New Session began February 3, 2010 (ends May 5th).

Connecticut Legislature

Rell: State's financial quagmire can no longer be ignored
By Ted Mann Day Staff Writer
Article published Feb 4, 2010

Hartford - In the final budget address of her tenure, Gov. M. Jodi Rell Wednesday proposed sending the state down a path toward structural overhaul and government reform.  But those reforms, if they happen, will be authored by people other than the governor or state legislators and wouldn't be presented to lawmakers for a vote until after the Rell administration is gone.

The governor's proposal to create a "Government for the Twenty-First Century Commission" was tucked about midway through her address to the legislature on Wednesday, in which she presented a package of budget adjustments that trimmed just $28 million in overall spending from the state's current adopted budget while calling for a variety of proposals to spur small business development and job growth.

"Let me be clear about this: I intend to do everything in my power in my remaining months in office to make the changes that are needed to break insatiable spending habits and to make state government affordable once again," Rell said in her final State of the State address. "It would not be fair to my successor - or yours - to simply ignore the fiscal problems that we have today and that we all know lie just ahead."

But while avoiding proposing tax or fee hikes or major cuts to municipal aid, Rell also avoided proposing any major changes in the scope or practice of state government at this time, changes of the sort that have been elusive to the governor and the Democratic legislative leaders as they have faced down a current-year deficit of roughly $500 million, and deficits projected to top $3 billion or more by the end of fiscal 2011.

Instead, she cut and consolidated some commissions, reduced spending on jobs and social service programs, and depended heavily on federal aid and $1.3 billion in new borrowing to keep the state's budget in balance through June 2011, the end of the fiscal year.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE DAY (New London, CT) website]

Gov. Rell Had A Balanced Approach
The Hartford Courant
November 10, 2009

She is the moderate Republican who backed civil unions for same-sex couples, embraced stem cell research and signed a sweeping public campaign finance law.

She's the empathetic cancer survivor quick to dispense practical advice, the grandmother who prefers the company of her family to hanging out with backslapping pols.

And, to her critics, she's the detached leader with little interest in public policy, or the rigors of governing.

Although M. Jodi Rell, the one-time PTO mom who rose to become one of the most popular governors in state history, has 14 more months to hone her legacy, the broad outlines have already been written.

Rell was, at least initially, the accidental governor, inheriting an office shrouded in disgrace after the resignation of Gov. John G. Rowland. But she soon settled into her new role, defining her public profile as Connecticut's fair-minded leader driven not by ideology but rather by old-fashioned common sense.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Gov. Rell Not Seeking Reelection in 2010; Stunning Announcement Shocks Capitol; Few Knew In Advance
Hartford Courant
Christopher Keating  on November 9, 2009 5:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

In a stunning announcement, an emotional Gov. M. Jodi Rell told reporters shortly Monday evening that she is not seeking reelection.

Rell did not give an immediate reason, other than saying "it's time'' to leave office after a long career that includes five years as governor, 10 years as lieutenant governor, and 10 years as a legislator.

Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele said that Rell has told him privately that she will support him - even if there are other Republican candidates in a potential primary in August 2010. Fedele reiterated his stance that he would run for governor if Rell did not.

In an emotional speech in front of about 25 reporters, camera operators, and staff members in her Capitol office, Rell said, "After much soul-searching, and discussion with my family, I have decided not to seek re-election next year.''

During a hastily called press conference, Rell said it has been "an honor" to serve the state. She cited accomplishments including ethics and campaign finance reform, noting that in 2004 she "came in at a troubling time in our state's history."

That was a reference to her ascension from lieutenant governor on July 1, 2004, after the resignation of former Gov. John G. Rowland during a long-running corruption scandal that later sent him to federal prison for 10 months.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Transcript of Gov. Rell's speech to the General Assembly 
Published on 1/7/2009

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Williams, Members of the Legislature and guests: Welcome to the official opening of the 2009 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly.
The start of a new session, a new term in office, is always exciting. It's a time of new opportunities. New experiences. New challenges.

It is a time for us to look forward, to await with eager anticipation the issues, the debates, the activities and actions that will unfold in the weeks and months ahead as we carry out the work of serving our fellow citizens.

To those who return re-elected to office or are sworn in to a new office, welcome back. The building has been – more or less – quiet without you.

