State news

Center for Digital Government recognizes Conn. for IT leadership

The Center for Digital Government has given Connecticut national recognition for its ongoing digital government efforts, awarding the state with a grade of A- and ranking it third in the nation for information technology leadership. The recognition was included as part of the organization’s 2022 Digital States Survey.

Governor Lamont said he made it a priority to build an all-digital state government that provides Connecticut’s residents and businesses with the tools necessary to digitally connect with services administered by the state.

He says this recognizes cross-agency collaborations as the all-digital government efforts continue.  The Bureau of Information Technology Solutions team, as part of the Department of Administrative Services, works with state agencies to improve services for Connecticut residents. 
 


Federal grant awarded to Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory

The Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory has been awarded a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to aid in the development of the Connecticut Crime Gun Intelligence Center. Connecticut is the first state in the nation to receive a federal grant for this purpose.
 

The Center a division within the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, will be a unified, statewide, interagency collaboration focused on the immediate collection, management, and analysis of crime gun evidence, such as shell casings, in real time, in an effort to identify shooters, disrupt criminal activity, and to prevent future violence.

Its primary function will involve the creation of an interface between the Lab’s information management system and law enforcement record management systems to share forensic data on firearms used in crimes. It will function as a collaboration between the Lab, the State Police, the Connecticut Gun Tracing Task Force, the FBI, the ATF, and local law enforcement agencies.


Department of Consumer Protection warning about hurricane related scams

Connecticut residents are being urged to remain aware of disaster related scams following the devastation reported in Florida due to Hurricane Ian.  Traditional hurricane season is August through November, which brings the increased potential for flooding, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and other activity that can cause damage to personal property, homes and businesses.

 

Storm damage often requires consumers and business owners to make expensive repairs quickly – making them vulnerable to scam artists. And as severe weather events and disasters like large wildfires occur more often in other parts of the country, Connecticut residents could become greater targets for charity scams.

Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull says residents should do their research when it comes to things like hiring contractors for repairs, donating to charities and making large purchases after a storm.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is predicting a stronger than normal hurricane season this year and Seagull urged families to prepare themselves for these weather events, including knowing the signs of a scam. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.  Typical signs of a clean up or repair scam include a steep discount or being asked to pay up front or in cash.  She says those are red flags that the contractor is a fraud. 

 

Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella says scammers and bad actors often prey on victims of natural disasters that occur locally and across the country so people should use a critical eye before entering into storm clean up contracts and giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims. Residents should report all suspicious or fraudulent activity to local law enforcement.


UConn removes interim tag, names Maric its 17th president

STORRS, Conn. (AP) The University of Connecticut's Board of Trustees has removed the interim tag from Radenka Maric's title and appointed the 56-year-old engineer to be the school's 17th president. Maric, who previously served for five years as the school's vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship, became interim president in February, when Dr. Andrew Agwunobi left the interim job to become an executive at Humana Inc. Maric officially succeeds Thomas Katsouleas, who resigned in July 2021 after serving less than two years as president. Dan Toscano, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, said Wednesday that Maric emerged as the best choice for the job after a national search that included more than 150 candidates.


Murphy introduces legislation to prevent armed voter intimidation at polls

Ahead of the upcoming election and early voting period, Senator Chris Murphy has introduced the Vote Without Fear Act, legislation to prevent armed voter intimidation at the polls. The proposed bill would prohibit the possession of a firearm within 100 yards of any federal election site, with exceptions for on-duty law enforcement or security guards. Only six states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas – and the District of Columbia currently ban guns at the polls. 

 

Murphy says instances of private citizens bringing guns to polling places as well as threats against election workers are both on the rise.  He says free and fair elections cannot happen occur in the face of armed intimidation at the polls, adding that this legislation will ensure voters and election workers continue to feel safe participating in the democratic process.

 Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt says the right to cast a ballot safely and free from intimidation is fundamental to democracy.  He says this bill is welcomed, as the ADL continues to track potential threats of violence targeting the upcoming midterm election.  The ADL urged the Senate to move swiftly to pass this crucial legislation.


Connecticut gas prices continued downward trajectory

Connecticut gas prices continued their downward trajectory, falling to $3.35 for a gallon of self-service regular, down 11 cents from last week and 59 cents from last month, but still up 14 cents from a year ago.

