Author Archives: Gregory B. Hladky

Coalition Calls On Governor Candidates To Debate Transportation Taxes, Tolls

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A broad coalition of environmental, economic, regional and construction groups urged Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates Tuesday to debate and consider higher taxes and tolls to pay for the state’s dire transportation needs.

The activists put out a four-point program they said the state’s next governor must consider, including the possibility that massive federal funding for highways and mass transit may dry up in the next few years.

Karen Burnaska, spokeswoman for Transit for Connecticut, speaking at Union Station in Hartford.

Karen Burnaska, spokeswoman for Transit for Connecticut, speaking at Union Station in Hartford.

Other items on the coalition’s list include a demand that state revenue that is supposed to be devoted to transportation – such as gas and fuel taxes – not be diverted to ease other state fiscal problems; and using existing state transportation funding as rapidly as possible.

Incumbent Democrat Dannel Malloy and his Republican opponent, Tom Foley, have both already ruled out any state tax increases as an option if they are elected in November.

As for tolls, Malloy rejected a proposal for so-called “border tolls” in January 2013, and Foley has said he would only consider tolls as a tool to help reduce traffic congestion.

But Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said he tax increases and/or tolls may be the only way to pay for the billions of dollars in transportation infrastructure improvements that this state desparately needs.

“I don’t see any other options out there that are viable,” Shubert said.

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Sen. Maynard Discharged From Hospital

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Sen. Andrew Maynard, who suffered severe head injuries as a result of a fall at his home last month, has been discharged from a Rhode Island hospital and was transferred to a New Britain facility for therapy to continue his recovery.

“He is making a slow, yet positive, recovery,” according to a statement issued Thursday by Denise Mahoney, Maynard’s sister. “He is awake and is responsive to family and friends who have been by his side. While his recovery will take time, his doctors are confident that the recovery will continue to be positive and that the [Hospital for Special Care in New Britain] is the right place to continue that recovery.”

Sen. Andrew Maynard

Sen. Andrew Maynard

Maynard, 52, was injured in the early morning hours of July 21 when he fell from an outside staircase at his Stonington home. He was rushed to a Westerly, RI hospital and then transferred to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence for further treatment.

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Judge Fitzsimmons to Retire From State Bench

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By EDMUND H. MAHONY

emahony@courant.com

Holly B. Fitzsimmons, a longtime U.S. Magistrate Judge in Bridgeport, has announced she will retire in April, opening a $183,000 a year judicial position that certain to generate wide interest among state lawyers.

Fitzsimmons has presided over a variety of cases since her appointment in June 1993.

Before taking the federal bench, she was federal prosecutor, leading efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s office against political corruption in the state in the 1990s. Prior to joining the federal government, she worked for the Hartford law firm Robinson and Cole.

Among other things, Fitzsimmons prosecuted former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro and other members of the city’s government for political crimes in the late 1980s. The U.S. Attorney’s office since has established itself as the state’s chief prosecutor of political corruption.

The retirement of Fitzsimmons, who is known widely among the state bar, is expected to attract numerous applicants to what amounts to a lifetime appointment.

Unlike U.S. District Judges, nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Magistrate Judges are appointed by vote of the federal judges in the state. The position was created by Congress in 1968 to ease the work load of the federal judges.

By law, Magistrate Judges can perform most of the functions of federal judges, with the notable exception of presiding over felony trials.

Applicants for Fitzsimmons’ position should apply to the U.S. District Court clerk. Candidates will be screened by a merit committee. A finalist will be appointed by the judges following background investigations by the FBI and IRS.

 

 

Partisan Clash Over Easing Connecticut’s Voting Rules

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Connecticut, Democrats, General Assembly, Republicans, Uncategorized Tagged: , , , Date:

How and when people should be allowed to vote has become a highly partisan issue around the United States in recent years, and Connecticut’s turn is now arriving smack in the middle of a heated political campaign season.

Democratic and Republican state lawmakers squared off Wednesday at a legislative meeting over the seemingly innocuous issue of how to explain to voters a proposed state constitutional amendment that’s on the ballot this November.

Photo courtesy of Connecticut State Government.

Photo courtesy of Connecticut State Government.

The real debate wasn’t about the wording, but about the proposed amendment that would remove current restrictions on the General Assembly’s ability to allow things like early voting or “no excuse” absentee ballots. Republicans insist the change could lead to more voter fraud, but Democrats say all they want to do is to make it easier for people to vote.

Connecticut’s constitution doesn’t allow early voting systems like those now used in 33 other states, such as opening the polls on the Saturday before an election. At least 27 states permit registered voters to use “no excuse” absentee ballots – but Connecticut will only allow an absentee ballot if someone is too sick or is out of state at the time of that Election Day.

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Three Organizations to Co-Host September Gubernatorial Debate

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The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the AARP and the Connecticut Mirror are set to host a gubernatorial debate that’s tentatively scheduled for Sept. 23 at Hamden Middle School, according to CCM officials.

Tom Foley, the easy winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary, will be facing off against the Democratic incumbent governor, Dannel Malloy. A third-party candidate, Jonathan Pelto, is also running for governor.

Ferry Ads Being Revised After Protests

by Categorized: Transportation Tagged: , Date:

Just weeks after they went up on the two historic Connecticut River ferries, ad banners purchased by a law firm have been removed and “are being redesigned” to “better suit the context and character of the ferries.”

