State news

No sign of fugitive who sought Facebook likes to surrender

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) Police in Connecticut say a fugitive has so far failed to honor an agreement to surrender once enough people responded positively to his wanted poster on social media.

Torrington police say Jose Simms has seven arrest warrants and is being sought as a fugitive after failing to appear in court on charges that range from breach of peace to risk of injury to a child.

The public responded to the Facebook deal between Simms and police with far more than the required number of likes, but police say he has failed to show.

He is believed to be somewhere in New York.

Torrington police Lt. Brett Johnson posted on the department's Facebook page Wednesday that Simms had contacted him through the social media site and agreed to turn himself in if the post containing his poster received 15,000 likes.

The page has far surpassed that number.

Police said Friday that they will use all resources available to locate Simms.

Three gun bills advance to Gov.'s desk

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A bill that attempts to tighten Connecticut's safe gun storage laws is heading to Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's desk.

The Senate on Thursday voted 34-2 in favor of the legislation which stems from the death of Ethan Song, a Guilford 15-year-old who accidentally shot himself with a handgun owned by a friend's father. The legislation requires loaded and unloaded firearms to be safely stored in homes where there are minors under age 18.

Song's parents are pushing for similar legislation on the federal level.

The Senate has also given final legislative approval to a bill requiring handguns left in an unattended vehicle to be stored in a trunk, locked safe or locked glove box. The Senate has also sent Lamont a bill prohibiting unmarked, untraceable weapons known as ghost guns.

Democrats unveil plan for a public health insurance option

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A coalition of Connecticut Democrats, including Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders, say they've reached consensus on a major bill that could lead to a public health insurance option by 2022.

Called the "Connecticut Option," proponents said Thursday the yet-to-be designed plan would allow individuals and businesses to buy a new "high-quality, high-value health plan" that could save them up to 20% in insurance premiums.

The bill also aims to lower drug costs and reduce insurance expenses for low- and middle-income consumers, among other things.

Democratic Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown says it's the "most ambitious" health care bill any state has considered.

Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano of North Haven is slamming Democrats for not involving the GOP and offering the bill days before the June 5 adjournment.

Democratic lawmakers ask Lamont to back capital gains tax

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - More than five dozen Democratic state representatives and senators are asking Gov. Ned Lamont to support a surcharge on capital gains income earned by wealthy Connecticut taxpayers.

Sixty-three lawmakers sent a letter on Thursday to the Democrat, insisting the surcharge does not penalize the wealthy, but rather "makes our system fairer and more equitable." They're suggesting couples earning more than $1 million annually and individuals earning more than $500,000 should pay the 2% capital gains tax.

The request comes as closed-door negotiations continue on a new, two-year state budget.

A spokeswoman for Lamont says the governor "remains consistent in his opposition to increasing the capital gains rate." She says Lamont instead supports tax policies that don't encourage people to leave Connecticut or limit the state's ability to expand economic opportunity.

Vendor won't oppose bill that would make prison calls free

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The vendor that provides phone service for Connecticut's prison system has withdrawn its opposition to legislation that would make calls from prison free for inmate families.

Texas-based Securus Technologies sent a letter Wednesday to State Rep. Josh Elliott, the Hamden Democrat who sponsored the bill, saying it is committed to bringing down the cost of the phone calls and is willing to enter into "good faith discussions" with the state on how to do that.

Connecticut currently charges almost $5 for each 15-minute call from prison. Supporters of the legislation say the cost of the calls should not be borne by the families of inmates, who have done nothing wrong.

Securus says it originally opposed the legislation because it is not clear who would pick up the costs.

Police investigate fatal shooting in New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Police in New Haven are investigating a late night shooting that left a man dead.

Capt. Anthony Duff says officers responded to the area of Congress Avenue and Redfield Street at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday in responder to an alert from ShotSpotter, the city's automated gunfire detection system.

The victim was found in the street. He was taken by ambulance to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he was pronounced dead. No name was released and there was no word on arrests.

The shooting occurred in the same area as a non-fatal shooting on Monday. In that case, a 21-year-old man was shot in the arm.

Police say it's unclear if the shootings are connected.

Paid leave clears Senate despite veto threat

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Democratic-controlled Connecticut Senate has advanced legislation creating a paid family medical leave insurance program, despite a veto threat from Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.