To those who are new members, a very warm welcome.

To the newly appointed committee chairs, ranking members, leaders: good luck. You are certainly going to need it. We all will.

You will all need patience, understanding, wisdom, a strong but not unyielding will and the support of your colleagues.

To our new Speaker of the House, my sincerest congratulations. I look forward to working with you with mutual respect, consideration and courtesy.

Later, as the celebrations of this festive day conclude, our real work will begin as we govern at a time of great challenge.

Just last week we bid goodbye to 2008. It was a year that few of us will ever forget, though we might like to, and one that historians, economists and others will be writing and speaking about for generations to come.

It was a time of great highs – the election of a new president, the first African-American president elected in our nation's history. A point of pride for all of us.

But it was also a time of almost unimaginable lows. A national fiscal crisis, breathtaking in its scope. The collapse of Wall Street, record home foreclosures, record business failures, record job losses and record government bailouts.

Yes, 2008 is behind us, but the problems it ushered in will not go quietly in this New Year.

We will not soon see an end to bankruptcies and foreclosures, to pink slips or red ink.

Families in Connecticut and across the nation are rightly fearful and angry. They want to know how and why this happened, and whose fault it is.

They also want to know how they will ever be able to afford to retire or put their child through college, given the steep declines in their 401k's and savings accounts. How will they afford to pay their bills if they lose their job?

Unfortunately, other than unbridled greed by far too many on Wall Street and almost criminally lax oversight by far too many in Washington, there are no easy answers.

No easy answers, but lots of questions. Lots of concerns. These are the worst financial times any of us can remember. Let's face it, it's scary.

But one concern people should not have is a state government they cannot afford – which is what they have right now. And cities and towns will need our attention as they also struggle with the fiscal pressures of the economy.

The national economic storm has engulfed Connecticut and its municipalities. It has washed up on shore a set of difficult challenges and it has brought clarity to our mission of educating our children, protecting our natural resources, providing for those in need, keeping our people safe and making our state a place of unmatched opportunity.

Our mission may be a clear one. But the path we will take this session to fulfill it will not be, for the obstacles and challenges and needs we will face will be many. And our resources will be few – too few.

As families struggle to pay their monthly bills, so will we. As they cut back on expenses and forego new purchases, so must we.

And we must do it at a time when, as is the paradox of government, more and more families will be looking to us for help.

Our revenues are declining but the need for government services is increasing. As jobs continue to be lost or wages cut or frozen, our citizens will need our help for basic necessities: food and heating assistance, unemployment assistance, child care, health care.

How we fulfill our responsibilities will overshadow all that we do this session. It will guide our every decision. It will color everything.

Action will be taken this session, as it should be, on a host of different issues – health care, criminal justice, transportation, education and the environment, to name but a few.

The ideas, the proposals, the plans will be plentiful. The resources needed to bring many of them to life will not be.

In recent good economic times, we made strategic and historic investments in our state. We took advantage of a strong economy to invest in education, in transportation, in healthy children and in the technologies that will lead us into the future.

In these difficult economic times, we must now find strategic savings and reductions throughout government.

Government must shrink because our taxpayers are seeing their personal budgets shrink. The recession has landed hard on the doorsteps of many of our citizens and they are looking to us for relief. They expect us to work together to bring new approaches to the table – because that's what leaders do.

And it is exactly what we have been doing over the last several months.

Late last spring it became apparent that our state budget for last fiscal year was headed for red ink. I ordered a state hiring freeze, a state purchasing freeze, sought reductions in state gasoline usage, banned out of state travel and took other actions.

We averted the red ink and instead ended the year with a modest surplus.

In August, with the cost of gasoline and home heating oil rising past $4 a gallon, we knew we needed to do something to help, long before the first cold winds of autumn or winter blew.

I called you into special session and together we produced a package of proposals aimed at providing energy and heating assistance for families in need, as well as for the elderly, schools and non-profits. And we paid outright for these proposals with the modest surplus we produced a month earlier. And while prices have come down, regrettably, more and more people still need our help.

In October and November I took a number of other actions, as the news from Wall Street grew increasingly grim and as the silence of inaction in Washington grew increasingly deafening.

I met with the leaders of our state's community banks and we put together a targeted, $100 million loan program to help ease the credit crunch for our state's employers.

