March 19th, 2021
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
Behind the Scenes
This Day in CT History
“Olly Olly Oxen Free” - “Come out come out wherever you are”…or maybe not.

We’re all familiar with this catch phrase used in many games we played as children – hide and seek, capture the flag or kick the can to call a truce so that players who are hiding can come out into the open without losing the game according to Wikipedia. It’s also an indication in those games that the position of the sides in a game has changed (as in which side is on the field or which side is at bat or "up" in baseball or kickball); or, alternatively, that the game is entirely over.

Wikipedia also tells us that the origin of the phrase is unknown. The Dictionary of American Regional English says the phrase may be derived from all ye, all ye outs in free, possibly calling all the "outs" in free. Others speculate the phrase may be a corruption of a hypothetical and ungrammatical German phrase alle, alle, auch sind frei (all, all, also are free).

Now as the Governor’s attention is turned towards restoring some level of “normalcy” across the state folks and Republican House leaders are beginning to ask again – why is the Capitol campus closed to the public and when will they go back into a normal session mode? Well, it’s not that easy of a decision to make according to House Majority Leader Jason Rojas. During an interview with Jodi Latina of News 8, Rep. Rojas (D-East Hartford) was asked what the plan is. Rep. Rojas talked about the changing conditions each day, the reality of limiting the access to the public based on whoever gets there first or the process of having to enforce mask-wearing inside the building especially for visitors who do not want to wear masks in general, specifically while voicing their opinions while inside the building. The push back from Republican leader Vin Candelora (R-North Branford) was tough, “To suggest that if this building is opened up there’s no way to control it versus a grocery store is absurd.” 

Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) chimed in that the upcoming recommendations from the CDC are important for the leaders in making this decision to open the people’s house before the constitutionally mandated adjournment on June 9th. And to date, so far there’s nothing that would indicate it is a feasible action to take.

While it’s commendable how the LOB staff have managed through the public hearing process despite the hundreds of folks who have taken advantage of the virtual opportunity to testify, many are left out of luck when the “newly established 24 hour protocol” comes into effect. Several committees closed the hearing after 24 hours of testimony despite the number of folks waiting patiently to have their voices heard. Many are pushing back and say that while access for expressing your opinion is different, there is no lack of access since the new process allows for easier posting of written testimony that is being read by many, many committee members. It’s also becoming a concern that as controversial issues come up for final committee action, the virtual format lacks in transparency, and in the ability to make oral amendments and proceed as has been the norm.

Just this week, opponents to the lifting of all but medical exemptions for childhood vaccinations once again flooded the street around the LOB and capitol to rally against changes. Several hundred opponents came to the capitol as the legislature held its third House session to debate unrelated proposals. They too had an opinion on the closed building. “It’s the people’s house so open it up,” one rally participant was reported as saying. Another said that, “If we can’t go in then maybe the legislators should hold their session out in the public so that the voices of the voters can be heard.” And the most direct comment was on a popular afternoon radio talk show, “If legislators are so afraid of the voters, then maybe they should resign and let someone who respects the voters take their seat.” WHOA. Trouble is brewing.

From someone who interacts daily with legislators, I can say legislators are frustrated too with the necessity of a virtual session. While they admit the use of digital platforms has opened the public hearing process to many who would never have been able to participate, they truly miss the interaction with their peers on a casual basis in order to resolve problematic testimony, the ability to meet with local groups, even the ability for the school classes to come and learn about how their state government works. And yes, the ability to interact with the lobbying corps to learn about the integral details of specific language or the unintended consequences of a bill poorly written. So in fairness - there are many unhappy campers. And I have to say, the annual “lobbying by t-shirt” strategy will be missed by the team at Sullivan & LeShane!

