June 26, 2020
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
How "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" Translates When Working Remotely

During  World War II General Ike Eisenhower, when assigned to London, made quick friends with Winston Churchill and one day the two were discussing a strategic war move and General Eisenhower insisted on a traditional maneuver only to be rebuffed by Churchill.
General Eisenhower demurred to Churchill's insistence and in doing so commented, "I guess we're not in Kansas anymore."
Now who knows if it's really a true story but that's the one I've heard as the roots for this everyday phrase for things are about to change. And don't we all know how true that is today.
This past week the Washington-based non-profit Public Affairs Council (PAC) released the results of an online poll of almost 300 senior level government relations professionals who overwhelmingly recognized that social distancing, zoom calls and self-isolation will have a HUGE impact on how lobbyists conduct business, both in D.C. as well as the state level.
According to the poll, 73% believe the changes will be ongoing even if the health experts declare the pandemic over. They all felt connecting directly with federal policy makers in person will be like mining for gold. At the state level, 53% many felt the challenges will also increase and 13% believed it may be next to impossible for someone not located in state to connect through the traditional face to face discussion.
The handshake, slap on the back and chance to "bond by looking into someone eyes" during an in-person meeting (more than likely in D.C.) will be left to the dreaded video conference call. Yikes!
Call me old fashion but zoom calls just aren't the same as being in a room together and connecting through in-person discussions. At the state level the same government relations folks also believe, for the short term, that video conferences will be the routine. However, even once state legislators figure out the protocol for opening up the legislative process, many corporate entities will still encourage their employees to go the video conference route, rather than jumping on a plane, train or automobile to attend in-person meetings.
Traditional lobbying will take a back seat and the foray into digital advocacy, especially at the federal level will increase dramatically according to the poll responses. 61% believe new ways of influencing federal policy makers are desperately needed as many elected officials will be concerned with large group events, rallies or conferences. These strategies would include grassroots campaigns conducted on social media, digital advertising coupled with specialized technology solutions, such as "geo-fencing," and specially-developed branded media to promote awareness and engagement in policy issues.
What wasn't part of the poll was how organizations will think outside of the box to engage those working from home.
As many fear, the disconnect may cause team culture to slowly deteriorate and impact corporations and large organizations trying to engage their employees and advocate for policy initiatives
The poll asked about elections too. 92% are concerned about the profound impact on the outcomes. 81% believe voting by mail will be the new norm and the days of door knocking, kissing babies and large election rallies are over. When asked about the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Race, it's almost split three ways. Either Trump wins, Trump loses, and the last third say it's a proverbial "jump ball."
When asked what policy changes they see coming: 67% believe federal and state governments will keep new initiatives closely aligned with the pandemic. This was well before the recent nationwide call to take on civil justice and inequality issues, but I'd wager that those topics will also be a focus during the 2020 and 2021 sessions.
Interestingly, while respondents were all over the map on budget expectations, the majority responded that government relations departments during this healthcare emergency had a higher value placed on their role and contributions, thanks to the need to quickly react to sudden changes in the political landscape.
I guess the good news is government relations will survive the pandemic but who knows what it will look like after. Those of us in the trenches have already made a pivot and found ways to stay in touch, engage legislators and take part in administrative activities. It's different - sometimes it's a challenge and responses are a bit slower, but once government returns from the work-at-home environment, it will be interesting to see what structural and fundamental changes in chamber rules and office protocols will provide opportunities and challenges.
Stand by...we're not there yet, but the team at Sullivan & LeShane have been engaged with folks, so we'll be ready to roll when life finds its new normal.

CT Agency Corner
Department of Public Health Continues Analyzing Next Steps for Nursing Homes in a COVID-19 World
by Michael Johnson

The Department of Public Health (DPH) reported yesterday that in the past week there were 19 new deaths, and 121 new confirmed or suspected cases of COVID in Connecticut's 215 nursing homes. There was also one staff member who died and 91 new confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 among the staff at the nursing homes.

Governor Lamont is requiring  testing of nursing home staff well into the pandemic, on June 1. The testing didn't have to start until June 14 and is expected to last through the duration of the public health emergency.

As of June 23, there have been 2,738 nursing home deaths in Connecticut related to COVID-19-that's over 64% of all COVID deaths in the state. However, 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 Day in History
June 26, 1948 - US Begins Berlin Airlift 

On June 26, 1948, U.S. and British pilots begin delivering food and supplies by airplane to Berlin after the city is isolated by a blockade.  When  World War II  ended in 1945, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French zones of occupation. The city of Berlin, though located within the Soviet zone of occupation, was also split into four sectors, with the Allies taking the western part of the city and the Soviets the eastern. 
In June 1948, Josef Stalin's government attempted to consolidate control of the city by cutting off all land and sea routes to West Berlin in order to pressure the Allies to evacuate. As a result, beginning on June 24 the western section of Berlin and its 2 million people were deprived of food, heating fuel and other crucial supplies.

In This Issue:

Municipal Roundup
by Ryan Bingham

Big news this week from Governor Lamont and the Commissioner of the State Department of Education (SDE), Dr. Cardona on schools reopening in the fall dominated the media airwaves. 

As a result of the decreased infection and hospitalization rates in CT, the SDE and Governor's office feel comfortable bringing students back but with some very notable changes. When schools across Connecticut reopen in the fall all students and adults will be required to wear masks, will be encouraged to eat lunch in their classrooms or outside, and follow strict safety measures and social distancing. When they're attending school state officials said they are going to make sure students K-8 will remain with their own classes, which will limit the number of students and teachers they have contact with on a daily basis.
One of the first questions being asked by many local school districts will be how will we pay for these increases in costs? School districts have been spending a lot of money on PPE and cleaning products even though they aren't in the school building. A report from the School Superintendents Association and the Association of School Business Officials suggested that in some cases schools districts can expect to spend an additional $490 per student to cover the costs of everything from cleaning supplies, PPE and hand sanitizer. That means it would cost a school district with 3,700 students a total of $1.8 million per school year.  The state has received $111 million in federal COVID-19 aid for the state's school districts, and there's a focus on redirecting some funding to online learning where it's needed. An estimated $99.9 million of the $111 million will be distributed to local school districts based on the proportion of Title I funding they received for fiscal year 2020. The state is encouraging school districts to apply through their towns for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to cover the cost of things like PPE purchases.
There has already been some pushback from the unions that represent teachers and staff at public schools.  "The new plan raises many concerns and leaves dozens of unanswered questions regarding how schools will operate in a COVID-19 world. Simply directing district officials to follow generic CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations, without customizing requirements for the realities of our school settings, is insufficient for a safe statewide reopening," CEA President Jeff Leake and AFT-CT Vice President Mary Yordon said in a statement.
Cardona went on to say that schools should also prepare alternative plans should the infection and hospitalization rates rise. This could mean hybrid scheduling where some kids report to school and others engage in online learning.  
It may also include a full return to online learning as was the case from March until the end of the 2020 school year.  Dr. Cardona suggested that there would be a more robust and detailed plan that will be released on Monday which would explain the protocols in greater detail. 

Election HQ
Countdown to Absentee Ballots - Likely Mid July session  
by  Mike Johnson 

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 made that possible but voting in the general election under the same rules will require legislative action during a special session expected to take place in Mid-July.

While Democrats all strongly support the measure, there has been a large amount of opposition from Republican state legislators on this topic. The large majority of House and Senate Republicans will likely not support the measure under the rationale that this constitutional change has been up for discussion a long time and needs to follow the normal approval process of being approved by the next legislative body.

All eyes will be on the State Capitol in Mid-July to see if legislators will support the move.