March 16th, 2018
Welcome to In the Loop!

From Paddi's Desk

How about this to disrupt the status quo?
Last week brought snowstorms. This week, we started out with the biggest storm of the session - the approval of Governor Malloy's nominee for the Chief Justice seat on CT Supreme Court. Monday's calendar was cleared despite the chaotic schedule caused by the recent storms in order to focus on whether Justice McDonald would become the next leader of the Judicial branch.
There was interesting discussion by supporters of Justice McDonald. These supporters reminded folks that they had approved his nomination a short time ago, and told them that was enough for them to vote yes this time around. Interesting. That would lead one to reason that if you voted for a candidate for State Representative and State Senate, then of course you would choose that candidate for Governor. How often would that happen in reality?
In the three branches of government, the Governor leads the executive branch. He or she is elected by the voters of CT, so it's safe to say that person represents the wishes of the state. Every four years that candidate runs and has to secure the majority of votes.
In the legislative branch of government, the Senate is led by the President Pro Tempore and the House is led by the Speaker of the House. They have to be elected every two years and then be elected by their peers to lead the legislature for a two-year term.
CT voters can change their minds based on the actions or inactions of the Governor or, in many cases, a changing environment. It has not happened often in CT where an incumbent governor actually loses the seat, but often an incumbent governor can read the tea leaves and, for the betterment of the state, chooses not to seek re-election.
In the past, the legislature has challenged the theory that if you voted once for their candidacy then you should vote for them every time. Back in the 1980s, House Speaker Stolberg was denied a second term by his party to continue serving as the House leader. Several years back in the Senate, there was an active move to upset the current President Pro Tempore. The challenge for the Speaker was successful, but the coup in the Senate failed. In both cases, the theory that voting for someone once means you support that person again - even if circumstances change - made you scratch your head.
The standard should be that the person is capable and experienced enough to serve as the leader of the judiciary. Not being someone who has any say in this action, what if we had a constitutional amendment and let the judiciary elect the Chief Justice? They would know who was experienced, had the temperament and would be best to serve as their leader.
It's unconventional and more than likely unrealistic, but I'd trust the judges to know what's best in order for the judiciary to be fair, balanced and within the bounds of the four corners of Connecticut's constitution.

CT Agency Corner   

DOT Administration Makes Final Push for Tolls 

by Mike Johnson

This week, the Transportation Committee held a hearing on whether or not there will be a bill on tolling state highways advancing this year. With the topic picking up heavily in popularity, there are a number of questions still lingering. Here's a breakdown on where CT is with whether or not we will have tolls in the next few years:
Can there be a state discount?
- Other states have found success in offering discounted tags to residents in order to create a different rate when compared the standard tag rate. The Massachusetts, it is a breakdown between residents with tags, those with tags and any driver without a tag and there are price differences in that order.
Will the state be instituting border tolls if they move forward?
-  According to federal rules, there cannot be border tolls and any newly constructed tolls would have to be throughout the entire state. Despite this, DOT contends that there will be tolls implemented throughout the state but at a much cheaper rate that bridge and border tolls. 
What effect if implemented to the DOT's standard would it have on our revenue?
-   The state's Special Transportation Fund will have no funds left by the end of this fiscal year which means the state will need to either find additional revenue or begin to decommission previously approved projects. DOT's estimated fiscal impact is $947M per year in revenue (once fully annualized) and this would potentially mean the gas tax would not have to be adjusted. The Governor has recommended both the gas tax be raised (which hasn't been raised in 20 years) and to implement tolls in three years.      
Much more traction will be heading towards the end of session on may 9th.
Did You Know?

This Week in History

Albert Einstein born, 1879

On March 14, 1879,  Albert Einstein is born, the son of a Jewish electrical engineer in Ulm, Germany. Einstein's theories of special and general relativity drastically altered man's view of the universe, and his work in particle and energy theory helped make possible quantum mechanics and, ultimately, the atomic bomb.

After a childhood in Germany and Italy, Einstein studied physics and mathematics at the Federal Polytechnic Academy in Zurich, Switzerland. He became a Swiss citizen and in 1905 was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich while working at the Swiss patent office in Bern. That year, which historians of Einstein's career call the annus mirabilis-the "miracle year"-he published five theoretical papers that were to have a profound effect on the development of modern physics.

