Image

Archive for March 2016

Greenwich Delegation Supports Bipartisan Deficit Mitigation Package

Hartford- State Representatives Livvy Floren (R-149), Mike Bocchino (R-150), and Fred Camillo (R-150) joined their colleagues in a bipartisan effort to fix the current fiscal year deficit of $220 million yesterday.

S.B. 474 – An Act Making Adjustments to the State Budget for the Biennium Ending June 30, 2017 – passed with a vote of 127-16.

The plan, which will only cover the next three months of the the fiscal year, included several key republican proposals:

  • Restored more than $31 million in state funding for hospitals. This helps the state leverage over $100 million total in hospital funding including federal dollars.
  • Minimized the impact on social service programs. Services to developmentally disabled and mentally ill will continue to be provided with no interruptions.
  • Restored millions in proposed cuts to municipal aid, which cities and towns can’t absorb this late in the fiscal year.
  • Avoided depleting the Rainy Day Fund, which will be needed to offset much larger deficits in the coming years.

“There were many difficult decisions that needed to be made, but I believe this plan is a step in the right direction to get our state’s fiscal health back on the track to sustainability, in the near term,” said Rep. Floren.

“Structural policies still need to be made to solve future deficits. However, it was critical that we were able to conserve the Rainy Day Fund. Curtailing spending will be key to how we offset the deficits we are facing in the out year,” said Rep. Bocchino.

“We still face a massive deficit beginning July 1, but what’s important is that we were able to come together in a bipartisan way to solve our immediate deficit. While today’s vote gives me hope that we will be able to work together in a bi-partisan fashion going forward, we still should not kid ourselves that the massive deficits on the horizon will require dealing with the long term structural deficits, and not just by doing annual and bi-annual deficit mitigation bills.”,” said Rep. Camillo.

Next year’s deficit is projected to be greater than $900 million, ballooning to almost $4.5 billion in the next biennium, and even larger after 2020.

The 2016 legislative session will adjourn on Wednesday, May 4.

Coffee Hour April 4

The Greenwich Delegation will be hosting “Coffee Hour with your Legislators” at the Glory Days Diner on Monday, April 4th from 8 to 9 am. We will be there to field questions and discuss issues in the 2016 legislative session.

April Glory Days Diner with pics

Reps. Floren and Bocchino Show Support for Kids in Crisis

Greenwich- State Representatives Livvy Floren (R-149) and Mike Bocchino (R-150) showed their support Thursday night at “Tip A Cop,” held at Sundown Saloon. The event put on by the Greenwich Police Department’s Silver Shield Association benefited the Cos Cob children’s shelter, “Kids in Crisis.” They are pictured here with Lieutenant Rick Cochran.

DSC_5165

Regional Forum to Discuss Job Growth in Stamford

The Department of Economic and Community Development and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. will be hosting forums all over the state, including one in Stamford, regarding the resources and services they provide to help businesses grow.

Regional Forum

Friday, April 1, 12:00-1:30 p.m.

Landmark Square Conference Center

4 Landmark Square, Stamford

Learn how the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. are working together to help businesses grow in Connecticut.

Commissioner Catherine Smith will introduce the regional point of contact from DECD and discuss the state’s new initiatives to fuel job growth; while CERC will present an overview of new business and municipal resources for economic growth.  The event will also provide an opportunity for Q&A and a discussion on how we can further work together to foster economic development success.

Who should attend: companies, developers, chamber associates and economic development professionals

Agenda:

(20 min)    Commissioner welcomes and discusses DECD activity and programs, introduces Bart and Ambassador

(20 min)    Bob Santy/CERC provides overview of CERC resources and introduces partners

(20 min)    Q&A

(30 min)    Networking

Campaign Finance—Not For The Faint-Hearted  

After witnessing a primary season of dirty politics and divisiveness, bombast and blasphemy, lies and libel, negativity and nastiness, anger and animosity—all paid for with millions of dollars from anonymous donors to PACs and Super PACs, I think we can—and we must—do better.

My odyssey as a good government advocate began in 2001 when I first joined the Government Administration and Elections Committee where I served for 12 years (including four years as Ranking Member). From that up front and personal seat, I was involved in it all—the Help America Vote Act which overhauled the way we vote and brought us from the lever machine to the electronic optical scan/paper ballot, clean contracting laws, stringent ethics regulations, campaign finance reform…and the advent of the publicly financed Citizens Election Program.

In order to mitigate the magnitude of felonies that earned our State the name “Corrupticut,” the Citizens Election Program and sweeping new campaign laws were enacted in 2005. For more than a decade, the program was working well and accomplishing the goals of taking special interest money out of the process and increasing accountability and civility in the electoral process.

Then, along came the Citizens United Supreme Court decision…and everything changed. In my opinion, campaign finance needs to be completely revisited and retooled. Entirely too much money is being frittered away on banners, ball caps, badges, and bumper stickers. Super PACs are contributing millions of dollars with impunity (not even disclosing the names of donors)…along with money from lobbyists and contractors who do business with the State. To add insult to judicial injury, there was a scheme to entirely suspend the Citizens Election Program for 2016 in a feeble attempt to help close the budget deficit…fortunately, this proposal was summarily rejected.

