Senator Dodd acquitted, SustiNet appointments, grants

August 10, 2009
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Here’s a summary on what was making news last week in the world of Connecticut politics.

Emergency Notification System (ENS), whose purpose is to notify the public through recorded or electronic messages about dangerous weather, natural disasters and other crises is going to operate statewide after September 1, making Connecticut the first state in the country to do so, Governor M. Jodi Rell announced. So far the system has reportedly been used locally in some cities and towns.

The Governor signed Senate Bill 846, An Act Concerning The Disabled Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption. This exemption, ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 is now available to veterans with a disability rating of 10% or greater in subsequent years, unless the U.S. Veterans’ Administration (VA) modifies the rating.

New laws in attempt to put an end to the mortgage crisis were signed by Governor Rell. An Act Concerning Implementation of the S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act increases regulations, while An Act Concerning the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program facilitates mortgagors into getting “hardship assistance, counseling, financial education and refinancing into more affordable 30-year fixed-rate mortgages from the Governor’s two foreclosure prevention programs”, as reported on the Governor’s website. More information is available at www.chfa.org.

More Connecticut families will be eligible for food stamps from the nationwide service known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to an announcement by Governor Rell. The eligibility is reportedly based on income limit of the federal poverty level. That limit rose from 130% to 185% of the federal poverty level. $4.8 million in federal funds are added to the program, Governor Rell announced on her website.

Other important legislation that Governor M. Jodi Rell signed last week is one that seeks to reform the state’s probate court system. The new law does not abolish election of judges, requires a 40-hour week, diminishes the number of courts from 117 to less than half this number, and creates a more independent revenue system for the courts. The exact number will be determined by the current probate judges or recommended by a bipartisan commission should they not come to a consensus.

SustiNet Universal Health Care Plan finally has board members appointed by the Governor and the state legislators. The board members are Norma Gyle, Jeffrey Kramer, Paul Grady, Sal Luciano, Joseph McDonagh, Jamie Mooney and Dr. Bruce Gould. They will be led by State Comptroller Nancy Wyman and State Health Care Advocate Kevin Lembo, as reported by the Hartford Courant.

In Washington, Senator Chris Dodd (D – CT) was acquitted by the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee from the charge of violating Senate ethics rules when he and his wife Jackie refinanced their home mortgages five years ago with Countrywide Financial.

Earlier in the week, the long-term senator introduced a bill, the Livable Communities Act, which is intended to help local governments with the issues of traffic congestion, energy consumption concerning the environment, housing and economic development.

Bouffard Metal Goods in Waterbury, Connecticut will be granted $5 million by the Department of Energy to develop and manufacture “high tech precision castings for advanced batteries used in electric vehicles,” as announced on Senator Joe Lieberman’s (I – CT) website. Supporters of the grant, among them Senator Lieberman, say that it will boost the local economy and reduce the U.S. reliance on foreign oil. Another grant, the State Traffic Safety Information System Improvement Grant, valued at $500,000, is given to Newington, Connecticut through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) incentive grant program for improvement of safety U.S. highways.

Representative Joe Courtney (D – 2nd District) announced his support for the extension of Cash for Clunkers program, which he was originally a cosponsor of, at a press conference in Vernon, Connecticut. The money for the extended program, valued at $2 billion which will be received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is projected to be spent on approximately 250,000 more fuel efficient cars. Eligible candidates for the program could trade their low fuel efficiency vehicles for the purchase of high efficiency ones and receive government rebates of up to $4,500.

Meanwhile, Representative Courtney, together with Representative Rosa DeLauro (D – 3rd District) and Representative Chris Murphy (D – 5th District), attended a rally organized by the International Association of Machinists in support of retaining jobs in Connecticut. However, Pratt and Whitney intends to close its plants in Cheshire and East Hartford leaving about 1,000 people without a job, after the U.S. Government cancelled the F-22 Raptor program, as previously reported. The company’s plan is to shift most of its work to Columbus, Georgia and overseas.

Representative Chris Murphy has introduced a bill – Help Find the Missing Act (Billy’s Law) – which is intended to help families find missing loved ones through a better guidance to do the reporting and law enforcement.

In New Britain, the world’s largest producer of deep drawn cylindrical cans for the consumer battery industry, H&T Waterbury, Inc., received $5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the form of a grant through the Department of Energy’s Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative, as reported on Chris Murphy’s website. The money is expected to be used for hiring more people for the company’s workforce.

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