<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Connecticut Political News, NY and CT Politics, and More]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Sat, 18 Apr 2015 11:11:49 -0400 Sat, 18 Apr 2015 11:11:49 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Connecticut Librarians Fight Budget Cuts]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:51:20 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/library+rally.jpg

Librarians and supporters from around Connecticut couldn't be hushed at the state capitol as they pleaded with lawmakers Wednesday to keep their budget intact.

Gov. Dannel Malloy's budget cuts funding to libraries by more than $1 million.

The cuts would eliminate funding for the Connecticard Program, which allows residents with library cards from any library to take out and return books and other media to any other library in the state.

"Since about 1976, we’ve been able to take and use our library cards at any one of the 165 libraries in our state, and the Connecticard Program associated with it gets those books returned to us without a cost to the owning library," said Matthew Poland, CEO of the Hartford Public Library.

Poland said if the program were to lose all its state funding, local libraries would have to figure out a way to keep it going, which could be expensive.

"A new way at this point would put the burden of the cost on individual library systems," he cautioned.

About 150 librarians and their supporters crammed into a committee room in the Legislative Office Building. Some lawmakers participated, and State Sen. Tedd Kennedy Jr., a Democrat from Branford, even riled up the crowd, yelling and hollering about what makes libraries so important.

"Libraries are the cement and fabric of our communities!" he shouted to rousing applause.

He and others, including State Rep. Gail LaVielle, a Republican from Norwalk, pledged to the get the funds restored in the budget.

Those who were there to educate members of the General Assembly on the roles of libraries reminded them that libraries are not just places for research and taking out books and DVDs.

"Some of the things we have provided have been the expensive job now database that helps Connecticut residents get online resume help, GED test preparation, interview coaching. All that would not be affordable for many libraries," said Jennifer Keohane, executive director of the Connecticut Library Consortium.

Budget chairs have refused to rule out cuts to libraries and other public services. They say all options to trim the budget are on the table. 

<![CDATA[Hartford Mayor Let Down by Registrar Ruling]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 20:04:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hartford+registrar+of+voters+2.jpg

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra stopped short of conceding defeat in his efforts to remove the city's three elected registrars following what has been described as an incompetent display on Election Day in November.

A judge ruled yesterday that the Hartford City Council does not have the authority to remove the registrars from their positions.

"I’m disappointed with the decision, but let’s wait until we read the particulars of the opinion, consider our options and move forward with the understanding that what’s important here is that our residents votes are cast, counted and that elections are run effectively," Segarra said during an interview Wednesday.

An investigation into the November election found the three registrars – Democrat Olga Vazquez, Republican Sheila Hall and Working Families Party Official Urania Petit – to have been dysfunctional and disorganized.

City polling places weren't ready with voter registration lists when the polls opened the morning of Nov. 4, and workers had not been properly trained, causing long lines to form and would-be voters to walk out without casting their ballots.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said what happened in Hartford needs to never happen again in any city or town.

"This is a case-in-point," Merril said. "There is nothing a town or city can do, when there’s even egregious misconduct, to remove a registrar. That’s why I made the proposal to make them be appointed rather than elected."

She said appointing professional election officials with proper training would mitigate many of the issues that have cropped up in Hartford and in places like Bridgeport, New Haven and Fairfield over the years.

"I’m not saying the problems are everywhere. They're not. We just need standards. We need every voter to have the same experience everywhere," said Merrill, a Democrat.

Hartford City Councilmember Larry Deutsch said the judge's decision not to oust the three election officials did not come as a surprise.

A member of the Working Families Party, Deutsch described the effort by "dozens of attorneys" as a "colossal waste of money" and said he wants to see a professionalization of elections in the city.

"Just like we have a town or city clerk – one person does a fine job. We have one principal of a school, not necessarily five of them," he said.

Segarra said he wants to see election improvements as well. The city has less than five months to figure out how the council, the mayor and the registrars will all work together before the next election.

"I think we need to improve dialogue between the registrars office and myself, my office and the secretary of state and the different entities that are in charge of elections in a way that does not disenfranchise our voters from the right to vote," Segarra said. 

<![CDATA[Merrill Reacts to Court Ruling on Hartford Registrars]]> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 14:38:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/denise+merrill.jpg

In response to the Superior Court's ruling that Hartford's City Council cannot remove its registrars from office after voting problems in the last election, Secretary of State Denis W. Merrill said that an overhaul of the state's election system is needed.

“Yesterday’s Superior Court decision underscores the need for more accountability in Connecticut’s election system," Merrill said. "My office is focusing on a legislative initiative that will finally address that issue—not just for those cities and towns whose problems are covered in the news, like Hartford, Bridgeport or Fairfield—but for all of Connecticut. The comprehensive reform bill approved by the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee last month, reflecting an agreement between my office and the registrars, includes a removal provision. Yesterday’s decision confirms that removal is an important and necessary provision in that bill which I hope both chambers of the General Assembly will be taking up in the weeks ahead. I will watch to see what the City of Hartford decides to do in light of yesterday’s decision.”

Merrill is an advocate for professionalizing the role of registrar of voters in all 169 Connecticut towns. Now, each town has at least two registrars, nominated by their party and voted into office.

The Government Administration and Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 1051, titled "an Act Strengthening the State's Elections," which was then passed on to the Senate, according to Merrill's office. The Senate has not acted on the bill yet.

Back on Election Day on Nov. 4, 2014, Merrill filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission before the polls closed about the conduct of the registrars on Election Day, Merrill's office said. The complaint is pending.

<![CDATA[Municipal Leaders Push Back Against Budget Cuts]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:53:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/41415ccmcutsj00000000.jpg

Mayors and first selectmen converged on the Connecticut Capitol on Tuesday to meet with lawmakers about funding for the state's cities and towns.

From unfunded mandates to level funding, leaders say the state has to do more to help the municipalities on which many of the state's services are based.

"We’re hoping that we can state our case to the legislators, but I think they realize that local government is where the rubber meets the road for the services that are provided to our communities and any cut in there is either going to hurt services or raise taxes," said South Windsor Town Manager Matthew Galligan.

One cut that has smaller towns particularly concerned is a reduction in the state's share of the resident state trooper program.

