualify for the favorable federal income tax treatment.
The group is expected to submit a first draft of the report to the governor and the legislature’s Labor Committee by May 1, 2015. A comprehensive proposal is expected by April 1, 2016, and will be submitted to the General Assembly and governor.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Aug. 14, 2014 because it was mistakenly reported that the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board had spent $400,000 to $600,000 on legal services, when it has only received proposals for those services ranging between $200,000 and $600,000.
Tags: market feasability, retirement security board, Grant Boyken, public retirement account, Denise Nappier, dh
State Officials Say Uninsured Rate Has Declined With ACA
Access Health CT released polling data Wednesday suggesting that the number of uninsured state residents has decreased more than 50 percent.
The poll, conducted in July, surveyed 2,564 Access Health CT enrollees and found that 1,367 — or about 53 percent — did not have health insurance prior to signing up for a plan on the exchange. About 46 percent, or 1,176, said they were insured prior to signing up for a plan.
When those numbers are then applied to the total universe of 256,000 current Access Health CT enrollees, Access Health CT estimated that 138,834 of the enrollees were previously uninsured before implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
In 2012, the Kaiser Family Foundation found there were about 286,000 uninsured residents in Connecticut. That’s about 7.9 percent of the state’s population. State officials said that if the Access Health CT survey data is applied to that 7.9 percent uninsured number, then the amount of uninsured today would be down to about 4 percent of the total population.
That means there are still about 147,166 residents in the state without insurance, according to Access Health CT.
About 75 percent of the previously uninsured population enrolled in Medicaid and about 25 percent enrolled with private carriers.
“The news today is a great announcement,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, chairwoman of the board of Access Health CT, said.
She said it’s clear the state’s efforts to embrace the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid are making a difference for Connecticut residents.
“We have had some naysayers, people who are opposed to the Obamacare, but the numbers released today . . . show us just how important this initiative has been in our state,” Wyman said.
The program, however, has not been without criticism. When Access Health CT canceled its July and August meetings, for instance, state Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, objected, detailing in a letter to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman the issues that arose over the past few months, including a programming glitch that caused cancellation of the policies of several hundred customers and the security breach when a call center worker left a backpack on a Hartford street. The August meeting was later rescheduled.
The numbers are different than numbers released by a Gallup poll on Tuesday that found Connecticut’s uninsured rate dropped from 12.3 percent in 2013 to 7.4 percent.
Counihan said he was impressed with the drop in the uninsured, which outpaced estimates among Access Health CT staffers.
“No one expected we’d be down to 4 percent,” Counihan said. “Let me put 4 in some context for you. If you think of European industrialized countries with national health insurance, typically, the best they do is 2 percent.”
Counihan, who worked for the Connector in Massachusetts back in 2006, said it took them more than two years to go from 10.7 percent uninsured to about 5.8 percent.
“We did in one year what it took Massachusetts two years to not quite do,” Counihan said.
About 77 percent of the growth in the insurance population came from Medicaid expansion. The rest enrolled in one of the three plans offered by private insurance carriers. About 60,847 of those enrolled in private plans receive tax subsidies and about 16,865 do not receive any tax subsidy.
Counihan said it’s the highest amount of unsubsidized growth in the country. He said Washington returned about $287 million in subsidies to Connecticut and the average subsidy is about $4,700, which has significantly increased affordability of the plans being offered on the exchange.
He said he can’t foresee the rate of uninsured going below 2 percent. He said all the research shows that about 20 percent of the uninsured don’t want to be insured, “so no one is going to get down to zero.”
“Two to three percent is going to be roughly the best that we can do,” Counihan said.
The goal going into the second year is keep the 256,666 residents who signed up through the exchange insured and to “whittle away at the remaining one to two percent,” he said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state has made more progress than anyone could have possibly imagined in limiting the number of individuals in the state that have no access to health care.
“We’ve gotten it done,” Malloy declared. “I’m just proud to be part of an administration that has delivered on yet another promise.”
Tags: Access Health CT, uninsured, Kevin Counihan, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Gallup, Kaiser Family Foundation, dh
Jury Selection In Rowland Case Begins
Facing charges that he violated campaign finance laws, former Gov. John Rowland’s defense team and prosecutors began vetting potential jurors Tuesday for a trial set to begin next month.
Rowland, who previously served 10 months in federal prison on a conspiracy charge after resigning the governor’s office in 2004, is facing charges relating to consulting work he performed for Lisa Wilson-Foley, who was a candidate in the 5th Congressional District in 2012.
That work and Rowland’s $35,000 compensation weren’t reported to election regulators. The charges also stem from unsuccessful attempts by the former governor to engage another candidate, Mark Greenberg, in similar scheme in 2009.
A pool of 134 potential jurors were brought in Tuesday for the beginning of the jury selection process. Next Wednesday, 12 jurors and four alternate jurors are expected to be chosen for the trial, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 3.
Rowland’s legal team, led by attorney Reid Weingarten, has sought special considerations in the jury selection process. They have argued the level of publicity surrounding the case threatens the former governor’s right to a fair trial.
“Our system of justice depends upon trial in the courtroom, not in the media. That principle is under threat here. Mr. Rowland has been the subject of an exceptional amount of pre-trial publicity, much of which discusses Mr. Rowland’s past conviction and assumes Mr. Rowland is guilty of the charges currently lodged against him,” they wrote in court documents.
Judge Janet Bond Arterton has granted some additional jury screening tools to the defense team, but not all the considerations they requested.
Arterton has permitted the use of juror questionnaires and the limited use of individualized questioning of jurors in private near the judge’s bench.
In an editorial published last month in the New Haven Register, defense attorney Norm Pattis questioned this use of what’s called “sequestered voir dire.” The process gives Rowland’s attorneys a chance to question jurors out of earshot from each other. It helps to negate the risk that one potential juror with an opinion of Rowland will “poison” the rest of the jurors with no opinion, Pattis wrote.
“Secret sidebar voir dire is a common practice in the Connecticut federal courts. I wonder if it is lawful, and I wonder why the state’s press corps isn’t up in arms about it,” he wrote. “What about the public’s and the press’ right to attend, and observe the trial? Watching judge, lawyers and potential jurors lip synch isn’t meaningful.”
Arterton has rejected other requests from Rowland’s lawyers, including a call for more chances than a typical defendant to reject jurors without stating a reason. Attorneys are typically permitted to dismiss 10 potential jurors during selection without explaining why. Rowland’s lawyers wanted five additional dismissals.
Prosecutors called the request unreasonable and noted that lawyers for a man charged with helping to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were awarded fewer juror challenges.
Arterton did not grant the additional dismissals, but Rowland’s lawyers signaled that they may make the request again, now that jury selection has begun.
“We believe that, once jury selection is under way, the strong need for additional peremptory challenges will be evident,” they wrote in court documents. “And, as demonstrated by Mr. Rowland’s opening brief, courts retain the inherent power to allow for additional peremptory challenges to combat pre-trial publicity.”
Tags: rowland, corruption trial, jury selection, dh
Walker Likes Policy, Not Politics
David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general, has served in government and the private sector for 40 years, but he never ran for elected office until now.
He was told before getting into politics that it was “superficial” and “ethically challenged,” but he didn’t realize how much so before getting into the race for lieutenant governor.
“I’ve never done it before. I may not ever do it again,” Walker joked Monday after a Hartford Rotary Club meeting.
That being said, Walker said he’s really enjoyed the campaign. He said he likes meeting new people and he enjoys talking about the issues.
“I like to answer questions. I enjoy dealing with the media. I enjoy candidate forums and debates,” Walker said. “I love editorial boards because they’re very substantive and I’m a substance rather than form guy.”
Walker has been recruited to run for public office in the past, but had always declined.
“I love this state,” Walker, the father of two and grandfather of three, said.
Walker said he could easily move South to be closer to his family, but he’s decided to stay in Connecticut to try to improve its fiscal standing.
Walker will face state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi and Heather Bond Somers of Groton on Aug. 12.
What is the role of lieutenant governor?
