June 19, 2020
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
Three months down and where are we?

As we pass the three month mark CT seems to be coming out of hibernation just in time to greet the bears and other wild life, as well as face the next stage of this evolving public health emergency. 

I wish we could say the same for the local economy and workforce, but it appears even with the lifting of restrictions for a whole host of establishments there are many that can't make it with the additional precautions and protocols put in place.
Other challenges are lack of employees who won't return to work due to issues with child care, the economic incentive of the federal supplemental unemployment compensation or a fear of what the next couple of months will bring, as far as the lack of a vaccination or long-term fix.

Restaurants are still struggling with the hybrid of limited indoor dining, as well as challenges of maintaining take out business and outdoor dining seasonal challenges. Fitness venues - gyms, yoga studios and other healthy life style locations - have had to make adjustments in a variety of ways and many just don't feel it's worth the effort to open just yet.
Retail stores are challenged to woo back their customers who are now used to going online, googling their choices and having their purchases arrive at their door within a day or two.
So as CT tries to return to "before," folks appear to be split, with many still staying close to home while others venture out amid a huge concern over another spike in the rate of positive tests. But so far CT has been holding its own.
The CT legislature is talking about how they would return to the Capitol but with dozens of state reps and senators facing health conditions/concerns they haven't gotten the right balance figured out just yet. More than likely it will be mid-July before we see any activity at the LOB. Currently it's still closed and many are keeping busy with zoom informational forums, task force meetings and other activities necessary to carry out the legislature's business. 

Legislative leaders continue to hold regular conference calls to stay abreast of each of their caucuses and their activities. Candidates are looking for new ways to raise funds to qualify for the state public financing program. The use of program ads is now under review by the state elections commission, as their current policy requires an in-person event in order to purchase an ad in a fundraising program.
Life is starting to look up, but there's still no noticeable activity from the legislature to address the huge revenue shortfalls racking up.  After the governor leverages the state's budget reserves (Rainy Day Fund) there will be a real crisis in how to find revenue or cut expenses in order to get CT out of one of the deepest holes I've ever seen.  

Business are not in a position to kick in additional revenue, cities and towns are already laying off people struggling with the costs of accommodating the additional requirements for opening in the fall. Many residents, especially the middle class, who usually hold the state together, are still trying to figure out how they can remain afloat given the lack of employment and uncertain future. Unions say no way are they going to carry the burden. So to say it's going to be a challenge is an understatement.
Anyone with a silver bullet can step up now because without one, many will be returning to their caves to hibernate and hope this has all been a bad dream.


CT Agency Corner
Milestones in Criminal Justice Reform in CT
by Michael Johnson

Given the high priority of reforming our country's justice and due process rights being discussed in every state we thought it was very important today to share where Connecticut has been in the past five years on a wide range of topics associated with criminal justice reform.

Here are some proposals that have been discussed in the past sessions that stand out making Connecticut a very flagship state in the criminal justice world:
This new law that passed in the 2016 prevents the state from detaining a juvenile for longer than seven days without a hearing. It will also help police to become better-trained for working with youth and creates a community-based system to help youth avoid detention.
This bill would reform Connecticut's bail system by eliminating cash-only bail, and end Connecticut's one-size-fits-all approach to setting bail for people charged with misdemeanors.
Prevents the state from shackling incarcerated women during pregnancy or labor and also created family-centric visitation policies.
This law requires the state to collect all police use of force reports and will mandate police to publicly release body and dashboard camera recordings within 96 hours after a request from a member of the public.


This Day in History
June 19, 1865 - National Juneteenth Independence Day 

Today is the 155th anniversary of slaves in every U.S. state being emancipated  from slavery in the US. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, where on that date in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War, slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

What many may not realize is that it wasn't until 2003 that Connecticut began recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday.  We are proud that Connecticut's leaders  stand firmly in its unwavering belief that all people-regardless of gender, race, sexuality, nationality or background-should be judged by their character and treated and cared for as equals. 

Here is the official citation in statute from 2003 that observes Juneteenth as an official state holiday:

Juneteenth Independence Day.  The Governor shall proclaim the Saturday that is closest to June nineteenth of each year to be Juneteenth Independence Day in recognition of the formal emancipation of enslaved African-Americans pursuant to General Order No. 3 of June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas. Suitable exercises shall be held in the State Capitol and elsewhere as the Governor designates for the observance of the day.

In This Issue:

Municipal Roundup
by Ryan Bingham

The ripple effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to be harsh for local governments. The coronavirus has taken a huge chunk out of Connecticut municipalities budget reserves, leaving dozens of towns trying to find cash and raising the prospect of major property tax hikes one year from now. 

Preliminary projections from cities and towns include $407 million in revenue delays or losses and another $63 million in added costs, according to data released last week by the state Office of Policy and Management. 

Communities were asked to assess the pandemic's impact on their finances by Gov. Ned Lamont, who last week announced a new $75 million relief fund, but emergency funds can't be used to supplant lost tax receipts or other vanishing revenues. They apply only to clear COVID-19 related expenses. Connecticut municipalities receive the overwhelming bulk of their revenues from two sources: statutory state grants and local property taxes.
Tapping into budget reserves is not an easy decision because municipal reserves are crucial to help communities weather recessions and other economic downturns. Not to mention, Wall Street Credit Rating agencies also demand healthy reserves if communities want to borrow cash cheaply for capital projects or cover operating costs.58 out of 169 CT municipalities reported they are facing cash flow problems because of the crisis. Both Lamont and his budget director, Melissa McCaw, said last week that while Connecticut has received pandemic relief funds from the federal government, those resources also must be used to assist more than municipalities and their school districts. Hospitals, nursing homes, other care providers in need of protective gear, and colleges and universities also are high on the list.  It certainly will be something to watch moving forward to determine how local governments will continue to weather the financial storms created as a result of the pandemic.

Election HQ
Primary for State Rep in Bloomfield 
by  Mike Johnson 

It was announced this week that the Democrat challenging candidate Danielle Wong received enough signatures to earn a ballot spot on Row B against incumbent Rep. Bobby Gibson (D-Bloomfield). 

This race is set with a large amount of focus and attention in Bloomfield related to retaining businesses in the community and other local issues of top priority.

Wong, 34, is running as a first time state candidate but has experience serving on the town council and is employed by Perrigo which is an over-the-counter manufacturing company in Bloomfield. 

Gibson will be seeking his 3rd term in the House which was vacated by past State Rep David Baram who is currently a Probate Court Judge.

This is expected to be a very contested election given the low but Bloomfield like other towns have started to plan around the expanded ability to vote by Absentee for primary elections on August 11th.

All registered Democrats and Republicans who vote in the primary will be permitted to vote by absentee ballot for the usual reasons (being out of town for the full day, being sick, etc.), as well as if they do not feel comfortable voting in person. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont.

Bloomfield legislative seats are infamous for attention-grabbing election cycles and this one certainly seems like it won't disappoint political observers.