Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Politics and Policy: Malloy Announces Transportation Improvements

By Mark Pazniokas

Waterbury – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy flexed the powers of incumbency today in a rain-swept commuter lot by I-84. Malloy couldn’t stop the rain, but he could command a supportive audience of political, union and business leaders. Image
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy slips on a DOT rain slicker today. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo

One after another, they stepped to a microphone to thank the first-term Democratic governor, a candidate for re-election this year, for planned investments in transportation infrastructure, even if the pace of those investments has been a source of frustration to some on his guest list, who see a growing backlog of overdue projects.

The event was staged by one of the state’s most notorious commuter bottlenecks, a two-lane, 2.7-mile stretch of I-84 on the approach to Waterbury from the east. A third lane will be added in both directions at an estimated cost of $400 million to $450 million, with the project going to bid in June. [Other announced improvements were rehabilitation of the Merritt Parkway in Stamford and operational improvements on I-95 in Norwalk.]

“Connecticut is moving again,” Malloy said.

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Posted 06:36 PM
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Friday, April 11, 2014

GOP Gov Candidates Debate Guns, Taxes, Corruption and TV Shows

By Arielle Levin Becker

The five Republican candidates for governor who faced off in a debate today signed a pledge to treat each other with respect, and they did: The jabs were reserved for the man each hopes to replace, first-term Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Image
Five Republican candidates for governor debated at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford. Above them on the wall was a Twain quote: “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Arielle Levin Becker/ photo

Their answers varied more in degree than broad strokes on questions ranging from taxes to corruption to—with one exception—gun-control legislation. They favor local control in education over the new Common Core state standards and reducing state spending and taxes. (They consider Malloy’s proposed $55 tax rebates to be a gimmick.)

One of the widest divides came in their answers to a question about their favorite TV show. (One favors programs featuring zombies and meth dealers; another said her parents prohibited television because they thought it ruined the brain.)

Still, their answers revealed differences in how the candidates hope to position themselves in advance of the GOP’s May 17 nominating convention.

The debate, held at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, was sponsored by The Hartford Courant and FoxCT, and will be televised at 10 a.m. Sunday.

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Posted 10:10 PM
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As Curtain Goes Up, Rowland Promises a Different Ending

By Mark Pazniokas

New Haven – The last time was different. John G. Rowland arrived with an entourage, a cordon of protectors at his sentencing a decade ago. Awaiting him then were political activists intent on a last word with their toppled governor. A guy in a mask waved a sign, “See ya in Hell, Johnny.” Image
John Rowland leaves the federal courthouse in New Haven today with one of his attorneys. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Douglas Healey for

Today, Rowland was more an object of media curiosity than public scorn. Connecticut’s 86th governor was the first to win three four-year terms, the first to resign in the face of impeachment, and the first to go to prison. But this is the second time he climbed the steps to the U.S. Courthouse here to keep an appointment with a judge.

The curtain was going up on what his lawyer, Reid H. Weingarten, promised will be a different show, a new story that ends with a trial and a verdict, not a negotiated plea. Rowland was here to be arraigned on new charges in connection with what authorities say was his soliciting two congressional campaigns in 2010 and 2012 to secretly pay him as a political consultant.

“We will have an aggressive challenge to these charges,” Weingarten told reporters. “We are looking forward to it. Most of all we are looking forward to this trial, and we fully expect our client to be fully vindicated.”

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Posted 06:38 PM
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Federal Grand Jury Indicts Former Gov. John Rowland

By Mark Pazniokas

A federal grand jury today indicted John G. Rowland on seven counts, accusing the former Republican governor, congressman and conservative radio host of conspiring with a congressional candidate and her husband in 2012 to hide his role as a consultant to her campaign. Image
John Rowland as Connecticut governor. photo

The indictment charges Rowland in connection with his efforts to establish sham consulting deals with two Republican congressional candidates seeking his old 5th District seat in 2010 and 2012. Mark Greenberg rebuffed him in 2010, but Lisa Wilson-Foley agreed to secretly pay for his help.

Rowland will be arraigned Friday at 2:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court in New Haven, where he pleaded guilty to a corruption charge in 2004 and was sentenced in 2005.

Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty March 31 to conspiracy and identified Rowland as their co-conspirator. By week’s end, Rowland had signed off as radio host to await indictment.

