State news

Man wanted in Waterbury slaying is arrested in New York

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - A New York man has been charged with killing a man in Waterbury last month. Waterbury police say Gerome Philips was taken into custody in the Bronx last Tuesday and extradited to Waterbury on Friday. The 23-year-old Philips faces murder and weapons charges in connection with the slaying of 25-year-old James Smith. Smith died of multiple gunshot wounds on May 13. Philips is being held on $2 million bail and is scheduled to make an initial court appearance on Monday. Waterbury police didn't have information on whether he had retained an attorney.

Advocates see special session as 2nd chance for their issues

Advocates for different causes are hoping to get a second chance at passing a bill or securing funding in the new state budget as the Connecticut General Assembly prepares to return to the Capitol for a short special session. The Senate is scheduled to convene Tuesday and the House of Representatives on Wednesday. While legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana and finalizing the budget have been the top priorities, there's been a push for other bills such as one that would cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and another that would help people who are terminally ill to die.

Prison guards seeking hazard pay for work during pandemic

The union representing Connecticut's prison guards is asking lawmakers to allocate up to $500 million in federal COVID-19 funds for hazard pay to be given to those deemed essential workers during the pandemic. They are calling it "hero pay," and are asking for a dollar an hour for every hour worked. State Sen. Cathy Osten, the co-chair of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee, said $22.5 million in total has been set aside at Gov. Ned Lamont's request for hazard pay during the height of the pandemic. Of that sum, about $10 million would go to essential state employees and $12.5 million to members of the Connecticut National Guard.

Utilities appeal penalties over tropical storm response

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s two largest electricity distributors have appealed millions of dollars in profit reductions imposed by the state for what regulators called the companies’ failures in preparing for and responding to Tropical Storm Isaias, which caused hundreds of thousands of power outages last year.

Eversource, which serves nearly 1.3 million homes and businesses in the state, appealed a mandated $31 million reduction in annual profits in documents filed Thursday in New Britain Superior Court. United Illuminating, which serves about 340,00 customers in southwestern Connecticut, appealed a $1.3 million profit reduction order in the same court Friday.

Eversource called the indefinite annual profit penalty issued last month by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, “grossly excessive” and unconstitutional, and said the penalty exceeds what state law allows. United Illuminating makes similar arguments in its appeal. Both companies have defended their responses to the storm.

PURA also fined Eversource another $28 million and United Illuminating an additional $2.1 million in last month’s ruling. The companies are not challenging those fines.

The agency said in a statement Friday that it would “rigorously defend” its decisions in court.

“Eversource is entitled to exercise any right to appeal it may have,” PURA said. “The Authority would rather that Eversource prioritize its responsibilities as a public service company and use its resources on operating a reliable and resilient distribution system and improving its emergency response instead of expending resources on further litigation.”

PURA said officials were still reviewing United Illuminating’s appeal, but added in another statement, “The Authority’s final decision speaks for itself with respect to UI’s performance in preparing for and responding to Tropical Storm Isaias.”

Isaias roared through the Northeast on Aug. 4, knocking down scores of trees and utility wires.

In Connecticut, more than 630,000 Eversource customers lost power during the storm and another 500,000 lost electricity in the aftermath as crews had to shut off power to make repairs, the company said. United Illuminating reported more than 113,000 outages during the storm and 157,000 outages in the aftermath during repairs.

Eversource spokesperson Caroline Pretyman said Friday that the company restored power faster than in previous major storms.

“Our appeal addresses critical legal aspects of PURA’s decision and the serious implications the decision will have on future storm response efforts,” Pretyman said in a statement.

A United Illuminating spokesperson confirmed the appeal but did not immediately comment on it.

In its decision, PURA determined both Eversource and United Illuminating failed to comply with standards of acceptable performance in emergency preparation and restoration of power outages, including failing to deploy enough line workers. Regulators also said the utilities violated state reporting requirements by not disclosing minor accidents involving workers during their storm responses.

PURA also ordered the companies and their affiliates to improve how they respond to major storms. The orders include increasing the number of line workers and other responders who restore power and clear blocked roads, and improving communications with customers. It also ordered management audits of the companies by independent firms.

Connecticut legislature addresses nursing home deficiencies

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Some big changes are expected at Connecticut nursing homes in the coming months. Lawmakers passed multiple bills that attempt to address some of the deficiencies in long-term care facilities that were exacerbated by the pandemic. They increase mandatory hours of direct cares, make changes to emergency planning, strengthen the "bill of rights" for residents, set aside additional funding for nursing homes, require two-month supplies of personal protective equipment and allow residents to have cameras in their rooms. Once signed into law by the governor, many are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, or sooner.