We also issued funds for brownfield remediation and reallocated Manufacturing Assistance Act funds, all in an effort to spur economic development. I also sought changes to our foreclosure laws to better protect homeowners and renters.

Last month I worked with our state's credit unions and we announced a special, $25 million program to help students and their parents with low-interest college loans. We wanted to help those families who were struggling to pay tuition for this spring semester.

I have also made three rounds of rescissions and offered two deficit mitigation plans. You passed one last month, and I thank you for your leadership. I do hope you will pass the second plan next Wednesday.

Because of the actions I have already taken and you have already taken, Connecticut is in far better shape than many other states.

Yes, in far better shape but still facing a new economic reality. But I firmly believe that this time of great challenge is also a time of great opportunity.

This is how I see the State of our State: Built on a firm foundation, facing incredible challenges and yet poised, if we make the right decisions in the session ahead, to take advantage of incredible opportunities.

I know how easy it is for us to be overwhelmed by the incessant drumbeat of bad economic news. It hangs about us like a tight-fitting cloak.

I also know we must never lose sight of the fact that Connecticut remains a place of great promise and extraordinary people.

Our quality of life is second to none. So too are our educational opportunities. Our work force is skilled and our people are industrious. Our hearts are generous to those in need and our natural resources are bounteous.

We are a state whose rich history serves as but a template for a richer future. We lead the nation, and sometimes the world, in so many areas:

No. 1 in per capita personal income

No. 5 in exports

No. 1 in Fortune 500 companies per million population

No. 7 in patent applications per capita

We are leading the bioscience revolution and we are home to cutting-edge technologies and life-changing medical advances.

Stem cell research, aerospace, nanotechnology, fuel cells, pharmaceutical research – all position Connecticut for the industries and jobs of the 21st century.

I know times are tough, but I know that the people of Connecticut are tougher. I know that we are a people of resolve – we will do whatever it takes to not only weather this storm but to plant the seeds of a bountiful recovery.

This will be a time of shared sacrifice. That which we would like to do will be set aside for that which we must do.

We must take care of our most vulnerable and we must meet the core mission of government of which I spoke earlier.

The sacrifices will not be easy or painless. The recommended two-year budget I present to you next month will reflect that. The cuts that must be made will be deep and they will affect every agency, every program and every service provided by state government.

They will hurt. They hurt me to even offer them.

I have spent countless hours in the last few weeks poring over every line item in our budget. I have lost countless hours of sleep worrying about our families and their household budgets and worrying about our state budget and the cuts we need to make.

But we do need to make cuts and we do need to prepare our state to make the most of the economic recovery when it comes – and it will come.

For our goal, our charge as leaders is not to merely help Connecticut survive these economic challenges but to help Connecticut thrive.

We must make the right choices now so that we may close tightly the doorways of despair and open wide the windows of opportunity.

One of the main reasons Connecticut is in far better shape than many of our neighboring states is because we have worked together over the last few years to position ourselves to deal with the uncertainties of a roller coaster economy.

We built up our budget reserves, we strengthened and diversified our economy and we invested in our work force. And we did these things together.

Now is the time for us to again act and to lead.

The problems we are facing are not permanent. And they are not ours alone. Economies around the world are slowing down. But Connecticut is our place to protect.

Together we will lead with a purpose to guide our state to better times.

I feel blessed to be Governor of this great state, but I also feel the tremendous burdens of office during these anxious times.

But my burdens are set aside, replaced by an urgent sense of protection, passion and purpose every time I look into the face of a neighbor or into the eyes of a child and see their hopes and dreams for the future.

The same is true when I learn of a family who is visiting a food bank for the first time or when I talk to a proud, independent senior who is embarrassed to ask for help in filling their oil tank.

And it's true when I see our brave troops off as they depart for selfless, dangerous service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

You know, before I return to this Chamber to give my budget address next month nearly 100 soldiers will begin their deployment, bringing to more than 300 those from Connecticut serving overseas. Before the end of the year, we are scheduled to see another 1,000 of our sons and daughters deployed.

Sons and daughters we want to forever protect in our loving embrace. Children and families and seniors we want to – we need to – see through these difficult times.

As Governor, I promise to lead with integrity, energy and purpose. This financial crisis is indeed our call to action.