The only constitutional responsibility of the lieutenant governor is to preside over the state Senate when it’s in session.
“Frankly, anyone can discharge those constitutional responsibilities,” Walker said. “It doesn’t even have to be a full-time job.”
But he’s running because he thinks “our ship of state is sinking” and Connecticut needs the strongest team possible to help turn it around and save it.
Walker said he’s spoken with both candidates for governor, Sen. John McKinney, who he has an alliance with, and Tom Foley, and he believes both would give him significant authority far beyond the constitution.
Walker said he has not met with Foley since he entered into an alliance with McKinney in May, but is confident Foley “would use me in very substantive ways.”
Walker pointed out that Foley has a lot of executive experience like he does, but he has no “turnaround experience in the government.” Walker served as U.S. comptroller general from 1998 to 2008.
Prior to throwing his hat into the ring to run for lieutenant governor, Walker headed an organization called the Comeback America Initiative, which attempted to draw attention to the country’s long-term debt.
Walker, who agrees with McKinney on most issues except for the Second Amendment, was critical of Foley’s approach to the state budget.
“If you want to balance the budget and restore fiscal sanity you have to cut spending in absolute terms,” Walker said. “To renegotiate the employee benefits contract with state workers in a way that’s fair to employees, retirees, and the people who have to pay the bill, which is the taxpayers. And you have to rightsize government and restructure how it goes about doing business.”
And if you want to implement meaningful tax relief over time “you have to cut spending,” Walker emphasized.
The straightforward, measured approach is causing Republicans like Mike McGarry of Hartford to give Walker another look.
“I think there’s a swell of support for him,” McGarry said Monday.
McGarry said he had supported Bacchiochi at the Republican convention in May, but may be voting for Walker next week.
“I haven’t been contacted by her campaign even once,” McGarry said.
He said the “sniping” back and forth with Somers is also unappealing.
Somers and Bacchiochi sparred last weekend during a televised debate on WFSB. Walker who sat between the two women did not get involved.
McGarry said he thought that appearance will benefit Walker.
But there have been no public polls on the race.
Walker said internal polls show he’s leading among “informed voters.” It’s unknown though how many of those voters will come out to vote on Aug. 12.
Walker, a co-founder of the “No Labels” movement, moved to Connecticut in 2009 and rejoined the Republican Party this year to run for lieutenant governor. He was previously unaffiliated for 15 years. He was registered as a Democrat from 1969 to 1976 and Republican from 1977 to 1996.
Tags: David Walker, Hartford, rotary club, Penny Bacchiochi, Heather Bond Somers, John McKinney, Tom Foley, Mike McGarry, dh
Petitioning Candidates Reach Deadline, But Will They Qualify?
Ahead of today’s 4 p.m. deadline to submit voter signatures, petitioning gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti said he’s confident he will meet the signature threshold while Jonathan Pelto said he is encountering unexpected barriers in the process.
Pelto, a liberal blogger and former lawmaker, and Visconti, a conservative former West Hartford town councilman, are trying to petition onto the November gubernatorial ballot to challenge Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Both need to collect the signatures of 7,500 voters in order appear on the ballot with Malloy and a Republican candidate. Each town clerk has two weeks to verify the signatures on the petitions submitted by today’s deadline.
By the deadline, Visconti said his campaign will have submitted between 10,300 and 10,500 signatures to local town clerks. He said he was confident that would give him an adequate buffer to ensure he appears on the ballot if some percentage of the signatures are rejected.
“I could not conceive of more than 30 percent [being rejected],” he said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m not worried at all, not one minute or one bit and I have no doubt I’ll be on the ballot.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Pelto said he was still “hopeful” he would make that threshold, but has found the process of getting voter signatures vetted by municipal and state officials cumbersome.
“Democracy is a messy thing. This system that they’ve created is more complex than simply going out and getting 7,500 names,” Pelto said, adding that the signature threshold itself was an appropriate policy. But he said the submission has been “complex, convoluted, and primitive. It hasn’t been updated in a long time.”
Pelto’s campaign has been sending waves of volunteers to submit petition forms to local town clerks for the past few weeks. Those forms are beginning to arrive at the Secretary of the State’s Office in Hartford. Pelto stopped by there Monday, and said he found local officials had disqualified about 10 percent of the submitted signatures.
In many cases, the signatures were appropriately rejected because the signer was not a registered voter. But Pelto said he was alarmed to see some signatures had been disqualified by local officials for questionable reasons.
For instance, signatures had been rejected because the person who signed did not include their birth date. State statute does not require the inclusion of a birth date. In another case, it appeared as if a woman’s signature was tossed out because she signed under her married name but was registered to vote under her maiden name, he said.
Pelto said he was also concerned because town clerks in two municipalities have called and insisted it was his campaign’s responsibility to turn the signatures in to the state.
“Have the other town clerks not sent them in to Hartford? We don’t know,” he said. “We have to call every town clerk and say ‘By the way, do you have any Pelto petitions hanging around there?’”
Pelto would like the responsibility of checking the work of local voting officials to fall on Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office rather than on him, the petitioning candidate.
Merrill’s spokesman, Av Harris, said the office was aware of Pelto’s concerns and could follow up individual discrepancies or problems he found.
“We heard what [Pelto] had to say and we told him what the law was. We can follow up on individual cases if he has a report of some individual towns where he encountered a problem,” Harris said.
However, he said the Secretary of the State’s Office is not equipped with enough staff to check up on the work of all the local election administrators.
“If we get a report of widespread problems, that doesn’t really help us. We don’t have hundreds of inspectors to send out to all these towns,” he said.
Pelto’s not the only one who believes the petition process could use some streamlining. Connecticut Town Clerk Association President Joyce Mascena, town clerk of Glastonbury, said the clerk’s association is open to working with Merrill’s office and the legislature to change it.
“It is a cumbersome process, I will agree with that,” she said. “It’s an antiquated system. I think was designed for a much different time in our history.”
Tags: Jonathan Pelto, Joe Visconti, petition, Town Clerk, Secretary of the State, ballot, 2014 campaign, dh
Malloy Welcomes Debate, Asks Voters To Judge Him On His Record
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking the electorate to look at his entire record when they go to the polls in November.
Outside TOMZ Corporation, a 95,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Berlin, Malloy was asked about the decision to include Nicole Hockley, a mother who lost her first-grade son Dylan in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in his latest campaign ad.
“Listen, you’ve got to look at what elections are,” Malloy said Tuesday. “I have a record. It’s a record I’m proud of, having faced five natural disaster declarations and Sandy Hook. I think people need, or I would ask that they put it all in context.”
He added: “It’s been a tough number of years with a great challenge in the economy to boot and you know people will have to make a choice. There’ll be a clear choice.”
The ad, which began airing this week, appears one week before the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Within hours of being posted on Youtube Monday, the commercial had prompted user comments accusing Malloy of “shamelessly” politicizing a tragedy. In a statement, Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. accused Malloy of “exploiting” Newtown.
Malloy made no apologies for the campaign ad.
“We’re going to begin getting our message out from now until Election Day,” Malloy said. “We have a great story to tell about the choice that has to be made.”
It’s still unclear at this point if Malloy will debate Sen.John McKinney or Tom Foley. Nevertheless, he said he’s willing to participate in a number of debates.
Typically, an incumbent tries not to have too many debates, Malloy admitted. However, Malloy said he’s willing to have a “number of debates and discussions throughout the state.”
Back in 2010, Malloy called for 17 debates during the Democratic primary against Ned Lamont. The idea was to have a debate in every town with a daily newspaper.
In 2010, there were at least two televised debates between Malloy and Foley and dozens of forums and discussions prior to the election where Malloy beat Foley by less than 1 percent of the vote.
“Whichever Republican wins, I look forward to having a thorough discussion of the issues in a debate format. Final number to be decided, but certainly I’m going to be accepting a lot of invitations,” Malloy said Tuesday.
He said the public will be getting “definitive answers from me just as you have every day that I’ve been governor.”
The comment was a criticism of the vagueness regarding Foley’s statements on the state budget and exactly how he would balance it. Foley has said he would keep spending flat for two years, not raise taxes, and be able to plug the estimated $1.278 billion budget hole with efficiencies.
