The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
by Paddi LeShane

Can't believe its Friday, again...

The 2020 legislative session is closed, not with a bang but a whimper. Legislative leaders arrived Wednesday with masks and a touch of nostalgia as they closed out the session that will always have an asterisk*, since it lasted only five weeks. The last day of session normally is a day filled with stress, tightrope negotiations, and at times hot tempers along with plenty of junk food and ends with the thrill of hearing the gavel hit the dais. Wednesday was none of that.

As the leaders officially closed out the 2020 session, they also closed out an era of terrific leadership and camaraderie between the House Democratic and Republican caucuses as well as the Senate Democratic and Republican caucus leadership. It marked the end of a four-year run of respect, with enduring relationships and most of all each staying true to what makes a great leader, finding solutions to the problems faced each session despite the odds.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz have each announced their retirement, and you could hear the end of a love of the process in their words and their voices on Wednesday. In the Senate, Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano also was reflective on his time in the "circle" and the journey ahead. Rest assured, they all will be missed. The next session will have its growing pains as the dynamics of the House and Senate leadership will be fundamentally different as well as their relationship with the Lamont administration.

With the COVID-19 emergency experience, it would not surprise many to see different kind Governor's staff dealing with the legislature. They are being tested minute by minute, and many are faring very well. That's not to say everyone agrees with their policy decisions, but the administration is being transparent, collaborating with experts and communicating with knowledge and conviction of their decisions as well as showing compassion and thoughtfulness. As the 2021 session comes into focus, they will have much more confidence under their belts and a deeper understanding of how CT government works since they have significantly leveraged many, many policy changes to fit the emergency needs of the state. Many policy changes remain and they will likely change the face of how state government works, how it looks and how it moves forward for another two years.

Over the past several weeks, the book " GRIT" written by Angela Duckworth keeps popping into my thoughts. Its basic theory is that the secret to achievement isn't talent per say, but a combination of passion and persistence as well as a dose of purpose. It reminds me of a former boss that said, " Yes, Paddi, life is hard. It's what you do with it that makes you soar." So let's look at grit.

G - R - I - T

GUTS - All agree that failure is not an option. However, learning from defeat or the hurdles we face builds our ability to come back and get it right the next time, and the next time, and the next time...

RESILIENCE - Short-term victories do not make leaders. It's the long-term commitments to continue learning and improving that make a leader. It the experience of seeing when the situation interrupts our goals and pivoting and reinventing how to reach those goals or possible the goal itself moves the agenda.

INDIVIDUAL - Articles on "grit" all say that the individual who works tirelessly, tries until its right, seeks direction or guidance when it's not working out and still completes the task on hand will win the day.

TIME-BOUND - This one is about a sense of urgency. It's about moving the ball all day, all the time, not just the night before an exam or critical meeting or deadline. The use of courage, drive and enthusiasm to meet whatever the challenge will create the right outcome.
As Angela reminds us, the master of true "grit" was John Wayne himself. " Courage is being afraid and going on the journey anyhow."

So as leaders in government, education, business and the community look to the future, we all can take a lesson from "GRIT". It's the power of passion and perseverance, knowing it doesn't take a PhD, a Mensa IQ, a pro-athletics physical make-up or even a college degree. We all have the power to make a difference to change where our community and families are headed.

Let's see where Connecticut can go in this next phase of recovering and then reinventing our state. I'm betting on the fact that we'll all be up to the challenge.

CT Agency Corner
A Sine Die Memoir from my Remote Office (Dining Room)
by Michael Johnson

