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Headlines from Courant.com

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    State employees could be facing more than 4,700 layoffs and millions in additional spending cuts if they fail to reach an agreement with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on savings and concessions.

    Malloy's budget director has released a "Plan B'' budget Friday that would layoffs in all three branches of government, as well as options for an additional $1.2 billion in spending cuts.

    The new proposal would move forward if the state fails to reach an agreement on concessions with the state-employee unions. The Malloy administration and the unions are scheduled to continue holding talks this weekend for $2 billion in savings over the next two years, but there is no hard-and-fast deadline if progress is being made.

    "I'm not going to put a time limit on it,'' said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy's senior adviser and chief spokesman. "It's a fluid situation. It's a sensitive situation.''

    The $1.2 billion in proposed cuts is a menu of possible reductions that Malloy would choose and then propose to the legislature - rather than being the actual plan.

    "It is a framework,'' Occhiogrosso said.

    Under the law passed this week as part of the budget, the new cuts would require approval by the Democratic-controlled legislature before the end of the legislative session on June 8.

    Overall, the options include $1.67 billion in cuts to fill a hole of $1 billion, including $455 million that would be saved from the 4,742 layoffs of both unionized and non-union workers. The layoffs would include nearly 4,200 layoffs in the executive branch through state agencies, 80 in the legislative branch, and 470 in the judicial branch.

    The state has 46,290 full-time workers who are paid with state funds, and the totals do not include part-time workers or those paid with federal funds.

    The layoffs would be made at more than 40 different departments and agencies, ranging from the state prison system to the University of Connecticut.

    The agencies would have an average cutback of 10 percent of the workforce, but the numbers vary widely from agency to agency.

    At the Department of Revenue Services, where the state is trying to collect as much in taxes as possible, only 1.6 percent of the workforce would be laid off. At the Department of Developmental Services, which is one of the largest state agencies with 3,617 employees, only 1.5 percent would be laid off.

    The highest number of layoffs would come at the State Department of Education, which would lose 1,413 of its 1,706 employees - or 82.8 percent.

    The other agencies with large layoffs would be 471 jobs in higher education, including the Connecticut State University system, 319 at the Department of Corrections, 285 at the University of Connecticut, 277 at the state transportation department, and 188 at the newly formed Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

    In the governor's office, 3 of the authorized 27 positions would be eliminated. In addition, 12 of the 148 positions in the governor's budget office - a separate entity - would be eliminated.

    While the corrections department has a relatively large number with 319 layoffs, it represents about 5 percent of the department's 6,493 employees.

    At the Department of Children and Families, a long-troubled agency that has often been in the headlines with problems with troubled children, 3.2 percent of the agency's 3,284 workers would be laid off.


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    A conservative group and several Republican lawmakers is filing a legal challenge to the newly adopted state budget, alleging that its assumption of $2 billion of yet-to-be-determined savings violates the Connecticut constitution.

    "In 1992 the people of Connecticut overwhelmingly voted for [a] balanced budget amendment as a protection against the kind of shenanigans and abuse we saw this week at the state capitol,'' said Tom Scott, a former lawmaker who founded the Roger Sherman Liberty Center, the conservative think tank behind the lawsuit.

    The budget, approved by the state House and Senate earlier this week and signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday is "a dirty deal...a raw deal,'' Scott said.

    Colleen Flanagan, spokeswoman for the Malloy administration, expressed confidence that the spending package would withstand the legal challenge.

    "We researched the matter when the Republicans made this claim,'' she said in an email. "We've reviewed the matter and are confident that it is fully compliant with the Connecticut constitution and that the courts and won't interfere with the duly adopted budget of the State of Connecticut.''


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    Former CIA agent and former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons says that the photographs depicting the deceased terrorist Osama bin Laden should be released to the general public.

    Simmons, who made his comments during a taping of "The Stan Simpson Show'' at the studios at Fox CT in Hartford, said the release would end any controversy such as the long-running dispute over President Barack Obama's birth certificate that showed he was born in Hawaii.