These are the challenges we face:

Protect our families and their futures

Restore the prosperity built through the inspiration and ingenuity of our founders

Eliminate the impediments to our progress

And our greatest challenge, to not let the nation's financial crisis dampen our enthusiasm and optimism about the future of this great State

Connecticut is an incredible mosaic of people and places – a tapestry of natural beauty, history, culture and character.

Now is the time to work together to protect this special place along the long tidal river and to build the proud tomorrow of Connecticut's future.

Thank you and God bless the State of Connecticut.


Rell at crossroads with budget;  Governor facing toughest task since taking office
By KEN DIXON, Staff writer
Article Last Updated: 12/21/2008 12:25:36 AM EST

HARTFORD -- By the time Gov. M. Jodi Rell finished her latest deficit-reduction plan last week, she was enmeshed in budget numbers and having trouble sleeping.  It got to the point -- during multi-hour sessions with her staff from Office of Policy and Management -- that she had to double check whether various spending cuts or revenue shuffles were within the current $18 billion spending package, or part of the two-year budget that begins July 1.

"It's a difficult task because, one, we're looking at the biennial budget. But at the same time I'm doing a deficit-mitigation plan," Rell said in an interview in her Capitol office, detailing the string of three-and-four-day a week sessions.

"I can't tell you how many times we sit there and I'll look over at somebody and I'll say 'are you asking about '09? Or are you talking '10 and '11?' " Rell said. "So we've tried to separate the two and if we're doing mitigation today we're doing mitigation, not a whole host of things."

While Connecticut's fiscal problems are no where near as bad as neighboring New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island -- recessions typically hit Connecticut later and linger longer -- the state's growing deficits are creating the biggest challenges to lawmakers since 1991, when the personal income tax was adopted.  The current deficit is a mere drop in the budget bucket, compared to the looming multibillion-dollar deficit Rell will address when she proposes a two-year budget to the General Assembly in early February for a cycle that will take her into 2010, the year when she would run for re-election.

Rell's budget-policy mantra is she's doing the same kind of belt tightening that families across the state are facing in this economy, only on a multibillion-dollar scale. She still wants to do it without new taxes of layoffs among the 50,000-plus state employees, who have lucrative health benefits that are contracted until 2017, under a 1997 agreement.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT POST website]


Rell Calls Legislature Into Special Session On Deficit
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING | The Hartford Courant
December 18, 2008
Gov. M. Jodi Rell is calling the state legislature into special session on Jan. 2 to vote on her second "deficit-mitigation" plan.

Rell said the session is unavoidable as state tax revenue continues to drop, pushing the deficit for the current fiscal year to an estimated $356 million.

"Some will question why I am calling the legislature into session five days before the next regular session is slated to begin," Rell said. "The answer is as simple as it is stark: We cannot put off reality. We cannot wait to take action. The legislature — the sitting legislature — needs to take action."

"Every day, the economic news gets worse," she said. "One need only scan the news in recent days. Layoffs at the Stanley Works. One-day furloughs at Pratt & Whitney. Two community newspapers in trouble and the Tribune Co. in bankruptcy court. Every day we sit and wait makes the budget situation worse. Lawmakers must address the budget deficit now. We literally cannot afford to wait."

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Rell Signs Ethics Reform Bill
By Ted Mann   
Published on 6/18/2008

Hartford - Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed an ethics reform bill today that would allow judges to reduce or revoke the pensions of public employees or officials convicted of corruption.

Calling the bill "the crowning glory of four years’ worth of hard work," Rell said the pension revocation measure represents the final piece of a series of ethics reforms begun after she took over for her predecessor, John G. Rowland, who resigned amid a corruption scandal and later spent 10 months in federal prison.

"We’ve tinkered around the edges for years with ethics reform," Rell said in a press conference on the north steps of the Capitol. "This truly is major ethics reform."

The governor was flanked by mayors from Manchester, Newington and Middletown, as well as legislative leaders, including Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE DAY (New London, CT) website]

Rell Unveils $18.5 Billion Budget; Plan Spending Curbs Called For Amid Economic Slump 
By Ted Mann     
Published on 2/7/2008 

Hartford — Gov. M. Jodi Rell's $18.5 billion spending plan for 2009, unveiled Wednesday at the opening of the legislature's regular session, was presented as a modest measure for uncertain economic times.  But the proposal would also cleave in two the Department of Transportation, one of state government's largest and most complicated agencies.  The governor's budget staff said Rell had explicitly rejected calls from the Democratic legislative majority to create a short-term economic stimulus package.

