October 25, 2019
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
by Paddi LeShane

Through another lens...

Each October I trek to the fall conference of the Public Affairs Council, where I sit on the board of directors as the Vice President. We usually end up on the west coast, and every other year take a trip to Stanford University for an all-day experience with the innovative and engaging faculty on campus.

This year, we listened to fascinating presentations based on science and its effects on decision making, negotiations and innovations. The faculty took a neuroscientific approach to why people act the way they do and how one can "up the ante" in achieving success in their work in public affairs, aka the lobbying profession.

For instance, did you know that based on your levels of serotonin, the best time to make big decisions is first thing in the morning? Usually we get into the office and we log onto our email, run through several dozen (if we're lucky) emails, check in with our teams and then set about making decisions on strategy, problem solving and other important things. According to the research shared by these brilliant and funny professors, it's not a good use of time! Science says to dig out those "to-do lists" and tackle the three hardest items on the list. Don't wait until the end of the day, since the chances of you doing your best thinking are diminishing!

We then learned that in negotiating, you have to think not of tackling the low hanging fruit first but leveraging those items to achieve a more successful outcome of the hard items to agree on. Science shared by the professors shows that if you package the negotiation with all items of importance rather than deal with them one at a time, both parties, male and/or female will believe they achieved the better deal.

Our last challenge had to do with problem solving. In order to create unique solutions to problems, we have to reframe the issue. Meaning that it's not the ordinary birthday party you should be planning but a celebration of the birthday girl or guy. This could well take the form of an award in their name, a donation to their favorite charity or a special video based on their past year. Don't try to solve the problem as presented, reframe the problem first and see what types of innovative ideas you  can create.

As you know, Stanford is known as an innovator and the alumni represent some of this country's most exciting entrepreneurs. After a day on campus, it's so very true.

How does this relate to government? Maybe if the big decision makers tackled the bigger issues of the day at 10am rather than at midnight, the outcome might be different with a better solution for the problem. Maybe if folks looked at the problem from another direction, they might not see infant mortality in a third world country as the problem but rather clean water as the problem. Maybe if negotiators didn't try to win on each issue but looked for a global solution, we'd be more likely to solve it once and for all and not save it for another session. Who knows, but it sure got me to think about how it does in fact apply to some of the concepts related to our work. However, we have more to do.

I'm headed to the airport and I'll see you back in CT later today, filled with some new approaches to client problem solving!

CT Agency Corner
DPH - Non-Medical Exemptions See Sharp Jump in CT Schools
by Mike Johnson
This week, the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that 134 schools (roughly 2.5% of all schools in the state) are now below the Center for Disease Control's recommended "herd immunity" rate of 95% of the student population being vaccinated. This rate, which is a 25% jump from last year, was broken down district by district after a concerted effort was made from reporters submitting requests to the DPH that were previously denied.
After support from legislative leaders, DPH has not only shared district specific data but has gone ahead with Governor Lamont and endorsed a proposal to eliminate any non-medical exemptions for vaccines for students in public schools. The proposal, similar to what has passed in Maine and New York, would require anyone attending public school to submit verification that they are up to date on their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines but still allow for medical exemptions to exist. The proposal that has passed in other states would also leave an exemption for students attending private schools to not need to be vaccinated. The thought behind the measure is that many private schools will in turn also require the MMR vaccines as well.
The rise in non-medical exemptions to MMR vaccines presents a huge challenge to residents but especially parents with young children, children who are autoimmune deficient and seniors who are most vulnerable to catching contagious diseases.
How different are the rates for medical and non-medical exemptions? In the chart provided below from DPH, you can see that the medical exemption rate has remained consistent in the past seven years only fluctuating .1% at any point within a year whereas the non-medical exemption rate (also known as "religious" exemptions) has climbed year and year with 2018 - 2019 seeing the largest spike in that time frame.

Kindergarten Exemptions, Connecticut, 2012-2019
Blue = Religious
Green = Medical
Red = Total Exempt

Did You Know?
This Month in CT History
October 7, 1801
The Political "Separation of Church and State" Begins with a Letter From Danbury

One of the central tenets of modern American political doctrine was borne out of a letter exchange that began on October 7, 1801. The Danbury Baptists Association of Connecticut sent an letter to newly-elected President Thomas Jefferson expressing their concerns about CT's continued state sponsorship of the Congregational Church, a Christian denomination that was religiously and socially often at odds with their own.

A few months later, on January 1st 1801, President Jefferson replied to the Danbury Baptists Association, thanking them for their compliments and explicitly agreeing with their desire to prevent any overlap between governmental and religious institutions:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
To this day, Jefferson's phrase, "a wall of separation between church and state," is so deeply embedded in American political culture that many Americans believe it comes from the Bill of Rights itself!
In This Issue:

by Ryan Bingham

Connecticut's recycling markets are feeling the squeeze, as international market changes are really putting the pressure on local cities and towns. Markets that once were one-time revenue streams have turned into enormous costs seemingly in the blink of an eye.
This year, three of the state's largest cities say their once profitable recycling revenue stream turn into an expense. As reported by CT News Junkie, "Bridgeport went from $130,000 in revenue from its recyclables to a projected $394,380 in expenses. Stamford generated $95,000 in the current fiscal year and will now pay $700,000 to a company to process its materials, and Waterbury will be moving from $15,000 in revenue to a $330,000 expense." Municipal leaders are worried because they understand the volatility of the international market means the issue will not be resolved in a timely manner.
Main issues are stemming from tipping fees that have increased by almost half or more than double their initial price, along with contracts with much lower levels of acceptable contamination. These lower levels of acceptable contamination lead to cities and towns being charged at a higher fee.
This ongoing problem has lead leaders to look for creative solutions, one of those being the option of single-stream recycling. The worry with this is the risk of higher contamination levels. The possibility of single-stream recycling has been discussed by the legislature for years but has never come to fruition. With costs for municipalities mounting, it's likely that recycling issues will be on the forefront of some legislative agendas this coming session.

Legislative Scoop
by Chelsea Neelon

While a handful of contentious, hot button issues are still waiting to be resolved in special session, one of those might be coming to an end soon.

Many thought the hospital tax issue of the last few years was resolved earlier this year after the announcement of a deal that was struck, enabling hospitals to be reimbursed at a higher rate by the state. However, the actual language on the deal was never finalized and voted upon. Legislators will need to meet in a special session to vote on the newly proposed and finalized negotiations.

The issue stems back to a lawsuit that claimed the state neglected to give hospitals back some monies that were leveraged with the hospital provider tax through federal matching grants. In time, twenty CT hospitals joined the suit, arguing that the tax is unconstitutional. However, if the hospitals and Governor's administration can come to an agreement with the legislature approving the proposed deal, the suit would be settled.

As reported by CT News Junkie, ""We had good productive negotiations with the hospitals," Lamont said Monday. "And we've got a proposal on the table. If we get that done by the end of the month that would be great."  The Governor is hopeful that these negotiations will be able to be finalized soon, but the issue of the state bonding packing and transportation infrastructure are still in wait.

Upcoming Events

Brenda Kupchick for First Selectwoman Fundraiser "Bourbon Tasting"
Wednesday, October 30
Harry's Wine & Liquor, 2094 Post Road

Senate Democrats 2020 Campaign Kick-Off Fundraiser
Wednesday, November 13
Red Rock Tavern
Hartford, CT