"They have to reinstate that funding," said Durham First Selectman Laura Francis. "Those troopers mean a lot to our towns."

When the governor delivered his budget address in February and announced level funding for cities and towns, members of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities made it clear that they were thrilled with the decision.

"CCM is very appreciative that Governor Malloy has maintained a commitment to property tax payers by sparing towns and cities from cuts in aid in the major state grants," a spokesperson said in a statement.

But that feeling didn't last.

"Level funding is really a cut," New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said Tuesday.

The city has received increased funding each year since 2012, totaling near $25 million.

In a statement, Gov. Dannel Malloy's spokesman said, "The Governor has prevented local tax increases because he has not, and will not, balance the budget on the backs of cities and towns."

His spokesman continued, "We know that local leaders across Connecticut were celebrating on budget day – and that's because the Governor has and continues to support them in ways no Connecticut leader has before."

Democrats in the General Assembly are working on their own budget to present by the end of April.

State Sen. Beth Bye, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said her group is looking at all options to balance the budget.

"I think one of the issues we face is that for the past two budget cycles, we have not cut cities and towns because we know that translates to property taxes and we know that property taxes are regressive, and sometimes we know that they hurt seniors more than anyone else who have flat incomes," said Bye, a Democrat from West Hartford.

Bye added that she recognizes the importance of municipalities within Connecticut's structure of government and what their actions mean for residents.

"Cities and towns aren’t off the hook but we also understand how important they are in that we don’t want to raise property taxes," Bye said.

<![CDATA[UConn Students, Faculty Fight Budget Cuts at Capitol]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:28:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/41415uconncutsj00000000.jpg

The University of Connecticut faces up to $40 million in budget cuts, and while Democrats work behind closed doors on a revamped proposal, students, faculty and administrators pleaded their case to members of the General Assembly on Tuesday.

"We all know why we’re here," said UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, a week after claiming his tenth national title. "We’re here to raise awareness about what we’re doing at UConn.”

Auriemma and others described how UConn has grown exponentially over the past 30 years and that the General Assembly and multiple governors' support was the primary reason.

"It’s a very very tough time for the state but we don’t want to move backward," said UConn President Susan Herbst. "We want to keep moving forward on all fronts."

Herbst has said publicly that the current version of the budget could lead to layoffs and program cuts.

Students from the school's nursing, agriculture and engineering programs rallied at the capitol on Tuesday.

Nursing student Elizabeth Schilling said she wants future students to have the same opportunities she was afforded and fears a budget cut may change that.

"I’m very nervous for them. I feel like you have to be a very special person to be a nurse. You have to have something special inside of you to be a nurse, and something like a budget cut would just be devastating to keep a child away from becoming a nurse," Schilling said.

State Sen. Mae Flexer, a Democrat who represents Storrs and UConn, says she will work in the current budget process to protect the state's flagship university.

"What’s at risk is making sure that UConn is there not only for the best and the brightest and that it’s also affordable," Flexer said.

Auriemma urged lawmakers not to view UConn as just another program worth cutting, but instead as an institution worth supporting.

"We’re not telling you to vote no for them. We’re asking you to vote yes, for UConn," he said.

<![CDATA[1 or 3 Embattled Hartford Registrars Resigns]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 19:18:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hartford+registrar+of+voters+2.jpg

One of Hartford's three registrars has submitted her resignation after a myriad of problems during last fall's general election, according to a statement from the Hartford City Council.

"Urania Petit has withdrawn her lawsuit and submitted her resignation as part of a negotiated settlement with the City, subject to City Council approval," Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Petit said in a statement Tuesday evening that her resignation will take effect May 22. She called the city's efforts to remove her and the other two registrars "a politically motivated attack" and said "the decision is vindicating."

"However, the experience of being harassed and hounded by the City Council was personally hurtful and demoralizing, and also disrespectful to the voters of Hartford," she said. "The problems faced by Hartford voters because of errors by Hartford Registrars in the last election have caused me great pain, but as I have always known, they did not come from my office."

Petit's resignation came hours before a Superior Court judge ruled that the city council cannot remove the three registrars from office.

In issuing her ruling, the judge pointed out that the General Assembly once gave the Hartford City Council authority to remove elected officials, but that the city gave up that right during charter revisions in 2002.

"We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that all residents of Hartford are able to vote and that those votes are counted," Wooden said. "We disagree with the judge's decision and are evaluating our options."

Problems plagued at least 10 city precincts in November, prompting extended voting hours at two polling places.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, along with Wooden submitted two resolutions to the city council, one of which proposed a “committee of inquiry” to investigate the polling problems.

The investigation revealed serious issues with reported voting irregularities across the city, including more votes cast in Hartford for the governor’s race than voters reported.

After receiving the report, the city council filed a second resolution seeking to remove the trio – Democrat Olga Vazquez, Republican Sheila Hall and Urania Petit, of the Working Families Party.

"We were confident that we were right on the law, and we were very confident that we would prevail, because the law was on our side," said Corey Brinson, attorney for Sheila Hall.

Vazquez filed a complaint against Hartford and the Court of Common Council last month, arguing that it's illegal for the city to remove elected officials.

"Today, the court ruled that when people walk into a voting booth, their vote counts and it can't be arbitrarily removed by the power of a city council," said attorney Richard Padykula, who is representing Vazquez.

The city of Hartford has the option to appeal the judge's ruling but it's not clear if city leaders plan to do so.

"The decision is disappointing but I will continue to work with City Council to explore all options that protect Hartford's voters," Segarra said in a statement.

In Connecticut municipalities, registrars of voters are nominated on behalf of each political party. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill believes this is part of the reason there have been problems in several recent elections.

Last month, Merrill went to the State Capitol to ask legislators to promote a bill calling for professionalizing all 169 registrars’ offices across the state.

<![CDATA[Native American Lenders Sollicit Illegal Loans: Malloy]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 21:34:15 -0400

Lenders from Native American tribes have been illegally soliciting Connecticut residents for loans, according to officials with the Connecticut Department of Banking.

In addition to the solicitation, state leaders contend that the interest rates at which customers can borrow far exceed those allowed under state law.

"Any entity that does business in the state of Connecticut doesn’t have the right to charge our citizens 448 percent interest rates," Gov. Dannel Malloy said at a press conference Monday. "We wouldn’t allow the Swiss to do it. We wouldn’t all the French to do it. We wouldn’t allow the Germans to do it. We shouldn't allow anyone else to do it."