But the governor boasted to lawmakers assembled in the hall of the House Wednesday that her budget would do just that, and invited legislators from both parties “to design a state stimulus package that works.”

And while Rell renewed her proposal for a limit on local property-tax increases, the governor's staff also attempted to assuage a skeptical legislature by assuring that the tax cap could be easily superseded by cities and towns that cannot — or will not — go along with its restrictions.  The 43-minute budget address was vintage Rell.

The governor warned of “realities and uncertainties” and gently admonished lawmakers to keep their spending in line, while proposing spending increases on issues that have dominated the news for months, including hiring new state engineers to conduct bridge and highway inspections, and improving information-sharing in the criminal justice system.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE DAY (New London, CT) website]

Legislative notes 2007 & 2008:
Special Session Jan. 22 resulted in overhaul of some Criminal Justice laws in response to home invasion.

BONDING SESSION here for text of bill that passed...

October 30, 2007 Bonding Package #2 passes.  First Bonding Session Over;  Veto promised;  Governor calls for Special Session to approve education bonding.  Will any Democrats show up for Special Session on Education called for September 26, 2007? (Not many.)
...Joined by Republican legislative leaders at a news conference in her Capitol office, Rell said the bonding package is well-intentioned but unaffordable and sends the wrong message to credit rating agencies and groups hoping to receive the bonding funds.  The amount Connecticut pays for its debt has been steadily increasing, she said, making it more difficult to cover other programs.

"We're on the wrong end of this seesaw and we have to get off," Rell said...

First Public Campaign Financing Authorized; Perillo Will Get More Than $18,000 To Run In Special Election 
By Ted Mann    
Published on 9/13/2007 

The first test of Connecticut's new public campaign financing system began in earnest Wednesday, when the State Elections Enforcement Commission authorized a grant to a candidate in the special legislative election in Shelton.

Jason D. Perillo, a Republican, qualified for more than $18,000 in public funding, the commission announced, in his quest to fill the seat of the late Rep. Richard O. Belden, R-Shelton.

Perillo's Democratic opponent in the Oct. 9 special election, James Orazietti, also intends to participate in the voluntary program, under which candidates for legislative offices raise threshold amounts from small donors in order to qualify for public grants to finance the bulk of their campaign expenses.

Candidates in the special election for Belden's former seat had to raise $3,750 to qualify for public funding of $18,750, according to the announcement from the elections commission's executive director, Jeffrey B. Garfield, and Beth A. Rotman, the director of the public financing program.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE DAY (New London, CT) website]

Special Session - Bonding - September 19, 2007

The Long Session began with Governor Rell's Budget Address - link here.
No Overrides At Veto Session
Hartford Courant
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING | Capitol Bureau Chief
July 24, 2007

The General Assembly finished its annual veto session in a matter of minutes Monday, but lawmakers have a series of major issues left to tackle.

Legislators did not attempt to override any of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's vetoes, including her rejection of the use of marijuana for medical purposes and her blocking of in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants at state universities. Both measures were controversial, and neither passed both chambers by a veto-proof margin.

"Certainly the phone has not been ringing off the wall to attempt an override on those issues," House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said Monday.

The legislature also took no action on the latest Sheff vs. O'Neill school-desegregation settlement, despite initial thoughts that lawmakers would approve the deal involving Hartford schools.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

`Golden Opportunity' Lost?  Democrats Reflect On A Missed Chance At Tax Reform As Budget Vote Looms
Hartford Courant
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING | Capitol Bureau Chief
June 22, 2007

This was supposed to be the year things would be different.

After scoring huge election victories last November and gaining the biggest state House majority since Watergate, Democrats were champing at the bit to override the Republican governor and enact a progressive income tax on the rich. They also planned to create the state's first earned income tax credit for the working poor.

But the tentative two-year budget, which will be debated today at the state Capitol, failed on those counts - and some Democrats are highly disappointed.

"I'm not happy that we don't have a progressive income tax," said Rep. Christopher Caruso, a Bridgeport Democrat. "I'm not happy that we don't have an earned income tax credit. I came into this legislature with 107 Democrats. Unfortunately, we were not able to do it."