The bill passed 21-15 Wednesday and now awaits action in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

Under the legislation, most Connecticut workers would be charged a 0.5% payroll tax to finance the program. Eligible individuals would receive partial wage coverage while they take up to 12 weeks off from work to care for themselves during a serious illness, a loved one or a newborn.

Lamont criticized the bill for including a "top heavy" governing body, which he says could threaten the success of the $400 million initiative.

Democratic lawmakers say they're hopeful Lamont will ultimately sign the bill. Republicans vow to prevent an override of Lamont's veto.

Complexity of Connecticut toll plan could delay vote

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers may not vote on a highway tolling bill until after the legislative session ends, given the complexity of the bill.

Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Monday he'd prefer the General Assembly authorize tolls on Interstates 84, 91, 95 and Route 15 before the June 5 adjournment, but said he wouldn't be opposed to a special session.

He said it's an "incredibly complex bill to write," especially considering the need for Connecticut to obtain federal approval.

The state is taking the unusual approach of seeking permission to build electronic tolls on existing highways. It would be allowed to do so through a federal traffic congestion mitigation program.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's administration and lawmakers have been working with the Federal Highway Administration on meeting the program's requirements.

Connecticut bill requires social workers to be credentialed

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Some Connecticut legislators want to make sure people who call themselves social workers are truly credentialed social workers.

The House of Representatives on Monday voted 111-25 in favor of legislation that prevents someone from using the title "licensed clinical social worker" or "social worker," or any initials associated with the title without first having earned a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in social work.

Democratic Rep. Pat Wilson Pheanious of Ashford, a social worker, says "virtually anyone can hold themselves out as a social worker." She says they often make mistakes and there is no one to hold them accountable, unlike licensed social workers who must obey strict ethical and professional standards.

The bill exempts certain municipal and state employees with a social worker title.

The legislation awaits Senate action.

Connecticut House passes mental health parity bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's House of Representatives has unanimously approved legislation ensuring health insurers treat mental health illnesses the same as other illnesses.

Monday's bill, which awaits Senate action, requires insurers to cover mental health and substance disorder treatment at the same level as physical health. The bill also requires insurance companies to submit documentation annually to prove they're complying with the legislation.

Former Democratic Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy appeared at the state Capitol in March, urging Connecticut lawmakers to pass the bill. The mental health advocate called it a "modern day civil rights bill for those with brain illness."

Democratic Rep. Sean Scanlon of Guilford, the bill's proponent, says he's proud of Monday's vote. He noted a 2017 study that showed Connecticut had the worst parity compliance in the nation.

Connecticut woman found dead in car in Massachusetts

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut woman has been found dead in Massachusetts under suspicious circumstances.

The New Haven Register reports 40-year-old Tamika Jones, of New Haven, was found dead Tuesday in a car in Fitchburg. The central Massachusetts city is about 125 miles (201 kilometers) away from New Haven.

Fitchburg Police say officers found Jones' body while responding to a report of an unresponsive person inside a car at around 1 p.m.

Authorities have not disclosed details about the death other than to say they're treating it as suspicious.

Owner of apartment complex facing housing violations

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The owner of an apartment complex in Connecticut is due in housing court to face a range of building code violations.

The owner of Barbour Gardens in Hartford is expected to answer to 16 counts of fire safety violations at a hearing in Hartford Housing Court on Tuesday.

The property has been cited for not having a fire alarm system and self-latching and closing doors. Inspectors have also cited the property for blocked hallways and improper storage of combustible liquids.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year ended its Section 8 contract with the owner of the public housing complex after residents complained they've been dealing with poor living conditions for years, from rodent infestation to broken windows and mold.

Police officer helps residents escape burning house

SHELTON, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut say a patrol officer helped residents escape from a burning house.

Shelton police say Officer Michael Kichar was on his way to work Sunday morning when he saw smoke coming from the house.

Kichar called 911 and then woke up the residents and helped them and the family dog escape. No one was injured but the fire spread quickly and gutted the home.

It took firefighters from two other neighboring towns to help control the blaze. The town fire marshal is now investigating.

The Hartford Courant reports the five-bedroom house was built in 1960.

