The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
by Paddi LeShane

And so it begins...

Right now, attention is focused on the decisions and actions of federal and state governments. We continue to look for hopeful progress for our country, our state and our local community as the COVID-19 crisis continues to tear our hearts apart, and towns across the state are starting to focus on the upcoming 2020 election cycle.

Over the past several months, we've been hearing rumblings as to the plans of CT's 187 incumbent state legislators. Now, many are seriously considering their ability or willingness to "sign up" for another two years of public service. This week, it's all becoming real.

Most decisions to retire and not seek re-election are based on a family-focused decision, as well as a long tenure serving their local communities and knowing that now's the time to pass the torch. Right now, the total number of years of service provided by the 10 incumbents who have chosen to "retire" adds up to an amazing 174 years! Many of the legislators who have announced their decision not to run in November have served in leadership positions as well as provided leadership as a committee co-chair. CT will surely see the loss of some amazing public servants.

As I've asked many times, who in their right mind would want to run for the CT General Assembly? They earn less than minimum wage, they lose precious family time, many times they forgo promotions at work given the amount of time this "part-time job" requires and they take an enormous amount of public scrutiny for their actions or inactions. It's not at all what it's made out to be serving in CT's "part-time" legislature.

As of this week, we are going to have to say goodbye to some terrific public servants.

Senator Len Fasano (R-34)
Senator Len Fasano arrived in 2002. He served as Minority Whip from 2003 to 2004, Assistant Minority Leader from 2005 to 2006, Deputy Minority Leader from 2007 to 2008, Minority Leader Pro Tempore from 2009 to 2014, Minority Leader since 2014 and Senate Republican President Pro Tempore since 2017.

He cares deeply about healthcare and community practicing physicians. Sen. Fasano worked diligently with Senator Martin Looney during the transformation of physician and hospital relationships as well as the reimbursement by healthcare insurers for physician services starting in 2013 and continuing to the present.

Fasano has risen to a leadership role in the development, revision and growth of urban development and jobs policies for the state along with his dedication to advocating for CT's persons with disabilities and children's issues.

The recipient of dozens of awards and recognitions, Senator Fasano managed to combine his love of his district with those issues most important to him and his community as well as lead the Republican caucus for most of his elected career.

Representative Joe "A2Z" Aresimowicz (D-30th)
Before joining the state legislature, Aresimowicz was three times elected to the Berlin Town Council. Aresimowicz was elected to the House of Representatives in 2004 to represent Berlin and Southington. In 2013, he was elected the House Majority Leader, and in 2017 he became the Speaker of the House.

Best known for his moderate to progressive leanings on policy, a peacemaker for his caucus and a leader who not only leads with his head but his heart, he revitalized the art of bipartisanship and created a workable truce across the aisle with a much more moderate to conservative Republican caucus. Aresimowicz has earned multiple honors and awards from groups such as: the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, the New England Secondary School Consortium, the American Legion, the Connecticut State Firefighters Association, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, the Alliance of Connecticut YMCAs, the Connecticut State Medical Society and the Connecticut River Salmon Association.

Both of these leaders were members of the "Gang of Six," who ultimately had to work collaboratively with the sitting Governor in order to get the big stuff done in Hartford. There might be one more retirement announced from the other four members (Rep. Ritter (D) and Rep. Klarides (R), Senator Looney (D) and Senator Duff (D)) of the "Gang of Six." Time will tell.

Additionally, nine state representatives have announced their plans to retire but only Senator Fasano so far in the Senate. Those not running for re-election are:

Joe Verrengia
Russ Morin
Joe Aresimowicz
Joe Serra
Arthur O'Neill
Richard Smith
John Frey
Kim Rose
Gail Lavielle
A number of candidates are setting up to fill some of these vacancies and to challenge incumbents come Nov 3 rd. The calendar for this state election cycle begins on May 5 th when candidates who have multi-town districts need to be nominated by their town committees by May 26 th. Town committees have from May 19-26 th for those districts with a single town district to select their favorite candidate. Primary petitions are available on the deadline date for town committee action (May 26 th) and need to be back to the Secretary of the State by June 16 th. Just a disclaimer, these dates are obviously subject to the ongoing public health emergency now in existence.

As always, we'll keep you updated and in the loop throughout the election year. We'll look at open seats and profile candidates as well as feature hot races and look at the race from an insider's view.

Until then, stay healthy, listen to the experts and keep your distance. Well, maybe not from your spouse, partner or children, we all need hugs right now. And be sure to show gratitude for all those who are obligated to be out there to keep the trains running. They too deserve hugs. But right now, virtual hugs will have to do.

CT Agency Corner
State Agencies Most Affected by This Week's Executive Orders
by Michael Johnson

This week Governor Lamont issued his executive orders, and they cover some very large subject matter priorities for helping those most in need during the COVID-19 crisis. Here's an analysis on the major agency topics covered this week.