    "Do it. Get it over with and get on with it,'' Simmons told Simpson on the 30-minute program.

    Simmons also said he does not believe that officials in Pakistan were unaware of bin Laden's presence at a one-acre compound in a relatively crowded neighborhood that was near military facilities that were "the equivalent of West Point or Annapolis.''

    Finding bin Laden in that neighborhood was like discovering him "in a mansion out near McLean, Virginia,'' which is near the CIA headquarters, Simmons said.


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    State Rep. William Tong, a three-term Democrat from Stamford, made it official this morning in interviews with WFSB's Dennis House and his hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate.

    A self-described political moderate with a stellar resume (Phillips Academy, Brown University and a law degree from the University of Chicago), Tong acknowledged that running for U.S. Senate is a "heavy lift." But he told the Advocate's Elizabeth Kim that "there's a place in this field for me."

    U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz declared their intention to run for the seat in January. The current occupant, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, is not seeking reelection.

    If elected, Tong would be the first Asian-American to serve as a U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

    In an interview last month, one prominent state Democrfat called Tong "the Asian Obama," a reference to his politics, his compelling life story and the fact that he's a state-level official looking to make the jump to the big leagues, just as President Obama had done.

     

     


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    A bill that would ban most new hookah lounges in the state narrowly cleared another legislative hurdle this afternoon.

    The planning and development committee endorsed the measure by a vote of 11 to 10. The bill has already received the backing of the legislature's public health committee. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

    The proposal would permit smoking in hookah lounges that opened before Dec. 31, 2010, but  would direct the state Department of Public health to draft regulations governing those lounges. New hookah lounges would be prohibited.

    Supporters cited health statistics to bolster their case. They say hookah lounges pose a significant public health risk. They cited research linking hookah smoking to the spread of tuberculosis, to the exposure to toxic chemicals in smoke such as arsenic and lead, and to an increased risk of cigarette smoking among hookah smokers.

    But opponents of the ban say hookah smoking is a matter of personal choice. Rep. Kim Rose, a Democrat from Milford and a member of the planning and development committee, compared hookah lounges to cigar bars. "I understand the health concerns but if somebody wants to smoke at a hookah lounge, it's their right,'' she said.

    Rose questioned how many TB cases have been linked to hookah smoking; she said she favors regulations, so smokers are aware of the risk but does not support an outright ban.

    Hookah smoking are a centuries-old tradition in the Middle East. Patrons gather in lounges to talk, drink tea, and puff on hoses connected to large water pipes whose bowls are filled with flavored tobacco. In recent years, several such businesses have opened in the state while others have been rejected by local authorities.

     


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    The controversial paid sick-leave bill was narrowly approved by the budget-writing appropriations committee Monday after a major debate over labor versus business.

    Connecticut would be the first state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave, and the bill has been opposed sharply by the 10,000-member Connecticut Business and Industry Association. The bill would only affect companies with 50 or more employees.

    The measure was approved by 28 to 24, but now the big question is over the vote in the state Senate, where some insiders say that the vote count is close to an 18 to 18 tie in the 36-member chamber.

    Sen. Edith Prague, a liberal Democrat from Columbia, defended the measure strongly in the appropriations commitee Monday afternoon. 

    "It makes for a better employee, a more productive employee, and this is the right thing to do,'' Prague said.

    If part-time employees work 20 hours per week for 26 weeks for a total of 520 hours per year, they can start accumulating hours to be used for paid sick time, she said.

    She cited an article by two women who said that "doomsday predictions'' by businesses are wrong.

    "Business owners who don't want to give paid sick days came in to testify against the bill,'' Prague told her colleagues. "There are opinions on both sides of this issue.''

    But Sen. Rob Kane, a small business owner and the ranking Senate Republican on the appropriations committee, said he meets with fellow small business owners who simply scratch their heads about what is happening in Connecticut's state government.

