July 10, 2020
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
Ready, Set, Go! Or at least we think so!

This week there appears to be more traction in the state House and Senate about a special session to address COVID-19-related issues, as well as police accountability, voter access for the general election in November and perhaps some needed tweaks to keep government running through the long summer. It looks like the magic date will be July 23, and the agenda will be limited to just must-do items.
As we reported, the special session will be conducted with limited to no in-person interaction with a teleconference technology that legislators will use to vote remotely from their offices. Debates will be unique as folks will be assigned spots so there is at least six feet of distance between the speaker and whoever else is on deck. It's definitely going to be a challenge.

Let's address the elephant in the room: will they address the large, complex issue of racial injustice or take the first step in enhancing police accountability?

As we mentioned in an earlier column, Connecticut is in a better spot than other states when it comes to police accountability, but there's still room for improvement. Some of the ideas being worked out include mandated reporting by police officers who are aware of misconduct, mandated intervention and requiring ALL law enforcement officials to wear body cameras. It wouldn't just be up to the municipalities to make the call anymore.

State Police do not permit their officers to perform a "chokehold", and have specific criteria when using "neck restraints", but some want a statuary ban for both across all state and local departments. Civilian police review boards, which are designed to reflect their local communities, may gain more power and be able to review public complaints, and not just internal complaints. This could include the hiring of investigators who would fully explore the details of a situation laid out in a complaint.

Some legislators are looking to "de-certify" any officer convicted of misconduct, ban "no knock" warrants, define false accusations motivated by race, gender or religion as a separate criminal offense and implement the "three strikes and you're out" rule.

When looking at the larger picture, and the difficult issues of social justice and racial imbalance, there's so much ground to cover. All proponents are calling for systemic and structural changes. The House and Senate have different approaches to the same concerns. The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus (BPRC) announced their initiatives this past week, which include affordable home ownership, increased access to elections, economic justice and accessibility to education and healthcare. All of these issues have been kicking around the Capitol for decades, but perhaps now there's enough momentum to tackle what the BPRC is calling low hanging fruit to start incremental change in Connecticut.

Interestingly, we didn't hear any proponents bring up the redistribution of wealth (aka Tax Reform). It seems that everyone is sensitive to how fragile our economy is right now and focused on behavioral changes that can make a huge difference.

There was some discussion from Senate Democrats on looking for solutions that would, in the words of Senator Gary Winfield, "Push for the farthest reaching bill possible. Some people would call it radical, I would just call it what we should have been doing the whole time."

Some ideas he mentioned include removing zoning restrictions that allow affluent suburban and rural communities to prevent affordable housing, reforming the education system to require an increase in minority teacher recruitment and allowing students from poor communities to attend better-funded, "high opportunity" school districts.

As far as the labor market goes, many have spoken about increased compensation for low paid workers in nursing homes, retail and community based, non-profit social service agencies, despite Connecticut's progressive minimum wage law that passed two sessions ago. There's a lot of details and issues to find consensus on in the next several months.

BPRC Chairman and State Representative Brandon McGee of Hartford made a statement that rings true: "True economic justice cannot be achieved until we end the criminalization of poverty and level the playing field for all."

I, for one, can't agree more with Rep. McGee. The culture of poverty is so much a part of what impacts the ability and empowerment of all people to get ahead, to live their dreams and create a better future for their families. The need to redesign our social services so folks can continue their education, walk the path of personal growth, gain employment, secure long-term economic independence and realize the dream of home ownership is fundamental to fulfilling that America pledge, "E Pluribus Unum"-"From Many, One".

We all have a vested interest in these fundamental changes. It's about finding a consensus on how Connecticut moves FORWARD.


CT Agency Corner
Department of Public Health Commissions a Consultant to Perform an Analysis on Nursing Home Response during the COVID-19 Crisis 
by Mike Johnson

It was announced this week that the state executed a contract for a company begin evaluating the response to COVID-19 provided by nursing homes during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The fatality rate as of last Wednesday for Connecticut's nursing home population was that 63% of those who death is attributed to COVID-19 infection are from nursing homes. 

