February 5, 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

With a month into the digital session in Connecticut, the wheels are starting to come off the bus and the challenge of a virtual session is beginning to become real! This week was supposed to start out with a large public hearing in the Public Health committee with over 200 people signed up to testify by zoom and then the snow storm hit… many expected ok a little glitch, but since it was to be a virtual hearing anyway, onward and forward. Not so. The hearing was postponed due to “complications” and reset for this coming Monday. Later in the day, a few committees still held their meetings and the week started to roll forward.

Come Wednesday, yikes! The Public Safety committee started to heat up when a few bills on the agenda became “hot topics” and some feared they might die on the agenda. Our first attempt to “lobby the committee members” was on! With the ability to reach members as the drama was unfolding, we were able to get the bills back on track, provide the background information needed to turn around the course of action and see the bill move through the process. Whew. Our first road test completed.

The Labor committee, keeping on its pathway to a more progressive look at workplace issues, definitely struck a chord as many bills approved for a public hearing will have a significant impact on a struggling economy. Previous sessions tell us that the committee, which is home to more progressive legislators that most other committees, will surely pick a handful of “controversial” issues and run with them. Approval will be almost certain and then it’s left to the House and Senate to sort them out and work with the Governor’s Office to protect CT’s struggling business climate.

In a normal session, the LOB would be packed with local small package stores protesting the lifting of the ban on selling beer and wine outside of package stores in the General Law committee. Not this session. The public hearing was again virtual and it was clear that the somewhat dramatic environment created by 300 or more package store owners and employees in the LOB wasn’t going to have the same impact as testifying virtually. Many public citizens who signed up to testify showed their frustration with not being able to “buttonhole” committee members in the hallway and advocate for the bill's defeat. Time will tell if they can harness that former “clout” through local grassroots and the old fashion all politics is local lobbying techniques.

Today, the Public Health committee was set to raise the controversial issue of vaccinations for school children and again things were not going smoothly. In addition to the topic being controversial, the committee chairs decided to change the course of events from last session’s two-day hearing into a 24 hour max timeframe for the hearing, and opponents to the bills were not happy to say the least. A meeting that all thought would have some back and forth took almost an hour on the time limitation decision of the co-chairs. The ranking members (republican leaders of the committee) were beside themselves since never before has there been a time limit for an entire public hearing. With the remote access, many argued that folks have even greater access to the legislative members as well as the tried and true written testimony. After a long and sometimes contentious discussion, as well as suggestions to improve the protocol that everyone who signs up has the ability to testify, the Democrats and Republicans agreed to disagree on leadership’s decision to shut down debate at 24 hours. Not surprisingly, the vote favored the drafting and scheduling for a public hearing on two versions of the vaccination bill and the committee moved on to other topics on the agenda.

Next week is jam-packed with a ton of public hearings and committee meetings to make final decisions on what proposals and issues get heard at public hearings. As the legislature faces more snow, the celebration of two state holidays in the next week, and the Governor’s Budget address set for Wednesday, we are expecting to see more “issues” arise on how to run a virtual session.

In normal years the Governor’s budget makes an impact on the process as well as the time commitments of legislators. This year we anticipate with the growth of the progressive arm of the Democratic Party there will be even more tense times ahead.  

As we start the countdown of 83 days left in the session we're in for more challenges and tension as the public hearings take place and the committees start to take final actions on a ton of bills.

More fun times in River City to come!
DESPP Announces $50K Grant for Non-Profits Seeking Security Upgrades

It’s rare these days that matching grant programs (let alone full no-math guarantee programs) are found for non-profits who usually only receive access to one program approximately every two years. Now a new federal program is available for non-profits who wish to make security upgrades.
The program, called the Non-Profit Security Grant Program, is a program being funded by the Federal Government and administered by the state to help non-profits who could be targeted by domestic terror attacks, hate crimes or other violent acts.
A total of $5 million has been allocated for the program, and each eligible nonprofit is able to receive a maximum of $50,000 per site. Applications are now being accepted, with the first part due to the state by March 12 and the second part due by March 19, 2021. Applications will be ranked and awarded based on the demonstrated need for security improvements.
For more information for how to apply for an organization that might be interested please email me at mjohnson@ctlobby.com or follow this link Grants (ct.gov)
Achievement Gap Widening 

As we have reported over the last several months, school districts have been struggling with in person versus distance learning as infection rates during the pandemic have ebbed and flowed. The Public Policy Institute of California engaged in research on the topic of distance learning and published several interesting pieces of information gleened from this unintended nationwide study. Traditional learning, as has been the school of thought for years, has broken into four basic allocations of class time: allocated school time, allocated class time, instructional/formal learning time and academic learning time. During the pandemic, distance learning has curbed significantly, direct teacher instructional time and has not seen a make up of independent time on educational activities. 
That divide is causing concerns that can threaten and increase the disparity between socioeconomic subgroups of learners and many students will fall further behind than they already were. There are many schools of thought on how to wedge the gap, but some say the damage has been done and the sooner that children can get back into a physical school, where that precious interaction between teacher and student returns, we’ll see wider gaps in achievement.  
Slow Release of Governor’s Bill leading up to Budget Day 
This week, Governor Lamont announced new legislation he intends to introduce this session in advance of his budget address scheduled for next Wednesday, February 10th. These announcements give a preview of the Governor's legislative priorities, which so far include broadband access and increasing educational attainment levels/workforce development. During that budget address speech, he is expected to outline some additional legislative priorities for the 2021 session.