    "The first question out of their mouth is : What the heck are you doing up in Hartford?'' Kane said. "We already know that we have the highest taxes in the country, per capita. Many business magazines and trade publications say this is the worst state to do business. ... No other state has a bill like this.''


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    Governor Dannel Malloy's Plan B budget options, including 4,700 layoffs of state employees, have received widespread denunciation around the state.

    From legislators to state agencies to cities and towns, officials are saying they want to avoid as much as $550 million in potential cuts in the first year that could come if the state fails to reach an agreement with the state employee unions.

    The list of options, in addition to 4,700 layoffs, include potentially cutting $482 million in state aid to cities and towns.

    Roy Occhiogrosso, the senior advisor and chief spokesman for Malloy, said he was not surprised at the opposition to the proposed cuts because the administration has the same view. 

    "We don't like it. The governor doesn't like it,'' Occhiogrosso said. "That's why it's Plan B and not Plan A. He doesn't like it. He sure doesn't expect anyone else to like it.''

    Malloy's budget director, Ben Barnes, delivered a list of $1.2 billion in potential options that would eventually be pared down by Malloy and the legislature. Under the law, Malloy would need to present his new version of the budget by May 31 in order for the legislature to act by the scheduled end of the legislative session on June 8. 

    "It is a framework, so the details in all likelihood would change,'' Occhiogrosso said. "The final Plan B [if there is no union deal] would include the least horrible mix of spending cuts, layoffs, and reductions in municipal aid.''

    Sen. Edith Prague, a key player as the vice chairwoman of the budget-writing appropriations committee, said the 4,700 layoffs would backfire because the state would be forced to pay the full cost of unemployment benefits directly to the laid-off workers.

    "This Plan B takes my breath away,'' Prague said Monday. "It's so unbelievable what it would do to the state of Connecticut. I can't believe these cuts. This is the worst I have seen.''

    The options include eliminating the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, closing four workers' compensation district offices, shutting down both Governor's Horse Guards in Newtown and Avon, selling the state police helicopter and eliminating all funding for the Office of the Child Advocate.

    "I don't mind closing prisons, and I don't mind doing away with longevity pay, and I don't mind looking at some of the outrageous salaries for the fire department at CVH,'' Prague said. She was referring to a story in Sunday's Hartford Courant by Jon Lender that said that the annual wages, including overtime, in the past fiscal year were more than $130,000 each for the fire chief and assistant chief at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown.

    Prague also said she has no problem with "taking away cars from state employees who can pay their own gas.''

    But the Plan B options, such as shutting down the child advocate's office, are far worse, she said.

    With these cuts on the line, Prague says the state employee unions must reach a deal with the Malloy administration in closed-door talks that have remained secret even from legislators.

    "Even as chair of the labor committee, I have not heard one word'' about the union talks, Prague said in an interview. "As strong as a union person I am, I am convinced the unions are going to have to have to do givebacks. You can't do 4,700 layoffs - totally unthinkable.''

    Larry Dorman, the chief spokesman for the state employee coalition that is known as SEBAC, said the two sides worked throughout the Mother's Day weekend but no deal has been reached. The unions, he said, are trying to avoid the Plan B cuts.

    "Any time you're talking about mass layoffs and the elimination of services people need, you're going to see something that is disastrous in the short and long term,'' Dorman said. "We're focused on Plan A.''


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    Despite numerous hours of talks over the past two months, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered layoff notices to start going out Tuesday because no deal has been reached between his administration and the state employee unions.

    Malloy had been warning workers about potential layoffs since he unveiled his budget on February 16 - although it seemed like a remote and faraway possibility at the time. He and his staff said repeatedly that he wanted to avoid layoffs -- which he said could number 4,000 or more -- as the discussions continued with the unions that represent about 45,000 state employees.

    "It's disappointing that the governor has decided to go forward with issuing pink slips," said Matt O'Connor, a spokesman for the coalition of state employee unions that has been in discussions with the administration about possible concessions. Malloy had delayed the pink slips on Friday in hopes of reaching an agreement over the weekend, but no accord was reached. 