Malloy doesn’t believe there will be a deficit and he believes he has a good handle on keeping spending below 3 percent.
“We don’t face a deficit,” Malloy said back in June after the deficit numbers were released by the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. “The deficit projections on the same services budget would require that we increase spending by 7.78 percent. You don’t believe we’d do that, nobody believes we’d do that.”
He added: “Nobody, no party, no politician is going to advocate that we increase spending by 7.78 percent. It’s a ridiculous number.”
Although Malloy insists the estimates are based on unrealistic spending assumptions, he often points out that he inherited a $3.6 billion single-year budget deficit from his predecessor. That number is based on the same projection methods, which predicted a $1.278 billion deficit in the next fiscal year (FY 2015/16).
“This is an election with a very clear choice to be made,” Malloy said.
Malloy was at the TOMZ facility in Berlin on Tuesday to announce a $711,533 loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development Manufacturing Assistance Act. The loan carries a 2 percent interest rate for 10 years. About half of the loan will be forgiven if the company meets its job retention and creation targets. It currently has 123 employees and plans to add 30 more.
Tags: Dannel P. Malloy, TOMZ Corporation, manufacturing, debates, John McKinney, Tom Foley, Nicole Hockley, dh
Hartford Nonprofit Offers Opportunity To Local Youth
RiseUP, a non-profit organization aimed at helping Hartford’s youth, and CareCentrix, a home health care provider, teamed up last month to help students learn about career opportunities.
It’s just one of the many partnerships RiseUp created with local businesses to provide opportunities for urban youth.
RiseUP was founded in 2012 by a group of University of Connecticut alumni. It gives students access to educational workshops, career development, professional networks, and potential scholarship opportunities.
RiseUP CEO Matt Conway said his eyes were opened to the lack of opportunities given to urban youth after running a summer program at Weaver High School in Hartford.
“I made it a mission to do everything I could to open up the access,” Conway said.
One hundred percent of the students who have started in the RiseUP program have graduated high school, according to Conway. Their students have completed more than 1,500 hours of community service this year alone. Conway said that they currently have seven students enrolled in four-year or two-year colleges.
Dain Leslie, a 20-year-old RiseUP mentor, joined RiseUP in 2012 during his senior year at Weaver High School.
“It changed my life for the better,” Leslie said. “Where I was and where I am now is two different people.” Leslie graduated high school in 2012.
Leslie said that RiseUP taught him incredible life lessons. “Even if you are at the bottom of the bottom, you can still make it,” Leslie said. “RiseUP doesn’t force you to change. It helps you to become a better you.”
The program, called “Career Access Day,” matched 25 students with CareCentrix employees to help them gain an inside perspective on the home health industry, learn about career opportunities, and network with CareCentrix employees.
RiseUP chooses students for their program through their partnerships with other youth programs, word of mouth, and partnering with schools that identify students who will be good for the program. The program requires students to fill out an application, but Conway said they haven’t turned anyone away.
“Never before has there been a greater need for young, bright, motivated people to enter the profession of home health,” CareCentrix CEO John Driscoll said.
Last month’s program at the CareCentrix building in Hartford began with CareCentrix’s chief human resource officer giving the students a company and industry overview. Students were then paired with executives from CareCentrix for one-on-one speed mentoring. The students also participated in team building activities and ended their day with a social hour where they were able to network with executives.
“It’s going to help the students prepare for the corporate world, identify what they have to do personally to help develop their skills, and steer them on how to further their education,” Conway said.
Leslie described the event as a great way to learn how to never give up. The students and mentors heard stories from CareCentrix executives about what they had been through to get to where they are now.
“RiseUP gives you the skill you can’t learn in school, like confidence. You can’t learn confidence in school,” Leslie said.
This is one of the many partnerships that RiseUP will have this year. Conway plans to open up this opportunity to other companies and anticipates more programs like this in the future.
In the past,RiseUP has partnered with HAI Group, Inc. an insurance company based in Cheshire. The HAI Group, Inc. donated $5,000 to RiseUP in May to help with scholarships and community service activities in the Hartford community.
Tags: RiseUp, Matt Conway, nonprofit, Hartford, CareCentrix, dh
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McKinney Says Primary Polling Can’t Be Trusted
Polls have not been kind to Republican gubernatorial primary candidate John McKinney. But McKinney, who’s hoping for an upset next week, says no one expected Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to survive the 2010 primary.
McKinney was badly trailing his primary opponent, 2010 Republican nominee Tom Foley, in the last survey published by Quinnipiac University in May. Since then, he’s been ignored altogether by a pair of surveys published last week.
Republicans will head to the polls to pick their gubernatorial candidate on Aug. 12.
Asked about the polls at a press conference last week, McKinney said they are notoriously inaccurate in primary elections.
He pointed to Malloy — who was trailing his primary opponent Ned Lamont by 3 points just before winning the 2010 Democratic primary election — and former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, whom Virginia primary voters handed an unexpected defeat in June.
“Four years ago, Gov. Malloy never led in any of the public opinion polls,” he said. “Eric Cantor’s internal polling showed him up over 20 points the day of the election and he got beat by over 10.”
McKinney said he sees momentum on the campaign trail.
“We’re excited that on primary day, with what is probably going to be a low turnout, we’re going to turn out our vote and win,” he said.
The Foley campaign has said its internal polling has suggested Foley is leading in the race by 20 points.
“We believe polling on both sides show that this race is not competitive,” Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the campaign, said.
Foley lost to Malloy in 2010 by only 6,404 votes. Most polling data since then has suggested that voters are still pretty evenly split between Foley and Malloy. The most recent poll, conducted by Republican firm Vox Populi Polling, found Malloy up by 1 point, leading Foley 35 to 34 percent.
An Internet poll conducted by a research firm called YouGov and published by the New York Times last week suggested Foley was ahead of Malloy 42 to 33 percent.
In the May Quinnipiac University poll, Malloy and Foley were deadlocked 43 percent each. The poll showed McKinney trailing Malloy by four points.
At the time the poll was conducted, there were six Republican candidates vying for the nomination and Foley easily led the pack with 39 percent of Republican primary voters surveyed. McKinney trailed with only 8 percent. No public poll has been conducted since the Republican contest narrowed to only Foley and McKinney.
State Board of Education Approves New Charter School
The state Board of Education expressed skepticism Monday that a new charter school would be able to get up and running before the start of the school year, but nevertheless they unanimously approved the revised plan.
Booker T. Washington Academy of New Haven submitted a revised proposal to the state Board of Education in July after scrambling to find a new management team to run the school. The state Board of Education met Monday to decide whether the new charter school, led by John Taylor, should open the school in September.
The approval of the state board came with some conditions and several hours of discussion about whether it would be able to raise the $1 million in private funds and find additional students to attend.
While school officials were hesitant to discuss their funding challenges, they said they’ve already received commitments for $150,000 and there’s $500,000 they will be able to raise from foundations as soon as they get the approval they need to open the school in September.
“The foundations are waiting for us to get through this process and they’ll come to the table as well,” Taylor said. “Then as a contingency we’ve talked to a foundation about doing a zero interest loan to cover anything we may come up short.”
At the moment, the school has recruited 74 students, but its budget has room for up to 120 students in its inaugural year. It had originally planned to serve 225 students, but scaled back the proposal after it severed its relationship with Family Urban Schools of Excellence.
Taylor explained that a lot of parents are waiting for the outcome of the school board’s meeting to commit to attend the school.
“It’s been very challenging getting the numbers that we need right now until they know that the school is actually going to happen,” Taylor said.
However, he expressed confidence they would reach that goal by canvassing the community and sending out direct mail.
The school board also recommended a three-year term for the charter, instead of the customary five years. It suggested as part of the certification that all school employees and board members undergo a background check.
The school’s founder, Pastor Eldren Morrison, said they currently have eight board members, but intend to add an additional four members. At least one of the members will be a parent of a child attending the school, which will eventually serve pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade.