In 1939, despite his lifelong pacifist beliefs, he agreed to write to President  Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of a group of scientists who were concerned with American inaction in the field of atomic-weapons research. Like the other scientists, he feared sole German possession of such a weapon. He played no role, however, in the subsequent  Manhattan Project and later deplored the use of atomic bombs against Japan. After the war, he called for the establishment of a world government that would control nuclear technology and prevent future armed conflict.

In 1950, he published his unified field theory, which was quietly criticized as a failure. A unified explanation of gravitation, subatomic phenomena, and electromagnetism remains elusive today. Albert Einstein, one of the most creative minds in human history, died in Princeton in 1955.
In This Issue:
The Real Scoop

Another week, another discussion about Connecticut's fiscal hardships. In attempts to get CT's blossoming debt under control, proposed fiscal controls have been introduced.

CT's Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth proposed their ideas for implementing fiscal control, but could these caps have unintended consequences  in the future?

Read more here.


by Ryan Bingham

Non-stop action at the Capitol this week with public hearings galore and it didn't stop the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) from making sure their voices were heard throughout the state.  
This week, CCM endorsed a report that called for a wide ranging change to taxes in our state.  The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth generated some controversy by calling for cuts in state income taxes, increases in sales taxes among other suggestions.  The key to their plan, as they reported it, was that these suggestions should be taken in full, not parceled out.  Several interest groups have endorsed certain pieces of the plan, but CCM has endorsed it in its entirety.  "Connecticut has long been the land of steady habits, but the precarious fiscal condition that still plagues the state budget demands that Connecticut change key core public policies- now," said CCM's Executive Director Joe DeLong.
Also noteworthy this week were the variety of ways local governments, specifically Boards of Education, handled student walkouts to protest for changes to gun laws resulting from the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  Further, we'll track the impact of the variety of winter storms that took place over the last eight days and its impact on local budgeting.  Many communities thought they were out of the woods after the few days with warm weather and then Mother Nature reminded all of us that we still live in New England. The old saying, "If you don't like the weather right now, wait a minute," holds true once again.

Behind the Scenes

By Chelsea Neelon

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with with Representative Geraldo Reyes of the 75th 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 this session?
- I sit on three important committees, Environment, Appropriations and Commerce and I am the Vice-Chair on the Commerce Committee. In Environment, I am fighting for HB5130 which is the Sewage Right-to-Know bill. In Waterbury, there was a five million gallon sewage dump that went unreported for about 10 days, which pretty much polluted the Naugatuck River. DEEP was not transparent in their handling of this by notifying our neighbors downstream. We put millions of dollars into waterways and then to not report accidentally  dumping five million gallons of raw sewage, why bother putting money into it? This bill would create accurate, timely and transparent disclosure for these instances.
In Appropriations, we are obviously working very hard on our state budget. That is the elephant in the room. We are focused on creating a fair and balanced budget. This is my third year in the legislature, and I am continuing to learn as I go. I sit on three committees as well as four subcommittees within the Appropriations committee but I go to many more so that I can listen, learn and follow the dialogue.

What other legislation is important to you this session?
- A  lot of the legislation I am supportive and passionate about are those that are a part of the BPRC's agenda. There are two bills that I am supporting that were introduced by Representative Candelaria and they both affect the evacuees from Puerto Rico. One of them is a flat $2.5 million dollars that would be secured to help all the evacuees in the entire state of Connecticut and the second bill has to do with creating a fund/act to help any U.S. citizen that is a victim of a natural disaster. From the education standpoint, we are trying to make sure that there is more diversity in education with things like ESL and minority teacher recruitment. It is a huge issue in a lot of the larger cities and Waterbury is no different.
Other issues important to us, and one we talk about all the time, are issues with police accountability and body cameras. Waterbury police do not have body cameras. I would like to see that program expand to Waterbury in the near future.

What was some of the legislation you're most proud of being a part of passing?
-   In contrast, my only disappointment as a freshman here was that we could not get tolls passed by one vote. I could not believe we couldn't get tolls passed. We are looking at a tsunami coming right at us, and if this could help us to get out of harm's way, it may not be the end all be all, but it will be something. I was really disappointed. I learned a lot during that first session here.

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