Great Plains Lending is one lender under fire from state regulators. The company is owned and operated by the Missouria-Otoe tribe in Oklahoma and recently sent letters offering rates in excess of 200 percent to Connecticut residents.

Representatives from Connecticut's two federally recognized tribes joined state leaders at Monday's press conference to make it clear that they do not support the activity of out-of-state tribes trying to skirt state law.

"We're here to show that we don't support their efforts," said Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe.

Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan tribe, said tribal leaders aim "to ensure that Connecticut residents don’t mistake the fliers that they’re seeing and the billboards that they’re seeing with these two tribes from the state of Connecticut, who are very engaged, as all of you know, in finding the right way forward for the Connecticut consumer."

The Connecticut Department of Banking fined the Missouria-Otoe tribe $700,000 for improper practices.

Tribal chairman John Shotton called the fine "unprecedented, unwarranted, unconstitutional and unjustified."

Heather Payne, spokesperson for the Otoe-Missouria tribe, defended the tribe's actions in a statement Monday afternoon.

"In recent weeks, Otoe-Missouria tribal enterprises and the sovereignty of our tribal government have been attacked by the State of Connecticut. They are attempting to assert jurisdiction over our tribally chartered, licensed, regulated lending businesses by assessing fines against us for violating their lending laws. They have also attempted to assess a fine against the elected Chairman of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, in an act of intimidation toward our leadership," Payne said.

She added that the tribe "operates under sovereign tribal law and federal law" and that tribal businesses "do not engage in predatory lending of any kind."

Malloy pledged Monday to sign into law any bills that would make any payday loan that doesn't meet state law requirements on interest rates, null, void, and unenforceable in Connecticut.

<![CDATA[Bill Honors Young Sandy Hook Victim ]]> Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:21:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/edt-AP445488714838.jpg

 U.S. Congress members will be announcing a bill on Monday to honor one of the first graders killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012.

The bill, honoring Jesse Lewis, is meant to support student’s social and emotional needs

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the legislation and will hold a news conference this morning, along with U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, the Lewis family, educators and advocates.

Jesse Lewis was among the 26 children and educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

Jesse’s mother, Scarlett Lewis, has founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation and has become an advocate for social and emotional learning.

The news conference will be held at 11 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Longtime Hartford Probate Judge Announces Mayoral Bid]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 20:04:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/robert+killian+hartford.jpg

On the same day as his official retirement from the bench, Judge Robert Killian announced plans to seek Hartford’s highest office.

Killian served as Hartford’s Probate Judge for 30 years and six months. He said it's time now for a drastic change of thinking inside Hartford City Hall.

"I’m challenging a mindset that I think Pedro [Segarra] shares with the city of Hartford, and that is that the city of Hartford has to do more things to entice new people to live here," Killian said during an interview Friday.

Killian said spending has been out of control in Hartford, due in part to decisions by Segarra’s office and the Hartford City Council.

He said the new baseball stadium leaves existing residents behind without adding any value to neighborhoods that need investment.

"When we do grand plans here, I don’t think we adequately consider the consequences for the people who live here," he said.

Construction on the stadium got underway last month. The ballpark is slated to open in April 2016 and will house the future Hartford Yard Goats baseball team.

Killian said the stadium won’t be the payoff city leaders have touted. He added that future apartments in the vicinity of the stadium won’t improve the quality of life in the city.

"A couple thousand people, if they’re totally built out and totally successful, but totally oblivious to the fact that it doesn’t do anything for the 125,000 or so people who live here by choice or necessity," he said.

The longtime judge said spending on pension and retirement plans for elected officials is also rampant. He wants to see a change from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution system for future elected officials.

"That just doesn’t make any sense," he said.

Killian said it’s one of the reasons Hartford faces future deficits in the tens of millions of dollars.

"It doesn’t do anything for the city at large. The problem is it’s broke. We’re flat busted broke and we have limited potential for seeing improvement either in the short term or the long term," he explained.

Killian is the latest Democrat to enter the race. Luke Bronin and John Gale are also in the running for the Democratic nomination.

Bronin is a former Legal Adviser to Gov. Dannel Malloy and White House Staffer under President Barack Obama. Gale is a Hartford attorney who’s served on Hartford’s Democratic Committee.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[President Obama Coming to Coast Guard Academy Commencement]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:42:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/obama-stock-AP989958626558.jpg

President Barack Obama will be coming to Connecticut next month for the United States Coast Guard Academy commencement, according to a statement from the White House.

President Obama will be in Connecticut on Wednesday, May 20 to participate in the 134th commencement exercises. The last time he delivered the keynote address at the academy's graduation was in 2011.

“The President is honored to deliver the commencement address to this year’s class of graduating first class cadets. Further details about the President’s travel to Connecticut will be available in the coming days,” the White House said in a statement.

U.S. presidents traditionally address the graduating class at one of the federal service academies on a rotating basis.

Vice President Joseph Biden spoke at the Coast Guard commencement in 2013.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Senator Calls for Ban on Powdered Alcohol]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 11:26:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Palcohol+1200.jpg

A powdered form of freeze-dried alcohol could be on shelves in Connecticut this summer and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal is calling for a federal ban on it.

The product, Palcohol, is a powdered version of vodka, rum, and three cocktails -- cosmopolitan, lemon drop and their own version of a margarita, called a Powderita, according to the company’s Web site. It’s designed to be mixed with something, like soda or juice or water and made into an alcoholic drink, the Web site says, but Blumenthal said it could be used in far more dangerous ways.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol last month, and Blumenthal said it should not have received federal approval.

The manufacturer, Lipsmark, had suggested in the past that the product could be snorted to get drunk “almost instantly,” and that it could be added to foods, including guacamole, eggs and sandwiches, and even snuck into events, according to a news release from Blumenthal’s office, which said the suggestions have since been scrubbed from the company’s website.

“Without further safety testing, Palcohol is a tragedy waiting to happen. It is simply inconceivable that the product received federal approval in the first place, without rigorous assessments of the product’s safety,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Powdered alcohol that can be snorted, or surreptitiously snuck into school cafeterias, punchbowls and breakfast foods is simply a terrible idea. If federal regulators cannot or will not do the right thing to properly evaluate this product’s potential threat to public safety, legislators must take action to ban Palcohol and prevent this dangerous product from hitting store shelves this summer.”