Caruso says Democrats squandered a golden opportunity that will not come again.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

This is what the Legislature accomplished (no budget yet [Tuesday, June 19, 2007]):

April Fool's Day, 2007...
Democratic Angst;  Taking Over GOP Seats, They Battle For School Funds
March 31, 2007
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, Capitol Bureau Chief  Be careful what you wish for.

When Democrats swept up 107 seats in the state House of Representatives last year, they captured eight previously Republican seats. The takeovers were seen as part of a long-term trend of cutting heavily into GOP strongholds. Democrats found themselves holding seats in affluent areas like Glastonbury, Fairfield, Simsbury and Redding that once were exclusively Republican terrain.

But some House members got a rude awakening this week when a Democratic formula for doling out state education money left those well-heeled, now-Democratic-represented towns on the short end.

That is causing Democratic angst - and, on some issues, defection. In the education committee this week, Democrats representing Madison, Fairfield, Stamford and Redding all voted against their party's plan that would slash aid to their towns. Adding insult to injury, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's plan offers far more money to those towns.

And that has brought smiles to GOP faces.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Rell Sworn In
By RINKER BUCK, The Hartford Courant
4:12 PM EST, January 3, 2007

In a day that proved long on tradition, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell was inaugurated to begin her first full elected term as the state's chief executive.

Rell's progression to her first elected term followed her successful leadership of the state through the embarrassment and uncertainty of the final years of the scandal-ridden Rowland administration. Rell initially assumed the office in July 2004 following the resignation of Rowland, who faced impeachment proceedings in the legislature. But by the conservative nature of the day's events, and of Rell's brief inaugural speech, she and her staff seemed to be signaling that Connecticut residents can expect a continuation of the formula that has propelled her to high popularity ratings and a huge victory at the polls in November.

Dispensing with fanfare or risky oratory, Rell seems determined to present herself to voters exactly as she is: a steady hand who has restored credibility and fiscal health to government by a sensible, no-nonsense approach.

Rell was sworn in on a blue-carpeted stage in the atrium of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford by U.S. District Court Judge Alan H. Nevas. In her 8-minute address, Rell avoided any specifics on the issues facing the state -- health care, how to spend the budget surplus, the crisis in the care over abused children -- and to hew instead to truisms about government that committed her to few new directions for the legislative year.

"In many ways, as we begin a new year …we are at a crossroads in Connecticut," Rell said in her brief inaugural speech. "A crossroads of needed economic, social, cultural and educational change."

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Rell Dismisses 7 Key Officials;  Further Changes Expected To Come
Hartford Courant
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, Capitol Bureau Chief
December 22, 2006
In the most sweeping changes yet in her administration, Gov. M. Jodi Rell is replacing seven key commissioners as she charts a new course for the next four years.

The changes, which include the commissioners of the two most prominent social service agencies, are the most significant since Rell ousted top-level leaders from the administration of former Gov. John G. Rowland after she took office as governor in July 2004.

Now, after winning a huge re-election victory by 28 percentage points, Rell is cleaning house in a long-awaited reshuffling of her management team. Six of the seven commissioners let go on Thursday had been appointed by Rowland. More changes are coming among deputy commissioners, but those were not announced Thursday.

Since Rell had sought the resignations of about 60 top appointees soon after winning re-election, the state Capitol has been abuzz with speculation over which managers would be changed. Rell's office declined to give detailed reasons for the specific changes Thursday, other than saying that it was time for a change. No announcements were made on replacements for the ousted commissioners.

"A new term in office brings new beginnings, new ideas, and a renewed passion to serve," Rell said in a statement. "The next four years will be filled with a great many challenges. I now turn my attention to assembling a new leadership team to work with me as we meet our challenges and chart a new course."

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

Rowland Selective In Talking To Media
February 21, 2006
By JESSE LEAVENWORTH, Courant Staff Writer

Since his release from federal prison Feb. 10, former Gov. John Rowland has been talking about faith, the "humbling experience" of incarceration and a new direction in life.

On Feb. 14, in his first one-on-one interview shortly after his release, Rowland told The Associated Press that he was open to God's plan for him. The story described Rowland as "subdued and introspective."