    O'Connor said as of Tuesday morning, more talks were scheduled later in the day between the union coatlition and the administration. O'Connor said the leaders of individual bargaining units in the coalition were being briefed Tuesday morning on the talks by coalition leaders involved, to bring everyone up to date about what has happened and what may be expected now.

    Follow Live Updates On Twitter From @capitolwatch and @notesfromhel

    Some of the largest layoffs would come at the state's vocational-technical high schools, where parents say that many children are receiving a solid education that suits their needs better than traditional community high schools.

    Some insiders said for weeks that the two sides were never really close to a deal, while others expressed more optimism that an agreement could be struck.

    It was clearly a somber day in state government, and it seemed relatively quiet in the hallways of the state Capitol.


    "We held off on any layoff notifications while we tried to complete a deal over the weekend and on Monday night,'' Malloy said in a statement Tuesday morning. "Unfortunately, absent an agreement and in order to comply with contractual notice requirements and the provisions of the budget agreement signed last week, we need to begin those notifications today. Therefore, I have directed OPM to begin issuing layoff notices in an orderly fashion to the first 4,742 state employees.''

    Malloy had been trying to reach $1 billion in savings and concessions per year that would have included a variety of givebacks by the workers. The issues under discussion included a two-year wage freeze, additional unpaid furlough days, pension and healthcare changes, and allowing the creation of a 401 (k) program for all new state employees who were hired after July 1. Currently, all state employees are eligible for a traditional pension plan as long as they meet the age and service requirements.

    For months, Malloy had said that reaching $1 billion was achievable because the state could save $300 million through wage freezes and another $100 million by switching to a health plan similar to the one used by federal workers. The unions, however, said the proposed givebacks amounted to an average of more than $20,000 per worker. No workers, however, would have seen their salary cut by that amount.

    The layoffs mark a 180-degree turnaround in Malloy's relationship with organized labor.

    Only last year, the layoffs would have been unthinkable as Malloy enjoyed a very close relationship with the unions during the gubernatorial election campaign - as the unions helped provide the margin of victory in a close election with Republican Tom Foley. Malloy won by one-half of 1 percentage point, and he actually lost the race in a solid majority of the towns in Connecticut. But a large turnout in cities like Bridgeport helped push Malloy over the top and into the governor's office.

    Despite the layoffs, the state employee coalition, known as SEBAC, says it will continue to meet with Malloy's chief negotiator for "at least one more day'' in an attempt to reach a last-minute deal.

    "The discussions have been extraordinarily complex and demand our continued efforts to find mutual resolution,'' the unions said in a statement.

    "Our discussions with the administration cannot be separated from the broader struggle for a fair economy based on shared sacrifice. Middle-class workers, whether public or private, did not cause Connecticut's economic problems and should not be asked to bear an unfair burden in their resolution,'' the unions said as the layoff notices were going out. "This is especially true when Wall Street and the super-rich who have profited at our expense during the economic downturn have been asked to sacrifice so little.''

    Sticking to a confidentiality agreement that they had made at the start of the talks, the negotiators were largely successful in refusing to discuss the substance of the talks. Even two of the legislature's biggest supporters of unions - House Speaker Chris Donovan of Meriden and state Sen. Edith Prague of Columbia - both say they have had no details on the talks.

    "The Governor's Plan B proposal paints a bleak picture for Connecticut,'' Donovan said Tuesday in a very brief statement. "I ask Governor Malloy and the leadership of the state employee unions to stay at the negotiating table and get the job done."


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    The legislature's powerful finance committee today gave its approval to a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts marijuana.

    On a vote of 31 to 20, the committee approved the measure after about 45 minutes of discussion. The bill would make the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana or less akin to receiving a speeding ticket. Those charged would be assessed fines instead of facing criminal penalties.