Palcohol’s Web site now says criticisms of Palcohol are just speculation because no one has tried it yet.

“Listen, people can snort black pepper....so do we ban it? No, just because a few goofballs use a product irresponsibly doesn't mean you ban it. But even the goofballs won't snort Palcohol due to the pain the alcohol would cause. It really burns. Imagine sniffing liquid vodka. Second, it's impractical. It takes approximately 60 minutes to snort the equivalent of one shot of vodka. Why would anyone do that when they can do a shot of liquid vodka in two seconds?,” the Palcohol Web site says.

Blumenthal will hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. at Hartford Hospital.

<![CDATA[2016 NH Primary Candidate Tracker]]> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 09:28:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/candidate-tracker-NH.jpg

The candidates included in the tracker are individuals identified by necn as potential 2016 presidential contenders. The list will change as the race develops. Information about candidate stops was collected from media reports, candidate schedules and plans confirmed by necn.

For more coverage of the 2016 New Hampshire Primary and politics throughout New England, check out necn.com's "Politics First" section.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[FEMA Funds Coming to Connecticut Cities and Towns]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:50:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/6pfemastill040915max00000000.jpg

The Obama administration has approved a Federal Disaster Declaration for Connecticut municipalities affected by January's blizzard and subsequent snow events that hampered snow removal efforts.

Mayors and town managers in the state were thrilled to get the news.

"This is tremendous for our city," said New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio.

He said the city tore through its snow removal budget quickly with the number of serious snow events.

"We don’t budget for 20 plowable events," Finizio said. "I think the city in better budget times, at its height nine or 10 years ago they budgeted for nine or 10 storms. That was cut down to six in recent years even before I became mayor."

FEMA will reimburse up to 75 percent of snow removal funds to towns and cities, but there's no guarantee that all funds will qualify for that reimbursement threshold.

Gov. Dannel Malloy announced the president's decision yesterday and applauded the move.

"We had extraordinary weather this winter – and through smart decisions, we got through it. We’re pleased that we were successful in our application. This declaration will provide much needed financial assistance to the state and to the municipalities hardest hit by the January blizzard," Malloy said in a statement.

The town of Tolland budgeted $300,000 for snow removal and even has an emergency fund set aside. By the end of the winter, the town had about $75,000 left after spending more than $450,000 on snow removal.

"The snow started mid-January and up until then, we thought we were having a mild winter, and then it never stopped past that point," said Tolland Town Manager Steven Werbner.

He said if another weather emergency had happened over the summer or fall, Tolland would have faced "significant shortfalls" by his estimation.

"FEMA help is certainly something we welcome because it will enable us to replenish our coffers somewhat," he said.

City and towns are hopeful that they receive FEMA funds in June to coincide with the fiscal year, but there's no guarantee when federal officials will release cash to cities and towns.

<![CDATA[Former RI Gov. Lincoln Chafee Exploring Presidential Bid]]> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 10:59:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/183*120/72123949.jpg

Lincoln Chafee, the former governor and U.S. senator from Rhode Island, announced Thursday that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider a run as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

His launch was made on his website, Chafee2016.com.

Chafee will spend the next few months in New Hampshire, Iowa and other key battleground states, according to a statement issued Thursday morning. 

"Throughout my career, I exercised good judgment on a wide range of high-pressure decisions, decisions that require level-headedness and careful foresight," Chafee said. "Often these decisions came in the face of political adversity. During the next weeks and months I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts about the future of our great country."

Chafee served in the U.S. Senate as a Republican from 1999 until 2007. That same year, he left the Republican Party and became an independent. He switched his affiliation to Democratic in 2013.

He served as governor until 2014. He did not seek re-election.

Photo Credit: FILE - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Autism Awareness Day Comes as Budget Cuts Loom]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:13:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/StateBudgetShortPic00000000.jpg

More than 150 autism awareness advocates converged on the Connecticut Capitol to raise awareness for autism programs and rally for funding.

The event came as Democrats in the General Assembly began crafting their own budget to counter Gov. Dannel Malloy's, which included tens of millions in cuts to the Department of Developmental Services in addition to many other agencies.

"I do think that the budget that the legislature produces by the end of this month will reflect what we think are the priorities that have to be included in our budget," said State Rep. Brendan Sharkey, a Democrat from Hamden and Speaker of the state House of Representatives.

Sharkey added that he's been made very aware of the impact the state has on its residents who live with autism.

"This movement has educated legislators for the last decade or more, and they have moved us to make sure that we are actually providing the funds in the budget for the programs necessary to really deal with this at the earliest stages possible," he said.

Colin McFadden is 19 years old and was diagnosed with autism when he was 7. He's currently in school and is almost finished training to become a volunteer firefighter in Burlington.

McFadden said he would love to see other adults with autism become independent.

"That would be really good," he said. "Even to see them go past me. It’d be really good."

Peggy Embardo's 26-year-old still lives at home. Embardo said she's concerned about what would happen if he were entirely on his own.

"I wouldn’t know what happened if someone came to the door or if there was a fire," she said.

Embardo said additional state funding to open more spots for him to live in a 24-hour assisted facility for adults with autism would be a life changer. She said he's been on a waiting list for years.

"It would probably give him more opportunities to be independent of me and out of the house," Embardo said.

Democrats are expected to unveil their own budget before the end of April.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Vice President Biden to Speak at Yale Class Day]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:25:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tlmd_vicepresidente_joe_biden.jpg

The vice president of the United States has been selected as the Class Day speaker for Yale College's class of 2015 commencement weekend, college officials announced Wednesday.

Vice President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. will visit the college's old campus in New Haven to address the students in May. The focus of his speech is unknown at this time.

Biden, the 47th vice president of the U.S., is the oldest of four siblings and was born on Nov. 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, according to the news release from Yale.

His family moved to Claymont, Delaware in 1953 and he graduated from the University of Delaware. Biden is also an alumnus of Syracuse Law School and was on the New Castle County Council, the release said.

