March 2nd, 2018
Welcome to In the Loop!

From Paddi's Desk

Flip that house ... seat

It's all the rage in the general public. Buying a tired old house, rehabbing it and turning it around to sell to new owners. Well, something like that TV trend happened in CT this past week and it's looking like there a national movement to replicate this outcome across the country.

On Tuesday, after over 40 years of Republican representation, the 120th House district seat covering the town of Stratford flipped democratic. Democrat Phil Young narrowly defeated Republican Bill Cabral in a special election to fill the State Representative seat vacated by Republican Laura Hoydick. Hoydick resigned after winning the election to become Stratford's mayor. The CT Post reports that the unofficial tally was 1,615 to 1,552. Tight, but election officials say a recount isn't necessary.

While media reports say it's connected to a nationwide movement, many think it was the result of active, energized local democratic voters and a laid back local Republican party. We'll probably never really know why, but it has created quite the chatter in Hartford.

The flipped seat closed the margin of "error" for the Democrats in the CT House of Representatives to 5. The delta stands at 9 between democrats (80) - Republican (71). If you recall last session, the budget compromise based on the Republican proposal drew 6 Democrats over the party line to send it off to the Governor. So, while a switch occurred, it's still too close for comfort for the democratic majority controlled House as they debate the state's finances and taxes. Many believe that the legislature will deal with the current deficit, tackle some revenue generating ideas - legalizing sports betting, marijuana, highway tolls and commercial gambling - and head back to the districts to campaign for their party's nomination in their districts.

This theory would leave the Governor holding the bag (deficit) for the remainder of his term and require him to use his statutory options of either one of two options. 1) Cutting up to 5% of a line item or 2) 3% of a fund account. Depending on how large or small the deficient for FY 2018-2019 is will decide if this strategy would work. What is clear is that many legislators will not be seeking re-election and those that do certainly do not want to come back to Hartford and face the possibility of raising taxes in the months prior to a statewide election in November.

While this election result raised much debate, nothing captured the minds and conversation in Hartford like the unusual and possibly historic tie vote in the Judiciary Committee. The vote was in regards to the nomination of former State Senator Andrew McDonald as the state's Supreme Court Chief Justice. After a daylong intense grilling of McDonald and several breaks for party caucuses, those remaining at the LOB were stunned when one Republican representative abstained from voting and one Democratic representative switched and voted against the nomination, thereby making it an unfavorable action. This vote will create a showdown in the Senate, where a potential tie vote would allow the LT Governor to break the tie and send the nomination to the House for approval.
But, nothing is simple in CT. The next day, Senator Gayle Slossberg, who had voiced her significant concern over Justice McDonald nomination, announced that she will abstain on the Senate vote.

BAM. Nomination in jeopardy, for real. Republican Senate leader Len Fasano committed to sit and meet with Judge McDonald next week to talk as the Senate announced a call to session for Wednesday with the order of the day being Judge McDonald's nomination to the highest spot in CT's judicial system.

Wednesday will be the longest day of the year for Judge McDonald and the 36 senators sitting in the circle.  

Stay tuned!

CT Agency Corner   

 Legislative Leaders Pitch Free College Tuition as "Free 2 Start"

by Mike Johnson

Connecticut is looking to launch an ambitious 2018 goal.
Two Democrat leaders of the Higher Education Committee have proposed a "Free 2 Start" bill, which would provide two free years of community college with a track to obtaining an addition two years in a four year state college.
The program, estimated to cost $30M annually, would be eligible for students that obtain a certain GPA and  have an annual income that is a maximum of $48,060 for a family of two or a maximum of $72,990 for a family of four. Offsetting the cost will be maximizing any federal dollars available for the program, which is how Rhode Island subsidizes their program. The major difference, however, is that Rhode Island offers free 2-year tuition for all students that maintain a certain GPA.
Despite the ambitious goal, there are those with reservations over the proposal including small private colleges that are worried that they will see a dramatic decrease in student population. Citing their concerns, they reported this week that private colleges enroll nearly 50,000 undergraduate students, just shy of 30 percent of students and awards nearly 45 percent of the bachelor's degrees earned, including more than half of the bachelor's degrees earned by minority students.