    State Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican from Wilton who is one of the leading critics of decriminalization, offered up several amendments, including one that would have toughen the penalties. But she failed to garner enough support to amend the bill.

    The bill would set the penalty for a first offense of possession of less than an ounce of pot at no more than $90, less than the fines for littering, illegal fishing, having a defective muffler or damaging trees on state property, Boucher said.

     Supporters of the bill say it would free up the resources of an overburdened judicial branch to deal with serious crimes. Two neighboring states, Massachusetts and New York, have already decriminalized small amounts of marijuana
      


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    In the same week that a key legislative committee endorsed a bill that would mandate paid sick leave in Connecticut, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is poised to file similar legislation in Congress.

    The federal bill stipulates that workers can earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work (capped at 56 hours, or 7 work days) to stay home if they are sick, care for a sick family member, or seek medical attention.

    Currently, no state requires paid sick leave; if the Connecticut measure is approved by the House and Senate, it would be the first such mandate in the nation. 

    DeLauro recently attended a rally in Connecticut in support of paid sick leave. The 3rd District Democrat has long championed the cause on the federal level--the U.S. Senate has held two hearings on the issue, while the U.S. House of Representatives has held one. The bill could be reintroduced in Congress as early as this week, though it faces a tough sell in the GOP-controlled House.

     


     


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    While the proposed 4,700 layoffs for state employees has captured much of the attention at the state Capitol, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's "Plan B'' budget options would also have an adverse impact on cities and towns.

    The list of options for Plan B include as many as $482 million in cuts in state aid to municipalities, including nearly $270 million in educational cost-sharing funds for public schools across the state.

    Jim Finley, the CEO and chief lobbyist for the New Haven-based Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said the cut in ECS funding would be more than 14 percent.

    "It would have a huge negative impact on towns and cities,'' Finley told Capitol Watch. "We're hopeful that Plan B is never put into play. We're hoping that the concession talks are successful.''

    The options, which would need to be approved by the Democratic-controlled legislature, include removing all $62 million from the Pequot - Mohegan Fund.

    "The Pequot - Mohegan Fund would be totally eliminated,'' Finley said. "Particularly for our poorer cities and towns, that would be devastating.''


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    A Democrat in the state Senate that had previously supported a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state has changed her mind after meeting with Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of a brutal home invasion.

    Sen. Edith Prague, a Democrat from Columbia, said she asked Senate leaders to defer a vote on the bill out of respect for the Petit family. One of two defendants in the killings of Petit's wife and two daughters is slated to go trial later this year.

    "I don't care what anybody says,'' Prague said. "I want to give this man a little ounce of consideration here and that's my reason at this point in time to not support repeal. I have to live with myself...I could not for one second cause this family any more stress.''

    Senate President Donald Williams, a Democrat who backs the repeal effort, said the vote is close in the chamber right now but he does not have a formal vote count.

    "When we finish running bills on the floor right now, we'll caucus a lot of different bills for the next couple of days. In that caucus we'll take up the death penalty and see where people stand,'' Williams said.

    Sen. John Kissel, the ranking Republican on the legislature's judiciary committee and a supporter of the death penalty, said whether the bill will come up for debate in the Senate "is very much in doubt."

    "It does not appear that they have the numbers,'' Kissel said of death penalty backers. he said there was particular concern about the "prospective" nature of the bill. As the bill is drafted, the men currently on Connecticut's death row would remain eligible for the death penalty; but in reality, several experts testified during a hearing on the matter that it would be very hard to enforce capital punishment for anyone once a repeal bill goes into effect.

    Prague, a longtime supporter of the death penalty who became an opponent in 2009, said she continues to continues to believe the capital punishment should be repealed. But after meeting with Petit and his sister-in-law, she decided she could not support repeal this year.

    "I spoke with Dr. Petit and his wife's sister and they told me if we repeal the death penalty at this point in time, it would be more difficult to get the death penalty for Komisarjevsky.