AAA says national gas prices edged up a nickel over the past week to $3.73, largely due to refinery issues in the Midwest and West Coast. The price is still down 14 cents from a month ago but up 54 cents from a year ago.

Spokeswoman Fran Mayko says slack demand and lower oil prices should take some pressure off rising national gas prices, but Hurricane Ian could disrupt oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and impacting large coastal refineries.

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, gas demand decreased from 8.49 million barrels/day to 8.32 million barrels per day last week. Meanwhile, oil prices dipped below $80 per barrel last Friday for the first time since January, largely due to fears of a recession-led global economic slowdown.

Connecticut fell to 40th on the list of highest gas prices in the nation. Mississippi registers the lowest prices in the nation at $3.07, while California has the highest gas prices in the nation at $5.80.


Stefanowski defends abortion stance in first governor debate

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski is accusing Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont of lying that he'd pose a risk to Connecticut's abortion rights law. In their first of two planned debates on Tuesday, the GOP candidate accused the governor of trying to scare women in order to distract voters on economic issues. Lamont, however, says Stefanowski is the one scaring women by making political contributions to anti-abortion candidates. Recent polling shows Lamont leading Stefanowski among likely women voters. The two major party candidates were joined by Independent candidate Rob Hotaling.


Video shows trooper's use of stun gun on man who later died

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) Video released by the Connecticut state police shows a trooper responding to a domestic violence report last month used her stun gun on a man continuously for over a minute. The man died four days later. Ryan Marzi's obituary says he died in his sleep on Aug. 28. That was four days after the 38-year-old Marzi had tussled with state troopers. Police video that Hearst Connecticut Media was first to report on shows Troopers Desmond Stimson and Jessie Rainville confronting Marzi outside a garage. The video shows Rainville using a stun gun on Marzi for just over a minute. The death is under investigation.


$100M lawsuit filed over injuries suffered in police van

Lawyers for a man who was paralyzed in June when a police van braked suddenly has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city of New Haven, Connecticut. Randy Cox was being driven to a police station on a weapons charge when the driver braked and caused Cox to fly headfirst into the wall of the van. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump says Cox's legal team filed the federal negligence lawsuit Tuesday to ensure Cox is compensated for his suffering. The mayor says that Cox's treatment was unacceptable and that the city is committed to making sure something similar doesn't happen again.


Deadline approaching for Conn.'s 'Premium Pay' program

State Comptroller Natalie Braswell is encouraging all eligible essential workers to submit their applications for the state’s “Premium Pay” program before the October 1st deadline.


The program will provide payments up to $1,000 Connecticut essential workers who meet eligibility criteria established by state law. The program is not first-come, first-served. All applications received prior to the deadline will be treated equally.  Over 154,000 applications have already been submitted.  

 

To apply, workers can visit CTEssentialWorkerRelief.org.

To be eligible for the “Premium Pay” program, workers must have been deemed essential in a job categorized by the CDC as 1A or 1B unable to work from home but were on the job between March 10th 2020, and May 7th 2022.  This program is not available to federal, state or municipal essential workers, it's just for the private sector.  Workers must have earned less than $ 150,000 a year.  

All applications will be reviewed and evaluated after every worker has been given an opportunity to apply. Final payment calculations will then occur with funds expected to be distributed in early 2023.

A total of $30 million was allocated for the program in the state budget. If the number of applicants exceeds available funding, each payment will be reduced proportionally.

Full-time essential workers making less than $100,000 per year are eligible for payments up to $1,000. The payment amounts gradually decrease for workers earning more. Part-time workers who qualify can receive up to $500.

Workers applying for “Premium Pay” can also apply for the COVID-19 Relief Fund using the same web portal. This fund, which launched in January, provides financial relief to essential workers who contracted COVID-19 during the onset of the pandemic and suffered lost wages or out-of-pocket medical costs as a result. There is also burial assistance available for the families of essential workers who died from COVID-19.


More cannabis applications approved by Social Equity Council

Connecticut’s Social Equity Council, which was developed to ensure the equity of the state’s adult-use cannabis program, voted to approve social equity status for one lottery applicant for cannabis business. The council also approved four Equity Joint Ventures.