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Posted 06:36 PM
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In Rare Move, House Kills Proposed GMO Grass Seed Ban

By Arielle Levin Becker and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

In an unusual move that could have ripple effects for the rest of the legislative session, the state House today killed a proposal favored by the Senate’s top lawmaker.

The bill would ban genetically engineered grass seed designed to resist pesticides and herbicides, a product that isn’t yet on the market but is believed to be in development. Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams, Jr., D-Brooklyn, pushed for the ban in his chamber, which passed it Wednesday night.

But House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, a fellow Democrat, was skeptical about the concept. And House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, blasted both the substance of the proposal and its origins. The proposed ban never went through a public hearing because Williams added it as an amendment to another bill.

Typically, bills don’t come up for debate on the House or Senate floor unless their passage is assured. The grass seed bill came up under different circumstances this afternoon: Its defeat was essentially certain.

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Posted 06:20 PM
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Contract Approved to Service Ballot Boxes Image
The Westport Board of Selectmen today approved an annual maintenance contract with LHS Associates, Inc. for $4,200 for maintenance, repair and service of, tabulator/ballot boxes starting in July.  Previously, according to Marla Cowden, Democrat Registrar of Voters (r), the cost was funded by the Help America to Vote Act. She said the cost has been budgeted but needed selectmen approval to authorize the contractor expense. During the discussion, Cowden said she anticipates primary contests in August involving gubernatorial candidates. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Mtlow for

Posted 11:10 AM
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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A Kennedy With Ambitions on a Seat in Hartford

By Mark Pazniokas

Branford – Ted Kennedy Jr. today made his debut as a candidate for public office, blessed and burdened by a name that makes instant allies and passionate enemies of perfect strangers. His father, uncles and brother began earlier, sights set on Congress or beyond. Kennedy, 52, is running for the part-time Connecticut General Assembly. Image
Ted Kennedy Jr. greets friends after announcing for state Senate. At left is his wife, Kiki.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo

“It is with great pride tonight that I declare my candidacy for the Connecticut state Senate,” Kennedy said, standing on stage in the auditorium of the James Blackstone Memorial Library in the center of Branford, where he’s lived for two decades with his wife, Kiki. An audience of more than 100 rose and offered sustained applause.

Gina MacDonald-Paige, a friend from the town’s Stony Creek neighborhood, stood and waved a sign. It said, “Finally!!!”

His brother, Patrick, was elected to the Rhode Island legislature at 21 and to Congress at 27. His father, who died in 2009 at age 77 after more than four decades in the U.S. Senate, had urged him many times to run, even if it meant a return to the family’s political base in Massachusetts.

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Posted 08:13 PM
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Friday, April 04, 2014

Secretary of the State Outlines Early Voting Initiative ImageDenise Merrill, Connecticut’s Secretary of the State, told a League of Women Voters of Westport meeting at the Westport Library today that she is working hard to make it easier to vote in Connecticut. She said already same day registration has been enacted and there will be constitutional amendment on the ballot that will allow for a longer voting period. For example, this would allow people to vote on a Saturday before a Tuesday election, she said. Merrill noted that 32 states already have early voting laws. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for
Posted 06:22 PM
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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Rowland Signs Off at WTIC-AM, Citing ‘Personal Issues’

By Mark Pazniokas

Former Gov. John G. Rowland, who was named Monday as a conspirator in a criminal case involving a friend’s 2012 congressional campaign, today abruptly announced his resignation as a WTIC-AM radio host as his drive-time talk show was ending at 6 p.m.

“Alright, tomorrow the Red Sox will be on at this hour, and you’ll be enjoying them,” Rowland said, his voice composed. “But I also want to say that today will be my last show as I leave the station to take care of some personal issues.”

Rowland, 56, once again the target of federal prosecutors nearly a decade after a previous scandal chased him from office, never identified the personal issues, but documents made public Monday indicate he is likely to soon face a federal conspiracy charge.

“We accept Mr. Rowland’s decision to step down at this time,” Jenneen Lee, the station’s program director, said in a statement posted on the station’s website soon after Rowland went off the air.

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Posted 08:30 PM
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Gun-Control Advocates to Back CT Allies with Super PAC

By Mark Pazniokas

A coalition of 28 gun-control groups in Connecticut marked the anniversary of a legislative victory – bipartisan passage of a sweeping gun law in response to the Newtown massacre – by promising today to protect their allies from political defeat this fall.