Theresa Hopkins-Staten, vice chairwoman of the board, cautioned the Booker T. Washington Academy and urged school officials to include a nepotism clause in its bylaws.
“You indicate that staff members, employees or relatives of staff members, as long as they’re qualified, can work there,” Hopkins-Staten pointed out. “I caution you against that. This board has seen situations where that has not worked out well.”
She said that while there might not be an actual conflict of interest, “perception becomes reality and you don’t want those types of issues early on as you get this school off the ground.”
Taylor told the board that they have not hired any relatives of board members.
Booker T. Washington Academy was one of the near casualties connected to Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), which lost its contracts to run turnaround schools in Bridgeport and Hartford following revelations that its director, Michael Sharpe, had been sentenced to more than two years in prison for embezzlement in 1989, with an earlier forgery conviction tied to a loan. Sharpe’s mother founded Jumoke Academy, which employs at least three of Sharpe’s relatives and inspired the creation of FUSE, according to the Hartford Courant. Sharpe also never received the doctorate he said he had earned from New York University.
The state was not aware of any of this, which has moved it to mandate background checks for charter school personnel going forward. The revelations forced Booker T. Washington Academy to sever its ties with FUSE and to create an independent management team to run the school.
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now CEO Jennifer Alexander said she supports the revised proposal.
“New Haven’s kids should not be denied the opportunity to attend this school because FUSE apparently proved to be a less-than-honest partner,” Alexander said. “The hundreds of children and parents who have already applied to attend Booker T. Washington Academy (BTWA) should not be negatively impacted by the egregious and possibly illegal activities at FUSE.”
As part of its revised proposal, BTWA will lease space for $50,000 from Achievement First, a public charter school organization. Taylor said Mayo, who recently stepped forward to mentor Taylor, was instrumental in lowering the asking price for the sublease.
He said they are paying less on the lease than what Achievement First is paying the landlord for the space.
“It’s a fraction of what they’re paying,” Taylor said.
The space on Green Street will be leased for about five months until the school is able to finish up more than $400,000 in renovations to its Blake Street location.
Members of the community, including parishioners from Morrison’s Varick Memorial A.M.E Church, spoke in favor of the school.
“We need a school that’s going to promote God’s principles,” Joanne Crudup told the school board.
Morrison said the only connection between the church and the school is that the vision for the school was coming from him.
“There’s no religious education being taught there. It is a public school,” Morrison said. “The closest thing you’ll get to religion is you ought to treat everybody right.”
Currently, there are 18 state charter schools serving 7,096 students. There are 1,151 public schools serving 545,614 public school students.
Tags: eldren morrison, Booker T. Washington Academy, Michael Sharpe, FUSE, New Haven, Reginald Mayo, John Taylor, Stefan Pryor, dh
‘Look Before You Lock’ Campaign Seeks To Prevent Children Being Left in Hot Cars
Following the death of a Ridgefield boy left unattended in a hot car, the state Department of Transportation awarded a $100,000 grant to the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center for the “Look Before You Lock” campaign.
The campaign, which launched Monday, will be a joint effort between the Department of Transportation, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. It is designed to prevent children from being left in hot cars.
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman attended Monday’s announcement at CCMC.
“As a father of a 5-year old and a 2-year old, it’s hard for me to understand how any parent, anywhere, could leave their child in a car for any duration of time,” Murphy said.
Murphy said that the campaign has been created because of a combination of carelessness, negligence, and lack of information. He believes that the campaign is about making sure that uninformed parents get the right information about these dangers.
“We are very pleased to be able to make funding available to this important campaign,” Deputy Department of Transportation Commissioner Anna M. Barry said Monday. “It’s very important to know the risks and consequences associated with leaving kids in cars, especially in the summertime.”
Barry said that no parent ever thinks that he or she will forget their child in the car, but even a great parent can forget their sleeping child in the back seat.
“Children, particularly young infants, have a decreased ability to sweat,” Dr. Marc Auerbach, an associate director of pediatric trauma at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, said. “They have a greater surface area compared to their total weight, so they absorb the heat a lot faster.”
He said that from a medical perspective, cracking windows in the car does not change the rapid rise in temperature and it is not an acceptable solution.
The campaign will run until the end of the summer. Their media outreach will include materials such as bumper stickers, posters, radio, and digital billboards. The digital billboards will display the current temperature outside and the temperature inside a car, which will fluctuate as the outside temperature does.
Tags: cars, children, temperatures, transportation, Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, Nancy Wyman, Jhansi Katechia, dh
New Malloy Ad Features Sandy Hook Mother
A new ad from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign features Nicole Hockley, a Newtown mother whose son, Dylan, was among the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.
“Gov. Malloy has the courage and conviction to stand up and do the right thing,” Hockley says during the 30-second TV spot released Monday. Hockley serves as communications director of the nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise. She is identified in the ad simply as, “Nicole Hockley, Newtown, CT.”
The campaign commercial, called “Determination,” is the Malloy campaign’s second during this election cycle.
Malloy, the incumbent and Democratic nominee, will face whichever Republican candidate prevails after a primary election next week. Malloy’s 2010 rival Tom Foley is the Republican convention-endorsed candidate. He is running against Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.
Although Malloy is not facing a primary challenger, his campaign has now released two commercials. His first ad, called “Tough Times,” also alluded to the 2012 shooting, in which 20 first graders and six educators were murdered by a gunman inside an elementary school in Newtown.
During the first commercial, a narrator lists challenges the state has faced during Malloy’s tenure. He points to a “budget crisis,” “historic storms,” and “unimaginable evil let loose in a school.”
In a statement on the ad released Monday, Malloy campaign spokesman Mark Bergman the TV spot “continues to tell the clear story that in challenging times, Governor Malloy provided steady leadership and made tough decisions.”
“Now, Connecticut is making progress. There is more work to do to make sure every Connecticut family has the opportunities they need to succeed, and the stakes are too high to return to the failed policies of the past,” Bergman said.
The ad also includes Milford Mayor Ben Blake praising Malloy’s response to storms Irene and Sandy. But the inclusion of the Sandy Hook shooting risks backlash from the public if it is perceived as politicizing a tragedy, former state Republican chairman and political strategist Chris Healy said.
“The question becomes, do people listen to the message, or do they focus on using the tragedy for political purposes? That’s always a fine line,” Healy said. “It’s certainly a bit of a gamble. It’s a dice throw.”
Within hours of being posted on Youtube, the new commercial had prompted user comments accusing Malloy of “shamelessly” politicizing a tragedy. In a statement, current Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. accused Malloy of “exploiting” Newtown and Hurricane Sandy for political gain.
However, Roy Occhiogrosso, an advisor to Malloy, said the ad strikes the right balance in dealing with an unquestionably difficult topic. He said Hockley reached out to the campaign, seeking ways to help and has spoken publicly often since the shooting.
Occhiogrosso, who was a senior staffer in the Malloy administration when the incident occurred, said Malloy’s handling of the tragedy should be part of the his re-election campaign.
“The governor — the leadership he exhibited that day and in the aftermath of that tragedy is part of his record and his record is part of his campaign,” he said. “There’s no question it’s a sensitive issue but I think the ad strikes the right balance and brings it forward in an understated fashion utilizing a person who’s been very public since that day.”
The campaign spent $180,000 on the ad buy for this week in the Hartford-New Haven and New York City media markets. The ad was made by AKPD Message and Media, a firm with offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles and which also made ads for President Barack Obama’s campaigns.
Foley also released a new TV spot Monday, called “New Direction.” The one-minute ad is narrated by Foley, who appears to walk from shot to shot.
“No matter where you live in Connecticut, things can be better. But things won’t get better with the same old policies and politicians in charge. We need a different direction,” he says.
In the ad Foley promises to hold state spending flat, provide tax relief, and fix “broken schools.” He also promises to reduce regulations, and “treat job creators like friends, not whipping boys.”
“And when we’re done, Connecticut will come roaring back. Prosperity, promise and pride aren’t that far away. They’re just in a different direction,” Foley says.