Tolling bill advances as details still remain unfinished

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A key legislative committee has advanced a bill that could lead to electronic tolls on Connecticut highways, but proponents acknowledge some details are still being worked out.

Democratic Rep. Roland Lemar, of New Haven, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, says issues such as the final number of electronic tolling gantries, their location, and discounts for Connecticut drivers are still being negotiated.

House and Senate members have been working with Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's administration on the bill's language, as well as with the Federal Highway Administration, which will ultimately have to approve Connecticut's tolling proposal. Lamar says more information should be made public in the "very near future."

Lemar's comments came Wednesday, as the Democratic-controlled Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee approved Lamont's tolling bill on a partisan vote of 30-20.

Connecticut officer shoots dog that bit a child and then him

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut police officer has shot and killed a dog after it attacked a child and then turned on the officer.

A Stratford officer saw the dog biting the child Tuesday afternoon.

Capt. Frank Eannotti said in a statement the dog would not release the child, so the officer used an electronic stun gun on the animal.

The dog let go of the child, who ran to safety.

The dog then turned on the officer who used the stun gun again, but "to no effect."

The officer retreated and shot the dog to stop the attack.

The child was taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries.

The dog died at the scene.

Police did not release the dog's breed or the age of the child. The investigation is ongoing.

Bill would require nursing homes to post staffing levels

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut nursing home residents and their families may soon have a better idea of how many staff members are on duty.

The Senate voted 31-4 on Wednesday to require each facility to calculate on a daily basis the number of nurses and aides providing direct care. That information would be posted in a conspicuous place at the beginning of each shift.

Democratic Sen. Saud Anwar, of South Windsor, says the legislation aims to make nursing home operations more transparent for residents and families.

Republican senators on Wednesday unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill, which now awaits action in the House of Representatives. One proposal would have provided a 1% rate increase to nursing homes, which are facing a potential strike. Democrats say that issue will ultimately be addressed in the budget.

Speaker: No final decision yet on ending vaccine exemption

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz says no final decision has been made about whether to eliminate Connecticut's religious exemption from vaccines for schoolchildren, but there's strong support among his fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives for such a move.

The Berlin lawmaker said Tuesday it was good to have Monday's informational hearing on the subject, which drew dozens of parents worried about vaccine safety.

But Aresimowicz says his caucus "is locked in on this issue" based upon new state data showing more than 100 schools have vaccination rates that fall below recommended federal guidelines.

Aresimowicz and Democratic House Majority Leader Matt Ritter plan to review a thick packet of testimony from the hearing. Ritter says he'll also be talking with Republicans and senators.

The legislative session adjourns June 5.

Lawmakers announce plan for more security after mosque fire

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A bi-partisan group of Connecticut lawmakers has announced plans to free up $5 million in state bonding to increase security at houses of worship.

The move comes in response to Sunday's fire at New Haven's Diyanet Mosque, which is being investigated as arson. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp says evidence of incendiary material was found on the site.

State Sen. Saud Anwar, a Democrat from South Windsor and one of the main sponsors of the legislation, says the money will help create a sense of resiliency and protection at churches, synagogues and mosques across the state.

The legislation would establish a competitive grant program similar to one that already makes money available to schools to install such things as remote door entry systems, video monitoring and shatter-proof windows.

Bill extending helmet law to those under 21 clears House

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut is moving closer toward requiring anyone age 20 and younger to wear a helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle.

The House of Representatives voted 113-33 Tuesday to update the state's existing law, which requires anyone under 18 to wear a helmet.

The bill awaits Senate action.

Democratic Rep. Jillian Gilchrist of West Hartford says the legislation doesn't go far enough. She promised to push for a universal helmet law in the next legislative session. Advocates hoping to reinstate Connecticut's full helmet law, who waged an active lobbying campaign, hoped this would be the year that such a bill would finally pass.

But opponents have questioned the effectiveness of a universal helmet law. And some lawmakers on Tuesday questioned the fairness of even expanding it to those under 21.

Prosecutor to examine Russia probe origins

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General William Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was "lawful and appropriate."

Barr has appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct the inquiry.

Durham has previously investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office's relationship with mobsters.

Durham was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2018. At the time, Connecticut’s two Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, called Durham a “fierce, fair prosecutor” who knows how to try tough cases.

He will continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.

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