I usually take some time in this write-up to talk about the current state of affairs with state agencies, but this week I decided to take a change of pace and share an anecdotal perspective.
This week, it dawned on me that when I started lobbying in 2008 for the CT Conference of Municipalities (CCM), we were also in the dawn of an enormous economic downturn.
Home prices began to plummet, the financial sector was hemorrhaging and at the Capitol, the session ended without making any midterm adjustments to the budget and without passing a school construction plan or extending the real estate conveyance tax. Both ended up getting fixed during a special session that summer.
Just like today, we felt overwhelmed with "What will happen next?" moments as jobless rates soared and the state hoped for federal assistance to account for significant losses in revenue. Of course, the biggest difference between now and then was that gas prices at the time famously climbed to $4 a gallon, whereas now you can get 10 gallons of gas for less than $20.
With all that, you're probably asking yourself how CT got out of the out of the economic tsunami of 2009. Well, it took about three or four horrendous budget years of fund sweeps, painful line-item cuts, introducing the state's first progressive income tax and restructuring the state employee bargaining agreements which passed after two separate tries in the summer of 2011. All that said, it got done and even after that when the state would have another tough budget year, everyone rolled up their sleeves and figured out a way to do it.
The most painful disparity between now and any other time in our state's history are the many lives we've lost in such a short amount of time, and the uncertainty of when COVID-19 will be something in the rear view mirror. This article isn't meant to ignore that reality but rather reinforce the point that we all collectively share that feeling of remorse and uncertainty, and at some point things will get better.
Thanks for allowing a brief glance-back in state history and I promise next week, CT Agency Corner will return with some fresh content!

Did You Know?
This Week in CT History
May 6th, 1997
The Hartford Whalers Leave CT
May 6, 1997 marks a day that will forever live in infamy in the eyes of Connecticut sports fans. On that day, Peter Karmanos, owner of the Hartford Whalers, announced that he was moving the NHL team to North Carolina and renaming them the Carolina Hurricanes.

Connecticut's only pro hockey team was founded in 1971 as the New England Whalers and played in Boston until 1974 as a member of the World Hockey Association, a professional hockey league that rivaled the National Hockey League until 1979. The Whalers moved to Hartford and played their first game in the city's brand-new Civic Center Coliseum in early 1975, which remained their home rink for the remainder of the team's stint in Hartford.

According to Reebok and other retailers, Hartford Whalers merchandise remains popular - and surprisingly profitable - not only in Connecticut but nationwide, owing to a mix of nostalgia and the strong, iconic design of the Whalers logo.

In This Issue:

by Ryan Bingham

It is municipal budget season and it's in full swing, albeit virtually. The debate now rests on what revenues will look like with a huge uptick in unemployment over the last several weeks and the ability for residents and businesses to pay property taxes. 
According to the state's Department of Labor, 430,000 Connecticut residents have filed for unemployment and many more are expected to in the coming weeks. This has led to decreases in revenue that municipalities need to provide the services that people in their communities rely upon. So, many towns and cities are having those debates right now and are going to have to make very difficult budget decisions based on a lot of unknown factors. Connecticut Conference of Municipalities spokesperson Kevin Maloney said, "It's too early to tell how much impact the coronavirus will have on cities and towns in Connecticut. Nonetheless, many towns are looking for ways to prevent tax increases."

In New Britain, Mayor Erin Stewart has proposed a budget without a tax increase, saying residents and businesses can't afford to pay more taxes now.  Stewart said the 2020-21 budget will be hard, but the following year shapes up as much tougher. She is pushing the city's Common Council to come up with ideas for new revenue sources long before then.  Many towns, like Middletown and West Hartford, are allowing residents to defer on their tax payments until later in the year if they are facing an economic hardship. Still, tax collection rates are expected to drop across the state, despite more lenient policies. Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim also proposed a no tax increase budget, but he plans to do so without cutting support for local schools and city services.
Other towns are adopting tax increases, but are consciously keeping them to a minimum to limit the tax burden on residents. In Wethersfield, Town Manager Gary Evans proposed a $111.8 million budget with a 3.41% tax increase. Evans said that the average taxpayer in Wethersfield would see a $265 increase in their tax bill. As Connecticut municipalities wonder what the year will hold, CCM is hoping that the state and federal government will set aside funds to help cities and towns make ends meet. According to guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury, states can issue federal COVID-19 relief funds to local governments if the expenditures are necessary public health or safety measures.

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, May 1st. Learn more below.

* Regarding municipal budget adoption and common interest community meetings

* Regarding the extension of school cancellation, home health care coverage and food assistance measures

* Regarding municipal governance measures and authorization for DEEP to conduct programs through distance learning

* Regarding modified regulations to permit pharmacists to order and administer FDA approved tests for COVID-19.