When Biden was 29, he was one of the youngest people in history elected to the U.S. Senate, according to the news release.. Weeks after he was elected, his wife at the time, Neilia, and their daughter, Naomi, 1, died in a car accident that also critically injured their two young sons, the release said. He was sworn in as a senator from the hospital at his sons' bedside and took the train to the nation's capital daily throughout his 36 years as a Delaware senator.

He remarried in 1988, wedding longtime educator Jill Jacobs, who took his last name and now teaches at a community college in the Washington D.C. area. He has three children -- Hunter, an attorney, Ashley, a social worker, and Beau, Delaware's attorney general and a captain in the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware National Guard who recently came home from serving in Iraq, according to the release. Biden also has five grandkids named Naomi, Finnegan, Roberta "Maisy" Mabel, Natalie and Robert Hunter.

While serving as chairman and a ranking member of the Senate's Juciary Committee over the course of 17 years, he worked on the 1994 Crime Bill and the Violence Against Women Act, the release said. From 1997 on as a senator, he served as a chairman and member of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, tackling foreign policy and helping craft legislation regarding terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Europe after the Cold War, the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

As vice president, he helped implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to boost the economy and has focused on making college education more affordable and growing the nation's manufactoring industry, the news release said. He uses his foreign policy experience to advise President Barack Obama on international matters. He has helped get Senate approval for the "START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and traveled to Iraq eight times between his election and December 2011 in the process of ending the war there, according to the news release.

Biden also has supported the Obama administration's strides to "reestablish leadership in the Asia Pacific" by going to China, Japan and Mongolia and meeting with China's vice president in 2012,  the news release said. Israel's security is another issue of importance to him and he helped rally support in Europe for the U.S. missile defense approach, worked with Latin American leaders in efforts to halt drug trafficking and international crime and made efforts to forge relationships with African leaders, according to the news release.

Biden has been to over two dozen countries. That includes Germany, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Georgia, Ukraine, Iraq, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Spain, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Finland, Russia, Moldova, Italy, China, Mongolia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, and Trinidad and Tobago, according to the news release.

Biden is scheduled to speak at Yale's Class Day on Sunday, May 17 at 2 p.m.

<![CDATA[Analysis: Rahm Emanuel Wins Again]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 00:31:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rahm-463880456.jpg

It always seemed inevitable that he’d win. That was the point.

Rahm Emanuel won his re-election contest Tuesday night and bested challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to remain in charge of Chicago for another four years, the Associated Press projects.

“I have had the good fortune to serve two presidents, being elected to congress, but being mayor of the city of Chicago is the greatest job I’ve ever had," Emanuel told supporters. "I’m humbled at the opportunity to serve you, the greatest city, for the next 4 years."

The acerbic mayor overcame questions about his personal style and fended off opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union and the Service Employees International Union who backed his opponent, to win back the job of running city hall.

It wasn’t easy for a mayor who’s used to getting his way. Emanuel expected to cruise to victory in a February primary where he took on a weak field of challengers. But the self-confident political operative, who’s served in Congress and in two White House administrations, ran into trouble.

Garcia, the handpicked candidate of the Chicago Teachers Union, shocked the political system and thrilled progressives when he forced Emanuel into the city’s first ever runoff election for mayor.

Emanuel was left vulnerable after a tenure that saw him clash with teachers over a contract dispute that led to a strike, close 50 schools in mostly black neighborhoods, preside over a wave of violent crime on the south and west sides, and install a series of questionable red light cameras around the city, among other autocratic decisions.

But his opponent, who turned in an impressive result on primary night, was not able to turn Emanuel’s weaknesses into an electoral victory. Garcia often punted on opportunities to outline a specific plan for helping the city through its myriad fiscal woes and ran a campaign whose central theme was “I’m not Rahm.”

Emanuel, who relied on a nearly $30 million war chest to run advertisements during the campaign, may not have offered many more fiscal specifics than Garcia. But his attack ads painted the challenger as completely unprepared for the job of managing a multi-billion dollar budget. The image stuck and Chuy’s reliance wait-and-see-ideas (he said he’d form a commission to look at the city’s finances after the election) didn’t help define him as a candidate that could cross the hurdle of preparedness.

It turns out voters favored the bully who talked the talk instead of the good guy who didn’t say much.

"We are the city that works, and that means it has to work for everyone in every neighborhood. The decisions we make in four years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next 40 years," Emanuel said in his victory speech.

But Emanuel’s victory brings with it some questions and some challenges because the man who earned the nickname Rahmbo continues to have an image problem.

And while a majority of voters cast their ballot for Emanuel, the may have held their nose voting. Emanuel remains a deeply disliked individual. He even acknowledged his testy personality in an on-air advertisement that saw him own up to his reputation as a hard-charging jerk.

Will he try to hang on to the softer side of Rahm? Can the mayor swallow his pride when dealing with a cadre of individuals and organizations that endorsed his challenger or will he stick it to them, dead fish style? Put another way: Will Rahm play nice in his second go around?

That’s not so inevitable.

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Connecticut Earns Dubious Tax Distincton]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 15:42:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/connecticut+state+capitol+building.jpg

Connecticut is one of only two states in the entire country that ranks in the top 10 in two key tax categories: real estate and vehicles, according to WalletHub.

The average real estate or home property tax bill in Connecticut is more than $3,000, while the average car tax bill is more than $600.

Both are dependent on local mill rates in the city or town in which the tax is being assessed.

Rhode Island also ranks in the top 10 in both categories.

State Sen. Rob Kane, a Republican from Watertown, says such high taxes means the state probably has more state services than it should.

"I think we have four basic functions that government has to perform: public health, public safety, infrastructure and education," Kane said. "Everything else, if you can find it in the yellow pages, I don’t think the state needs to do it."

Lawmakers are considering a potential cut to the car tax for some cities and towns, but the change could lead to hikes elsewhere.

State Sen. Martin Looney, the Senate's top Democrat, has said on numerous occasions that a flat statewide car tax makes sense because a car shouldn't have a different value just because it's in Greenwich or Hartford.

"It really is unfair to have such a radical disparity in our car tax rate. We need to have more uniform taxation on motor vehicle property," Looney told NBC Connecticut last week.

Kane says Connecticut needs to show the country and potential employers that it's good at many things that aren't taxing its residents in myriad ways.

