March 23rd, 2018
Welcome to In the Loop!

From Paddi's Desk

Nor'easter.... Snor'easter.... Bor'easter...
This week was all of the above! All week long, the Capitol was focused on the snowstorm. What does that mean?  In terms of the committee process, it means the challenge to meet the committee's final deadlines, the reshuffling of public hearings and how to get the Andrew McDonald nomination for Chief Justice approved in the Senate.
Most committees pushed dozens of "work in progress" bills through in order to keep them alive on party-line votes. In some committees, that meant a one vote margin on some very controversial issues - tolls and workplace changes to name a few.  At least a couple of committees ended up holding bills when there wasn't a full roster of Democrats in the room to approve them.
The House approved the McDonald nomination by one vote earlier this week in anticipation of this huge snowstorm that just didn't happen! Now attention turns to finding a way for the Governor to get his nomination through the Senate. This week, another Democratic Senator, Joan Hartley from Waterbury, discussed her "concerns" over the nomination and indicated that she wasn't yet prepared to vote to approve the nomination. The next day (Tuesday) the Senate was scheduled to convene at 11am, rumored for the debate of Justice MacDonald's nomination. Then late yesterday, a big rumor circulated that the Governor would be willing to nominate a very popular former Republican Senator (and sitting Superior Court Judge) to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court that would occur if Justice McDonald were to secure approval.
No one is quite sure if this is real, since Senate Republican leaders commented that they have not been notified of such a nomination and that it might be premature since it does not change the serious concerns over Justice McDonald's appropriateness for the "CEO" job at the Judicial Department.
More on this as it evolves.
With a short session and only 31 working days left, and probably a weekend or two, there's not a lot of time to get things done in this pre-election year. As legislators are juggling their normal, real jobs with legislative duties, they also are paying attention to local town committee delegates to the State Convention and their own personal nominations for re-election. 
Next week should be a fast paced one, as all committees except Finance and Appropriations will be completed. Right after the Easter/Passover break, we anticipate the chambers will begin to meet at least weekly to tackle the mountains of committee-approved legislation.
Tick Tock! The clock is moving fast.

CT Agency Corner   

DPH Releases Numbers for Overdose Incidents for 2018
by Mike Johnson

Amid legislators weighing opioid proposals, news came this week that the state has launched a brand new program for tracking overdoses that occur in CT.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) announced this week the first results of a program called "EpiCenter Syndromic Surveillance System" where each ED visit was evaluated as to whether they were related to a drug overdose. This program, made possible by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), will report each week's overdose/ED visit rate by county.
According to DPH's preliminary data, Connecticut's EDs saw an average of 156 suspected drug overdoses visits per week in January and February totaling an amount of 1,317 visits for drug overdose in a two month period. By county, New Haven County saw a total of 405 suspected drug overdose visits, followed by Hartford County (398), Fairfield County (186), Middlesex County (80), Litchfield County (68), Tolland County (64), Windham County (62) and New London County (54). 
Legislators are considering a number of opioi bills that deal with use of the drug monitoring program, but DPH Commissioner Pino did comment that this data is intended to help his department determine what types of opioids are being most abused. Over the next year, this data will be evaluated and help policymakers better understand what areas of the state need more time and attention on this crisis.

Did You Know?

This Day in History

Fun Facts
  • 1840: First photo of the moon taken.
  • 19291st telephone installed in White House.
  • 1929Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes.
  • 2010President Barack Obama signed a health-care overhaul bill, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, into law.
In This Issue:
The Real Scoop

It's a new session, and tolls are back! Well, at least talk about the possibility of tolls. Yesterday, the tolls proposal passed its first hurdle and made it out of the Transportation committee before their deadline.

This idea of tolls has been a hot button issue for years, and residents of the state seem to be split on the issue. What do you think? Would tolls help our fiscal woes and congestion issues or just add another burden on CT residents? 

Read more here.


by Ryan Bingham
One of the big stories coming out of the municipal world this week was new information coming from the City of Hartford's long and drawn out budgetary problems. 
This week, the state announced they have reached an agreement to pay off Hartford's general obligation debt.  This amounts to about $550 million dollars over the next 20 plus years.  The "bailout" was a part of the budget agreement reached during a special session at the end of last year.  By 2021, the debt payments are expected to be close to $56 million, but Hartford will remain on the hook for its minor league ballpark, which is about $5 million per year. The state will now stretch out and refinance the debt which will likely reduce the annual payments.  Luke Bronin, the Mayor of Hartford and gubernatorial candidate, said "This is the kind of long-term partnership we've been working for and I'm proud that we got it done."
In a world that is dominated by social media, especially with more and more businesses turning to this outlet for advertising and driving sales, municipalities are slow to get into the game.  New Haven alders debated a proposal to spend $50,000 a year on a social media specialist.  This specialist would push information about the city and city news to residents and area businesses. Acting Budget Director Michael Gormany and other leaders made the arguments that changes in the news industry have resulted in fewer City Hall reporters and a greater public reliance on digital, multimedia news platforms.  "With additional platforms and multiple options on each of these platforms, there simply isn't enough time to meet the demand for written content, for photographs, and for video ... this position would provide that opportunity to meet that demand."

Behind the Scenes

By Chelsea Neelon

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with with Representative William Buckbee of the 67th 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?
- First priority for all of us is to fix the budget. Additional cuts and prioritizing taxpayer dollars are critical. Aside from this, I have several bills that I am hoping make it through committee.  These bills are intended to provide stronger public safety, incentivizing new and existing business growth, fighting for equal pay and addressing the opioid epidemic. I will be co-sponsoring more bills once the verbiage is settled in, but these are a few priorities.
What legislation are you most proud of getting passed?
- I was so very proud of the first budget we passed that the Governor decided to veto. To have a truly bipartisan budget go through the House and Senate that included some excellent dialogue with colleagues, it was a proud moment. 
What is one of your favorite memories as a legislator?
- As a freshman, there are many. Taking our oath, speaking on the floor for the first time ... so many wonderful moments. However, the best has to be when the Speaker of the House recognized my "Schoolhouse Rock" shirt and I sang "I'm only a bill" on the House floor. How often can anyone have fun like this in the chamber? Truly memorable.
What is your favorite late night session snack?
- This is a tough call, as the snacks are less what we plan and more of what is there. I prefer to keep it healthy when I can. Rep Cummings always has cherry tomatoes which are great, but I'd say a banana and an iced tea. Not sweet tea, but iced tea, or some milk brought from Kimberly Farms in my district. 

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