Despite this,  the new state reporting no longer provides this cumulative count across the duration of the pandemic. 

Previous weekly reports on COVID-19 in nursing homes had the cumulative number of resident cases and deaths to reflect the overall impact of the pandemic on nursing home residents. Going forward, the DPH weekly nursing home report will use data submitted to NHSN, which reflects the number of cases and deaths associated with COVID-19 that occurred in the past week among both residents and staff.
Here is a  Link  provided by CT News Junkie of the DPH report on these numbers that is being further evaluated by the Governor.

This Week in History
July 9, 1795 - US National Debt Paid Off By Wealthy Investor! 

Our country's national debt continues to climb to unprecedented amounts due recently to much-needed relief packages amid the crisis but in 1795 the total U.S. national debt was covered by a single person! 
On July 9, 1795, James Swan, an American businessman and Revolutionary patriot, liquidated the debt the U.S. government owed to the country of France, agreeing to pay the sum of $2,024,899 (about $28 million today).
James Swan was a native of Fife, Scotland and emigrated to Boston, MA in 1765 at the age of 11. He joined the Sons of Liberty at 19, and hung out with the likes of John Adams, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, George Washington, and the other rabble-rousing revolutionaries. He took part in the Boston Tea Party and was wounded during the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775.
If only Jeff Bezos could step in and be our long-term debt obligation savior! The most recent estimates from the Department of Treasury have our national debt estimated to be $24.95 Trillion so unfortunately it doesn't appear a "silver bullet" revenue source will be coming anytime soon. 

In This Issue:

Municipal Roundup
by Ryan Bingham

This week members of the Lamont administration held a webinar for parents, local schools districts and the public about the plan that we shared last week, "Adapt, Advance, Achieve: CT's Plan to Learn and Grow Together," which are the state's guidelines for returning students back to school in person.  
Connecticut officials tried to tackle as many questions as they could Thursday to put parents' minds at ease about Connecticut's school reopening plan for the fall. "We all want children back for so many reasons," Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said at the webinar.
Lamont said Connecticut is in a position to do this safely because of its low infection rate. He said he knows there are going to be questions about cost, but that's why the state wanted to get its guidance out early to allow districts to prepare for what they may need. The state has earmarked $111 million of the federal CARES Act funding it received for school districts. Officials were questioned about how they plan to safely reopen schools; a large part of the plan is called "cohorting."
Acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford said that her department is working on a notification policy for how to inform parents of an infection in a school. She said they have to take privacy concerns into consideration, but the need to know to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is the number one concern. 
While the state is allowing students to return full-time in the fall, many parents have expressed concern about sending their children to the school building. Many districts are surveying their parents and students right now to see how many are willing to come back in the fall. Schools also will have to provide an alternative for students who don't want to return to the classroom.
There is still much work to be done to educate and inform local school districts, teachers and parents about the guidelines, but the state is working diligently to do that over the coming weeks.  
The State Department of Education has maintained that this plan is a starting point for the conversation to continue and develop further guidelines going into the new school year.

Election HQ
What You Received in the Mail 
by  Mike Johnson 

If you live in CT, you received a letter last week from the Secretary of the State summarizing the new no-excuse absentee executive order that last through September 9th and qualifies for the August 11th primaries. 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont allowing for you to check "COVID-19" as a reason for voting absentee. Making this change for the general election in November will require legislative action expected to take place on July 23rd. 

If you wish to vote by absentee AND have a primary in your state house or senate district, you would fill out the form, mail it back to the return address and a absentee ballot will be sent to you to fill out.

If the legislature votes to have no-excuse absentee voting in November, a similar letter will be sent for you to fill out and vote the same way.

Make sure you review any letter received so you don't miss an opportunity to wait in a socially-distanced line!