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Muni Cops Back Malloy, State Troopers Remain Neutral
Connecticut’s largest municipal police union threw its support Friday behind Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, even as their state police colleagues remain wary of endorsing the governor for another term.
The Connecticut Council of Police, AFSCME Council 15, which represents 3,000 municipal cops, issued a press release Friday endorsing Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. The union’s executive director, Jeff Matchett, cited low crime rates and stronger gun regulations, signed by Malloy.
“Gov. Malloy has stood side-by-side with first responders in some the deepest challenges our state has ever faced. From gun safety to disaster response, Dan Malloy and Nancy Wyman have worked together with local police to ensure safety for local communities and officers,” he said.
The union’s president, Patrick Gaynor, praised the administration for maintaining municipal aid funding.
“Dan Malloy and Nancy Wyman have helped to keep local police on the beat, even in tough economic times,” he said.
It’s a different story with the Connecticut State Police Union, which endorsed Malloy in 2010. Malloy’s administration was at odds with the union throughout much of his first term. The group clashed over public safety policy with state police leadership appointed by Malloy. The union also rejected labor concessions negotiated by the administration in 2011, which resulted in Malloy ordering the temporary layoffs of some troopers.
“We have done some endorsements for House and Senate races but, at this time, we’re remaining neutral on the gubernatorial candidates,” Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said Friday.
Matthews said relations with the Malloy administration have improved this year following the departure of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford and State Police Col. Danny Stebbins. He said current Commissioner Dora Schriro and Col. Brian Meraviglia seem committed to the safety of troopers and the public.
“I think finally after three and a half years, the administration has given us true leadership,” he said.
In June, Malloy told reporters he did not expect an endorsement from the state police union.
“I want the support of anyone who wants to support me, let’s be honest. I believe that union has made it clear that it intends to stay neutral,” he said.
Tags: police union, Malloy, endorsement, Election 2014, Connecticut Council of Police, AFSCME Council 15, Nancy Wyman, Patrick Gaynor, dh
Lembo Reports Revised Surplus Numbers
Comptroller Kevin Lembo put the state budget surplus for 2014 at $121.3 million in a Friday letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, noting that adjustments to the estimate will continue throughout August.
Lembo’s latest report mirrors estimates by the Malloy administration in late July, which revised the surplus upward by $63 million to reflect increased federal Medicaid reimbursements and stronger personal income tax revenue.
In a press release, Lembo said the state’s overall economy has shown “gradual improvement.”
“As the state has experienced five consecutive months of job growth, the withholding portion of the income tax has been trending upward,” he said. “This is something to be optimistic about — and hopefully it will sustain through the end of the year.”
If the surplus number holds until around Dec. 30 — when the fiscal year’s final audit is completed — the $121.3 million will be deposited in the Rainy Day Fund, bringing the balance in that fund up to $392 million.
Tags: surplus, revenue, income tax, Rainy Day Fund, Kevin Lembo, comptroller, dh
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Child Advocate: Majority of 2013 Infant, Toddler Deaths Preventable
“Many of the children that are dying are dying of preventable deaths,” Associate Child Advocate Mickey Kramer said. “We really need a cohesive and collaborative approach to both identifying the risk and preventing these deaths.”
According to the report, a majority of last year’s infant and toddler fatalities occurred in families that had current or previous involvement with the Children and Families Department.
“Some of the cases described in the report raise questions and sometimes significant concerns regarding the efficacy of DCF practice with an individual family or the adequacy of its protocols for ensuring infant safety in high-risk homes,” Sarah Eagan, the state-appointed child advocate, said in a press release.
Some of the department’s shortcomings include assessment of risk, utilization of resources, communication with others that are working with the family, and accessing appropriate services, said Kramer.
The report also found that children with a history of DCF involvement were three times as likely to be murdered, twice as likely to die by accident, and half as likely to die of natural causes.
However, OCA said that it is important to understand that DCF is not solely to blame.
“It is vital to underscore that prevention of child maltreatment and child fatalities cannot rest solely with DCF. It will take a collective effort, meaningful and strategic investment in family strengthening and child survival,” Eagan said.
More than half of the 82 deaths reported to the child advocate from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office were from natural causes, according to the report. Meanwhile, 12 were accidents and 10 were homicides — the highest number of homicides since the OCA and OCME began collecting data on child fatalities. The cause of 16 deaths could not be determined.
Of the above findings, five homicides and 10 undetermined deaths were attributable to children whose family was involved with the DCF.
Asked to comment, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families referred to past press releases stating the department had “no reason to believe” its policies were endangering children.
“Even one child death is unacceptable and tragic, and we must take very seriously the responsibility to hold ourselves accountable,” DCF Gary Kleeblatt said in a statement early June.
The agency also said that they attempt to find the right balance between protecting children and unnecessarily removing them from their homes.
“At the same time as we are making strides in keeping children with their families, we also must keep children safe,” DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said in a June 18 statement. “That is what makes the jobs of our social workers so difficult and so important.”
The report, which was released Thursday, made some recommendations for preventing child fatalities. Several analyses suggested that both better record-keeping and a higher level of involvement from the state could have helped save the better part of 38 lives.
“Repeatedly, records did not seem to reflect cognizance of the level of risk for an infant in a home with a substance-abusing caregiver,” the report states.
Young, at-risk fathers and mother’s boyfriends were found guilty of 40 percent of the investigated fatalities, according to the report. The OCA recommended the department pursue more involved preventative measures in cases involving at-risk men.
“There should be engagement with young and at-risk fathers and male partners by local health care providers, hospitals, pediatrics, Ob-Gyn providers,and home visitors to identify support and other needs as well as strengths of the father/male partners,” the report states.
In detailing the ways that infant and toddler deaths might be avoided in the future, the report makes several other suggestions, such as increased access to prenatal and home visiting services and increased access to effective substance abuse and domestic violence services for families with very young children.
Congress Passes Veteran Health Care Reforms
Connecticut’s U.S. senators applauded the Thursday night final passage of legislation sending emergency funding to the embattled veterans health care system and increasing the agency’s authority to dismiss incompetent employees.
The Senate gave final approval to the bill in a 91-3 vote, days after the House passed the measure in a bipartisan vote. Lawmakers from both chambers negotiated the legislation months after revelations of long patient wait times and efforts by federal employees to cover up the Department of Veteran Affairs’ shortcomings.
The bill spends around $17 billion on the veteran’s health care system. It provides funding for vets to access health care services from private providers outside the VA system and provides the agency funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other staff. It also gives the agency more power to fire or demote its senior officials.
In a press release, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, called the bill’s passage a “major bipartisan breakthrough” that will help to fix a “broken” system.
“The VA still must change fundamentally, and I will monitor the implementation of these improvements,” he said. “Keeping faith with our veterans is a solemn obligation. It is a cost of war every much as the tanks and ships and arms necessary to wage it.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said the bill was a good first step to reforming the agency.
“This legislation will help get veterans the treatment they need and deserve by allowing them the flexibility to receive outside medical care when the VA is unable to provide prompt treatment, and giving the VA the tools to crack down on department officials who perpetuate and encourage fraud,” he said in a press release.
The legislation also dedicates money to upgrade 26 existing VA facilities, including the Errera Center in West Haven. According to Blumenthal’s office, the bill spends about $4.88 million to upgrade the center, which helps vets with mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, and other issues. Murphy said the facility has “had its hands tied” because of inadequate funding.
This week the Senate also voted to approve Robert McDonald’s appointment as the new head of the Veterans Affairs Department. He takes over for Sloan Gibson who has been serving as interim head of the agency since May, when former VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki resigned the position amid controversy.
Blumenthal said the bill “combined with confirmation of Robert McDonald to lead the VA should help assure that we provide every veteran with first class, world class medicine.”
Tags: veterans, va hospitals, health care, blumenthal, murphy, dh
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OP-ED | Jane Doe and the Persistence of Hope
“Jane Doe” is a young trans woman whose story seems to be never-ending.