"It’s a good thing we’re ranked No. 1 in basketball, because in everything else, we’re down at the bottom of the list," he said.

<![CDATA[Firefighters Push for Increased Health Coverage]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 19:07:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/firefighter+demonstration.jpg

For professional firefighters, a small controlled blaze on the second floor of a training house isn’t a big deal at all.

"This is very, very controlled because we have to keep it safe to operate, while at the same time giving the appearance of an actual structure fire with the smoke and the heat," explained Waterbury Deputy Fire Chief Rick Hart, who is also director of government relations for the Uniformed Professional Firefighters Association of Connecticut.

Several members of the media, lobbyists, and members of the General Assembly were invited to participate in FireOps 101, a training course that provides a snapshot of what firefighters do on a regular basis.

"We simulate cutting a hole in a roof to doing search and rescue, forcible entry to get into the building, stretching a hose line and actually putting the fire out," Hart said.

The fire inside the house was around 500 degrees – not too hot, according to firefighters from Hartford, Waterbury and New London, just three of the departments represented at the Hartford Fire Department Training Academy on Monday.

The event was part of the UPFAC’s effort to raise awareness of cancer in firefighters. The group also wanted to call attention to legislation that would provide additional cancer coverage for firefighters.

“We have increased risk for skin, tesiticular, colon and all other types of cancers purely because of the job we do every day," Hart said.

During fires, carcinogens burn in the air and come from chemicals embedded in common household items, like appliances and pieces of furniture.

Firefighters wear hoods that block carcinogens from getting on to their skin, but it’s not a silver bullet to protect against exposure.

Critics of the legislation have said potentially millions more in health coverage for firefighters could cripple local town and city budgets. In addition, concerns have been raised about potential for fraud in the system.

To Hart, who’s met with lawmakers for weeks on the issue, the peace of mind that additional coverage would bring firefighters would be without measure.

"That we have the protection, that yes, we're going to get treatment, yes, we're going to have coverage for our families, so that we do not go without a paycheck if we're out of work for two, three, four months, not collecting a paycheck if we do not have the time," he explained.

The Labor Committee already approved the legislation, which is expected to reach the House floor during the legislative session.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Bob Anthony to Run for Hamden Mayor]]> Mon, 06 Apr 2015 16:24:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+anthony+hamden.jpg

Republican Bob Anthony will run for mayor of Hamden in light of Scott Jackson's resignation, his spokesperson said in a press release Monday afternoon.

Jackson will be resigning to take a position with Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration, prompting a special election. Jackson has said he will resign from his post on April 16.

According to spokesperson Nick Antonucci, Anthony plans to officially announce his candidacy April 8 at Odie's Place on Whitney Avenue in Hamden.

It will be his second time on the campaign trail, as Anthony also ran for mayor in 2013.

He's a former Hamden firefighter and EMT and was elected president of the local Hamden firefighters union in 1992, Antonucci said.

Anthony also served on the Hamden Employees Retirement Board from 1980 to 2000. He was elected treasurer of the Uniformed Professional Firefighters' Association of Connecticut in 2011.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Jeb Bush ID'd Himself as "Hispanic" on Voter Form]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 10:15:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP632245416248.jpg

Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Monday that a 2009 voter registration form that identified him as Hispanic was a "mistake."

"My mistake! Don’t think I’ve fooled anyone!" the former Florida governor tweeted in response to a post by one of his sons.

The existence of the form was first reported Monday by the New York Times, which obtained information from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department.

Bush, who was born in Texas and is the brother of the former President George W. Bush. He speaks fluent Spanish, according to the Times, and lived in Venezuela for two years in his 20s.

His wife Columba is from Mexico and is also fluent in Spanish. Bush has drawn on his background and experience to build support among Latino voters.

A spokeswoman for Bush could not explain the characterization to the Times.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Gov. Malloy Lifts Indiana Travel Ban]]> Sat, 04 Apr 2015 14:44:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Gov+Dannel+P+Malloy+1200.jpg

Connecticut's governor has lifted the Indiana travel ban in response to a recent amendment to the religious freedom recognition act that protect individuals against discrimination.

Last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an order to ban state-funded and sponsored travel from Connecticut to Indiana in protest of the law's potential discrimination against the gay community and criticized Indiana's governor about the law in the national spotlight. But Malloy announced Saturday that he is canceling the travel ban because the amendment "provides protections to LGBTQ individuals," according to a news release from the governor's office.

“Today I am today lifting to ban on state funded travel to Indiana, because I believe the change enacted by the Indiana legislature sufficiently clarifies, in our interpretation, that the law cannot be used to invite discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a written statement.

UConn men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie announced last week that he wouldn't be attending a coaching convention or the Final Four in Indiana due to the ban and to protest the law. It's unclear if his plans will change now that the ban has been lifted.

Malloy distinguished Connecticut from Indiana, touting our state as a leader in acceptance of all citizens, and said Indiana's amendment of its law is progress.

“Unlike Connecticut – which has been a national leader in LGBTQ protections – this is the first time that Indiana has codified any protections for individuals based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity. While the law even in its amended version remains divisive, I believe it is a step in the right direction," Malloy said. “In 2015, we cannot, and should not, tolerate laws that open the door to discrimination against citizens. We need to actively stand up to them – and that’s what we did this week. We are gratified that several other states, businesses, trade organizations, and so many stood with us, and we are pleased that numerous states besides Indiana have sought or are seeking changes in their laws with the specific aim of preventing discrimination."

After what happened in Indiana, Malloy said that Connecticut stands against discrimination in and out of state.

“We will continue to monitor other states that enact reforms similar to the original Indiana RFRA, because discrimination in any form is unacceptable," Malloy said. "We cannot watch states pass laws that seek to turn back the clock either on Connecticut residents, or our fellow Americans. We have an obligation do to what’s right, and to protect against discrimination whenever and wherever we see it.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Lease Signed for Hillary Clinton Campaign HQ]]> Sat, 04 Apr 2015 11:44:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/clinton-emails-USE-THIS-ONE-465797002.jpg

A lease has been signed for an office in Brooklyn that is expected to be the headquarters for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, sources familiar with the deal told MSNBC on Friday.

