Crime Task Forces, Bus System Among Issues Discussed at Connecticut Budget Appropriations Meeting

The efficacy of crime task forces, status of CTtransit bus lines and issuance of non-driver IDs were among the wide ranging issues Connecticut lawmakers dug into with state officials at a recent hearing looking into the back half of Gov. Ned Lamont’s biennium budget.

Members in both chambers of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee held a hearing Feb. 18 with state officials serving on transportation, regulation and protection agencies.

James Rovella, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, addressed how Lamont’s fiscal year 2023 budget will assist with a number of initiatives, including several targeted task forces aimed at such issues as violent crimes and stolen vehicles.

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Connecticut Supreme Court Orders Congressional Maps Drawn by Special Master Be Adopted

Connecticut Supreme Court Building

The state’s highest court ruled that new Congressional maps drawn by a court-appointed special master be adopted.

The Connecticut Supreme Court handed down the decision Thursday after members of the Reapportionment Committee failed to reach an agreement on new maps in December 2021. The maps were re-drawn using information from the 2020 Census.

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Connecticut Parents Enraged by Eighth-Grade Assignment Using Pizza Toppings as Metaphor for Sexual Likes and Dislikes

A health class assignment to eighth-grade students in Enfield, Connecticut asked them to list their sexual likes and dislikes, using pizza toppings as a metaphor.

Parents of eighth grade students in a sex ed class at the John F. Kennedy Middle School in the Enfield Public Schools (EPS) district reported their children received an assignment that asked them to list their sexual likes and dislikes – and likened that to ordering toppings on a pizza.

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Connecticut Governor’s Lifting of School Mask Mandate Depends on Legislature Voting to Extend His Emergency Powers

Connecticut children cannot be certain they can finally be free of wearing masks in school since, although Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said he would end the state school mask mandate by February 28, that plan may depend on the legislature voting to extend his pandemic emergency powers, and then on individual school districts.

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Lamont told residents he will roll back some coronavirus restrictions, including the school mask mandate, adding, “You have earned this freedom.”

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Connecticut Governor Lamont Plans to Eliminate School Mask Requirement

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he is backing a plan that would eliminate statewide requirements that masks be worn in child care facilities and public and private schools in the state.

The governor announced he is working with the departments of public health and education to determine whether masks will continue to be a requirement beyond the Feb. 28 deadline.

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Connecticut Gov. Lamont Proposes $336 Million in Tax Cuts

Gov. Ned Lamont said he is proposing a package of legislative proposals that would provide for $336 million in tax relief for state residents.

The governor announced the first package of tax aid comes as the state has a projected $1.48 billion surplus in its operating budget. The surplus, Lamont said, enables the tax cuts to be built into the budget and will ensure the state’s Rainy Day Fund remains strong.

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Connecticut Slow in Job Growth, Won’t Reach Pre-Pandemic Levels Until 2023

Although Connecticut will add 60,000 jobs this year, the state won’t be back to pre-pandemic levels of employment until 2023, industry groups say.

“The inability to grow jobs at the national average or even at the top of the Northeast means that Connecticut’s economy is going to continue to grow slower than the rest of the country and the Northeast,” Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, told The Center Square. “The slow job growth means that businesses are not meeting the customer demand that they have. Connecticut, in turn, is not realizing the state’s total economic growth potential. Most businesses are hopeful that the state will put some policies in place to fuel growth and the jobs added each month will increase. This will help recover the jobs that we’ve lost before the end of this year.”

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Connecticut Guns Sales Reach Five-Year High During Pandemic

woman in a white dress holding an AR in a gun shop

Gun sales reached a five-year high in Connecticut in 2021, the year that the FBI saw the second-highest number of recorded background checks.

According to Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there were 21 million background checks for gun sales in 2020 and 18.5 million in 2021, nationwide. Those figures are the top two highest on record.

“Background checks skyrocketed in March 2020, when there were 2.3 million background checks recorded,” Oliva told The Center Square. “That was the most ever recorded in a single month. That, of course, was the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns. People became concerned for their safety when police were warning they would not be able to respond to all emergency calls because they were seeing COVID infections rise.”

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Connecticut Republicans and Democrats Argue Congressional Map Case in Court

Connecticut Supreme Court Building

The state’s Supreme Court has until Feb. 15 to render a decision on how Connecticut’s congressional district maps will be drawn.

The court heard arguments Thursday from attorneys representing Republican and Democratic members of the Reapportionment Commission, who have been unable to reach agreement on how the state’s congressional districts will be drawn.

At the crux of the arguments are maps that are to be drawn with the least amount of change from current districts, with close approximations of the number of residents in each district, and how to address the “lobster claw,” a gerrymandered district that dates back to 2001.

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Gov. Lamont: Connecticut Worker’s Compensation Rates Decrease for Eighth Straight Year

For the eighth consecutive year, Connecticut’s worker’s compensation insurance rates are dropping, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The governor announced in a news release that businesses will see a rate decrease in 2022 as the state’s Insurance Department has approved a filing featuring a 14.1% reduction to pure premium loss costs and an 8.2% reduction in risk rates.

“This further decline in workers’ compensation insurance premiums is good news for businesses, enabling employers to invest more money back into their companies and employees, and providing a boost to our economy,” Lamont said. “It’s even better news for workers, because the decrease reflects the fact that workplaces are getting safer and safer.”

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Connecticut Schools Close as COVID-19 Cases Rise Among Students, Staff

Some school districts around Connecticut announced closures to allow students and teachers additional time to recover from COVID-19 as the state is experiencing a rise in cases and quarantines.

Stratford Public Schools posted a notice on its website stating that, “Schools will not be in session on Monday 1/3 and Tuesday, 1/4. We will effectively treat the next two days as Inclement Weather Days. This will position us to allow impacted staff members and students to receive current test results and potentially complete their quarantine for a safer return.”

Stonington Public schools announced the closure for Monday only and that Tuesday would be “closed due to Professional Development in lieu” a scheduled Professional Development Day on March 9, which will now be a regular class day.

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Connecticut Governor Lamont Directs Increase in Earned Income Tax Credit to Benefit Lower-Income Taxpayers

Ned Lamont

Nearly 200,000 households in Connecticut will benefit from an increase in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The governor said in a news release that the Department of Revenue Services will increase the 2020 Earned Income Tax Credit from 23% to 41.5% as directed by the state budget.

Lamont said the increase will “provide needed economic support to low-to-moderate income working individuals and families” who faced negative economic impacts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Over Half of U.S. States Will Increase Their Minimum Wage in 2022

Over half of the states in the U.S. will institute a minimum wage increase in 2022, according to a report.

A total of 26 states will raise the minimum wage in 2022, with 22 of the states starting the pay hikes on Jan. 1, accordingto payroll experts at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S.

“These minimum wage increases indicate moves toward ensuring a living wage for people across the country,” Deirdre Kennedy, senior payroll analyst at Wolters Kluwer, said in the report. “In addition to previously approved incremental increases, the change in presidential administration earlier this year and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have also contributed to these changes.”

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Massive Multi-State Democratic Climate Change Initiative Crumbles

Several Democratic states withdrew from an ambitious plan to curb transportation emissions less than a year after signing onto the agreement.

Massachusetts and Connecticut abandoned the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) last week, citing high gas prices and irreconcilable differences, E&E News reported. Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., also joined the agreement which promised to cut transportation emissions 25% and raise $3 billion for clean energy projects.

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