House GOP leader disappointed car theft not addressed during session

While there was some bipartisan support this legislative session, Connecticut lawmakers remain divided on some priorities.  House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora says his caucus backed a bill that would have dealt with car thefts.  He says while the Democratic majority was a focus on addressing inequities and righting wrongs, there was a difference in identifying victim groups. 

Police Departments in the Greater Danbury area and across the state have been receiving more reports recently of cars being stolen from people's driveways, or cars entered into and items stolen.  In many cases, Police say the cars either had the keys inside them or were left unlocked. 

Candelora says a state Representative had her car stolen from her mother's driveway on the last day of the session and had to miss votes while dealing with that.  He did not identify the Representative or whether the car was left unlocked. 

"To suggest somebody whose car is stolen is responsible because they left the keys in the car is like blaming someone whose been sexually assaulted that they dressed too provocatively," Candelora added.  Candelora was asked if he talked to the member and blamed victims.  He says they had that conversation, but didn't elaborate. 

Candelora pivoted, saying his point was the bills raised this session depended on who the victim is and he wanted a focus on those whose property has been taken away.

Police recover rifle after woman fatally shot while cooking

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Hartford police say they have recovered the rifle used in a shooting that took the life of a woman who was inside her apartment cooking when she was hit by a stray bullet. Police Chief Jason Thody says no arrests have been made in the Wednesday evening killing of 56-year-old Sylvia Cordova, but investigators have significant leads. Thody says the shot was fired through her apartment from the street and she was not the target. He says that shooting is unrelated to the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man a short time later in another part of the city.

Connecticut lawmakers to return to Capitol for another round

Connecticut lawmakers may have closed out the regular legislative session on Wednesday night, but they're anticipated to return to the state Capitol soon to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. They're also expected to consider some remaining budget bills and possibly some other bills that didn't survive in the first round, including Gov. Ned Lamont's proposed regional Transportation and Climate Initiative Program that Republicans consider to be a gas tax. Lamont said Thursday he'd like to see the proposal revisited. The regular legislative session adjourned at midnight on Wednesday. No date has been set for the special session.

Highlights of the two-year, $46.3 billion Connecticut budget

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers have approved a two-year, $46.3 billion state budget on the final day of the legislative session. The budget relies on $2.28 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds over two years from the American Rescue Plan. About $400 million has not yet been allocated by lawmakers. The budget provides an additional $130 million over two years for the Education Cost Sharing grant, the state's largest grant to local schools. There is also additional funds for school systems with higher numbers of low-income students and students whose second language is English. There's also more money for health care coverage.

Officer resigns and receives payout after fatal traffic stop

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (AP) - A former Connecticut police officer, who shot and killed an 18-year-old motorist during a traffic stop, received a $100,000 payout from Wethersfield's municipal insurer when he resigned from the department. That's according to documents obtained by the Hartford Courant. It is unclear if the money paid is a part of earned vacation or sick time or other benefits. Layau Eulizier shot and killed Anthony Vega-Cruz in April of 2019 after an officer discovered the license plates on Vega-Cruz's vehicle belong to a different vehicle. Town Manager Gary Evans declined to comment on the settlement, citing ongoing litigation. Vega-Cruz's father filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the town.

Woman who stabbed Hartford officer found

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A 42-year-old Connecticut woman charged with stabbing and severely injuring a police officer during an eviction dispute has been acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect of charges including attempted murder. Judge David Gold ruled Wednesday that Chevoughn Augustin will be committed to the custody of the Connecticut Psychiatric Security Review Board after a hearing which will be scheduled this summer. Gold found that Augustin suffered from a history of schizophrenia and other mental health problems when she stabbed Hartford Police Officer Jill Kidik in May 2018 during an eviction call at a Hartford apartment.

Connecticut lawmakers close out unusual session, pass budget

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers have closed out the legislative session, with the Senate passing a two-year, $46.3 billion state budget deal with no new taxes. Wednesday's vote, which comes after the bill passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, occurred on the final day of the regular legislative session that ends at midnight. While that's expected to pass in time, a bill legalizing adult recreational marijuana will not. House Speaker Matt Ritter said Democratic leaders plan to call a special session in the next week or two to vote on that and other bills. The move comes after Republicans threatened to debate the bill until midnight.