On the spot where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill into law at the State Capitol, the groups announced they will form a super PAC to defend the 26 senators and 105 representatives who passed the legislation and governor who signed it in response to one of the nation’s worst mass shootings.

“This will be the greatest ever collaboration of these Connecticut groups,” said Ron Pinciaro, the executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence. “We are united in our commitment.”

Whether the coalition can develop the strategy, resources and capabilities to turn out voters in Connecticut is untested. Nationally, gun owners have outmuscled gun-control advocates at the polls, most notably in Colorado, where two Democratic senators who played critical roles in passing state gun laws were ousted in special elections last year.

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Posted 06:09 PM
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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Westport Democrats Meet Under New Leadership Image
Westport Democrats met tonight for the first time under new Democratic Town Committee Chair John Hartwell (standing). Among topics discussed was choosing delegates to state conventions next month. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Posted 08:45 PM
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Malloy: Rowland Should Be Taken Off Air

By Mark Pazniokas

Former Gov. John G. Rowland, who was identified in federal court Monday as a secret, illegally paid advisor to a congressional candidate in 2012, has abused his position as a radio talk show host and should be taken off the air by WTIC-AM, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today.

“He was not serving the public office, but he had the interesting position of trying to impact and influence political discourse on an afternoon radio show. That somebody would violate that trust as well is disturbing,” Malloy said in response to reporters’ questions.

But Rowland was at the microphone at 3:07 p.m., when traffic and weather ended, and a snippet played from his theme song, “Only in America.”

“Before I get the program going, I just want to make a quick statement. I am not going to be discussing the legal news and developments,” Rowland said. “I’m sure that you all understand, and I want to respect the process. First things first.”

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Posted 07:12 PM
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Malloy’s Tax Rebate Clears Big Hurdle

By Keith M. Phaneuf

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy cleared a big hurdle today in his bid to provide a $55-per-person rebate to taxpayers when the legislature’s tax-writing panel endorsed the plan.

The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee approved more than $210 million in tax cuts across this fiscal year, endorsing tax relief for retired teachers, municipalities and business investors.

The committee’s recommendations, coupled with the $19 billion spending plan recommended last week by the Appropriations Committee, will form the foundation for negotiations with the Malloy administration as it and the legislature craft a final state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The deal is expected to be completed before the regular 2014 legislative session ends May 7.

“The taxpayers of this state stepped up,” Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, co-chairman of the finance panel, said, referring to more than $1.5 billion in state tax increases levied three years ago in response to a historic budget deficit.

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Posted 04:34 PM
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Monday, March 31, 2014

Conspirators’ Guilty Pleas Make Rowland a Target

By Mark Pazniokas

Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty today to a federal conspiracy charge stemming from what they described as an effort to conceal $35,000 in payments to former Gov. John G. Rowland for help with Wilson-Foley’s unsuccessful congressional campaign in 2012.

Rowland, 56, who reinvented himself as a popular radio host on Hartford’s WTIC-AM after serving 10 months in prison on a federal corruption conviction, was identified in court as a co-conspirator of the couple, meaning he is the target of a federal corruption investigation for the second time in a decade.

The former governor was spared being on the air as the story broke: His afternoon drive-time program was preempted on WTIC AM by the season opener of the Boston Red Sox.

Rowland and his local lawyer, Bartley Halloran, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Posted 05:09 PM
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Yes, Dan Malloy is Running in 2014

By Mark Pazniokas

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy let Connecticut voters in on the state’s worst-kept political secret today: He and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman are running for re-election.

The only surprise was the time and place of the announcement. With a wry smile, Malloy confirmed their candidacy in the atrium of the Legislative Office Building at the conclusion of the press conference that follows every monthly meeting of the Bond Commission.

“Nancy and I have talked about the race and we both reached a mutual conclusion that we should go to the people of the state of Connecticut and ask them for their support to continue the work that we’ve been undertaking in the last 3.6 years,” Malloy said. “We’re very happy to announce today that we will begin that work.”

The crowds of lobbyists, legislators and Capitol staffers that assemble for the monthly sessions, which are amplified and can be heard throughout the five-story atrium, applauded.

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Posted 12:47 PM
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