    "And I cannot cause this man and his family any more stress so at this point I will not support repeal out of respect for that family,'' Prague said in a brief phone interview this afternoon between votes.

    Prague said she met with the family once. "That was enough for me...All I had to do was look at his face.'

    Ben Jones of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, said he and other advocates are waiting to see if the bill will come up in the Senate this year.

    "Obviously it's very close....there's a handful of undecideds out there,'' Jones said.

    Jones said he understands how the Petit case would have a "very emotional impact" on Prague and other lawmakers.

    "Sen. Prague had her concerns, I don't think that's where most of the caucus is,'' Jones said.

     

     


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    With the inmate population dropping, the state is planning to close its third prison in 18 months if Gov. Dannel Malloy's "Plan B'' budget cuts are approved.

    The Donald T. Bergin Correctional Institution in Storrs would be closed, and the inmates would be sent to other prisons around the state, said Michael P. Lawlor, Malloy's chief budget supervisor on prison and criminal justice issues. The measure is a cost-cutting move that is made possible because the state's prison population has fallen to its lowest level in 10 years.

    "It's one of the cheaper-to-run prisons,'' Lawlor told Capitol Watch on Wednesday afternoon. "There are no cells in there. Half is like a college dormitory with big, open rooms and bunk beds. It's a minimum-security prison.''

    Bergin is known as a Level 2 facility on a scale that ranges up to 5 for the maximum-security, Super Max prison in Somers that houses death-row inmates and other violent criminals.

    By contrast, the prisoners at Bergin are often those convicted of multiple drunken driving offenses and those nearing the end of their sentences.

    Bergin had 931 inmates on January 1 and 218 state employees to run the facility. It is on the site of the former Mansfield Training School, which was ordered closed by then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Formerly known as the Northeast Correctional Institution, the prison held 500 criminals in 1999 and then 650 in 2001 following an expansion.

    If the "Plan B'' budget cuts are enacted, Bergin would be the third prison to close in about 18 months. The state has already closed Webster in Cheshire, as ordered by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Malloy has already ordered the closure of Gates prison in Niantic on June 1.


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    A billionaire hedge fund kingpin, Raj Rajaratnam, has been found guilty by a federal jury in Manhattan in one of the most high-profile insider trading cases in recent years.

    Rajaratnam, who owns an expansive estate in Greenwich's famed "backcountry,'' was convicted on 14 counts.

    He never testified at the trial, and his defense attorney says he will appeal.


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    Sen. Joseph Lieberman went to the CIA today to view photos of Osama bin Laden's body and says through his spokeswoman that he has no doubt that the 9/11 mastermind is dead.

    "As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and as a Member of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Lieberman felt it was his responsibility to view the photos when he was given the opportunity,'' his spokeswoman, Whitney Phillips, said via email this afternoon. 

    "Upon viewing the photos, he believes that there should be no doubt whatsoever that Osama bin Laden is indeed dead.  Sen. Lieberman also agrees with President Obama's decision not to release the photos."

     


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    After the longest House debate of the session so far, lawmakers passed the so-called captive audience bill early Thursday morning.

    The bill has been hailed by labor but was denounced Thursday by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, which represents 10,000 businesses. CBIA says that the passage of the bill shows that Connecticut is "closed for business'' and will hurt the creation of jobs.

    "State representatives who voted for this bill delivered another anti-jobs blow to Connecticut's business community just when employers are reeling from the recession, facing $70 million in higher unemployment taxes, and dealing with the tax increases contained in the new state budget," said Joseph F. Brennan, CBIA's chief lobbyist at the Capitol and senior vice president of government affairs.

    Brennan continued, "Legislators ran for office promising to make the economy and jobs their top priorities, but now they have passed one of the biggest anti-business, job-killing measures before them, making Connecticut less competitive and less attractive as a place to do business."

    If passed, Connecticut would be the second state in the nation - following Oregon - to have a captive audience law.


