Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States....
President Obama will fly to Connecticut today as part of his campaign to promote a $10.10 minimum wage. Glued to his side will be Governor Dannel Malloy, whom the President will call a champion in the effort to promote a fairer minimum wage.
This is the same Governor Malloy who failed to support a modest increase in the minimum wage just two years ago.
In January 2012, key Democratic members of the Connecticut Legislature, with strong support from Connecticut's unions, proposed raising the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 an hour on July 1, 2013 and then to a rate of $9.75 on July 1, 2014.
Governor Malloy was quick to throw cold water on the plan telling reporters, "I'm not slamming any doors. I'm not saying 'No' but I'll watch the debate and perhaps reach a conclusion subsequently."
Malloy's pronouncement that he would "reach a conclusion subsequently" was a death sentence for the legislation and without the Governor's support the business community, with the help of the Republicans and some Democrats, easily killed the proposal.
A year later, in February 2013, Legislators tried again to push legislation increasing the minimum wage and again Governor Malloy failed to step forward to support the proposal. However this time, late in the legislative session when it was clear that Democrats would pass the bill away, Malloy did a 180 and announced that he would support a "compromise" on a minimum wage increase.
With the 2014 election year in sight, Malloy's transformation on the issue was nearly complete.
On the last day of December 2013, Malloy held a State Capitol press conference to brag about the extraordinarily positive impact Connecticut's new minimum wage law would have when it takes effect at midnight that night.
"As the clock strikes 12 in this state, many people ... will actually lift themselves out of poverty," Malloy said during a press event and rally.
Malloy was referring to the mandated .45 cent an hour increase in the State's minimum wage that will be taking effect.
However, as some may know, the federal poverty level for a family of three in Connecticut is about $18,400. For the 70,000 to 90,000 Connecticut residents living on minimum wage, a full-time job only brings in $17,160 per year.
Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman joined Malloy in "celebrating" the raise in the minimum wage. It would, according to Wyman, mean Connecticut's minimum wage workers would make an extra $18 hours a week as long as they don't miss a single hour of work.
That increase translates into an extra $936 a year - leaving most minimum wage families still living below the poverty line.
But many politicians believe that electoral success can be achieved through rhetoric and hyperbole...
And the President of the United States is coming to Connecticut to try to bolster Malloy's political re-election dreams.
You can read more about Malloy's transformation on the minimum wage in these two Wait, What? blog posts,
If the race for governor is between Dannel Malloy and Tom Foley, if the eleciton was held today, the latest poll from Quinnipiac indicates that we could have a repeat of 2010.
Tom Foley dominates the crowded Republican primary field in the Connecticut governor's race and is locked in a 42 - 42 percent dead heat with Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
There is a large gender gap as women back the Democrat 45 - 37 percent while men go Republican 48 - 39 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Foley leads 83 - 9 percent among Republicans and 45 - 33 percent among independent voters while Gov. Malloy takes Democrats 79 - 10 percent.
Malloy gets a 48 percent approval rating from Connecticut voters, while 45 percent disapprove. Voters are divided 45 - 46 percent on whether he should be reelected.
Connecticut voters give their governor a 46 - 43 percent favorability rating. Foley gets a 38 - 21 percent favorability. For other Republican candidates, anywhere from 72 percent of voters to 89 percent don't know enough to form an opinion.
"Haven't we seen this movie before? A potential rematch of Gov. Dannel Malloy vs Tom Foley couldn't get any closer," said Douglas Schwartz, PhD, director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
"Foley dominates other Republicans vying for the nomination, who have little statewide recognition," Dr. Schwartz added. "One potential problem for Foley is if he gets bloodied during the primary process. For Malloy, perhaps the biggest worry is that he's never been able to get over 50 percent in job approval - a danger sign for any incumbent."
Looking at Malloy's personal qualities, Connecticut voters say:
60 - 35 percent that he has strong leadership qualities;
59 - 33 percent that he is honest and trustworthy;
50 - 45 percent that he cares about their needs and problems.
The polling institute also questioned the public on increasing the minimum wage.
Connecticut voters support 71 - 25 percent raising the state's minimum wage. Support is 93 - 6 percent among Democrats and 73 - 23 percent among independent voters, with Republicans opposed 53 - 41 percent. Support is 78 - 18 percent among women, 64 - 32 percent among men and 69 percent or higher among all age groups.
