February 1, 2019
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
by Paddi LeShane

Happy Groundhog Day to all!

Every February 2nd a popular tradition is celebrated in the United States and Canada. The Pennsylvania Dutch had a superstition that if a groundhog emerged from its burrow on this day and saw his shadow due to clear weather, he would retreat to his den and winter would persist for six more weeks. But if he did not see his shadow because of cloudiness, spring would arrive early.

So here in Hartford at the Capitol, Groundhog Day has a totally different meaning, since we know adjournment is set for June 5th at the latest. It could be earlier, but come on! Do you really think that's going to happen? So what does Groundhog Day mean in the CT legislature?

Groundhog Day may turn out to be February 21st - the day Governor Lamont presents his first two-year budget to the legislature after looking at a $1.2 billion deficit. Why do I say this? Well, if the choice by the Lamont Administration is to use the Rainy Day Fund of $2.1 billion to fill the gaps and make some reasonable, doable tweaks to how CT does business, and then focus on driving economic development, then its Groundhog Day for sure. Just this week, rumors surfaced that his administration was very close to adding a sales tax on groceries and over-the-counter medicines, among other sacred cows.

Seems as if the "plan" that was leaked called for a drop in the sales tax across the board, but to remove ALL exemptions. By weeks end, the public outcry hit the second floor of the Capitol, and during an afternoon event, the Governor began to tamp down this rumor. His explanation went something like this - As someone new to state government, he had an obligation to look at everything, all possibilities, and then pick the ones that will move forward his agenda and move CT into the future. So yes, we've talked about it and no, we haven't decided yet on what our budget will be. Stay tuned.

Effective response, not defensive, cool, calm and to the point. BUT, if Governor Lamont plans to drive innovations, redesign state government and address the long-standing structural issues that plagued the last two governors, he needs to bring his promised innovative, outside-of-the-box thinking and disruptive solutions to redesign how CT operates. Modernize the infrastructure, and only then can CT move into the next decade with a stronger foundation and hope of revitalization.

Other signs of Groundhog Day at the Capitol. The first few sessions of the House and Senate were housekeeping and involved several of the Governor's appointments, followed by adoption of a change of reference for a couple of Senate bills and adjournment. Just another day at the Capitol.

With three weeks to go before the Governor unveils his own two-year budget, he did once again break with tradition and ended the week by announcing his long-awaited selection of CT's new head of the Department of Economic Development - Davis Lehman, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs. He's technically being referred to as Lamont's Special Advisor on Economic Growth, and Commissioner of a new combined agency of the old Department of Economic and Community Development and the little known powerhouse quasi-agency called the CT Economic Resource Center, headed by Bob Santy.

Lamont made his signature campaign promise to restructure and refocus how CT attracts businesses and grows those businesses already located in CT. By partnering DECD with CERC - which describes itself as a resource for a variety of audiences, including local and global businesses, municipal and regional entities, state agencies, nonprofits, utilities and, generally, groups that are helping to improve Connecticut's economic competitiveness and make the state a better place to live, work and do business - Lamont has jump-started the new campaign to put CT back on the map.

This week definitely did NOT end as a Groundhog Day for Governor Lamont. With the past several years of cloudy views, we all can expect that CT will see an early spring filled with exciting announcements of new growth!   

The Legislative Scoop
Hot Mic
by Mike Johnson
Public hearings are set to begin on Monday for proposed bills and committee bills and organizations are ready to present their cases for their bill to "survive and advance".
Bills are permitted to be reserved for public hearings leading up to each committee's deadline in mid-February, but next week nine committees will begin their work early to ensure hearings later on aren't too overloaded with work. Here are the top hearings on tap for this week:
Environment Committee
- Among the other Environment Committee Bills this year, the committee will again entertain "S.B. No. 753 An Act Concerning The State-Wide Ban On Fracking Waste". This issue has been entertained in the past on transplantation of the waste but this bull proposes to expand the statewide fracking ban to apply to all gas and oil extraction activities and to assure that such ban is permanent.
Public Health Committee
- There are a number of proposals being heard in this committee on Monday but two familiar scope of practice topics are set to come up again. Both of these topics have been very contentious in the past and the session will tell if these initiatives have enough support to pass this year: 
Insurance and Real Estate Committee
- Health insurance policy is the hot topic among the many bills that will come up during the hearing on Thursday, which includes 21 bills all related to health insurance coverage topics. These bills will be entertaining a large amount of interest from the healthcare sector and will certainly keep stakeholders present until dinner!