Last month, the Department of Children and Families moved the horrifically abused 16-year-old from adult prison to a locked facility for delinquent girls. After three weeks in that girls’ prison, Jane was allegedly involved in an assault. The state’s response was to send her to the juvenile prison for boys, Connecticut Juvenile Training School. Information released by the Office of the Child Advocate shows that four girls were accused of assault on a DCF employee in the incident, a detail omitted from DCF’s press release that makes us question the unique penalty Jane is now paying.
Myriad things are wrong with this picture. I have space to focus on one: The pathetic outcomes that arise from juvenile incarceration, particularly for children with trauma histories.
In all the time that she’s been in the public eye, Jane has been incarcerated, in a women’s, girls’ and once again a boys’ prison. For kids especially, prison is a setting that often does more harm than good.
Children under lock and key frequently act out. When they do, we don’t lose hope in incarceration but in the kids themselves. “She’s incorrigible,” we say. “We must continue to incarcerate her.” We determine to keep administering the poison until the patient improves.
Meanwhile, several states are pioneering programs that safely keep even extremely high-need/risk children in their communities with a robust continuum of services.These programs hold kids accountable without resorting to jail cells.The result is better outcomes for youth and communities, at lower costs.
Unfortunately, Connecticut’s juvenile justice system is full of Jane Does, and John Does, kids with complex, often traumatic, histories who have been criminalized. In Connecticut, 53 percent of children in detention screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder. Half of the girls committed delinquent are first committed to state care for abuse or neglect. In 2012, DCF arrested 450 young people out of its own placements. The story of a child experiencing trauma, neglect and abuse, not getting the services, supports or help she needs and eventually getting arrested is not exceptional. Sadly, it is common.
Determining how to serve youth who’ve experienced trauma before they enter the juvenile justice system is a complex task, a struggle for many states.The thing is: Connecticut can do complex. Raise the Age, which removed most youth from the adult criminal justice system, required tremendously complex, cross-system, integrated changes. But it was accomplished and is almost universally seen as a success.
Less than two years after full implementation of a law saying teenagers should be kept out of adult court except for the most serious, violent cases, Jane Doe was transferred to the adult system while facing no adult charges. The state, instead of investing in more programs and services to help kids succeed on the outside, chose to spend $2.6 million dollars on a new girls’ prison.
We owe our children better than that. The census at CJTS has held steady around 150 for a few months now, higher than it has been for a decade. The addition of 17-year-olds into the juvenile justice system does not fully explain the spike in the CJTS census.
Connecticut has made strides reducing the criminalization of youth: changing our approach to runaways and truants, reducing the number of youth who go to pre-trial detention and reducing the number of youth who end up committed delinquent.
Happily, there are fewer kids entering that system. Those few kids who do enter the system, however – like Jane - have complex histories and needs. No one doubts that working with them is challenging.
Even among the most challenging children, however, incarceration should be a rarity. Accountability does not have to be learned in a cell. It rarely is. These youth need our creativity, commitment and compassion. They need us to believe in their potential to change, grow and mature. Almost more importantly, they need us to believe in our ability and responsibility to hold them accountable for their actions in a way that affords them the best possible chance to succeed.
That is the crux of Jane’s story: It is a debate over hope or the lack of it. I’m a big fan of hope.
Abby Anderson is executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance.
OP-ED | Confusion Abounds for Those Who Receive Home Care
Elderly and disabled people are confused as they wait for the state to explain how they will receive the same level of care while paying higher union-negotiated wages to their personal care attendants (PCAs).
This week I spoke to a woman (she asked that I not use her name or the name of her loved one who receives care) who was trying to figure out whether the recent Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court decision meant she could continue in the current contract between her and the PCAs she employs on behalf of her loved one. Short answer: it doesn’t.
She was told by Allied Community Resources, one of the quasi-public agencies that oversees payment of PCAs for the state, that the PCAs Medicaid rate is $15.16 an hour, which is the around $12-an-hour minimum wage negotiated for PCAs, plus union dues and other taxes.
Previously, the state paid her PCAs $10.50 an hour, which, with taxes, came to $11.66 an hour. The hourly wages were charged toward the $5,800 a month she receives from the state to care for her loved one.
At this point she has been told the hourly rate will increase, but she has not been told whether she will see her monthly stipend increased, so she is unsure if she will be able to continue to care for her loved one outside an institutional setting.
Cathy Ludlum, who has raised concerns about the unionization of PCAs since the state announced its decision to allow SEIU 1199 to pursue the cause, said it is still unclear how the state intends to stay under the mandated caps for the amount of money paid to those who receive home care.
Ludlum has spinal muscular atrophy, and she fought for her PCA’s right to refuse unionization. She, and others who receive state money, were promised their level of care would not be affected by the pay increases for their PCAs.
A letter from the PCA Council to consumers on March 28, 2014, tried to explain how the clients who receive these services would not be impacted by the decision to increase payment.
“The public act requires the State to maintain the service levels that consumers receive and to appropriate funds to support the collective bargaining agreement if it is approved,” the letter reads. “There is a specific consumer rights provision in the collective bargaining agreement that protects your rights with regard to the employment of individuals who support you or your family members.”
Despite Republican efforts to increase PCA pay without resorting to unionization, and despite the concerns raised by the groups who receive the care, the labor-dominated legislature pushed the matter through in 2012.
All along, Ludlum and other advocates who fought the forced unionization said they didn’t oppose workers’ right to unionize, but what they did oppose was forcing individual PCAs to pay union dues or agency fees even if they did not want to join the union.
Under Harris v. Quinn, which was handed down at the end of June, the court found PCAs are different than other state employees because of their relationship to their employers — the populations who receive money from the state to pay them — so they cannot be forced to join a union or pay union dues.
Under Connecticut law, no one who works in a unionized workplace can opt-out of union membership. Half of the states have adopted “Right to Work” laws, which recognize an individual’s right to freedom of association, meaning the right to decide whether to belong to a union.
Here, people who don’t want to pay union dues or support the union cause can only opt-out of the political portion of their dues. They still have to pay agency fees to a union regardless of their preference under the assumption that because the union is negotiating on their behalf, they have to support it.
All that said, Harris v. Quinn does not undo the new labor contract negotiated for PCAs by the state.
Ludlum said she has been promised by the state that she, and other recipients of state funds, will be “held harmless.”
She said the state has communicated very little about how things will change for those receiving care under the new arrangement — particularly for those who are already receiving the maximum allowable under state law.
“Those at the cost cap have been told verbally that if they raise rates, not to worry about becoming too expensive for the program,” she said.
What that means, however, is unclear. Lawmakers had the opportunity to raise the cap in the last legislative session, but they didn’t.
Responding to an inquiry yesterday, state Department of Social Services spokesman David Dearborn said the department intends to stick to its promise to those receiving care.
“Their services cannot be reduced and there is no out-of-pocket obligation or impact to the beneficiaries,” he wrote in an email.
When asked for clarification — whether that means the state will give more money to the quasi-public agencies who manage the care so they can pass that on to beneficiaries — he said yes.
Apparently that message hasn’t reached all of those who rely on these services.
The state has said that it will not collect union dues — “agency fees” — from PCAs who chose not to join the union, until it figures out how Harris v. Quinn affects Connecticut.
In the meantime, the 4,000 PCAs (out of 6,500) who chose not to join the union will likely enjoy getting that extra money in their paychecks.
Suzanne Bates is a writer living in South Windsor with her family. While traveling across the country as an Air Force spouse, she worked for news organizations including the Associated Press, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and Good Morning America Weekend. She recently completed a research fellowship at the Yankee Institute. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.
Tags: op-ed, personal care attendants, disabled, elderly, DSS, Suzanne Bates, dh
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OP-ED | Kudos To Malloy For Not Taking The Bay State Rail Bait
It’s an immutable law of physics that the government will always grow and become more expensive, causing our tax burden to grow right along with it. Over the years, I’ve passed up few opportunities to point this out. But when state government shows some restraint even amid public pressure to do otherwise, congratulations are very much in order.
To my pleasant surprise, the Malloy administration and the state Department of Transportation are balking at spending hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade freight lines, currently used by Housatonic Railroad, to bring passenger rail service north from Danbury up to Pittsfield, Mass.
Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced it will spend $12 million to acquire that state’s section of the line from the state border at Canaan, Conn., where Housatonic Railroad is headquartered, 37 miles north to Pittsfield in central Berkshire County. The administration of Gov. Deval Patrick has already set aside $113 million for the project.
Disclosure: I work as a newspaper editor in the Berkshires and would like nothing more than to see that aging region receive an economic shot in the arm, along with the younger demographic railroad passengers would surely bring. But as a Connecticut taxpayer, I have an obligation to ask myself what’s in it for my state? The answer, as far as I can tell, is nothing.
Just about everyone, including me, likes the idea of passenger rail service service up the length of the Housatonic Valley. After all, the railroad is a proud piece of our heritage. And a diesel locomotive pulling railcars full of people has a smaller carbon footprint than dozens of automobiles carrying those people to the same destination as the rail line.
But as is often the case, the devil is in the details. A consulting group hired by Housatonic Railroad initially projected a median ridership of 2 million one-way fares per year — a figure no one could repeat with a straight face. The number was eventually adjusted down to 1 million, but it still strains credulity.
Also at the behest of Housatonic Railroad, a Williams College economics professor conducted a recent study predicting that passenger trains running to and from the Berkshires and Manhattan could increase economic output by $344 million in the Berkshires during the first 10 years of construction and service.
Be that as it may, let’s say the new projection is accurate and a million people who are otherwise unwilling or unable to drive a car, visit the Berkshires each year. Where does that leave Connecticut?
Western Connecticut is already served by Metro-North commuter trains that travel to Danbury and Waterbury. And Metro-North’s Harlem line extends 35 miles farther north than Danbury, along the border to Wassaic, N.Y., servicing even Connecticut’s far northwest corner and southern Berkshire County. Clearly, western Connecticut already is well served by passenger rail.
If extended from Danbury, Housatonic Railroad’s passenger service would travel through New Milford, Kent, Cornwall, Falls Village and Canaan — all fine towns, but they simply do not have the cultural offerings available in the Berkshires. Why spend the weekend in the backwoods of Cornwall or Canaan when you can travel a little farther north, stay in Canyon Ranch and enjoy Tanglewood, Shakespeare & Company, and Jacob’s Pillow?
In other words, if this rail plan comes to pass, western Connecticut will be little more than flyover country for the culturally inclined who will sit in air conditioned passenger cars, connect their devices to wifi and spend their disposable income at out-of-state destinations.
State Sen. Clark Chapin, R-New Milford, whose district includes almost the entire length of the Connecticut portion of Housatonic’s line, told me there is a lot of support among his constituents for the passenger project, as evidenced by an unscientific online survey he conducted recently in which almost 900 people responded. More than 80 percent said they supported the concept, but most said they would not ride it very often.
When I contacted Connecticut DOT spokesman Judd Everhart last week, he told me passenger service north of Danbury “would be great” but there is no funding in the state budget for it because it’s simply “not a priority.”
And it’s no wonder. We have lot of more important transportation needs in this state: a $570 million busway that will connect New Britain and Hartford; an ancient and malfunctioning train bridge in Norwalk; a New Haven-Hartford-Springfield high-speed commuter rail line, which is currently under construction and to which the state has committed hundreds of millions of dollars. Oh, and we still have to fix our roads, which the White House recently judged to be the worst in the nation.
If officials in Massachusetts want rail service to the Berkshires, let them pay for it — all of it. And kudos to the Malloy administration for not taking the bait.
Tags: housatonic railroad, clark chapin, connecticut department of transportation, berkshires, Danbury, passenger rail, terry cowgill, dh
Voters Facing Primary Registration Deadlines
Unaffiliated voters who wish to cast ballots in the Aug. 12 primary elections face quickly-approaching deadlines to register as Republicans or Democrats.
It is already too late to switch from one party to another before the primary. But unaffiliated voters and residents who have not yet registered to vote can register and sign up with a political party in person at their town offices until Aug. 11 at noon.
They can also fill out the paperwork and submit them online or print out the forms and mail them into their town offices. But in that case, their deadline is no later than next Thursday, Aug. 7.
Voter turnout for both parties is expected to be low, according to Av Harris, communications director for Secretary of State Denise Merrill. However, it is expected to be much lower on the Democratic side because the most significant primary elections this year are between Republican candidates.
Harris said he expects about 120,000 Republicans to go to the polls and pick their candidate for statewide offices including governor, lieutenant governor, and comptroller. Democrats and Republicans will pick their state representative and state senate candidates in many legislative districts.
“Republicans will have a higher turnout, but that means about 25 - 30 percent of registered voters,” Harris said. “In the grand scheme that’s not a high turnout, but it’s pretty average for a statewide primary.”
For both Democrats and Republicans, the voter turnout can still include 17-year-old residents who will turn 18 years old prior to the Nov. 4 general election as they can still register and vote in the primary election. They face the same registration deadlines as other voters.
According to the latest voter registration numbers, Connecticut now has close to 2 million active registered voters and the biggest chunk of them, 801,752, are unaffiliated. Meanwhile there are 704,561 Democrats and 399,815 Republicans. More than 32,000 residents have joined the voter rolls since the beginning of this year, according to Merrill’s office.
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):
State Senate District 2
(Parts of Bloomfield, Hartford and Windsor)
State Senate 20
(Bozrah, East Lyme, New London, Old Lyme, Salem, Waterford and parts of Montville and Old Saybrook)
State Senate 22
(Trumbull and parts of Bridgeport and Monroe)
State Senate 23
(Parts of Bridgeport and Stratford)
*Andres Ayala Jr.
House District 7
(Parts of Hartford)
House District 23
(Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and parts of Westbrook)
House District 32
Anthony “Tony” Salvatore
House District 44
(Parts of Killingly and Plainfield)
House District 47
(Canterbury, Chaplin, Franklin, Hampton, Scotland, parts of Lebanon, Lisbon, Norwich and Sprague)
House District 48
(Parts of Colchester, Lebanon, Mansfield, and Windham)
House District 64
(Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon and parts of Goshen and Torrington)
House District 122
(Parts of Shelton, Stratford, Trumbull)
House District 124
(Parts of Bridgeport)
House District 128
(Parts of Bridgeport)
House District 133
(Parts of Fairfield)
*Cristin McCarthey Vahey
House District 137
(Parts of Norwalk)
House District 140
(Parts of Norwalk)
House District 142
(Parts of New Canaan and Norwalk)
Probate District 27
Probate District 34
Registrar of Voters- Bristol
Registrar of Voters - Chaplin
*Eugene Boomer Jr.
Registrar of Voters - Danbury
*Susan Lewis Ward
Registrar of Voters - Hampton
Registrar of Voters - North Stonington
Registrar of Voters - Norwalk
Karen Doyle Lyons
Registrar of Voters - Somers
William Carl Walton III
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McKinney: Scrap Income Tax For Those Making Less Than $75K
STRATFORD—Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney released a plan Thursday to eliminate the state income tax for residents earning less than $75,000 beginning in 2017.
McKinney, the state senate minority leader, is competing for the Republican nomination against Tom Foley, the party’s convention-endorsed candidate. Republican voters will go to the polls on Aug. 12 to pick a candidate. Whichever wins will face incumbent Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
“We believe middle class people across Connecticut have paid too much in taxes and they deserve their money back,” McKinney said at a press conference outside a plaza in Stratford.
According to McKinney and his lieutenant governor running mate, David Walker, their proposal will end the state income tax for about 1 million residents, which will reduce state revenues by about $746 million.
McKinney has proposed to make controversial cuts in order to pay for the tax cut and close the $1.4 billion deficit, projected in next year’s budget. Those cuts include ending the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a $120 million a year program that sends money back to the working poor, who don’t necessarily pay income taxes.
“We’re trying to provide income tax relief for people who are paying income taxes. The bottom line is, they bore the brunt of the largest tax increase in state history,” McKinney said
The plan calls for labor concessions from state employee unions. That means restructuring their health benefits and requiring more worker contribution toward their pension benefits. The plan would reduce the number of state employees in management positions who are not unionized.
