Capitol Round Up

December 2, 2011

Out of Session but legislative work continues…..


This week the budget analysts for the state reported to the Finance, and Appropriations Committees.  The bottom line looked slightly positive.  The state is expected to be in the black by nearly $100 million.  The problem remains that none of the analysts were comfortable stating this surplus would remain. 

The analysts told committee members uncertainty feeds into their hesitation.

  • Will income tax receipts meet expectations?  Will stock market investments pay off?
  • Will agencies be able to keep spending within their means and achieve the savings predicted?
  • Will the savings estimated in the SEBAC union concessions be realized?

Office of Policy and Management Secretary, Ben Barnes, told the committees the two storms and tax changes add to the uncertainty. Due to the storms, tax filing and payment deadlines were extended to November 15th.  Some of the taxes affected were:

  • the personal income tax,
  • corporation business tax,
  • monthly and quarterly sales and use tax,

Barnes cautioned legislators that the information is imperfect and the fiscal year doesn’t end until June. (please click here to view the OPM report)

I thanked him for his work and suggested that with a record tax increase this year – if the numbers don’t work out in the end it might not be wise to go back “there” ( taxes) again. 

Connecticut residents already are over taxed and overburdened with the highest combined taxes, bonded indebtedness, unfunded liabilities, and energy and gas taxes in the country.


Planes –

Back in October while many of us were without power from the snow storm, there were hundreds of airline passengers stranded on the tarmac at Bradley International Airport.  Some of the passengers were on a JetBlue flight and sat on the tarmac for 8 hours! 

We have recently learned from the Federal Aviation Administration that communication was at the heart of the problem.  FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told more than 100 aviation officials at a recent forum on tarmac delays that no one, including controllers, had a complete picture of what was happening.

New Transportation Department rules limit tarmac delays to a maximum of three hours before airlines must allow passengers to get off the plane. Airlines that exceed that limit face fines of up to $27,500 per person.

Babbit remarked sometimes the lack of open gates or Customs officials make it impossible for airlines to let passengers disembark. Babbit also said in the October storm, carriers coming into Bradley only knew of their own diversions and not what other airlines were doing. There was also little information on other nearby airports that had ample capacity and were not impacted by the storm.

Although Babbitt’s comments appeared to relieve airlines of responsibility for the Oct. 29 incident, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood emphasized that his department’s investigations into each of the flights that exceeded the three-hour limit aren’t yet complete.

To read more on the FAA findings click here:

I have met with Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and he assures me the Bradley incident is being dealt with.

Trains –

There is also news on the rail front. A draft plan is being worked on to improve rail service.

Passenger Bill of Rights –

Metro-North is also considering reducing or suspending service during blizzard-like conditions and improving communications about any and all service changes.

Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron said the widespread breakdowns last winter demonstrate the wisdom of preparing plans to reduce or suspend service and protect cars from damaging conditions.

The full story can be read here:


After more than two years of study, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents introduced recommendations for education reform. The more than 130 recommendations will be considered by the General Assembly during our winter session.

Some of the suggestions included:

  • End teacher tenure
  • Improve teacher evaluations
  • Greater flexibility to move principals
  • Early education plan
  • Regionalizing school districts
  • Personalizing education
  • Making school calendar’s more flexible due to power outage
  • Vo-Tech education improvements

The next step is to shape them into proposed legislation.  
In late May, Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius announced $500 million in federal “Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge” funds.  This is a competitive grant that rewards states who create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems. 

Awards range from $50 million to $100 each.  I also recently joined leaders of Connecticut’s Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee asking federal officials to endorse the state’s application for a federal “Race to the Top” grant.

Redistricting is almost complete:

The new state Senate districts have been completed as well as the state House districts. 
The Congressional districts are still being drawn up.

To check out the new maps for voting in 2012 – click the link to see which district your town is in.  

Although the official legislative session concluded in June, my office continues to compile information and suggestions from constituents.  Next session begins in February and although we are restricted to budget adjustments – your concerns can always be heard.  I look forward to working for you in the New Year.