A state spokesman said the ads triggered “some negative feedback” from people who use and love the small state-owned ferries. Those complaints prompted Carter Mario Injury Lawyers, the firm paying $5,000 a year for the right to advertise on the ferryboats, to ask that the banners be removed temporarily.

Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry. Hartford Courant photo.

Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry. Hartford Courant photo.

One irate ferry devotee, Jean Hall, emailed the Courant complaining that the ads were “defacing the ferry” she uses regularly.

“Both ads are being rehashed,” Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Monday. “I think what they’re trying to do is come up with advertising that adds to the experience of these historic ferries.”

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Polling Woes: Foley’s Way Ahead of Malloy, Or Maybe Not

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Connecticut, Democrats, Gov. Dannel Malloy, John McKinney, Jonathan Pelto, Republicans, Tom Foley Tagged: , , Date:

If anyone needed any more evidence about how cautious you have to be of political polling these days, all they have to do is look at the results of two very different opinion surveys released in the last few days.

On Tuesday, a new-style, online type of poll on Connecticut’s gubernatorial race came out with the somewhat startling results that Republican Tom Foley was leading Democratic incumbent Dannel Malloy by nine percentage points.  One reason it got so much play – despite all the questions about how it was done – was because it was commissioned by the New York Times and CBS.

Democrat Dannel Malloy

Democrat Dannel Malloy

On Thursday, a slightly more traditional opinion survey was released, this time by a GOP-leaning group called Vox Populi Polling. It found Malloy was ahead of Foley by a single percentage point. A third-party candidate, Jonathan Pelto, came in with three percent support among those polled. With the margin of error involved, the only conclusion you could have is that the race is too close to call.

Republican Tom Foley

Republican Tom Foley

So, which one are we supposed to  believe? The NYT-CBS sponsored survey that used rather questionable online methods? Or the Vox Populi Polling results that also involved some methods (such as automated “robo-calls” to presumed voters) that traditional pollsters question?

Maybe the answer is to be very wary of both.

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Fixing the Glitches In New Anti-Racial Profiling System

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Figuring out how to get rid of glitches in Connecticut’s new system for monitoring possible racial profiling by police is no easy task, and making sense out of the flood of raw data being sent in may be just as tough.

Some of the problems a group of experts were puzzling over Thursday included how to pin down exactly where police traffic stops are occurring, fixing a computer program quirks that can force officers to enter the wrong data, and comparing day versus nighttime stops.

East Haven cops

 

The latest statewide data on Connecticut police traffic stops was released a month ago and indicated minorities are being stopped at higher rates than population statistics would suggest is normal. State officials are now trying to crunch those numbers to determine exactly where and why that’s happening.

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Campus Sex Assault Reform Legislation Offered in Congress

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BY MATTHEW Q. CLARIDA

A bipartisan group of eight senators introduced legislation today that U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, one of the bill’s Democratic proponents, likened to a bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.

“The broad principles of this bill are incontrovertible,” Blumenthal told Capitol Watch. “The days of blaming the survivor are done. Schools can no longer demean or dismiss this problem. A survivor can no longer be blamed for what she wore or where she went or what she drank.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The bill seeks to add structure to the way colleges and universitties and law enforcement deal with campus sexual assault cases. Critics have charged that such cases are now often mishandled in awkward and at times ineffective combinations of school disciplinary bodies and the traditional criminal justice system. If passed by Congress, the law would require schools to clearly and publicly settle their relationship with local law enforcement in dealing with reports of assault.

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Large Numbers of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Never Get Served

by Categorized: General Assembly, Uncategorized Tagged: , Date:

An estimated 40 percent of the restraining orders issued by New Haven judges in domestic violence cases between 2010 and 2011 never got served, according to testimony provided to a state task force Wednesday.

The record of serving restraining orders in abuse cases in Bridgeport doesn’t appear much better, said Aaron P. Wenzloff, a staff attorney with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association. He said statistics from that city’s courts indicate that 30 percent of the restraining orders issued between October and December of last year were never served.

At its first meeting, the legislative task force heard about a long list of problems with the current system of providing restraining orders to protect victims of domestic abuse.

Bureaucratic delays, communication problems, inadequate information and low payments to state marshals, and failures by some marshals to meet required deadlines all contributed to the many failures to serve restraining orders, various state officials said.

The panel is charged with coming up with recommendations for reforming Connecticut’s system of domestic abuse restraining orders. Activists have complained for years that gaps and delays in the system have allowed abusers to seriously injure and even kill victims who have sought protection.

State policy is to only pay a marshal for a single successful attempt to serve a restraining order on a person accused of domestic violence, said Robert B. Gyle, vice president of the association representing state marshals. A state Attorney General’s opinion limits payment to a marshal to just $30 plus travel expenses and only if the service is successful.

Members of the task force questioned whether such a limited payment system discourages marshals from making multiple efforts to find the target of a restraining order.

Wenzloff and other officials said abuse victims applying for restraining orders often run into difficulty finding a marshal to serve the court papers.

Gyle said marshals frequently don’t have much information about where the target of a restraining order is living, or where he or she works, making it difficult or impossible to serve the order. He said it’s virtually impossible to find someone when their listed address can be as vague as “the streets of Waterbury.”