August 6, 2021
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
This Day in CT History
The great Tip O’Neil always said – all politics is local...

CT Governor Ned Lamont sure is taking the lead from former US Congress Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil in relation to his recent executive order regarding managing the spread of the newest variant of the COVID-19 virus. Yesterday, the Governor declared that mayors and first selectmen should make the call given the variance in infection rates between Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns. Some towns have less than 40% vaccinated, but not a high level of positive tests. Other town have a high percentage of vaccination but a soaring positively rate according to CDC statistics.

Some say there’s only a short period of concern, others say that we could experience 12 to 15 days of increased infection rates. Countries like the U.K. and India, who saw some of the worst upticks in infections, have now started to return to a more normal state of affairs. So if that is true, Connecticut, which saw last week its high water mark at almost 3% positive tests, is now back at under 3%, currently sitting around 2.7%. Since the onset of this public health crisis in March of 2020, Connecticut has had over 10 million tests with 357,000+ people testing positive, and currently has 157 people in the hospital being treated for serious COVID symptoms.

As the 2022 gubernatorial election cycle starts to heat up for real, it seems like Governor Lamont is looking to show a collaborative leadership style in addressing this “second” wave of concern based on the new variant. With controversy at all corners of the state in the media, social media, community meetings, and other public circles, no one really wants to return to the “old” days of the pandemic, where we have to wear masks everywhere, return to 6 ft. social distancing and avoid large group gatherings.

FLASH BULLETIN – As I am writing this article, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker just implemented a new mask mandate. New Haven residents, mask up or stay home - so the march begins.

I returned from Washington DC yesterday after attending the executive committee board meeting of the Public Affairs council and almost all participants were on the phone constantly with their companies searching for the newest government advisory as to how to manage daily operations, event management and even travel needs of their companies. In DC a lot of folks were wearing masks indoors and outdoors. Upon my arrival, the mayor had just declared a new mask mandate for any indoor activities in public spaces. Traffic was almost nonexistent since the majority of offices and company headquarters were still in remote mode. The big public tourist spots were open but those cool little special visits – the Whitehouse, the FBI, and the Treasury, were shuttered for public viewing. Plenty of young families were all over the Mall and “museum row” and restaurants were plenty empty at lunch but jamming at dinner. A lot of them were still shuttered. Outdoor dining was alive and well even with entertainment on the sidewalks.

Interestingly, the taxi cab traffic was almost nonexistent and UBER had taken over the city as well as the mobile bike and scooter rentals. It felt odd for the nation’s capital, but all in all there was still a lot of life in the city.

Returning to CT – there still remains an uncertainty from the Governor’s Office about what to do about mask mandates in schools. With his special powers to expire on September 30th it should require some sort of legislative action to make mandatory masking continue past his powers’ expiration date. At this point, mask and vaccine mandates still remain up to individual businesses, with a few of the major companies delaying their return to office announcements by a month or so. 

So in many ways life in CT remains the same, in other ways life will be changing, but for now it’s up to the City or Town Hall to make that call.  

As the books set to close, surpluses continue to increase

An unfamiliar story in CT state government continues with underestimated revenues resulting in the largest budget surplus the state has seen in decades.

On top of the already record-setting budget reserves, this week the state estimated that Connecticut will end its budget year with almost $500M more than was estimated in May. In addition, it was reported this week by the CT Mirror via the Governor’s Office's budget reports that special revenue tied to capital gains and dividends grew by $215 million between the new budget’s adoption and June 30. This savings is deposited into the “volatility adjustment” cap which was passed in the 2017 session in a bipartisan manner to ensure future surpluses did not become immediately eligible for spending. 

While the surplus is incredibly positive news and has resulted in an improved credit rating for the state, there are still massive unfunded long term liabilities that will need to be accounted for with some of these funds. Most notably the teachers retirement pension fund in Connecticut is 94% reimbursed by the State without any contribution from towns except for individual teachers who contribute about 6% of their salaries into the fund. Having towns bear some of the responsibilities has historically been a very unpopular concept in the past but one that will likely be brought up by the executive branch when funds in the budget begin to dip.