As the session moves into the final stages of process – House and Senate action - there is going to be another learning curve when individual legislators want to propose amendments. They will be restricted from entering the chambers for a capacity issue or based on the inability to social distance – both clear violations of the Governor’s current rules for indoor activities. So how will they react, adjust or modify the current state of closure? Will the “normal” adjusted process of previewing amendments across the aisle hold up to the chaos which comes with day after day House or Senate sessions? What accommodations will have to be made so individual legislators can be heard on bills of their choice? And most of all, how will they manage the long and arduous budget process as it’s likely to be a “road show” with all parties not exactly happy over the committee outcomes.

As we gather at team Sullivan & LeShane to get a better handle on how this current circumstance might impact our ability to bring home the bacon for our clients, we’ll be closely engaged in the discussions about changes to be made whether based on new CDC recommendations, Governor’s actions or the sunset of the COVID-19 restrictions due to expire on April 20th.

Tag you’re it! More to come.
The State Provides Free Childcare for Families Earning Less Than $60K Annually

Coming into a long end of the pandemic has still left parents struggling for affordable child care options. That said, CT is extending a benefit for the next six months that hasn’t been provided before this current difficult period.

Governor Lamont, effective April 1 through the end of September, will extend the parent portion of the Care4Kids subsidy for any new or existing family in the program. About 15,000 families receive this benefit and assistance comes at a much needed time: These families make less than 50% of state median income and funding goes directly to centers who are also struggling during this difficult time. 

The funding for this extension, which is approximately $8M, is a top priority for the Lamont Administration and Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Bye. Licensed centers that qualify can continue to provide this service for families of these income levels which can be found here.
An Extra Year for Students?

There has been a lot of discussions throughout this past year and within our municipal round up about students who have been learning from home through technology and in some cases not learning at all due to gaps in technology availability. In a recent national article by Route Fifty, there may be a move to allow for the option for students to get an extra year to make up those significant divides. In Kentucky, a bill that was passed unanimously by the Senate and by a wide margin in the House, would allow students of all ages to remain at their current grade level next year to retake or supplement classes they took virtually. The measure would also give students an additional year of athletic eligibility. If signed into law, local school boards would have final authority over whether to implement the policy.
The legislation, awaiting a signature from Gov. Andy Beshear, is one of a growing number of policies designed to give students and student-athletes the option to recapture a pandemic school year riddled with cancellations and virtual classes. Some measures, like Kentucky’s, focus equally on academics and extracurricular activities, while others address only athletic eligibility. 
Others are more comprehensive. New Jersey in June passed a law establishing a three-year “bridge year” program to allow some seniors to defer their high school graduation for a year “to participate in an additional year of academic courses and extracurricular activities immediately following their senior year.” Students who opt in to the program must remain enrolled at the same high school they attended during their junior year, and can take a mix of high school and college courses.
So far there hasn’t been much discussed on this issue in the CT legislature, but we’ll keep you posted! 
A Bill to Modernize State Services

Since first taking office, modernizing state government’s services, particularly how individuals and businesses in the state interact with state agencies, has been a priority for Governor Lamont. We’ve seen several efforts beginning to take shape towards achieving this larger goal, like putting some services at the Department of Motor Vehicles online, and launching as a one stop resource for businesses, for example.

This week, DAS Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe testified on a proposed bill, HB 6444, in the Government Administration and Elections committee that would move this effort a little further down the field with the legislature’s help. Some of its main provisions include streamlining agency procurement processes, giving the commissioner the ability to waive competitive bidding for emergency purchases of $10,000 or less, and aligning the state’s definition of small business with the Small Business Administration’s definition at the federal level.

“This modernization bill will help move Connecticut’s government into the 21st century and reduce unnecessary paperwork, giving time back to our residents, business and employees,” Commissioner Geballe said. “People expect to be able to pay for transactions online and sign documents electronically and yet there remain statutory impediments to adopting these tools in state government. I am excited about the broad range of initiatives in this bill, which together make a significant impact on the way we do business at the state.”

