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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Once a Talk-Show Punchline, Busway Almost Ready to Roll

By Mark Pazniokas

It was a topic to avoid on the campaign trail, a $567 million punch line for much of his first term — “the busway to nowhere.” But now that he is re-elected and it’s nearing completion, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is embracing the rebranded “CT fastrak.”

On a tour by bus today over the 9.4-mile off-road “guideway” from Hartford to New Britain, a relaxed Malloy said he thinks he and others associated with bringing bus rapid transit to Connecticut will have the last laugh.

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Posted 05:53 PM
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blumenthal, Murphy Split on Budget Bill That Averts Shutdown

By Ann Radalet

Washington – Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, split over a massive omnibus spending bill the Senate approved late today, ending the threat of a government shutdown.

Murphy voted for the $1.1 trillion bill; Blumenthal did not. The 56-40 vote came after a day of wrangling over the bill’s funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which conservative Republicans said would help President Obama implement his recent steps to stop the deportation of millions of undocumented aliens.

The bill funds Homeland Security only through February, which will give the incoming Republican-controlled Congress another chance to strip the immigration funding.

Meanwhile, liberal Democrats, including Blumenthal, objected to the bill because it would ease a reform adopted after the financial crash that bans federally insured banks from trading financial instruments called derivatives. They were also opposed to a provision that relaxed federal pension rules and another that would lift a cap on rich donors who contribute to political parties.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Murphy Wins Seat on Senate Appropriations Committee

Washington – Sen. Chris Murphy, who is still in his freshman term in the Senate, has been given a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee in the next Congress, a powerful panel that decides all spending issues and is responsible for the budget that funds all federal departments and programs.

“Joining the Appropriations Committee has been a priority for me since I joined the Senate, and I’m honored to have won a slot in just my third year here,” Murphy said. “The Appropriations Committee is so vital to Connecticut— it makes decisions on how much money is spent on submarines, helicopters and jet engines for our military, and it funds work on Connecticut’s interstates and rail lines.”

Murphy also tweeted he’s the first Connecticut senator to sit on an appropriations panel in nearly 30 years.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, meanwhile, tweeted that he will be the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee next year.


Posted 04:48 PM
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spending Bill: Himes Has Tough Win

By Ann Radalet

Washington – For Rep. Jim Himes, House approval late today of legislation that would allow banks to trade derivatives—a measure he’s been promoting for years—is a bittersweet victory.

“I’m not happy that it became a super-hot button issue when it always received bipartisan support,” Himes said.

The provision stirred up a Democratic firestorm that threw passage of the country’s omnibus spending bill into a last-minute tailspin.

Backed by Himes, D-4th District, the legislation was included in the massive $1.1 trillion budget bill the House approved on a 219-206 vote just hours before current legislation funding the federal government expired at midnight.

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Posted 11:18 PM
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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Planned Multi-Family Housing Tops Legislative Forum

By James Lomuscio

In the face of two multi-family housing projects planned for Westport, state legislators at a Westport forum today focused on state statute 8-30g, which allows developers to overstep local zoning laws if a town does not have 10 percent of its housing stock classified as affordable, which Westport does not. Image
Participants in today’s forum included (l-r) state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, Sen. Tony Hwang, Sen. Toni Boucher, and Rep. Gail Lavielle.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

“It is the worst violation of local control, an overreach of best intentions,” newly elected Sen. Tony Hwang, a Republican serving District 28, said about the 1989 law intended to create more affordable housing in the state.

Hwang was speaking at a Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC) sponsored legislative update titled “Where Do We Go from Here.” The meeting, held in cooperation with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) in the Westport Library’s McManus Room, attracted about 20 persons.

Other participating legislators included Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican serving the 26th District, Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing District 143, and Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat who serves District 136.

More "Planned Multi-Family Housing Tops Legislative Forum"

Posted 12:14 PM
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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Legislative Update Set for Library Thursday

A post-election legislative update titled “Where Do We Go from Here,” is set for Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Westport Library’s McManus Room.

It will feature state Sen. Toni Boucher, Sen. Tony Hwang, Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and Rep. Gail Lavielle.

Sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC) in association with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), the event will explore what legislators foresee during the next session, according to Matthew Mandell, WWCC executive director who will moderate the forum.

“I’m pleased that all of our elected officials are coming to share their thoughts and vision,” said Mandell. “This is a great opportunity for our business people and residents alike to come ask questions and see how they will be represented.”

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Posted 06:07 PM
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obama Actions Help Some CT Immigrants, But Not Others

By Ann Radalet

Washington – President Obama’s controversial move announced tonight to stop the deportation of millions of immigrants will help thousands of undocumented people living and working in Connecticut, but bypasses thousands of others.

The president said his use of executive action to change immigration regulations would help as many as 5 million migrants. The number of immigrants that would be helped in Connecticut is difficult to determine.

Connecticut has a diverse immigrant community with peoples from South America, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Africa. Many are here legally, but an estimated 55,000 to 100,000 are undocumented.

Of those undocumented, the largest group that will be helped belong to “mixed families,” where some members are citizens or legal residents and others are not.

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Posted 10:16 PM
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Malloy’s Emergency Budget Cuts Fall on Social Services, Education

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today ordered almost $48 million in emergency budget cuts, imposing the deepest cuts on social services, education and culture and tourism promotion.