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    Democrat Mike Williams, a Southington native who graduated from the London School of Economics, formerly worked for Joe Biden and lives in the Litchfield County village of New Preston now, announced today that he is running for Congress from the 5th District.

    Two months ago, Williams kicked off a listening tour of the sprawling district. He says he heard "the concerns of parents whose children are graduating college with strong grades, but have no employment opportunities in Connecticut...[of] workers worried about their livelihoods being shipped overseas.''

    Williams is one of three Democrats that have formally filed their candidacy for the 5th District with the Federal Election Commission. The other declared Democratic candidates are Elizabeth Esty and Dan Roberti.

     


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    Defense attorneys for Joshua Komisarjevsky, awaiting trial in the Cheshire home invasion case, Thursday lashed out at comments made Wednesday by state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia. Prague Wednesday told CT NewsJunkie, an online political newspaper, that Komisarjevsky should be hung "by his penis from a tree out in the middle of Main Street.''

    On Thursday, defense Attorney Jeremiah Donovan asked the trial judge to delay the case for three months, calling Prague's remarks "inflammatory" and saying that they could influence prospective jurors in the case. Lawyers have selected 12 jurors. They still need to pick six alternates and three substitute alternates.

    Prague, when asked later Thursday at the state Capitol about Donovan's criticism of her - and about his request to delay the case - stood by what she had said. Moreover, she blasted the defense attorney for trying to delay the case.

     "Well, he certainly has the right to criticize what I said," Prague said of Donovan. "He can say what he wants. But for him to delay the trial three months is totally outrageous. That is outrageous - keeping the Petit family another three months, waiting for this trial?  He ought to be ashamed of himself."

    Asked if she has reconsidered her statement about Komisarjevsky, Prague said, "No, I'm not going to take it back. That man is a monster, and I don't feel anything for him is bad enough."


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    With negotiations occurring every day to reach a deal with the state-employee unions, only 182 employees have received layoff notices from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration.

    Malloy originally announced that 4,742 employees would receive notices, but those have been delivered at a slow pace.

    The layoffs have been limited to a small number of agencies, such as the departments of correction and mental health and addiction services. The largest number is in the prison system, where 75 prison guards and one deputy warden have received notices. In addition, 16 correctional counselors received notices, along with 45 other workers in the department. Those employees included vocational instructors, teachers, secretaries, janitors, food service supervisors, heating-and-cooling technicians, substance abuse counselors, general maintenance officers, and three chaplains.

    At the governor's budget office, the transportation strategy board manager was notified, along with an associate research analyst.

    Only one employee at the Department of Public Works has received a notice so far, and that was the longtime communications specialist and spokesman for the department. In addition, the director of communications at the Department of Information Technology was on the list.

    At the Department of Veterans Affairs, an addiction counselor, pharmacy supervisor, infection control practitioner, and dietitian, among others, received notices.


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    Prompted by sky-high prices for snow removal on roofs this year, the state Senate debated Thursday to outlaw price gouging due to severe weather events.

    Some homeowners were panicking during the winter as water came into their houses, and they paid high prices to immediately get the snow off the roof. With heavy ice on roofs, many contractors said they had to pay the workers high wages in order to get them to climb on the slippery roofs.

    "A few were quoted prices for small roofs at $5,000,'' said Sen. Paul Doyle, a Wethersfield Democrat. "It protects our consumers from price gouging. ... The governor would issue a declaration of a severe weather event. They cannot charge our consumers unconscionably excessive prices.''

    "A few unscrupulous businessmen did charge unconscionably high prices,'' Doyle said. "The ultimate fine is a potential $5,000.''

    Sen. Rob Kane opposed the bill, saying it would be highly difficult for the state to police the problem on a statewide basis.

    "My wife went out and bought one of those roof rakes,'' Kane said. "The 60 bucks is well worth it, rather than have my roof collapse.''

    "We have an economic situation,'' he said. "I don't think we'll have the ability to police it. We're adding to the cost of government to investigate these situations. ... I don't think we're going to solve the problem.'' 


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