The Council says they are excited to approve the social equity applicants in the product packager license category, with the approvals bringing the state closer to the opening of the cannabis market.


The Social Equity Council also denied equity status for one hybrid retailer and two equity joint ventures. Equity Joint Ventures are not subject to the lottery, and if denied, applicants may re-submit their application for licensure to the Department of Consumer Protection. The law was amended this year to allow licensed DIA cultivators, medical producers and medical dispensaries to create up to two equity joint ventures.


The approved applications for the product packagers will be sent to the Department of Consumer Protection for further processing.
 
The Council approved five lottery applications for social equity status at the previous meeting.

All applicants seeking social equity status are first reviewed by an auditing and accounting firm, a third-party reviewer hired by the Social Equity Council to create a comprehensive review system.

Cannabis was approved for adult-use on July 1, 2021. Adult-use cannabis retail sales are anticipated to begin in the state by the end of 2022.


New laws to take effect in Conn. Saturday

Several new laws will go into effect in Connecticut on October 1st.

 

Starting on Saturday, a new law will take effect stemming from the death investigation of a woman in Bridgeport.  The family of Brenda Rawls said they were never formally notified about her death by Bridgeport police. The new law requires police officers to notify a deceased person’s next of kin about the death as soon as practicable, but within 24 hours after identifying the deceased.

 

If an officer is not able to notify a relative, the officer would be required to document the reason and any attempts to make the notification.

Also on Saturday, a new law establishes June 19th as Juneteenth Independence Day, a new legal state holiday.

 

The legislature also enacted a law that requires all municipalities with a population of 25,000 or more to adopt an ordinance creating a fair rent commission. They must do so through their legislative bodies by July 1st, 2023.


DEEP offering Junior Hunter Training Days

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is offering Junior Hunter Training Days.

Junior hunters have the opportunity to hunt on special designated days for pheasants--October 8th, waterfowl--October 1st and November 5th, and deer--November 5th through 12th, excluding Sunday. The Conservation Education/Firearms Safety Program and several Connecticut sporting clubs will offer mentored junior pheasant hunts this year on October 8th and additional dates in the fall. These events are held free of charge for hunters between 12 and 15 years of age. At each event, participants will be coached on shooting clay targets on the trap or skeet field prior to participating in the hunt. Mentored hunts are staffed with Certified Volunteer Hunter Safety Instructors and experienced hunters, along with a well-trained bird dog and its handler.

Youth participants (ages 12 to 15) must possess a 2022 junior hunting license and 2022 Connecticut Resident Game Bird Conservation Stamp and complete a 2022 Junior Pheasant Hunt Day Application.

People of all ages new to hunting or who are interested in learning more about hunting can learn more on DEEP's website and the Hunting Roadmap. New hunters are required to complete a Hunter Safety course, with information about Connecticut's Conservation Education/Firearms Safety Program also online.


Man, 76, dies when SUV plunges into water in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. (AP) A 76-year-old Connecticut man died Saturday when his SUV plunged into the water at Saybrook Point Marina and Resort in Old Saybrook, police said. Wedding guests at the nearby Saybrook Point Inn jumped in, pulled the man to shore and performed CPR, but were unable to save him, police said. The man, identified as Steven Mark Wahle of Old Saybrook, was pronounced dead at Middlesex Medical Center Shoreline in Westbrook. The incident happened around 10:15 p.m. The marina is located between the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.


Retail cannabis establishments, micro-cultivators applicants picked in lottery

Some retail cannabis establishments and micro-cultivators have been selected in a general lottery. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Adult-Use Cannabis program has notified six retail applicants and two micro-cultivator applicants that they can proceed with the next steps in the licensure process.
The general lottery included all applicants who applied directly to the general lottery, as well as all applicants who were not selected in the Social Equity Lottery. The selected applications represent the maximum number of licenses available for the retailer and micro-cultivator license types in the first lottery round. Additional licenses will be available in future lotteries.

The approved applicants and their backers have been asked to submit additional information for the required background check and provisional license application, which will be reviewed by the department. The background check is conducted by a third-party processing company and agency's review of the applications is expected to take several weeks. Once the review is complete, qualifying applicants are required to pay the appropriate fees and move forward with the next phase of licensure, including establishing their business for operation.
The Micro-Cultivator applicants that can complete the next steps for licensure are Debbie's Dispensary and Chillax LLC

The retailer applicants are Sara's Dispensary, Debbie’s Dispensary, Hydra East, SLAP ASH and two called Shangri-La CT Inc.