The space takes up two floors of a building on Pierrepont street in Brooklyn Heights that also houses offices for Morgan Stanley and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

MSNBC reports that it's not clear when Clinton or her team signed the lease. Under federal election rules, candidates have 15 days from the day they engage in campaign activities, like renting office space, to officially declare a run.

During the 2008 campaign, Clinton made her headquarters outside Washington.

Photo Credit: Yana Paskova/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[State's Autism Cuts Coincide With Awareness Day]]> Thu, 02 Apr 2015 19:27:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/connecticut+state+capitol+building.jpg

The events of World Autism Day on Thursday served as the backdrop for a more than $130,000 cut to autism services that came in the form of rescissions from Gov. Dannel Malloy's budget office Wednesday.

"These cuts aren’t easy and I’m sure if you asked Gov. Malloy these are things that he doesn’t want to do but we also know that we’re up against having a balanced budget so we have to make very difficult choices," said State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, a Democrat from Norwalk.

When asked about the mid-year budget cuts yesterday, Malloy said the state faces budget challenges and that he's the one who's had to make the difficult decisions while also criticizing the General Assembly.

"The reality is difficult circumstances require that somebody lead and we have provided all of the leadership," Malloy said. "And I will point out to you, it’s not like I’ve gotten a list from the legislature of things they’d like to cut."

Autism service providers around Connecticut receive some help from the state. The amount varies depending on location.

Sara Reed with Autism Services & Resources Connecticut said any cut is a problem for providers.

"Considering how small the autism services budget is to begin with, any cut is devastating. We already have a five year waiting list," she said.

Dr. Jared Skowron provides naturopathic medicine and resources for children with autism in Wallingford. He said parents need to be aware of all options available when it comes to treating children on the spectrum, whether they come from the state or a private provider.

"There are so many things that families can do for their children that they may not be aware of," Skowron said. "What we need to do is tell families everything that’s out there for their children. The worst thing you could for your child is nothing."

<![CDATA[Governor Announces Almost $14 Million in Budget Cuts]]> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 21:56:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/malloy2.jpg

Gov. Dannel Malloy has announced millions of dollars in new budget cuts to help deal with a projected deficit.

The cuts will affect 20 departments, including $5.8 million for the Office of Early Childhood, $2 million in cuts for the University of Connecticut, $1.5 million for the Board of Regents, $1 million for the University of Connecticut Heath Center and more.

The governor said he is not requesting similar cuts to the legislative and judicial budgets and is not asking for voluntary cuts to the elections, ethics or freedom of information commissions.

“As we have assured CT residents, we will make the difficult but necessary decisions to keep our budget in balance. That said, the April tax receipts will determine whether further action is needed,” Office of Policy and Management Benjamin Barnes said in a statement.

In all, there have been $99.9 million in recisions. Following are the $13,731,331 in cuts Malloy announced on Wednesday.

Following is the list:

Agricultural Experiment Station

  • Personal Services $225,000

Board of Regents

  • Charter Oak State College $25,886
  • Regional Community - Technical Colleges $500,000
  • Connecticut State University $1 million

Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

  • Personal Services $80,000

Connecticut State Library

  • Personal Services $42,627

Dept. of Administrative Services

  • Workers' Compensation Claims $400,000

Dept. of Developmental Services

  • Personal Services $200,000
  • Autism Services $131,876
  • Supplemental Payments for Medical Services $93,905

Dept. of Economic and Community Development

  • Personal Services $225,000
  • Capitol Region Development Authority $100,000
  • Amistad Vessel $17,988

Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection

  • Personal Services $250,000
  • Environmental Quality $247,768

Dept. of Labor

  • Jobs First Employment Services $200,000
  • Intensive Support Services $11,200

Dept. of Mental Health and Addiction Services

  • Jail Diversion $38,151
  • Prison Overcrowding $56,745
  • Persistent Violent Felony Offenders Act $5,739
  • Employment Opportunities $89,441

Dept. of Rehabilitation Services

  • Personal Services $20,000
  • Educ Aid Blind/Visually Handicap Child $50,000
  • Employment Opportunities $20,000

Dept. of Revenue Services

  • Other Expenses $346,463

Dept. of Social Services

  • Personal Services $300,000

Dept. of Veterans' Affairs

  • Personal Services $150,000

Office of Early Childhood

  • Child Care Services-TANF/CCDBG $5,835,882

Office of Higher Education

  • Personal Services $11,647

Office of Policy and Management

  • Project Longevity $26,250
  • Focus Deterrence $23,750

Office of Protection and Advocacy

  • Personal Services $2,000
  • Other Expenses $4,013

University of Connecticut

  • Operating Expenses $2 million

University of Connecticut Health Center

  • Operating Expenses $1 million

<![CDATA[Malloy: NCAA Should Leave Indiana if Discriminatory Law Remains]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:35:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/malloypic02172015.jpg

Amid March Madness and a day after banning state-funded and sponsored travel to Indiana, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is calling for the NCAA to either move out of Indiana or for the state of Indiana to change its new controversial religious freedom law, which is under fire for its potential discrimination against gay individuals and other groups.

"This law is going to have to be changed in Indiana or the NCAA is going to have to leave Indiana. Period," Malloy told NBC Connecticut. "You cannot be the epicenter of collegiate sports where we all know that gay men and gay women are participating alongside straight men and straight women. You cannot be the epicenter of that and be in a state that will discriminate against those individuals."

The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Malloy made the comment on Tuesday when asked if he had a stance on whether UConn men's coach Kevin Ollie should go to Indianapolis for a coaching convention this week in light of the ban on state funding for travel to Indiana.

The Indiana measure, which Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed last week, prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Ollie is slated to make a decision on Tuesday about whether or not he will go to the coaching convention in Indianapolis.

"Well, hopefully they're not using state dollars," Malloy said when asked if Ollie should go given the ban. "....Listen, he's a great coach and he's got to do what he needs to do to do that. It's probably at least currently covered under an exclusion that we put in the order. He may be contractually bound, we're contractually bound to the NCAA. The NCAA's going to have to move out of Indiana if Indiana doesn't right this."

The UConn women are heading to the Final Four in Tampa, Florida, but next year's women's tournament will be in Indiana and the men's Final Four is in Indianapolis this weekend. Malloy and UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel both said they hope the NCAA moves the tournament next year.

