BUDGET BATTLE RAGES ON
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut lawmakers are still trying to reach a bipartisan state budget agreement before the legislative adjourns. Democratic and Republican legislative leaders and staff were meeting Tuesday, off and on. The General Assembly is scheduled to wrap up at midnight Wednesday. The two sides are trying to reach a deal on what changes should be made to the second year of the two-year, $41.3 billion budget they approved last year. The new fiscal year begins July 1. Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides said they revised their plan again on Tuesday to restore health insurance coverage for 13,000 low income working parents on the HUSKY A program, in hopes to reaching a deal. But Republicans have threatened to call a vote on their budget.
CASINO BILL IN DOUBT
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut lawmakers hoping to see a casino built in Bridgeport say they’ve decided against pushing for legislation in the final hours of the session that would have sought proposals from casino developers. Democratic Rep. Steven Stafstrom of Bridgeport acknowledged Tuesday that the prospects of the bill being called and voted on in the Senate “are tough, given the hour.”The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn at midnight on Wednesday. A debate on the casino legislation would likely take hours. It’s also questionable whether there would be enough support in the Senate to pass the bill, which cleared the House of Representatives last week on a 77-73 vote. MGM Resorts, which says it wants to build a casino in Bridgeport, has promised to lobby next session for the bill.
ALLEGED FIGHT CLUB TEACHER IN COURT
NORWICH, Conn. (AP) – A former Montville High School substitute teacher accused of organizing a student fight club is pleading not guilty. Twenty-three-year-old Ryan Fish is charged with multiple counts of risk of injury to a child and reckless endangerment while teaching at the school. He filed his plea with an attorney in Norwich Superior Court Tuesday and is requesting a jury trial. The high school’s principal, assistant principal and schools superintendent were arrested in April for not telling authorities about the fight allegations and have been placed on leave. Fish is accused of organizing fights between students inside a math classroom. He was fired in October. Montville Police began investigating Fish in December after videos surfaced showing fights between students in his classroom.
NORWICH TEEN KILLED IN CRASH
State Police say a Norwich teenager was killed in a crash in Plainfield Sunday evening. It happened on I-395 southbound near exit 32 around 7:30 p.m. Police said the car driven by 17-year old Christine White left the road, rolled over, and then collided with a large tree. The car burst into flames. Crews had closed lanes on the highway while they responded. Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is asked to contact state police at 860-779-4900.
DEAD BODY ID
New London police have released the identity of the man found dead on the former Edgerton School property Monday morning. 36-year old Lebro Mei, of no certain address, was found dead around 7 AM at the Cedar Grove Avenue site. Cause of death is still being investigated by the New London County State’s Attorney’s office and the office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Foul play has not been ruled out.
DEAD BODY IN CHESTER
CHESTER, Conn. (AP) – State police are investigating the death of a person found in the Connecticut River in Chester. Troopers were sent to the area near a ferry landing in Chester on Tuesday morning after being notified that human remains had been found. The officer of the medical examiner is working to identify the person and determine the cause of death. Anyone with information about the case is urged to call detectives from the state police Eastern District Major Crime division.
NEW MILL RATES
The budget reductions approved Monday night by Norwich aldermen brings the projected mill rate in the City Consolidated District for the next fiscal year to under 50 mills—a target cited by Republicans on the City Council. The mill rate would be 49-point-65, and 41-point-20 in the town district. The 125-million dollar proposal is about 1-point-3 percent higher than the current budget, but is lower than what the city manager proposed for 2018-2019, which called for a C-C-D mill rate of more than 52 mills. The city council only approved a preliminary spending and tax plan Monday night. A final budget won’t be adopted until next month. A public hearing on the proposal takes place May 14th at City Hall.
SCHOOL BUDGET WOES IN NORWICH
Norwich’s Board of Education continues to seek answers as to how to fund its programs. The board is facing an estimated 2-million dollar shortfall in the current budget year ending June 30th, and is seeking a 9-percent increase in spending for the new budget season. The schools would get a 2-percent increase under the preliminary budget approved by aldermen this week, but school superintendent Abby Dolliver re-iterates there’s not much the school board can do to bridge the spending gap. She stresses, though, the school board is obligated to somehow meet the education budget bottom line approved by the city council next month. The board of ed has indicated it may sue the city, if the education budget isn’t properly funded. In a related matter, the board will be sending a letter to Norwich Free Academy requesting contract negotiations for a new agreement that would take effect after the current contract expires in June, 2020.
KEEPING A CLOSER EYE ON WHITING
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut lawmakers have voted to beef up oversight of the state’s only maximum-security psychiatric hospital following allegations of abuse by staff members. The House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill Tuesday. The bill previously cleared the Senate. It now moves to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who recently used his executive powers to change the structure of the Middletown facility, making it a stand-alone entity known as Whiting Forensic Hospital. This legislation puts some of Malloy’s changes in statute. It also requires mandatory reporting of suspected patient abuse at certain state behavioral health facilities and requires an on-site inspection and records review at Whiting by Jan. 1. Ten staff members have been criminally charged and more than three dozen have been suspended in connection with alleged abuse involving one patient.
NEWTOWN LAWSUIT TOSSED
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A Connecticut judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parents of two children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre against the town and its school district over alleged inadequate security measures. Superior Court Judge Robin Wilson in a decision released Tuesday granted the town’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, agreeing that school officials were immune from being sued and not liable because the security measures they followed were discretionary. Town lawyers said there was no evidence school employees were at fault for the shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators. The parents of first-graders Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner sued the town on several claims including that school officials didn’t follow security procedures during the shooting. Their lawyer says an appeal is likely.
PROTECTING THE A-C-A
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut lawmakers have approved legislation they say will preserve the essential health benefits guaranteed under the federal Affordable Care Act. The Senate early Tuesday morning voted 34-2 in favor of the legislation, which previously cleared the House of Representatives. It now moves to the governor’s desk. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had urged the General Assembly to take such action during his State of the State address in February, pointing out Republican efforts in Washington, D.C. to derail the Affordable Care Act. Connecticut’s legislation requires insurance policies offered in the state to cover the “10 Essential Health Benefits,” which include things like outpatient care, emergency room trips, prenatal and pediatric care, prescription medicine, lab tests, mental health services and substance abuse disorders. The bill also preserves non-cost contraception for women.