Spotty fall colors likely in New England amid drought

This summer’s drought is expected to cause a patchy array of fall color starting earlier in the leaf-peeping haven of New England while the autumn colors are likely to be muted and not last as long in the drought- and heat-stricken areas of the south.

In New England, experts anticipate the season, which typically peaks in October, to be more spread out with some trees changing earlier or even browning and dropping leaves because of the drought. Other places, like Texas, could see colors emerging later in the fall due to warm temperatures.

“We will still have brilliant colors in New England because of the fact that we have so many different kinds of trees and they’re growing on kind of ridges, and kind of slopes and wetlands,” said Richard Primack, a professor of plant ecology at Boston University. “You know we will have good color but the color will probably be more spotty than usual.”


Conn. launching education campaign on responsible cannabis use by adults

Connecticut is launching an education campaign to promote responsible cannabis use by adults.

The campaign contains a collection of materials that cover how to safely store and dispose of cannabis and cannabis waste, and what to do in case someone, such as a child or pet, accidently ingests cannabis. The materials, which include videos, brochures, flyers, and social media graphics, are available for anyone to use and can be downloaded for free on the state’s adult-use cannabis website at ct-dot-gov-slash-cannabis.

The resources were created by the Connecticut Departments of Consumer Protection, Public Health, and Mental Health and Addiction Services. They are encouraged to be used by cannabis and non-cannabis business owners, medical facilities, community health organizations, and others who would like to help promote safe and responsible cannabis practices in their communities.


Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull says as the state works toward the launch of this brand-new marketplace, they felt it was important to begin educating the public about health and safety measures they can take to use, store and dispose of cannabis products responsibly.
 
Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani says the health and safety of those in the state of Connecticut is a top priority and hopes this new educational campaign will properly inform those who use cannabis and help them to make the best decisions for their health and wellbeing, without concern of inadvertently putting themselves at risk.

This fall, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will launch a multimedia campaign to educate the public about state laws related to cannabis. That campaign will provide information on potential impacts of cannabis.

Possession of small amounts of cannabis among adults age 21 and over became legal in Connecticut beginning July 1st 2021, as a result of legislation that was signed into law by Governor Lamont. Retail sales of adult-use cannabis, which also became legal in the state under that law, is anticipated to begin in the coming months.


Conn. AG leads call to FCC to expand Anti-Robocall Protections

The Federal Communication Commission is being called on to expand anti-robocall protections.  Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is leading the multistate coalition of 51 attorneys general, which also includes Guam and Washington D.C. representatives.  Montana's AG did not sign onto the letter.

The attorneys general want the FCC to require all telephone providers that route calls across the U.S. telephone network to implement more rigorous measures to prevent illegal and fraudulent robocalls from bombarding Americans.

Tong says anti-robocall technology works, but only if everyone uses it. Last month, an Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force issued 20 civil investigative demands to 20 of these providers that they believe are responsible for routing a majority of foreign robocall traffic into our country.


Witness questioned about Jones criticism of Sandy Hook trial

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Alex Jones' criticism of his trial in Connecticut over calling the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax has become a topic of the proceedings. During the fourth day of the trial Friday, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families questioned a corporate representative for Jones' company about how seriously the company was taking the trial.  Jones has called the trial a “kangaroo court." The company representative said she was taking the trial very seriously. Jones is expected to begin attending the trial next week. A jury will decide how much in damages he will have to pay the families for saying the shooting never happened.


Las Vegas Aces win first WNBA title, Chelsea Gray named MVP

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) Chelsea Gray scored 20 points to lead the Las Vegas Aces to their first WNBA title in a 78-71 road win over the Connecticut Sun in Game 4. Gray went 9 of 13 from the floor, and was named MVP after averaging 18 points over the run. The Aces improved to 4-0 in this year's playoffs with two days rest. Riquna Williams added 17 points Kelsey Plum added 16 points for the Aces, Jackie Young had 13 and league MVP A'ja Wilson added 11 points to go with 14 rebounds. It's the first major pro sports title for a team from Las Vegas.


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