Department of Insurance:
As of Wednesday, a 60-day grace period was enacted where no insurer may, without a court order, lapse, terminate or cause to be forfeited a covered insurance policy because a covered policyholder does not pay a premium or interest or indebtedness on a premium under the policy that is due except as provided hereunder. This policy, which makes CT the first in the nation to adopt this, comes on the heels of recipients of these policies having a large amount of difficulty balancing expenses between paying premiums while their business and/or health costs have been disrupted during the crisis.

Judicial Department:
Arguably the heaviest amount of policy changes this week came from the Judicial Department, which these days is anything but "business as usual." Their changes that took effect via executive order included but were not limited to:

-Permitting remote notarization of documents under all circumstances if there's identification provided, geo-locating to be in Connecticut and a technology function permitting an app to launch a notarization.

-Clarifying that escrow payments on behalf of a borrower shall continue to remit property taxes to the municipality, so long as the borrower remains current on their mortgage or is in a forbearance or deferment program, related to the borrower's eligibility for or participation in the Deferment Program or the Low Interest Rate Program.

-Citations of liens will continue to remain valid and no orders will affects any provision of the Connecticut General Statutes relating to continuing, recording and releasing property tax liens and the precedence and enforcement of taxes, rates, charges and assessments shall remain applicable to any deferred tax, rate, charge or assessment or installment or portion thereof.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection:
On Tuesday, the Governor made it official that the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) may issue orders to restrict or even close a state park or trail that is considered a risk of person-to-person exposure. This gives Commissioner Dykes a large amount of latitude to now tackle a questioned area for coverage that will need to be evaluated on a day-by-day basis.

Department of Consumer Protection:
The Governor now not only allows holders of package store liquor permits and grocery store beer permits to extend their permit premises to provide for sale by way of curbside pickup, but also paved the way for breweries to now deliver their beer directly to consumers!

A few weeks earlier, the Governor also gave the green light for local craft breweries to also be permitted to stay open and sell beer to-go from their facilities. 
In This Issue:

by Ryan Bingham

We all need a bit of good news right now, so we chose to highlight some of the unique and positive activities happening with our students, families and schools across CT.
In Morris (and in other communities across the state), we saw school staff caravanning across the town as students and parents stood outside of their homes with signs, cheering on their teachers as they passed. "Teachers miss the kids and the kids miss their teachers, so this is a way to reconnect," Principal KC Chapman said before hopping into his Subaru SUV and taking a position at the rear of the caravan. Teachers Carrie Maillett and Heather Maher suggested the parade after seeing staff from other schools in the area do the same thing to inspire their students. "This is a way for us to show our students that we support them and are excited to be teaching them again," Chapman said.  It's the little things that matter these days and we enjoy seeing those things play out across our state."
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to require the Governor to issue executive orders, one of the most recent attempted to deal with the growing angst surrounding school staff and contractors. With the new order issued Tuesday, for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown, school districts will continue to receive state funding and must continue to pay school staff they directly employ. The order to keep school staff employed applies to not only teachers and school administrators, but to secretaries and other active employees. It allows for contracts to be amended so that services can be sustained once school resumes. The order says districts should engage bus and special education providers to determine what their actual costs are for employee wages and health insurance and work out a memorandum of understanding with the goal of sustaining the services when school resumes.

Executive Order Update
by Chelsea Neelon

As the nation has seen the spread of COVID-19 progress across all 50 states, Governor Lamont called has continued to use his power to create executive orders to ensure the overall public health and safety of CT's residents.

We want provide you a deeper dive into Governor Lamont's executive orders since last Friday, March 27th. Learn more below.

* Regarding flexibility in DPH licensing renewal requirements and provider assignment, expanded hand sanitizer production, waiver of birth-to-three fees.

* Regarding safe housing for people experiencing homelessness, first responders and healthcare workers 

* Regarding childcare safety and remote notarization updates

* Regarding education workforce sustainability, state parks capacity control and curbside liquor pickup 

* Regarding safe stores, relief for policyholders, taxpayers and tenants

* Regarding safe lodging, liquor delivery, additional flexibility for victims of domestic violence, other measures

Did You Know?
This Week in CT History
April 1, 1852
Litchfield-born Author's Newspaper Story Takes America By Storm

On April 1 st, 1852, the final installment of Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in The National Era, a weekly abolitionist newspaper. Stowe originally envisioned her story, as a brief tale that would "paint a word picture of slavery" in a handful of weekly installments. But as she began fleshing out the sympathetic characters of Eliza and Uncle Tom, and the villainous slave master Simon Legree, the story took on a life of its own.

Born in Litchfield in 1811 as the daughter of the famous minister Lyman Beecher, Harriet witnessed the dehumanizing spectacle of chattel slavery firsthand. Like many Americans with anti-slavery leanings, Stowe was outraged after Congress passed the controversial Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. In response, Stowe was inspired to write a story about the moral evils and inhumanity of American slavery - a story that eventually became Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Because of its success as a newspaper serial, Uncle Tom's Cabin was rushed into publication in book form later in 1852, and proceeded quickly to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, catapulting the Connecticut-born Harriet Beecher Stowe to instant fame. During the entire 19th century, the only book that sold more copies in the United States than Uncle Tom's Cabin was the Bible.