This bill was previously introduced during the 2019 Legislative Session, and again in 2020 but the legislature didn’t ultimately act on it before the session was shut down due to COVID-19. The Governor and his team are again making the push that these changes are necessary, now more than ever, acting on lessons learned during the pandemic.
Freshmen Legislator Profile: Patrick Callahan (R-New Fairfield)

This week, allow us to introduce you to Representative Patrick Callahan. Rep. Callahan, new to the House Republican Caucus this session, represents parts of New Fairfield, Sherman, New Milford, and Danbury. He agreed to share a bit with me about how the session is going so far, as well as some little known facts about him.

Q: Which committees are you excited to be serving on and why?
A: I enjoy serving on Judiciary as I worked for the Judicial Branch for over 27 years and feel I can be an asset to that committee. Serving on the Environment committee is challenging but I did serve 13 years on the Candlewood Lake Authority and learned much about fresh water ecology. I grew up boating on the Sound an I am interested in issues on the Sound and the Blue Plan.

Q: Can you share any fun facts about yourself?
A: I am an avid hiker, water-skier, snow skier, and just love being outside. I have 3 kids, Tommy (22) Clare (20) and Liam (16). I have a mini labra-doodle named Indie who goes almost everywhere with me. I also have a 13 year old feral cat name Milie, that we rescued as a kitten.

Q:What's your favorite part of your district?
A: My favorite part of my district, other than the people, would be Candlewood Lake which touches each town in my district. 

Q: Any favorite foods?
A: Sausage and peppers, a fresh burger off the grill, and fresh veggies. 

Q: And most importantly, what are you hoping to accomplish this session?
A: I’d like to NOT do anything stupid as a Freshman. I hope to learn as much as possible on my committees and from my fellow legislators and hopefully pass bills that will help people afford to stay in CT.

Given the format of this virtual session, it's safe to say that we're all figuring out this new way of legislating together, and learning along the way!
March 18th: A Rising Star Falls Twice on the Same Date

The day after St. Patrick’s Day was anything but a lucky one for John G. Rowland, who found himself on the wrong end of the law on March 18, 2005, and then again 10 years later on March 18, 2015.

Once considered one of Connecticut’s best and brightest politicians, Rowland first won elected office as a state representative at the young age of 23 and became a U.S. congressman only four years later in 1984. After becoming the state’s 85th governor in 1995, the popular moderate Republican — who was the youngest man to serve as Connecticut’s governor since the 18th century — was re-elected twice by comfortable margins in 1998 and 2002, leaving some political analysts to speculate that a presidential or vice-presidential run might be in his future.

However, in 2003, rumors began swirling of state contractors performing work for little or no cost on Rowland’s personal property, sparking a lengthy federal investigation that culminated in several of Rowland’s former aides being indicted on corruption-related charges. By January 2004, Rowland himself was being directly investigated by the Justice Department for corruption, most notably his acceptance of bribes in the form of cash and services. When the Connecticut Supreme Court summoned him to testify in June, Rowland chose to resign rather than comply and run the risk of impeachment. Six months later, acknowledging his own “poor judgment,” he pleaded guilty to one count of depriving the citizens of Connecticut of “the honest services of its governor.”

On March 18, 2005, Rowland was sentenced to one year in federal prison, followed by a long period of probation. After his release, a chastened Rowland hit the lecture circuit, speaking to audiences ranging from students to parolees about the dangers of unethical behavior. From 2010 to 2014, Rowland co-hosted what became a popular talk radio show on Connecticut’s WTIC-AM. During that period, he re-entered politics indirectly, offering his services as campaign adviser to aspiring Republican political candidates, which led to his second downfall.

On March 18, 2015, 10 years to the day after his first conviction, John Rowland was convicted in a federal court again, this time for violating campaign election laws. He was convicted for failing to disclose payments he received for work on the unsuccessful Congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley in 2012, having funneled them instead through a phony contract with Wilson-Foley’s husband. He also was convicted of attempting to set up a similar arrangement with Congressional candidate Mark Greenberg in 2010. For his second conviction, Rowland received a 30-month sentence. A rising star fell twice, today in Connecticut history.

Here is a link to the full article - Provided by CT Humanities Council.
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