Offered four choices:
42 percent want to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour;
8 percent want to increase it to something less than $10.10 per hour;
20 percent want to increase it to more than $10.10 per hour;
25 percent want no increase.
A minimum wage increase would help rather than hurt Connecticut's economy, voters say 47 - 28 percent. Republicans say 57 - 17 percent that it would hurt the economy.
Today, the Connecticut Citizens Elections Audit group released their report on last year's election audit...and lets just say that they didn't have many nice things to say about audit processs.
The report concluded that the official audit results do not inspire confidence because of the continued:
Lack of consistency, reliability, and transparency in the conduct of the audit.
Discrepancies between machine counts and hand counts reported to the Secretary of the State by municipalities.
Lack of investigation of such discrepancies, and the lack of standards for triggering such investigations.
Weaknesses in the ballot chain-of-custody.
An unsatisfactory improvement in the random audit drawing integrity vs. the November 2012 audit, as reported in our recent Districts In Drawing Study.
Coalition spokesperson Luther Weeks noted, "When compared with audits in 2011 and 2012 we found little difference, positive or negative, on the issues previously identified and the level of concerns affecting confidence.
"Without adherence to procedures and effective follow-up, if there was ever a significant fraud or error, it might not be recognized and corrected."
"Some officials follow the audit procedures and do effective work, yet a trusted audit requires that all the districts and all the votes be counted in the audit as intended."
No really.... A Connecticut law passed in 2012 made it illegal for Connecticut public colleges to provide non-credit remedial courses starting in 2014.
Long time Wait, What? readers may remember the discussion on the blog.
Led by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly, Connecticut adopted a corporate education reform initiatives aimed at ensuring that all students were "college and career ready," while at the same time passed legislation that prohibits public colleges and universities from providing non-credit remedial courses.
Among other things, it was sold as a way to reduce the state budget.
The irony, of course, goes without saying.
The same individuals who were willing undermine Connecticut's public education system by pushing the Common Core, the Common Core testing frenzy and the unfair teacher evaluation system all in an effort to prepare children for college were reducing the budgets for Connecticut's public colleges and universities by record amounts.
But by prohibiting public colleges from providing courses for students who needed extra help, Malloy et. al. could simply remove a significant cost those colleges were facing.
The issues has remained in the background until now, when students, their families and the public are finally learning about this incredibly bad policy.
As the New Haven Register recently wrote,
About 10,000 incoming freshmen at state colleges enroll in no-credit remedial courses across the state every year. This year, that number will drop to zero.
The courses will no longer be offered at state colleges once Public Act 12-40 goes into effect this fall semester.
Signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2012, the act requires colleges to abandon lower-level, no-credit remedial courses and embed support into entry-level courses or a college-readiness program.
High school graduates who do not place into entry-level courses by way of adequate SAT scores or college entry exams will be out of luck.
The urgency of the act going into effect this year has sparked strong reactions from state legislators, community colleges and high school educators.
Strong reaction from state legislators?
Who by the way passed the bill, after heavy lobbying from the Malloy administration and over the objections of the House Chair of the Education Committee who made it very clear what the ramifications of the legislation would be.
Instead of taking the non-credit remedial courses, students are expected to turn to local public schools and community based adult education programs. The original argument was that this would save the state and students money.
But due to an insufficient number of programs, many students who were college bound will be discovering college, even Connecticut's community colleges, are beyond reach.
Welcome to the Malloy Administration's definition of college and career ready.
And the problems will be evident across the state of Connecticut.
As the New Haven Register goes on to report,
"At Northwestern Community College in Winsted, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Patricia Bouffard said she anticipates there will be students who fall below the level of remediation community colleges can now offer. Based on test scores from fall 2013, about 15 percent of entering students at NCC would not have been eligible for remedial courses if the requirements were already in place."
While Northwestern serves a significantly smaller population than Gateway [Community College in New Haven] - about 1,700 students - Bouffard said about the same percentage of students fall into the developmental level."
The college is in the process of developing appropriate programs in reaction to the legislation but doesn't yet have a partnership with nearby high schools. Bouffard said the college is in the second run of an 11-week, college-math proficiency program offered to students who are below the remedial course.