Malloy's executive order directs all state agencies, departments, boards and commissions, UConn and the Board of Regents to immediately review all requests for state-funded or state-sponsored travel to states that "create the grounds for such discrimination." Such travel would be barred unless it's necessary to enforce state law, meet contractual obligations or protect public health. In signing the order, Malloy is standing against any discrimination against Connecticut citizens in or out of state. The order doesn't ban travel to Indiana period, but bars using taxpayer dollars to pay for the travel there.

"I think everybody knows how I feel. I don't want to be governor in a country where other states can discriminate against our citizens," Malloy said."We recognize the rights of people to be married, we have many laws in our state that say you cannot discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation. I want to make sure that those individuals' rights from Connecticut are being protected in every state. All 50 states."

Gov. Pence on Tuesday said the bill has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

However, Malloy said he'd prefer the legislation be repealed.

As for the Huskies, Malloy said, "they make us proud" and that he may go to the NCAA finals.

"And they make us proud even as members of the NCAA, which is currently housed in Indiana and either Indiana rights this or the NCAA should move out," Malloy said.

Socially conservative groups accused Malloy of not understanding that Connecticut also has a freedom of religion statute, similar to what was enacted in Indiana. But Malloy stressed that Connecticut law does not allow religion to be an excuse for discrimination.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Malloy Blasts Indiana Governor for Signing "Religious Freedom" Act]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:30:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Gov+Dannel+P+Malloy+1200.jpg

Connecticut's governor is blasting the governor of Indiana for signing the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, calling it discriminatory against the gay community and asking for its repeal.

The Indiana measure, which Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed last week, prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday that the law is covering "outright bigotry" in Indiana.

"The reality is, the governor is not a stupid man, but he’s done stupid things. And signing this law and, quite frankly, promoting this law, knowing exactly what it was going to do, was an incredibly stupid thing for him to do," Malloy told MSNBC. "But even there, if you get the picture from who was around him when he signed this bill, there were three homophobic men standing alongside the governor. One of them who equated being gay with bestiality. That’s who he invited to the signing ceremony. He knew exactly what he was doing, and when you see a bigot you have to call him on it."

"When it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. And they knew what they were doing. What they were doing was making it legal for people who were deciding they weren’t going to serve gay men and women," he added.

Socially conservative groups accused Malloy of not understanding that Connecticut also has a freedom of religion statute, similar to what was enacted in Indiana. But Malloy stressed that Connecticut law does not allow religion to be a basis for discrimination.

When pressed on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday about other states like Connecticut with similar laws based off a 1993 federal law, Malloy countered that they are very different. Connecticut has "outlawed" discrimination based on someone's sexual orientation since 1991 despite the 1993 law and the state also frowns upon any discrimination against individuals in the transgender community, Malloy told MSNBC.

"The law that you would reference in Connecticut was passed in 1993. It does not give an individual a right. It does not say to a company that you can discriminate, that you can refuse to serve someone, that you can refuse to allow them into your business," Malloy told MSNBC. "This law in Indiana was promoted to do just that."

As the Final Four approaches in the NCAA basketball tournament, Malloy is also calling for the NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis, to move out unless the legislation is changed. He also said Indiana is a base for many fraternities in the country and urged those organizations to move out of state if the law remains, he told MSNBC.

He further added that Indiana has an Army base.

“A member of the army could be gay, and they go into a coffee shop under this law and someone says because you’re gay, even though you’re wearing the uniform of the United States, I am not going to serve you," Malloy told MSNBC. "That was the intent of the law, they knew what they were doing, and someone has to call them on it.”

Pence on during a news conference on Tuesday that the bill he signed into law week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but said he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

“If Indiana wants to make this right with the rest of the world, they need to pass laws in that state that say you cannot discriminate based on someone’s sexual orientation," Malloy told MSNBC.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Indiana Gov: We Intend to Fix "Perception" Problem of Law]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:55:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/pence-presser-468206814.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday said a bill he signed into law last week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but said he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters during a morning press conference from Indianapolis.

The Republican reiterated earlier comments that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to discriminate but to protect religious freedom. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law alleged it could provide some businesses the opportunity to refuse providing services or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

Pence said he found that claim "offensive," and called upon the state's General Assembly to address the issue.

"This law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," he said. "The intent of the law was to give the courts in our state the highest level of scrutiny in cases where people feel that their religious liberty is being infringed upon by government action."

His comments Tuesday were a follow-up to an op-ed piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal that the law was not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Indiana Gov. Addresses Law Controversy]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:56:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Mike-Pence-Indiana-Gov.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said in a Tuesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that a controversial bill he signed into law last week is not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore."

"As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it," he continued.

His published remarks are an attempt to quell the firestorm that's brewed since he affixed his signature to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law maintain it could allow some businesses to refuse providing service or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

That's sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

Republican legislative leaders said they are working on adding language to the law to make it clear it does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA["I'm Not Running": Warren Shuts Down 2016 Buzz Again]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:36:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP868875334282.jpg

Sorry, "Elizabeth Warren for President" holdouts.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts on Tuesday dealt another blow to supporters — and rivals on the right — hoping she'll enter the 2016 race, repeating her intention to stay on the sidelines. 

"No, I am not running and I’m not going to run," she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in an interview.

"I'm not running. I'm not running," she repeated when asked again whether there was any room to hedge.

Warren, who has gained a national profile as a vocal critic of Wall Street, has insisted for months that she does not plan to run against likely candidate and frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. On Tuesday, as she appeared on the "Today" show to promote her new memoir, she said serving in the U.S. Senate is the best platform for fighting for changes on financial regulation, student loans and more.

“I’m in Washington and I’ve got this really great job and a chance to try to make a difference on things that really matter," she said.

The senator's own words haven't stopped supporters on the left from continuing a draft-Warren effort to lay groundwork and generate support for a run. Republicans have also used the buzz surrounding a possible Warren bid to rally their base — citing the progressive Democrat in fundraising emails and other appeals for support.

Even as she rejected the speculation surrounding her own plans, Warren sidestepped a question about whether Clinton is the best messenger on issues embraced by the party's liberal wing.

“I think we need to give her a chance to decide if she’s going to run and declare and to lay out what she wants to run on," she said. "I think that's her opportunity to do that.”

Photo Credit: AP
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