February 23rd, 2018
Welcome to In the Loop!

From Paddi's Desk


What a week at the LOB. As reported last week, things at the Capitol weren't going so smoothly with the "Kumbaya, we're all in this together" mood of legislative committee leaders, but most thought it would settle down. Not exactly.

After a one day break for Presidents' Day, the legislature returned for the last week of committee meetings to raise ideas for public hearings, and all did not go well. Committee leaders meet prior to committee meetings in what's referred to as a "screening" meeting, where they review all proposals, requests and suggestions for proposed legislation. Since the institution of the "shared power agreement" between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats, which is based on the 18-18 tie in the Senate, the Senate Co-Chairs and House Chair were to alternate on who would run the committee and the public hearings. They would also need a two-out-of-three consent by the Co-Chairs to place an item on a committee agenda.

So many were thinking the two Democratic Co-Chairs (One House/One Senate) would routinely outvote the single Republican Senate Co-Chair, but that has not necessarily become the case. Take the Public Safety Committee, for example, where a very controversial issue of allowing for a competitive process to establish a commercial casino in CT broke down. The Senate opposed and the House somewhat favored expansion, so the Democratic Senate Chair - who adamantly opposes any further discussion on commercial gaming - plotted with his Senate Republican Co-Chair, and they refused to allow the bill on the agenda for a public hearing.

Meanwhile the House Co-Chair, who is a strong proponent of the initiative, tried every which way to Sunday to get the proposal on the formal committee agenda, but to no avail. After the word started to spread about the "decision," another unrelated decision by the same Democratic Senate Co-Chair was circulating, and advocates for the commercial casino provision - including the New Haven and Bridgeport delegation - gained momentum. The next day, on a motion from a House Democratic committee member, the agenda was opened and the proposal was added with a vote of 18-6.  

Down the hall, a few other committees experienced "disagreements" that were not as dramatic, but still created interesting dialogue as to what would be on - or in some cases what was on - the committee agendas. Several committees were asked to open the agendas and add items that were "left off" by the committee leaders. Almost all were accomplished in a respectful and collegial manner.

But then....

By the end of the week, two of the most collegial legislative leaders - Senator Marty Looney (D) and Senator Len Fasano (R) - had a huge dust-up over how CT should react to the "Me Too" and "Time's Up" national wave of activism. As five of the seven female senators held a press event with Senator Looney to kick off their proposed "Time's Up" Act, Senator Fasano cried foul play. Quoted in the CT Mirror, Fasano said, "As with any important issue facing the State of Connecticut, passing major new policies are best done, and have been done, in a bipartisan effort. That is why seeing Senate Democrats today release this plan without any effort to work with the other caucuses tells me they are more focused on grabbing headlines than on actually making a difference."

It is important to note that while he was calling out the Senate Democrats for making the issue political, he in no way was criticizing the substance of their initiative. He was only taking issue with the tactic they took, as well as the fact that none of the Senate Democrats have expressed outrage over Gov. Malloy's proposed cap on the number of years convicted sex offenders could be kept on parole. OUCH.

By 5pm today, all committees will have finished the first step in the committee process. The next few weeks will focus on hearing the public reaction on the several hundred bills raised for public hearings. First deadlines for final committee action start appearing on the calendar on March 15th and end on April 6th.

I'm pretty sure there will plenty more "exciting" stories to share over the next several weeks.

CT Agency Corner   

DEEP releases its Final Comprehensive Energy Strategy for Review

by Mike Johnson

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has released its newly revised Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES) which seeks to advance recommendations for building, energy production, transportation and electric distribution.
This plan, which is the third plan ever unveiled, seeks to address the roles of oil and carbon long-term through promoting more electric vehicle incentives, providing more emphasis on natural gas utilization and also seeks to address the efficiency standards new buildings should follow when built. 
CES is considered to be the best indicator to determine how DEEP crafts long-term policy, however, some of their sections would need to be passed by the legislature in order to take effect. In 2011, the bill passed the legislature which enabled the plan to be created and drafted every three years, but a number of other priorities have made it challenging for DEEP to follow that guideline passed in the bill seven years ago. 
This plan sought to capture the following main principles that are anticipated to be DEEP's primary objectives moving forward:
  • Ensure sustainable and equitable funding for efficiency 
  • Advance market transformation of the energy efficiency industry 
  • Grow and sustain renewable and zero-carbon generation in the state and region 
  • Expand deployment of all cost-effective distributed generation ("behind the meter") in a sustainable manner 
  • Continue to improve grid reliability and resiliency through state and regional efforts 
  • Reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating the adoption of low and zero emission vehicles and strengthening alternative-fueling infrastructure 
  • Increase mobility, connectivity and accessibility by advancing smart-growth, mixed-use transit-oriented development, and innovative transportation partnerships 
  • Modernizing the grid with new updated generation options 
Here is a link to the recently released plan for those interested in reviewing it. 

