June 12, 2020
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
Taking the Week Off

On Monday, Patrick and I rerouted our long-planned family reunion for a staycation in Goshen where we have family cottages. It's been a quiet week at the lake but busy as we reopened the summer gathering spot and got the yard in shape.

One of the things that stood out to us as we meandered around Torrington is that residents in Litchfield County (Northwestern CT) are hardy and fiercely independent.  Grocery stores were buzzing with carts filled with party food for graduation celebrations, the home improvement stores were packed to capacity and the nursery stands and garden centers were almost out of their supply of annuals and vegetables. Like in other places, folks are becoming self-dependent, growing their own food and taking on home improvement projects, as well as major landscaping projects. Several cashiers said that it's non-stop, that folks are just glad to be out and about and looking forward to the end of the school year, as well as returning to work.

Differences I saw? Folks are more casual about following the one way aisles in the grocery stores, wearing the mandatory masks and creeping up within 6 feet. The local stores peppering the Goshen area had full parking lots and the two locally owned restaurants had waiting lines to be seated.

Outside, folks are walking with each other, walking their dogs, jogging, biking and hiking the many state parks in the area. Last weekend they closed the two largest parks in the area due to overcrowding.

Does this mean more people think the "emergency is over" or are people forgetting how CT got into the "lock down" mode? Could it be people are actually feeling more confident in how government (specifically CT's governor) is leading us through our first actual pandemic? I think it's a little of both, but let's hope that with all the recent reasons for large gatherings (some joyous, some heart breaking) we all keep our social distancing up. We continue to live by the mantra "we're all in this together" and are continuing to wear a mask when inside, wash our hands often and, most of all, continue to look out for your neighbors and family and friends.

Social distancing sounds easy but it takes a toll after a while, it reminds me of that old Barbara Streisand song ... "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world."


CT Agency Corner
How "Charges" for Special Session Work 
by Michael Johnson

This week, Legislative Leaders wrote a letter to Governor Lamont asking for a special session to be convened to address passing a police brutality proposal and give more flexibility for voters to vote by absentee during this year's election cycle.
Originally, speculation was that there would be a consensus-driven bill with dozens of topics that Democrats and Republicans both agree should move forward. An omnibus bill like this is usually called an "aircraft carrier" due to the size of the proposal being at least a couple of hundred pages and contain all topics not related to each other.
The tricky part of moving a proposal like that forward always falls back on how to frame the reason for the special session. CT's legislative session concluded on May 6th and with very little fanfare after suspending business on March 11th and not reconvening a session before that deadline. 
Our legislative process can only move forward in the off-session months with a "charge" otherwise known as a purpose to bring legislators back into the Capitol. Normally, the legislature would make the charge to take up items related to the budget and the majority party would be the decision makers on which proposals to call.
In this case, the legislative leaders limited the call of that agenda to only include two items which means no other topics would be able to advance unless they were included as part of a different "charge" for the session. Could the legislature have multiple charges at different times to go back in for special session? Yes, but they would need the Governor to agree to that and move forward with the understanding the legislature would be able to come back in on another date.
The biggest hurdle in getting members comfortable voting in mid-July rests on how they can vote remotely or with enough space to be socially-distanced from each other. The House contains 151 members with the State Senate at 36 but remember that the number does not even include the multiple staff members on site that make the legislative process happen.
Other states have found social-distance solutions through moving out of the Capitol into large venues like museums and even sports stadiums! This legislative special session will certainly require some creative thinking as to how to assemble members safely with ease. 


This Day in History
President Reagan Urges to "Tear down this wall"
Marked as one of the most famous days of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union, President Reagan urged Soviet Leader Mikhail Korbachev to tear down the wall of between East and West Germany. This became the most symbolic statement leading to the end of the Cold War and eventually end the repressive communist era of the Soviet Union. 

Watch this  Video of that famous June day from 1987,

In This Issue:

Municipal Roundup
by Ryan Bingham

Sports!  I thought that might grab your attention.

For those among us that go crazy over our favorite team, we have been in a serious drought of live professional sports these days. Although some of us have been watching competitive ping pong and marble racing, it's just not the same, but I digress.  

One of our favorite things to do during the summer here at S&L is to go watch Hartford's minor league baseball team the Yard Goats and catch some baseball, but this year that isn't happening with the season being delayed and most likely cancelled.

The City of Hartford has stepped up to send a life line to the Yard Goats by cutting the rent that is owed to the city from the team in half.  The baseball team makes rent payments of $250,000 twice per year, in May and September. It's now paid up for May, including its annual naming rights payment of $225,000, but will be forgiven September rent as long as "Hartford Yard Goats games cannot be played at Dunkin' Donuts Park on or before July 1," according to the agreement. There's virtually no chance of that happening since Minor League Baseball has suspended operations indefinitely due to the health crisis. 

"We negotiated a fair agreement that ensures the city will get the majority of revenue it is due this year" rather than potentially litigate lease clauses that could allow the team to avoid rent payments if government actions prevent them from playing games at the ballpark, the city's lead attorney, Howard Rifkin.
Onto other municipal news.  Cities are continuing to get smart about tracking, predicting and planning for a potential future wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In New Haven, workers at the wastewater treatment plant siphon off a bit of sewage and put it in a cooler. Then, researchers from Yale University swing by to pick it up. In their hands, material is a key tool to predict the trajectory of the local COVID-19 outbreak. Cities around the United States are dipping into their sewer systems to track the levels of the novel coronavirus circulating inside their populations. 

Inevitably, there's going to be an increased opportunity for exposure according to Brian Weeks, who is the New Haven epidemiologist. This will give them an opportunity to act a little quicker than depending on just hospital data. 

See, you learn something new every day!

Election HQ
State Rep Primary Official in West Hartford
by  Mike Johnson 

In big news this week, West Hartford seems to be heading towards a Democratic Primary Election in August.

Rep. Joe Verrengia (D-West Hartford) decided to not seek reelection this fall and two candidates are now going for the seat. Endorsed candidate Sherry Haller, who is currently Executive Director for the Justice Education Center, received the endorsement from the town committee and Kate Farrar, Executive Director of the CT Women's Education Legal Fund, received enough signatures to put her name on Row B.

This is expected to be a very contested election given the low but West Hartford 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.

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