“There are how many deputy wardens in our prison system that hard-working correction offices don’t know what they do?” he asked. “By making the management levels efficient and trim, we project we can save about $120 million in the first year of the budget.”
Walker, a former U.S comptroller general, said Connecticut’s financial condition is “much worse than advertised” and the size of state government must be reduced.
“You can not achieve tax relief in this state without real spending reductions,” he said.
Foley has previously proposed to cut cut the sales tax by one-half of 1 percent. In a press release, his spokesman Chris Cooper said that proposal would benefit more Connecticut residents than McKinney’s “narrowly focused” income tax elimination.
“John McKinney is coming to the party very late. Tom Foley will provide broader-based tax relief than John McKinney is proposing including reducing the sales tax which benefits all Connecticut residents,” Cooper said.
McKinney said Foley lacks a plan to achieve the sales tax cut he mentioned. He said Foley has been unwilling to provide specific details on many of his proposals.
“All I’ve heard, to be fair to [Foley], is that because of his business experience, he can just simply make things grow less and somehow, without touching state employee health care, without touching Medicaid, he’s going to get lower spending and health care. Those are empty, vague promises. Let’s see his plan,” McKinney said.
In a statement, state Democratic Party spokesman Devon Puglia said McKinney’s plan would reverse progress Connecticut has made during Malloy’s first term.
Puglia said tax relief is important “but not at the expense of our schools, our roads and infrastructure, and elimination of other vital services. John McKinney has proposed slashing the Earned Income Tax Credit for low income residents, rental rebates for seniors, gutting money for schools, pulling the plug on health care, and laying off droves of employees. Under his latest plan, the cuts would be even deeper.”
Poll: In Three Way Contest, Malloy Up One Point Over Foley
A Republican polling firm found Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy up one point over Republican Tom Foley with third-party candidate Jonathan Pelto taking 3 percent of the vote.
Vox Populi Polling found that if the election was held today Malloy would beat Foley 35 to 34 percent with Pelto taking 3 percent of the 550 Connecticut voters surveyed. Malloy’s lead over Foley is within the 4.2 percent margin of error.
Sen. John McKinney, a Republican who is seeking the Republican nomination in the Aug. 12 primary, was not included in the poll. The company only asked about Malloy, Foley and Pelto, according to the information it released Thursday.
A fourth candidate Joseph Visconti who is also seeking to petition his way onto the November ballot was not included.
The poll found that 27 percent of voters are still undecided.
“Republicans have a potential pick up opportunity in Connecticut,” Vox Populi Polling pollster Brent Seaborn said. “With the majority of voters disapproving of Dannel Malloy’s performance as governor and a third party candidate in the race, this seat is prime for Tom Foley’s taking.”
The poll has a 4.2 percent margin of error and 443 interviews were conducted on landlines, while 107 were conducted using mobile-based survey technology. All interviews were conducted July 27 and July 28.
Tags: Vox Populi Polling, Tom Foley, Dannel P. Malloy, Jonathan Pelto, poll, survey, Joseph Visconti, John McKinney, Aug. 12 primary
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Foley Ads Not Reaching The Hearing-Impaired
With Connecticut’s gubernatorial election less than three months away, Republican candidate Tom Foley may have been failing to reach a specific margin of the state’s citizens — those who can’t hear.
Foley’s television commercials have not been closed captioned this year while Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s TV spots have, according to the president of Critical Mention, a company that uses closed captioning to help both government and non-government firms and corporations track their on-air mentions.
A spokesman for Foley’s campaign said Wednesday evening that the absence of closed captioning in their advertisements was not intentional. The campaign is now in the process of adding them, he said.
For the hearing-impaired, closed captioning — or the feature that allows television networks to run text captions alongside their programming — provides a more comprehensive viewing experience to a medium that may otherwise be ineffective.
According to the model-based estimates made by the Gallaudet Research Institute, the hearing-impaired population of Connecticut reached 36,730 in 2012, or 1.6 percent of the state’s total 18- to 64-year-old population.
And although 1.6 percent may seem slim, it’s larger than the number of votes by which Foley lost the 2010 gubernatorial election, when Malloy beat out the Republican candidate by just 6,404 votes.
Malloy spokesman Mark Bergman said the campaign wants to see the governor’s efforts “broadcasting to as wide a group as possible.”
Bergman continued: “In our advertising we want to make sure that we are communicating as best that we can.”
In a press release, National Institute of the Deaf President Gerry Buckley said advertisers that choose not to use closed captions are missing out on an influential sect of consumers.
“They have buying power,” he said. “They should be seeing it as a part of their responsibility to reach a new audience.”
When it comes to attracting a wider audience, major PR firms agree that closed captioning is one of the more useful tools, according to Critical Mention President David Armon.
Among the agencies that he has helped to track, Armon said the companies that do not chose to include cross-captioning put themselves at a disadvantage with audiences who use that feature on their televisions. Those audiences can include people who are aging, he said.
“Those who were too cheap to do closed captioning missed out on consumer love,” Armon said. “It’s the same thing with politicians — it’s like you’re saying to a specific group, ‘We don’t care about you.’”
Since 2006, the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that 100 percent of all new, English-language television programming must be produced and presented with closed captions. Although commercials have been exempt from the national requirement, the Association of National Advertisers has been pushing since 2010 for all national advertisements to be closed captioned.
“When commercials are not closed captioned, the audio information — including potentially your advertising message — does not reach its maximum potential,” the ANA said in a report. “In addition, the advertiser may be unintentionally communicating to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing that their business is not valued.”
The AMA puts the cost of closed captioning commercials at $250 for a Standard Definition commercial and $350 for a higher definition commercial.
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McKinney To Detail Income Tax Cut Plan
Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney will explain how he plans to eliminate the state income tax for middle earners during press event Thursday morning, according to his campaign.
McKinney is running in an Aug. 12 primary race against Republican convention-endorsed candidate Tom Foley. He included the goal of ending the income tax for middle income taxpayers by 2017 on his website as a bullet point in a general outline of his budget plan.
It was not clear Wednesday what range of income tax brackets McKinney and his running mate, David Walker, would eliminate or how they would fill the resulting budget shortfall. Even without cutting revenue, the state budget is projected to be $1.4 billion in deficit next year.
According the general outline, McKinney will propose to reduce spending by $1.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2016, cut expansions made to state programs under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and reduce management positions in state government. McKinney would also seek more labor concessions from state employees.
McKinney and Walker began running new television and radio ads this week touting the plan.
“Our plan puts taxpayers first by eliminating income taxes on middle class families, cutting wasteful spending, and shrinking state government,” Walker says in the 30-second TV spot.
Malloy and Foley have essentially ruled out raising taxes as a tool to close projected budget shortfalls. But neither candidate has made a campaign promise of cutting them.
McKinney has tried to set himself apart from Foley and Malloy by framing himself as the only candidate willing to cut spending and ask the state employee unions for more labor concessions. His budget plan on his website also calls for ending policies that allow state employees to “pad” their pensions.
The unions do not seem eager to come back to the negotiating table. Most of the state’s major labor unions already have endorsed Malloy. Meanwhile, CSEA released a statement Tuesday calling McKinney audacious for referring to the labor concession package negotiated under the Malloy administration a “sweetheart deal” for state employees.
“For the record, the supposed ‘sweetheart deal’ canceled raises, delayed retirements, restructured benefits and required additional pension and healthcare contributions,” the statement read.
Malloy on MSNBC: Obama Welcome To Campaign In Connecticut
Despite some recent “rocky days” for President Barack Obama, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told MSNBC’s “The Morning Joe” on Wednesday the president is still welcome to come to Connecticut and campaign for his re-election.
“The president’s had some rocky days, there’s no doubt about it. But I think fundamentally, and certainly people in Connecticut, understand hard work, diligence and that he’s handling some tough issues,” the governor said during the Wednesday morning appearance.
Malloy, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, has been a close ally of Obama’s throughout his first term. Under Malloy, Connecticut became the first state to heed Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. And Malloy received national attention for defending the poli