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Archive for October 2016

Greenwich and Stamford Public Schools: The Need for Capitol Capital

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OPINION BY REP. LIVVY FLOREN

The recent ruling by a judge on the State Superior Court bench, and the subsequent appeal to the State Supreme Court have served to up the wattage of the bright white light that has been shining for years on the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. The adage:  “Doing nothing is not an option … because you never know when you’re done” certainly applies to the many attempts that have been made – and have failed — to improve the equity of public education.

What are we doing in the General assembly to reach the goal of quality education for all of our Connecticut students? For starters, we are trying very hard to make sure that all 169 cities and towns get a fair share of education aid. There should be a more equitable distribution, and special education mandates should be paid for by the convening authority, usually the federal government. We should be crafting a new funding mechanism that takes into consideration property taxes and success rates – rewarding academically achieving schools and returning a fair percentage of money to the districts where taxes were collected.

With that said, merely throwing money at educational problems is not the solution. Accountability is necessary, as is a culture of parental involvement in the learning process. Creativity is needed to address teacher certification, retirement, housing and transportation. We also need to confront the complex societal problems that our public schools reflect, exemplifying yet another situation where creative solutions must triumph over short-term financial band aids.

Legislators are all in agreement – Republicans and Democrats from urban, suburban and rural districts – that an ecumenical, bipartisan effort must be made to rectify an egregiously unfair ECS formula.

However, as Woody Allen says, “The lion and the lamb may lie down together, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”

Reps. Floren, Klarides and Wood; Senator Frantz to be Honored For Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

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State Representatives Themis Klarides (R-114), Livvy Floren (R-149) and Terrie Wood (R-141), and State Senator Scott Frantz (R-36) have been selected to receive a First 100 Plus Award for their commitment and dedication to helping victims of domestic violence.

Connecticut’s First 100 Plus – presented by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) – recognizes male and female leaders who work to improve the lives of domestic violence victims across the state. The veteran legislators’ are being honored for their continued commitment to common sense legislation that enhances victim protections and punishes violators.

“I am honored to receive this award, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and thank the men and women from the Coalition Against Domestic Violence who work diligently to help those in need, especially those who have been victims of domestic violence in our state,” Rep. Floren said. “The work we do in the legislature supports their mission and helps strengthen their goal to end domestic violence in Connecticut and nationwide.”

During the 2016 legislative session, Rep. Floren co-sponsored An Act Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence (PA 16-34) which strengthens existing domestic violence  law by shortening the time between when a restraining order is filed and when an involved party must surrender their firearms, and mandates court hearings within 7 days (previous law allowed 14 days) of issuance of an ex parte restraining order. Previously, Rep. Floren was successful in obtaining a $250,000 STEAP grant to benefit the Greenwich YMCA’s domestic violence center.

The 6th Annual Breakfast & Awards Ceremony will be help on Friday, November 4, 2016 from 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. at the Hartford Marriott Downtown located at 200 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford. According to the CCADV website, money raised through the First 100 Plus Breakfast & Awards Ceremony supports public awareness efforts not traditionally supported by government grants.

Connecticut  has averaged 14 intimate partner homicides annually over the past decade with few of those victims ever having availed themselves of services prior to their deaths.

To view the First 100 Plus Class of 2016, please click: http://www.ctcadv.org/files/3714/7438/6629/First_100_Plus_2016_honorees.pdf

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OPINION: Special Session Could Have Helped More Businesses

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Last week, the legislature was called into special session to consider a package of tax incentives valued at $220 million to keep Sikorsky Aircraft in the state and producing world class helicopters in their Stratford facility.  We – the Greenwich delegation – voted yes on the bill because we felt supporting a large Connecticut manufacturer, its employees and the myriad businesses that supply parts are valuable to the state’s overall economy and health.

Unfortunately, and despite repeated requests by both House and Senate Republican leadership, the scope of the special session was narrowed to only include the Sikorsky deal. Our proposal attempted expansion of the session to consider legislation that would directly impact other businesses and manufacturers across our state.

We wanted to debate additional initiatives:

  • Require legislative approval of state employee contracts
  • Prohibit the state from participating in the mileage tax pilot program or implementing a state mileage tax
  • Prohibit increasing rail and bus fares without legislative approval
  • Implement pension reforms (contained in Senate Bill 1301 from the 2011 regular session), including prohibiting new longevity payments and eliminating both overtime and longevity payments from pension calculations
  • Create a bipartisan State Bond Cap Commission, require the commission to present recommendations for an annual cap on state bond allocations before February 28, 2017, and require a vote during the 2017 regular session
  • Create a Transportation Oversight Board to ensure input and accountability for state-wide transportation planning and funding

To say it is disappointing when open dialogue and debate are not considered valuable enough for an elected legislature to even consider is an understatement.  It is especially frustrating when the legislature is voting on a bill to assist one employer when these other matters could have equally far-reaching and deep impacts statewide.

As the Sikorsky announcement neared, Lockheed Martin executives underscored these underlying state issues saying it will cost the company $400 million more to produce King Stallion helicopters here. The recent departure of GE and the near-departure of Sikorsky are more than just the proverbial “canaries in a coal mine.”

Connecticut has traditionally been on the vanguard of innovative, high-tech manufacturing and professional sectors and we feel it is worth looking into alternative ways to promote and expand those, and others, well into the future. Even as our state economy struggles and both large and small employers consider relocating to more business friendly states, we are confident changes can be made to turn the ship and once again lead the nation.

We are truly pleased Sikorsky will continue to manufacture helicopters in their facility along the Housatonic River. However, on the same day we voted to secure their presence in the state until at least 2032, we were left wondering why even considering the underlying climate that almost caused Sikorsky’s departure was too much to ask.