Volume 10 | February 2021

Last week Jainchill and Beckert took a big step forward into social media. We are working with a great team that will help us get our message out to a wider audience through multiple digital platforms!

A shout out to all of the clients who generously volunteered their time to provide testimonials about their experiences with Jainchill and Beckert. 

In this month's Legal Ease, we're looking at how the state is handling the digital divide in schools, a potential new alcohol law and what driving was like in 1901.

Aaron and Bill

Jainchill | Beckert, LLC
Personal Injury • Criminal Defense • Workers' Comp
"We are fighters who work to ensure that our clients are informed and empowered, so that we can achieve an outcome that provides peace of mind."
How the state is tackling the digital divide
Have you wondered how the state is dealing with the challenge of students who lack computer devices or reliable internet service at home?

Without the essential tools in place, remote learning just can't happen.
The pandemic has forced everyone to pivot, but the challenges the public school system is facing are unprecedented. Besides the large number of students lacking the essential tools, when Governor Lamont ordered all public schools to close for in-person classes last March, teachers had to be quickly trained to teach remotely. 

The gap in access to devices and internet service is referred to as the digital divide, and it’s most prevalent in the state’s 10 lowest-performing school districts. Though these 10 districts, known as Opportunity Districts, enroll only about 20% of the statewide student population, they account for 44% of students who need devices and 35% who need internet access at home. 

In an effort to eliminate the digital divide, the state and a philanthropic organization (the now-defunct Partnership for Connecticut) distributed:

  • 60,000 laptops over the summer to school districts with a higher percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals

  • 82,000 Chromebooks and laptops over the fall and early winter and nearly 13,000 internet hotspot devices

  • broadband internet access through either cable providers or free public hotspots  
As for funding, the state designated $42 million in federal CARES Act money for devices and connectivity. Three different programs funded the CARES Act: 

1) $22 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) 

2) $15 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund

3) $5 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

Source: Issue Brief: Remote Learning and the Digital Divide (Connecticut General Assembly)
Soon you may find wine at your local grocery store, and package store owners are outraged
The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced parties and gatherings, but apparently not alcohol sales. According to Connecticut state estimates as of Nov. 10, the annual tax revenue from alcohol sales this year is $73.2 million. That’s up from $68.9 million a year ago – a 4 million increase! 
Package stores have benefited from this upsurge in booze sales, but bars and restaurants? Not so much, as many were closed or were forced to reduce their hours.
But now liquor store owners are concerned about a new bill proposal that might negatively impact their sales.

The new liquor bill would allow the sale of:
  • wine in grocery stores
  • beer in big-box stores like Walmart and Target 
  • wine as part of a restaurant takeout order

“People are trying to destroy our business,” said Stephen Downes, who operates Connecticut Beverage Mart on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington. “There’s all these things they’re attacking us on.”

As the legislature prepared for a public hearing on an omnibus liquor bill last Thursday on the various proposals, Downes and other package store owners say the state’s liquor landscape should remain just as it is.
“I think Connecticut’s system actually works pretty well,” he said. “I think there’s plenty of convenience. There’s 1,200 stores. You can get liquor from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. I don’t see a big issue. There’s always somebody open somewhere, especially in the cities. It doesn’t seem like any problem.”

But Rep. Michael D’Agostino, an attorney who co-chairs the legislative committee that oversees liquor, said package stores are simply afraid of competition after having seen increased sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our job as representatives is to think broadly about what is best for consumers, not just particular segments of the marketplace‚” said D’Agostino, (D-Hamden). “You have particular interests that are trying to protect themselves, in my view, at the expense of Connecticut consumers and the overall marketplace. ... From the package stores’ perspective, they don’t want the competition. I understand that.”

A crucial point, D’Agostino said, is that Connecticut still has a minimum bottle-pricing law that protects package stores.

D’Agostino said the bill will be revised to say that supermarkets must carry wines by small winemakers who generate, for example, fewer than 100,000 gallons per year. A bill that supermarkets must carry Connecticut wines would be immediately challenged in court by winemakers in California, Chile or across the world, officials say.

“Quite frankly, there’s not any piece of competition that they like and at the end of the day, at some point, it starts to just become greedy, and you can quote me on that,” D’Agostino said of the package stores. “They’ve done very well during the pandemic. To just want to hoard all of the profits for themselves is not very consumer friendly. ... Our job as legislators is to think a bit more broadly about the overall landscape, and that’s what I hope our folks will do.”

Market forces have already had an impact on Connecticut’s package stores even without further changes to the law. Faced with about $70,000 in property taxes per year for a 13,000-square-foot store, Downes, president of the Connecticut Package Stores Association, said he closed his New Britain location on Jan. 1 in the face of nearby competition from Total Wine, the state’s biggest wine seller, and Costco, which operates a package store under a separate permit with a separate entrance.

Rep. David Rutigliano, a Trumbull Republican who operates seven restaurants, said allowing eateries to continue to sell alcohol with takeout meals is important to a struggling industry. It is currently permitted only under Gov. Lamont’s emergency COVID-19 order. The bill, however, would essentially extend the order for three years, and it could be extended again in the future by the legislature.

“Listen, I’m in the restaurant business. We have not sold a lot of booze to go,” Rutigliano said in an interview. “All this was designed to just keep these small businesses afloat until things get truly back to normal. ... Restaurants have been severely restricted for about a year. We’ve had hundreds of failures in the state of Connecticut, and we’re trying to do a couple of things to help them out while everybody recovers. We’re all in this storm together."

CT history: Connecticut becomes first state to regulate automobile speed
A lot of people think of Michigan as the center of the automobile industry. However, when it comes to automobile law, Connecticut is at the helm. Our state passed a law in 1901 regulating motor vehicles and limiting their speed to 12 mph – a first for our country. And that's a speed that's 53 mph lower than our state's current speed limit. Though if you were driving on a country road, you could drive as fast as 15 mph.

Almost 40 years later another CT first: In 1937, Connecticut became the first state to issue permanent license plates for cars.

More speed limit history
In 1974 President Richard Nixon agreed to a national speed limit of 55 mph for all states. After this law went into effect, America saw its traffic fatality rate drop from 4.28 per million miles traveled in 1972 – to 2.73 in 1983.

In the 1980s, the national maximum speed limit on interstates was increased to 65 mph. 

Today, speed limits are complex, state-specific, and bound by law.

Source: 50state.com
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