Did You Know?

This Week In History

Twain publishes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1885

On this day in 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous-and famously controversial-novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876). Though Twain saw Huck's story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South.

Even in 1885, two decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn landed with a splash. A month after its publication, a Concord, Massachusetts, library banned the book, calling its subject matter "tawdry" and its narrative voice "coarse" and "ignorant." Other libraries followed suit, beginning a controversy that continued long after Twain's death in 1910. In the 1950s, the book came under fire from African-American groups for being racist in its portrayal of black characters, despite the fact that it was seen by many as a strong criticism of racism and slavery. As recently as 1998, an Arizona parent sued her school district, claiming that making Twain's novel required high school reading made already existing racial tensions even worse.

Aside from its controversial nature and its continuing popularity with young readers, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been hailed by many serious literary critics as a masterpiece. No less a judge than Ernest Hemingway famously declared that the book marked the beginning of American literature: "There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."
In This Issue:
The Real Scoop

With Connecticut's current dismal fiscal landscape, legislators and agencies are looking for creative ways to bridge deficit gaps.

An idea being thrown around is the possibility of handing over the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to the State Treasurer's office in order to save money by reducing the state's amount of annual pension contributions. 
While details on this proposal are yet to be put in stone, would this out of the box idea be a stepping stone to closing the gaps of CT's debt?

Read more  here.


by Ryan Bingham

Throughout the state of CT, as a result of the tragedy Parkland, school officials and town leaders have recently discussed active shooter scenarios. In West Haven, Mayor Nancy Rossi had police, fire, emergency management and school officials meet to discuss how the city might respond to an active shooter situation. Most districts have held similar meetings, tested equipment, ran through drills, and generally updated policies and procedures after this terrible event.
In CT Capitol news, as the 2018 legislative session heats up so have proposals that would have impacts on local government throughout the state. One of the biggest proposals this year so far, has not been fully fleshed out, but was a comment made by Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz this week.  The comment to mayors and first selectmen from throughout the state was to eliminate the property tax on vehicles.  This discussion has been ongoing for several decades and has had limited success because it is a very large revenue generator for local governments.  The Speaker suggested that "it makes total sense" to "just roll it into the mill rate," meaning to roll whatever lost revenue from the car tax into property taxes on homes, businesses and personal property.  Aresimowicz went on to say "At one point in time, being the Land of Steady Habits was our greatest strength," but "at this point, it's become our greatest weakness. A few years back the car tax was capped at 32 mills, which was increased this year in the bi-partisan budget agreement reached towards the end of 2017 in special session.

Time will tell this session what the political appetite is on this hotly contested topic. 

Behind the Scenes

By Chelsea Neelon

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with with Representative William Petit of the 22nd House District to hear more about his time as a legislator and some thoughts on the 2018 legislative session. 

What are some of your legislative priorities for the session?
- Priority number one is the budget. I have introduced a bill, as many other people have, that prohibits calculation of overtime into pension calculations. Obviously, we are somewhat bound by current contracts. We also want to do something in relation to those who are convicted of a felony receiving a full pension. Indirectly, since the federal government hasn't seemed to make any big steps to controlling drug pricing, I think that we should be sure that, in statute, we can prohibit price gauging on prescription drugs.
- I want to continue to stand up for commerce and small businesses. Something that we were asked from several people in the district was to increase the amount that craft brewers can sell. Secondly, from a health and insurance point of view, there have been some issues with changes in person's health insurance policies.
- Finally, with my other hat as President of the Petit Family Foundation, we have supported a lot of the domestic violence groups around the state. I have proposed a bill to change the family violence statute, specific to a dual arrests. It is not meant to suppress dual arrests, but if it is clear that there is a primary aggressor, then the police would arrest the primary aggressor. Dominant aggressor laws are currently in place in 27 other states.

What legislation are you most proud of getting passed?
- Probably two things. I am on the Appropriations committee and as you know, last year's budget was a bipartisan compromise. I think creating a spending cap, bonding cap, and volatility cap were critical first steps. Secondly, the opioid legislation that was passed was hugely important. Allowing naloxone to be readily available, allowing for disposal of narcotics in hospice and dying in home situations, pharmacies being able to give out naloxone to people, etc. There were multiple issues included in that bill.

What is your favorite memory as a legislator?
- I know this is general, but the best thing is meeting different people. Whether that be fellow legislators, staff, people in the cafeteria, State Capitol Police, meeting people from all different backgrounds from all over the state is probably the most interesting thing.

What is your favorite late night session snack?
- I guess it would have to be Hershey Kisses.

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