This proposal will certainly be a major topic in the 2018 session to watch. 

Did You Know?

This Week in History

New Orleanians take to the streets for Mardi Gras, 1827

On this day in 1827, a group of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city's famous Mardi Gras celebrations.

The celebration of Carnival-or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian period of Lent-spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas. Nowhere in the United States is Carnival celebrated as grandly as in New Orleans, famous for its over-the-top parades and parties for Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), the last day of the Carnival season.

Though early French settlers brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to Louisiana at the end of the 17th century, Spanish governors of the province later banned the celebrations. After Louisiana became part of the United States in 1803, New Orleanians managed to convince the city council to lift the ban on wearing masks and partying in the streets. The city's new Mardi Gras tradition began in 1827 when the group of students, inspired by their experiences studying in Paris, donned masks and jester costumes and staged their own Fat Tuesday festivities.

The parties grew more and more popular, and in 1833 a rich plantation owner named Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. After rowdy revelers began to get violent during the 1850s, a secret society called the Mistick Krewe of Comus staged the first large-scale, well-organized Mardi Gras parade in 1857.

Over time, hundreds of krewes formed, building elaborate and colorful floats for parades held over the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. Riders on the floats are usually local citizens who toss "throws" at passersby, including metal coins, stuffed toys or those now-infamous strands of beads. Though many tourists mistakenly believe Bourbon Street and the historic French Quarter are the heart of Mardi Gras festivities, none of the major parades have been allowed to enter the area since 1979 because of its narrow streets.

In This Issue:
The Real Scoop

Given Connecticut's current fiscal state, CT resident's are always looking for new ways to save a dollar. 

As the price of gas has gone up and down over the years, a new debate has struck up regarding gasoline zone pricing.

Do you mind driving a few extra miles to save a few dollars filling up your tank, or should prices be uniform everywhere?

Read more here.


by Ryan Bingham

Regional cooperation, regionalism, shared services, inter-municipal cooperation.
Call it what you want, the discussion about joining forces between cities and towns throughout CT has been an ongoing and sometimes contentious discussion. There have been plenty of successful examples where two or more communities have shared services like plow truck purchasing, animal control facilities or some other item of shared interest.  The state created the M.O.R.E. commission several years ago, which was the most recent attempt at the General Assembly to bring ideas to the table where individual towns and cities could create efficiencies and save dollars. The commission stopped meeting, put a report together and little or nothing has been done since.
Now we see an entrance of a new group, the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, which has a broader task which is basically to find ways to fix CT's fiscal woes.  Regionalism was again brought up as a hot topic of items to consider within their purview.  This week, this new commission offered a few options to consider from completely mandating regionalism through county governments, to empowering the regional councils of governance (COG's), or creating incentives for communities to voluntarily find ways to partner on a variety of items.
There will be plenty to talk about, debate and there are already several bills submitted in a variety of committees this session, but it's a tough ask.  To change the way local communities have been functioning for hundreds of years is a difficult, arduous and contentious proposition.  We look forward to a lively discussion this year.

Behind the Scenes

By Chelsea Neelon

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with with Representative James Albis of the 99th 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 upcoming session?
- Number one on everybody's mind is closing the latest budget deficit. So certainly that's going to be an area of focus, and at the same time, despite these difficult fiscal times, we need to work to grow jobs. Looking at some of the issues that we have been working on over the years like pay equity, paid FMLA, issues like these that can help people and make their lives better.

What legislation are you most proud of getting passed?
- Probably the legislation around sea level rising that I worked on, specifically the law that created the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation. They are doing great work giving towns assistance both financially and technically to be able to employ coastal resilience strategies. Things like improved marshlands and other strategies to reduce the impact of flooding. Just this past year, they came out with a report detailing how sea level rise is going to effect the Connecticut coastline over the next several decades.

What is your favorite memory as a legislator?
- I don't really have one particular memory that stands out, I think it is just the collective memory of having met so many different people and worked on so many different issues. I don't have one that really stands out, because there are a lot of things that have been so memorable. 

What is your favorite late night session snack?
I probably get most excited when there is Goldfish out. White cheddar is a favorite.

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