The real question remains on when exactly this dip will take place and how long these historic surpluses will last. 
Social Equity Council Created by Cannabis Legislation Identifies 'Disproportionately Impacted' Areas of Connecticut

The Social Equity Council had their first meeting this Thursday. The council was created by Public Act 21-1 in order to ensure the spirit of social equity in drafting regulations for legal cannabis and providing licensure for prospective cannabis businesses. In their first meeting, the 15 member council laid out their timeline for the business licensing process, and approved a map that shows which areas of CT have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. These DIA's are defined as "a census tract with a historical drug conviction rate higher than 10%, or an unemployment rate of more than 10%." A historical drug conviction rate for a given census tract is calculated by adding all drug arrests in that tract from 1982 to 2020, and dividing them by the tract's current population.

These DIAs are important, because they help the council determine who is and is not a Social Equity Applicant . Social Equity Applicant is defined as " a resident of a disproportionately impacted area for at least (a) five of the 10 years immediately before applying for the license or (b) nine years before turning age 18; or has a prior arrest or conviction (of the individual himself or herself or a parent, spouse, or child), as an adult or juvenile, for the sale, possession, use, manufacture, or cultivation of cannabis." These Social Equity Applicants can join a cannabis related business license lottery that is separate from the general public. They can also partner with existing dispensaries that are looking to convert their license from purely medical sales, to hybrid retail/medical sales, and bypass the lottery altogether.

Click here to view an interactive map of each census tract that the council has determined to be a disproportionately impacted area.
Governor Lamont to Involve Legislature in COVID decisions

Tuesday, the Governor announced that he would be interested in a special legislative session to decide how to deal with the current spike in COVID-19 cases. With Governor Lamont's latest executive orders on COVID protocols such as mandatory public school masking expiring on September 30th, Connecticut's leaders are planning their next steps for handling the pandemic. “I think the legislature’s going to want to come in and I’d like to work with them in terms of what we do after Sept. 30 and get their point of view on masks, schools, vaccinations for state employees,” Lamont said. “I don’t have to make all these decisions by myself. I’ll take some help.”

Causes for concern stem from an uptick in COVID cases caused by the new Delta variant. A high profile outbreak occurred recently in Middletown, where Municipal offices will be closed to the public this week due to an outbreak.

On the issue of mandating proof of vaccination for entry to businesses, the Governor stated that he believes that Connecticut residents have been making good decisions when it comes to masking and getting vaccinated. Governor Lamont would like to leave the decision on mandates to businesses and local authorities.
August 6th, Dale Earnhardt Smokes the Competition in Stafford...Twice in One Day

For a small state sandwiched between two of America’s largest cities, Connecticut has enjoyed its fair share of exposure to professional sports. While Connecticut is best known for its association with professional hockey and baseball teams and for the many Olympic athletes who grew up in its suburbs, the state has also played host to several notable sporting events, including in the realm of motor sports.

In the 1980s, Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Connecticut hosted a number of highly publicized NASCAR races, pitting the best names in racing against each other in what was called the “Showdown of Champions.” By then, the racetrack had already been in operation for over 100 years, having first opened in 1870 as an agricultural park featuring a half-mile horse racing track. By the 1950s, the speedway had changed over to motor sports and signed an agreement with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing to feature nationally sanctioned racing events, and on August 6, 1985, Stafford experienced one of its most remarkable NASCAR moments ever. That day, prior NASCAR Rookie of the Year and Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt won not one, but two short-track races at Stafford Motor Speedway’s 1985 Showdown of Champions.

Earnhardt’s back-to-back victories at Stafford extended his winning streak to five in a row, having just won three races in New Hampshire in the previous week. While it wasn’t the NASCAR Hall of Famer’s only visit to a Connecticut racetrack, it was certainly his most memorable, and helped reinforce his reputation as “the Intimidator” in racing circles. Today, Stafford Motor Speedway still hosts a number of amateur and professional racing events every year. Dale Earnhardt would go on to win several additional NASCAR Winston Cup championships and establish himself as one of America’s most well-known racing celebrities before a fatal crash cut his career short in 2001.

The full article from the CT Humanities Council can be found here.
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