WEDNESDAY EVENING UPDATE

CT REMEMBERING FORMER FIRST LADY

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff to honor former first lady Barbara Bush. Malloy’s order on Wednesday applies to all U.S. and Connecticut flags at state buildings until the sunset Saturday, the day Bush will be interred.  Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92 following a series of hospitalizations. Malloy says Bush had the respect and love of the country, and that no one could deny the “honesty and dignity” with which she carried herself. He extends his sympathies to the Bush family. Bush brought a plainspoken, grandmotherly manner to Washington, according to her Associated Press obituary. Her 73-year marriage to former president George H.W. Bush was the longest of any presidential couple, beginning during World War II. A funeral is planned for Saturday in Houston, Texas.

SEAT CUTS MAY NOT HAPPEN

It looks like 670-thousand dollars in proposed service cuts to the Southeast Area Transit District may be averted. Senator Cathy Osten has indicated the state legislature may find another way to plug a gaping hole in the special transportation fund. SEAT general manager Michael Carroll says he’s crossing his fingers. Carroll says it’s been difficult to listen to the heartbreaking stories from local residents who have expressed concerns about the proposed SEAT reductions. A series of public hearings have been held in the region over the past week and a half.

STATE DACA BILL PASSES SENATE

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Immigrant students without legal status in the United States are hopeful this will be the year Connecticut legislators make them eligible for institutional financial aid at state-run colleges and universities. The Senate on Wednesday voted 30-to-5 in favor of this year’s version of the bill, which includes some provisions from the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA policy, such as requiring applicants not to have a felony record. Cheers filled the halls of the state Capitol following the vote. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, where it has not been called up for a vote in previous years. Carolina Bortoletto, campaign manager for Connecticut Students for a Dream, says “we think we do have the votes” to pass the legislation after several years of lobbying.

GAMBLING STUDY MEASURE NO MORE

Legislation which would study expanded gambling in the state has died in the General Assembly. The bill would have sought proposals from consulting firms interested in studying how more legalized gambling in Connecticut would affect the state’s slots agreements with the Mashantucket-Pequot and Mohegan tribes. The bill would’ve also hired an independent third party to study how expanded gambling would affect quality of life here. The measure died in the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. All seven local lawmakers who serve on the panel voted against the bill.

POSSIBLE MONEY FOR LOUSY FOUNDATIONS

Matthew Ritter

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Top Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives are throwing their support to a $10 surcharge on Connecticut homeowner policies to help residents with foundations crumbling because of an iron sulfide. House Majority Leader Matt Ritter of Hartford says he hopes their support will give rank-and-file lawmakers political “cover” to back the concept in an election year. He noted Wednesday how it’s been difficult to pass legislation that generates more revenue to help pay for the costly repairs. One bill creating a $20 surcharge recently died in the Judiciary Committee.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz is optimistic the surcharge will pass the House. He pledged to help it pass in the Senate. That money would be deposited into an assistance fund created last year with $100 million over five years.

NO EXPANSION OF LEGAL FIREWORKS

A plan to expand the sale in Connecticut of commercial-grade fireworks beyond sparklers and “fountains,” to include items like roman candles, has died in the legislature’s judiciary committee. The bill would have limited the sale of the fireworks to those 21 and over, but opponents like Bloomfield Fire Marshal Roger Nelson, still worried about increased injuries among kids. The proposal could still be resurrected in another form before lawmakers adjourn next month.

PERKINS FARM PROJECT APPROVED

Perkins Farm property (Westerly Sun)

Work is expected to begin this summer on a new 121-unit luxury apartment complex in Mystic. Stonington’s Planning and Zoning Commission has given its approval to the project, to be built on the Perkins Farm property off Jerry Browne Road. The 70-million dollar effort also calls for a medical and research complex, and town houses, to be built in future phases.

SCHOOL ROOF APPROVED

The Doctor Helen Baldwin Middle School in Canterbury will be getting a new roof. Voters in the town have approved, by a more than 500-vote margin, the 1-point-79 million dollar project. A grassroots organization, dubbed the Canterbury Education Information group, is taking credit for bringing a relatively large turnout to the polls, and for the project’s approval. The group was formed after members say they were frustrated at the slow progress town officials were making in bringing the issue to referendum. The state will reimburse the town for 67-percent of the project cost.

CROCKER HOUSE GETS NEW OWNER

The Crocker House apartment building has been sold. The new owner of the State Street property in downtown New London hasn’t been publicly announced yet. Current owner, Old Lyme based Hamilton Point Investments, says the state’s worsening economic outlook prompted the sale. The building has 82 units. It sold for 7-point-4 million dollars.

TESLA HOPING TO MEET WITH CT CAR DEALERS

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Executives from electric car-maker Tesla Motors are reaching out to Connecticut auto dealers, asking to meet and possibly reach a compromise that might allow Tesla to sell its vehicles directly to consumers. Tesla sent an email Wednesday to the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, asking the association for a meeting. Tesla says it “wants to respond in good faith” to multiple requests made by lawmakers for the two sides to discuss a possible deal. A message was left seeking comment with the association’s executive director. Tesla’s meeting request comes a day after a committee approved legislation allowing Tesla to bypass the state’s existing franchise system. Lawmakers said they thought the two sides were already negotiating a possible compromise and voted in favor of the bill to keep those talks going.

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