The program is computer-based with faculty in attendance. Bouffard said English is a little more difficult in terms of developing a computer-based program.
Opponents of the corporate education reform industry will recognize the pattern. Set standards that limit a cohort of students and then buy more technology and software to deal with the problem.
In Connecticut, this policy will mean that some of the students who need the most hands-on help will be provided programs that require them to "learn" what they need to know by sitting in front of a computer.
The New Haven Register article quotes State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, who was just elected to the Connecticut State Senate in a Special Election.
Holder-Winfield's comments represent the thinking of many legislators who voted in favor of the original proposal. The New Haven Register story explains that Holder-Winfield said that we was not, "'a fan of doing away with remedial courses' but understood the logic behind it: 'Many of our young people who go to college don't graduate within the four to six years that we would think is normal."
The New Haven Register reports that "Holder-Winfield understood that the bill would be rolled out and then legislators would determine if they were doing what was needed. Now, he said he isn't sure it worked the way it was intended to work." He concluded, "I'm a fan of taking another look at what we have done and maybe pulling back off it. I don't think that that was the solution."
There are legislative proposals to modify Malloy's plan to end non-credit remedial courses at Connecticut's public colleges.
A group in Kent is mustering forces to address three bills before the state Legislature regarding the importing and storing of fracking wastewater in the state.
A "Fracking Waste in Connecticut?" meeting was called by the concerned group, Housatonic Valley 350.org, for Friday at 6 p.m. in Kent Town Hall.
"The meeting is to begin to brainstorm ways of opposing the movement currently under way to allow the importation and storage of fracking wastewater into Connecticut from locations outside of the state," said Sam Callaway, a Housatonic Valley 350.org member.
"The question is: Is there a way to store this material safely. My answer would be: No," Callaway said.
The proposals are before the Energy & Technology Committee. One was brought forward by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to close the federal loophole on fracking waste. Federal regulations do not qualify fracking waste as hazardous waste. The DEEP proposal would establish a state definition, subject to DEEP regulations.
The other proposals are to ban disposing and storing fracking waste in the state; and to regulate processing, disposal and storage of waste in Connecticut.
Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, was described Thursday by a variety of political sources as the likely successor to Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, as majority leader, the result of a quiet campaign waged in preparation for the day the job became open.
That day has arrived.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams, D-Brooklyn, surprised his colleagues Wednesday with the news he will not seek another term, clearing the way for Looney to assume the top leadership post.
In an instant, a private campaign by Duff to move into leadership became public.
"I am confident that the support is there to help lead the caucus," said Duff, who was elected in 2012 to his fifth term representing Norwalk and most of Darien.
Lawmakers will hear public testimony Friday on a bill that would make the Transportation Department reconsider the corrosive effect of the salt spray its using to melt ice and snow on Connecticut's roadways.
Most agree the combination of salts the DOT has been spraying state roads with has been highly effective in keeping highways clear of ice. However, Rep. Pamela Sawyer, R-Bolton, said the "super salt" is also highly corrosive to vehicles and infrastructure.
"The problem is that it causes a lot of rust, we've heard a lot of complaints about rust on brake lines. Mechanics are saying they're replacing brake lines every three years as opposed to every eight or 10," Sawyer said.
The bill, which will have a public hearing in the Transportation Committee Friday, would require the department to study the rust issue and report back to lawmakers next year with ideas for alternatives or ways to mitigate the corrosion.
Sawyer said she is also concerned about the effect the solution may be having on Connecticut's aging bridges, which she said the state has not allocated adequate resources to maintain.
"Oh, and by the way, we're salting them. It's just causing a much faster deterioration, not only on the top but as you go down into the metal substructure of the bridges they're rusting out much faster," she said.
On our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse, we'll talk about Malloy's trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Governors Association meetings where he got into a well-publicized spat with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
Closer to home, another investigation is taking place at the state capitol involving the use of a printer in Florida for campaign materials.
•Colin McEnroe - Host of The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR
•Mark Pazniokas - Capitol bureau chief for The Connecticut Mirror
•Christine Stuart - Editor of CTNewsJunkie.com
•Matt DeRienzo - Group editor for Digital First Media in Connecticut
•Ken Rudin - The Political Junkie, previously heard on NPR's Talk of the Nation and now heard on KenRudinPolitics.com