Did You Know?
This Week in History
January 28th, 1878
The World's First Commercial Telephone Exchange

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a U.S. Patent for the first practical telephone design.

The earliest telephones, however, were extremely limited. It wasn't until a New Haven inventor by the name of George Willard Coy created the world's first commercial telephone exchange.

On January 28, 1878, Coy's telephone exchange, under the aegis of the District Telephone Company of New Haven, went live, ushering the world into a new age of live, long-distance, and convenient communication. 

For its first month of operation, the District Telephone Company had twenty-one subscribers - mostly businesses and government offices - who paid $1.50 a month for the service. Less than a month later, the number of subscribers had more than doubled, inspiring Coy to publish the world's first telephone directory on February 21 - a one-page listing of all fifty subscribers on his exchange.  

The switchboard quickly became a fundamental feature of telephone communications the world over, and Coy's company, which renamed itself the Southern New England Telephone company in 1882, and would become one of New England's most influential companies of the 20th century. 
In This Issue:

What's Hot 

Session is in full swing and with almost 3,000 proposed bills so far, CT News Junkie has put together a list of "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird." 

Take a look for yourself to get caught up! Click here to read more.

CT Agency Corner
By Chelsea Neelon

Bradley Airport, the "Gateway to New England", is looking to make some changes going into the New Year.

Discussion regarding new routes, possibly to Phoenix, Seattle and the Caribbean, as well as updated bathrooms and even a possible name change are on the CT Airport Authority's 2019 agenda. Most of these goals are centered around "... a larger ambition to make Bradley the premier airport in New England after the larger ones in Boston and New York," said CAA Board Chair Tony Sheridan.

On top of these changes, the CT Airport Authority is looking to expand its air cargo business. They are hoping that expansion will generate employment and continue to put Bradley on the map as a New England hub.

While most people from Connecticut know Bradley Airport and where it is, the CCA is mulling over a possible name change that would give an indication of the airport's location to those outside the region. That being said, they did not confirm a future name change. Guess we will have to wait and see.

by Ryan Bingham

It looks like the City of Bridgeport is trying to get ahead of the curve when it comes to modernizing technology to create efficiencies when it comes to their 311 system.

311 is a non-emergency phone number that many cities offer that allows residents to call to find information about services, make complaints or report problems that are not as pressing as an urgent 911 situation. Bridgeport sought help from a New Haven company, SeeClickFix, to modernize their municipal reporting system. SeeClickFix has been working with towns in CT, but also across the country, and added an app for mobile use to create another level of efficiency for residents to have their voices heard.

Tom Gaudett the special projects director for Bridgeport said, "311 apps really revolutionized quality of life issues in a city like our own," said Gaudett. "You can imagine back in the day, people used to make a phone call to city government." Now, it's as easy as the touch of a few buttons.

2019 Behind the Scenes
by Chelsea Neelon

Session is back in action and so are our "behind the scenes" interviews with members of CT's General Assembly!

This week, we featured Representative Gary Turco who represents the 27th House District.

What motivated you to run for office?
I decided to run because I saw too many things I cared about in the state heading in the wrong direction. Areas like college affordability, services for the disabled, small business growth, and health care costs were some of my biggest concerns. I want our state to take a more creative and innovative approach to address these challenges.

What are your legislative priorities this session?
My biggest priority is how we can as a State start creating policies that are more geared towards long term success rather than only short term gains that ultimately hurt our state. In regards to specific issues, I am focused on policies that prevent the "youth flight" in our State. We have a great educational system, but lose too much of our workforce talent to surrounding states.

Last question! What's your favorite hobby?
-   Visiting CT wineries, breweries and distilleries when I have time.