The cuts, which do not require legislative approval, whittle the nearly $100 million deficit Malloy projected last week down to $52 million.

The governor also asked the Legislative and Judicial branches, whose budgets he cannot reduce unilaterally, to accept another $6.9 million in cuts. If granted, those potential reductions, along with $66,000 in reductions volunteered by the state’s watchdog agencies—which also are exempted from mandatory rescissions—would lower the deficit to $45 million.

And while the remaining shortfall represents only one-quarter of 1 percent of the state’s general fund – which covers the bulk of operating costs in this year’s overall $19 billion state budget, the potential for more red ink remains.

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Posted 05:46 PM
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Despite GOP Opposition, Senate Confirms New CT Judge

By Ann Radalet

Washington – New Haven Corporation Counsel Victor Allen Bolden was confirmed by the U.S. Senate today to a federal judgeship in Connecticut on a narrow 49-46 vote. Image
Victor Bolden: former ACLU lawyer. New Haven Independent photo

All Senate Republicans opposed the nomination of Bolden, 49, who has served as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Four moderate Democrats also voted “no” on the nomination. They were Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Heidi Heitcamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.

Bolden’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut had been controversial since it was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September. All eight Republican members of the committee voted against Bolden’s nomination, all 10 Democrats on the panel, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., voted for it.

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Posted 04:37 PM
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Pelosi Skips Himes, Naming New Mexico Democrat as DCCC Head

By Ann Radalet

Washington – In a surprise move, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today chose New Mexico Democrat Ben Ray Lujan to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, overlooking a handful of Democrats, including Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, who had been considered for the job.

Lujan, 42, would replace Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who said he did not want another term as chairman.

“Proud to announce next @DCCC Chair will be Ben Ray Lujan, whose vision, energy & leadership will bring House Dems to victory in 2016,” Pelosi tweeted today.

Pelosi also indicated Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, will keep her position as co-chairman of the House Democratic Steering Committee, which, among other things, decides committee assignments for Democratic members.

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Posted 06:12 PM
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Friday, November 14, 2014

It’s official: CT’s Budget is $89M to $100M in the Red

By Keith M. Phaneuf

UPDATE The state budget received its first official deficit reports today when nonpartisan legislative analysts and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration projected shortfalls ranging from $89 million to just under $100 million.

And while the administration issued the larger of the two deficit forecasts—$99.5 million—budget director Benjamin Barnes, insisted it quickly would be closed, and reasserted Malloy’s insistence that tax hikes are not an option.

“This is consistent with what the administration has been saying,” Barnes said, “that no matter what the projections are, we will manage and administer the budget so that there will be no deficit. It is important to remember that this is a prediction of what would happen now and in the future should we do nothing—and doing nothing is not an option.”

More than half of the deficits projected both by the governor’s staff and by the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis stems from declining revenues, particularly involving receipts from Indian casinos and federal grants.

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Posted 04:38 PM
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Malloy to Order Emergency Cuts, Hiring Freeze

By Keith M. Phaneuf

To reverse an impending state budget deficit, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has told agencies it will order emergency spending cuts and freeze all-but-critical hiring to offset an impending budget deficit.

The move prompted concerns today from both private- and public-sector unions that this would stymie Malloy’s big initiative to expand Department of Transportation professional staff and, in turn, to launch more highway, bridge and rail construction work.

In a memo sent late Wednesday to all agency heads, the governor’s budget director, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes also reinforced existing caps on overtime work.

Current budget trends, including both shrinking revenues and cost-overruns in various agencies “will ... result in a general fund deficit if management actions are not taken right away,” Barnes wrote.

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Posted 06:44 PM
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Town Clerk: Westport’s Voter Turnout Highest in County Image
Among those enjoying themselves today at a League of Women Voters of Westport post-election luncheon were (l-r) Town Clerk Patricia Strauss, Selectman Helen Garten, First Selectman Jim Marpe, and Board of Assessment Appeals member Elaine Arnow. Strauss told the guests that Westport’s almost 62 percent voter turnout was the highest in Fairfield County and thanked the League for its voters’ guide. “It is so important to the residents of Westport,” she said. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for

Posted 03:23 PM
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LWV of Westport Post-Election Lunch

Scenes from today’s League of Women Voters of Westport post-election lunch held at the home of Hope and Alvin Hageman. Phyllis Groner for

Posted 03:20 PM
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Monday, November 10, 2014

CT Budget Again Faces Red Ink

By Keith M. Phaneuf

Despite a small bump upward in state tax receipts, new cracks in state finances surfaced today that could contribute to a budget deficit forecast by week’s end.

A joint report by nonpartisan analysts and by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration projects total state revenues will fall about $59 million below the level built into this year’s budget, less than 1 percent of the general fund. Projected losses in federal grants and gaming revenues more than offset about $10 million in growth in this year’s tax receipts.

That modest decline in revenues follows last week’s warning by nonpartisan analysts of larger concerns on the spending side of the budget, involving more than $80 million in potential cost-overruns.

And while today’s consensus report from the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis and the administration’s Office of Policy and Management increased expectations for tax receipts slightly this year, it lowered them by $52 million in the next budget, where a large deficit already exists. The latest numbers push the projected deficit for 2015-16 beyond $1.42 billion.

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Posted 07:13 PM
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