So far, he’s set a goal of making broadband internet more accessible to Connecticut residents, particularly those in underserved households by September 2022. Included in this bill will be several other key initiatives:
  • Repeal the prohibition on the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) from requiring internet service providers to provide access to all residents where they have video licenses;
  • Require internet service providers to report annual metrics such as availability, download and upload speeds, and outage information;
  • Reduce exorbitant costs of building broadband internet access in Connecticut by implementing dig-once policies and reducing permitting time and costs;
  • Streamline agency efforts to ensure effective creation and coordination of goals and standards; and
  • Establish better consumer protections across the state by giving oversight of complaints to PURA.

Governor Lamont also introduced his plans for a second bill that is focused on increasing postsecondary enrollment and success among Connecticut’s students, particularly among first-generation, low-income, and minority students. Key initiatives in this proposal will include:
  • Requiring completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, the equivalent, or a waiver as a high school graduation requirement;
  • Creating an auto-admission program at the four Connecticut State Universities to increase access to college for academically prepared high school students by simplifying the application process and removing application fees;
  • Increasing access to Advanced Placement, dual credit, early college, and other high-quality courses by requiring that districts not prohibit students from taking such courses based solely on prior academic performance, and that districts auto-enroll students in advanced coursework if a student is academically prepared; and
  • Creating an expanded transit pass program, similar to the UPass program used by students at the state’s public colleges and universities, that is open to private institutions and other training providers.

We will continue to keep you posted on additional bills announced by the Lamont administration and with news from his budget address next week. 
Freshmen Legislator Profile: Tammy Nuccio (R-Tolland)

Tammy Nuccio was elected to serve in the State House of Representatives' 53rd district last Fall. Her district includes the towns of Ashford, Tolland, and Willington. Rep. Nuccio brings to this role many years of community involvement including serving as the Chair of the Tolland Town Council. Below please see some thoughts from her on how her freshmen session is going so far:

This is a very challenging job and I’m looking forward to trying to make some positive change for my constituents. I’m eager to be sure the small town voice is heard and present at the table where decisions are being made. I’m hopeful that I can bring that voice forward and help my residents, especially through these trying times.

I’m excited for all of my committees. I’m a numbers person by career and the thought of being on Finance/bonding/Revenue is very exciting. I’m also veteran of the Insurance industry and I’m excited to be able to work with my co-legislators on the Insurance Committee to bring education, awareness and hopefully some new ideas on how to keep health care affordable. Lastly, this state is in dire need of commerce and development. I’m looking forward to trying to bring things forward to help our state.

My husband and I have been together since we were 16 and we have three amazing adult daughters who have their sights on changing the world, they always keep life exciting. We have four dogs, 2 cats and a bunny in our household and have seriously contemplated chickens for a while. I love to read, although getting into politics has put a severe damper on my to be read list accomplishments and I enjoy photography and traveling by car.  

-Representative Nuccio
February 5th, 1918 The Stray New Haven Pup Who Became a War Hero

Today in 1918, an unlikely future war hero in the shape of a small, short-tailed puppy arrived at the front lines in France alongside the 102nd Regiment of the Yankee Division, a unit of mostly Connecticut soldiers recruited in New Haven. Named “Stubby” by his comrades because of his tiny tail, the contraband puppy would save the lives of dozens of American soldiers and become the most decorated war dog of World War I.

Stubby’s story began in the summer of 1917, when the little stray dog wandered onto the green of Yale University, where soldiers of the 102nd were undergoing training exercises. One of the new recruits, Robert Conroy, took a liking to Stubby and adopted the bright and charismatic pup. When the 102nd was deployed to France, Conroy conspired with his fellows to smuggle Stubby aboard their transport ship, even though it was against regulations. When the four-legged stowaway was discovered, Stubby won over the officer who found him by raising his paw to his head in a crisp salute.

From that point forward, Stubby became the regiment’s mascot, and “deployed” with the 102nd to the front lines on February 5th, 1918. There, Stubby survived 17 battles in the trenches while providing aid and comfort to his comrades in a number of ways. After surviving his first mustard gas attack, for example, Stubby was able to sniff out and alert the regiment to incoming mustard gas fumes long before the doughboys were aware of their presence. During cease-fires, Stubby helped medics find wounded Allied soldiers, and on one occasion — thanks to his ability to discern between spoken English and German — he was even able to corner a German spy. For this act, his regimental commander gave Stubby the formal rank of Sergeant. During a German artillery attack, Stubby received shrapnel wounds to his leg. The now beloved soldier-pup was treated at a local hospital, where he became a comfort dog to hundreds of wounded Allied soldiers.

At war’s end, Sgt. Stubby returned to the United States, where he was hailed as a national war hero. His fame was spread by a myriad of newspaper stories reporting the canine’s brave war deeds. Stubby was honored with lifetime memberships in the American Legion, the American Red Cross, and the YMCA, and he also served as a mascot for the campaign to promote the purchase of Liberty War Bonds. Stubby was the Grand Marshal for a host of major patriotic parades, in which he always wore a custom coat (sewn for him by the grateful women of Château-Thierry, France) adorned with war medals, accolades, and his sergeant’s stripes.

By his death in 1926, Stubby had “shaken hands” with three U.S. Presidents — Wilson, Coolidge, and Harding — and received a personal commendation from World War I’s U.S. Army commander General John J. Pershing. One of America’s most famous and beloved dogs of war set his paws on the battlefield for the first time, today in Connecticut history.

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