Campaign finance reform has multiple, complicated ramifications. I am not impugning anyone’s motives and realize that the issue is subject to numerous interpretations. However, the bottom line is and always shall be: Follow the money, Campaign finance is not a subject for the faint of heart. It takes diligence and vigilance. Observation always alters the process observed…it’s all in how you look at it. In 2014, 75% of my General Assembly colleagues participated in the Citizens Election Program, at a cost of more than $10 million dollars. The five Constitutional Officers’ campaigns (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, and Treasurer) could cost—in the aggregate—upwards of $16 million—not including primaries. Twenty six million dollars is a lot of taxpayer money that might be better spent for programs to help the elderly, the indigent, and the ill…plus public education. The Citizens Election Program has resulted in attracting more participants in the process, more women/minorities/political outsiders as candidates, and more time spent discussing issues instead of “dialing for dollars.” But, especially in this economy, the taxpayer grants seem entirely too generous…and the program still allows for additional millions of dollars of anonymous “dark” money which lurks in the shadows.

Some reforms I would like to see going forward are:

  • Shortening the timeline for campaigns
  • Decreasing the grant amounts
  • Lowering the amount of allowable individual contributions to less than $100
  • Outlawing Ad Books
  • Prohibiting unlimited organizational expenditures by State Central Committees
  • Increasing disclosure information requirements

In other words, identify and plug the most awful and obvious loopholes. These are viable, cost effective, common sense measures that will go a long way toward ensuring that our State continues to be “the land of steady habits”…where elected officials serve with both hands on the tiller and not in the till.

Greenwich League of Women Voters tackles money in politics

From the Greenwich Time:

GREENWICH — The 2016 presidential race has taken twists and turns no one could have predicted only six months ago. But according to a panel of experts, one prediction holds true – big, unregulated money in politics has had a corrosive effect.

The message was the focus of “Who Elected the Donors? Campaign Finance in the Age of Super Pacs,” a League of Women Voters of Greenwich panel discussion earlier this week that drew nearly 120 people to the Greenwich Library.

The panel featured State Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149th); Michael Waldman, president of the non-partisan law and policy institute Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law; and Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president at Common Cause, a non-profit, non-partisan lobbying organization focused on open government.

All three agreed unregulated money and scaling back of reforms in a post-Citizens United era has hurt having open and clean elections on a national and a state level. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was the U.S. constitutional law case that allowed unlimited election spending by individuals and corporations.

“This is a time when, in so many ways, our democracy is under stress that it has not seen in years,” Waldman said. “Part of it is Citizens United and the other judicial decisions that have let loose a flood of new and large and unaccountable money into our political system. That comes on top of a wave of new voting laws in 19 states to make it harder for people to vote for the first time since the Jim Crow era.

“I’m still optimistic though,” Waldman said. “This is a problem that has been noticed by the public. They’re talking about this at the presidential and other level and they hadn’t done that in years and years and years.”

The league’s panel was held Super Tuesday, a day of primary contests in key states throughout the country. Floren noted in her remarks that, given the tenor of the race, it would have been more appropriate to call it “stupor Tuesday.”

“It’s a day of dirty politics and divisiveness, bombast and blasphemy, lies and libel, negativity and nastiness, anger and animosity, and I haven’t even begun to tell you what I really think,” Floren said. “It’s all paid for with millions and millions of dollars from anonymous donors to PACs and Super PACs. We can and we must do better.”

Hobert Flynn talked about the development and impact of Connecticut’s Citizens Elections Program, which was passed in 2005 in the wake of Gov. John Rowland’s corruption charges and resignation.

“Those of us that work on it at the League or Common Cause or other groups know there’s no one magic bullet that will solve every problem,” Hobert Flynn said. “Democracy is about vigilance and continuing to work and reform and help something evolve over time so it continues to work and is useful beyond just the time it is enacted.”

Floren spoke from the perspective of eight terms in the state legislature which included 12 years as a member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee that gave her a front-row seat for the development of the Citizens Elections Program.

She said reforms like a shorter campaign timeline, lowering the amount of allowable individual contributions to less than $100, increasing disclosure information requirements and prohibiting unlimited organizational expenditures by state central committees ought to be looked at.

“In other words, identify and plug the most awful and obvious loopholes,” Floren said. “There are viable, cost effective and common sense measures that will go a long way toward ensuring that our state continues to be the land of steady habits — that is, with both hands on the tiller and not in the till.”

Waldman called the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, which made the Citizens United Ruling “among the most activist and interventionist and disrespectful of precedent” courts when it comes to money and politics in the nation’s history.

“It’s not that there’s so much money in politics,” Waldman said. “That’s not new and that’s not necessarily bad. It’s the concentration of where the money comes from. In the last election, the top 100 federal donors gave more money than the 4.75 million small donors combined. That is a level of concentrated wealth and power we haven’t seen since the gilded age.”

DSC_0729