House GOP leader says pot bill is 'tainted,' vote must wait

The Republican leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives says the chamber should not take up a long-awaited bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Rep. Vincent Candelora said the legislation is "tainted" and called for an investigation into how language was tucked into the bill that could have intentionally benefitted at least one individual. The regular General Assembly session is scheduled to adjourn at midnight on Wednesday. The bill narrowly passed the Senate early Tuesday after the contentious provision was stripped. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said an investigation is unnecessary now that the language was removed at his behest.

Democrats push bill aimed at family that owns Purdue Pharma

A congressional committee has heard grievances against the owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma as it considered legislation that would keep them from using a corporate bankruptcy as a shield for personal liability. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney called two state attorneys general, opioid activists and an author to lay out the case against members of the Sackler family who own the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical giant. Sackler family members issued a statement saying many state and local governments support their settlement proposal for Purdue to exit bankruptcy and that it will go further to solve the epidemic than individual lawsuits.

House approves budget bill as session winds down

The House of Representatives has passed a two-year, $46.7 billion state budget in a bipartisan vote.  The deal was reached between Democratic leaders in the General Assembly and Gov. Ned Lamont. Lawmakers say the package will help guide the state as it continues to emerge from the pandemic. The budget benefits from an historic infusion of federal COVID relief funds and an improving state economy. While there are no tax increases in the plan, there are spending increases in numerous areas, from education to municipal aid. 

Connecticut Senate passes legal marijuana bill

The Connecticut Senate has approved legislation that legalizes recreational marijuana for adults. Monday night's debate, which was lengthy, came hours after proponents announced they reached a compromise on how to ensure the new industry will benefit those residents adversely affected by the nation's war on drugs. Under the bill, it would be legal for people 21 years and older to possess and use limited amounts of cannabis beginning July 1. Democratic Sen. Gary Winfield says the legislation addresses how the war on drugs decimated while communities. But Republican Sen. John Kissel says the legislation is a big mistake.  The measure was approved 19 to 17 and sent to the House.

Bill expanding Attorney General's powers heads to governor

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers have voted to formally expand the state Attorney General's powers to include investigating allegations of certain hate crimes and civil rights violations and to initiate legal proceedings. The bill on Monday passed 96 to 51 in the House of Representatives. It now moves to Gov. Ned Lamont's desk after it previously passed in the Senate on Friday. Under current law, the office has the authority to pursue civil litigation in civil rights violation cases. However, it does not have the large-scale ability to investigate allegations or bring legal proceedings and seek relief for the affected person.

Final deal reached on budget, first vote planned Tuesday

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - House Speaker Matt Ritter says a new two-year state budget has been reached with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. Ritter says the House of Representatives will take up the bill Tuesday morning. Ritter said the deal with his fellow Democrat Lamont was finalized Sunday night. He's hoping some Republicans will vote for the plan, which Democrats contend does not raise new taxes, yet makes major investments in education, health care, municipal aid, workforce development and other programs, due in part to federal COVID-19 relief funds. Lamont and Democrats announced Friday they were very close to reaching a "comprehensive understanding."

Ex-cemetery manager accused of desecrating graves dies

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A former caretaker of a Connecticut cemetery who was arrested in 2018 after police said they found bones strewn about and new graves placed over old ones has died. Hearst Connecticut Media reports the chief medical examiner's office said Thursday that Dale LaPrade, of Stratford, died and the cause was cardiovascular disease. The media group's report did not say when LaPrade died. Her criminal cases remained pending and she had pleaded not guilty. In 2018, authorities said they found about 130 graves disturbed at Park Cemetery in Bridgeport, including those of Civil War veterans. Gravestones and remains had been removed to make way for the newly dead.

Man pleads guilty to setting fire to Shakespearean theater

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man has pleaded guilty to setting fire to a renown Shakespearean theater and several other structures in four towns. The Connecticut Post reports 20-year-old Christopher Sakowicz, of Stratford, faces 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to arson charges on Friday in Bridgeport Superior Court. Sentencing is set for Sept. 10. The American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford was destroyed in the January 2019 blaze. Its stage had been graced by the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Christopher Plummer and James Earl Jones. The theater was built in 1955 and modeled after London's Globe Theatre, which famously burned in 1613. Two other men were charged in the Connecticut fire.

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