On Monday, Rowland had the same chastened tone in two television interviews. Talking to WVIT-TV reporter Tom Monaghan, Rowland repeated some of the same comments from the AP interview about the importance of family, faith and friends.

In an off-camera interview with a WTIC-TV (Tribune's Channel 61) reporter Monday, Rowland "again acknowledged his wrongdoing and acknowledged his arrogance and said he wasn't that way anymore," station news director Paul Lewis said. "He certainly came off humbled."

Besides the AP and the TV stations, Rowland has shared his post-prison outlook with longtime friend and radio broadcaster Brad Davis and with his hometown newspaper, the Waterbury Republican. The former governor, however, has not responded to requests for interviews from some other media.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

It's far from Wonderland at the Capitol
By Ken Dixon, CT POST
Article created: 10/30/2005 05:15:32 AM

The state Capitol is one of those places where there's a major distinction between misinformation and lies, which settle down together like the lion and the lamb, or at least the elephant and the donkey.

It's also the land of unintended consequences, where soccer moms are morphed into lawbreakers because they're still using hand-held cell phones nearly a month after the new law. Yet the truly dangerous speeders bully their ways with impunity on state highways because there aren't enough troopers to go around.  The legislative bunch is great for writing laws that are unenforceable or end up costing us big time in the long run. Who can forget the brainstorm that led lawmakers to approve a one-license-plate-per-car regulation?

Why? It saved a few hundred thousand dollars. So what if the State Police couldn't identify vehicles and it eventually cost several million dollars to restore the second license?  That crosswalk-raging Superior Court judge who pulled the windshield wiper off the Cayenne in Greenwich last month? Sounds like a good start in the battle to take back the streets. I mean, a Porsche SUV? What's the oxymoronic point?

The only time police seem to care about the law that requires vehicles to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks is after a self-important driver squishes someone. Honk if you even know the existence of a Connecticut law requiring mandatory yielding for pedestrians in crosswalks.  Speaking of street fights and car wrecks, the Capitol's a place where, somehow, the House of Representatives wasted several hours last week debating so-called clean-contracting legislation and minority Republicans were able to portray themselves as the friends of the hundreds of non-profit agencies, a traditional Democratic constituency.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the CT POST website]

Link to House Journal for one-day special session:
Link to the Senate Journal for same one-day special session:

Campaign Reform Edges Ahead; Details Unresolved
By MARK PAZNIOKAS, Courant Staff Writer
September 22, 2005
A bipartisan legislative working group endorsed a sweeping overhaul of Connecticut's campaign finance laws Wednesday, but it left the most contentious details to a reluctant Gov. M. Jodi Rell and legislative leaders to resolve.

The Republican governor and Democratic legislative leaders have been adept at avoiding blame for the failure of campaign reform - never quite killing varied proposals, yet refusing to engage in face-to-face negotiations evidently necessary for passage.

So far, Rell and legislative leaders have refused to call a special session on campaign finance reform without a bipartisan consensus on a finished piece of legislation, something the working group could not accomplish without the governor or legislative leadership.

The 12-member working group ended its two-month review by agreeing on a broad framework for a voluntary system of publicly financing state campaigns and restricting contributions from lobbyists, state contractors and political action committees.

Seven of the eight Democratic members immediately signed a letter asking Rell to call the General Assembly into special for campaign finance reform, a step their own leaders have refused to take.

[Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

  • Decision Puts Issue Of Eminent Domain Back In States' Hands;  Legislatures are free to pass laws narrowing right to take property
    Day Staff Writer, New London
    Published on 6/24/2005

    The Institute for Justice had bold aspirations for the Kelo v. New London case.

    Before the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the Institute had been battling in state courts from Ohio to Connecticut to prevent governments from using their eminent domain powers to promote economic development. Kelo gave its attorneys the chance to secure a broad federal ruling that would restrain the ability of government to take private property.

    Such a ruling would have upset 50 years of precedent, however, and the court declined Thursday to impose the sort of straitjacket the Institute was seeking. But the decision still does not cripple conservative property-rights watchdogs such as the Institute for Justice and the Pacific Legal Foundation, for whom a Supreme Court victory was the ultimate prize.

    It simply sends their fight back to the states.

    Although the Supreme Court said Thursday that governments can use their condemnation power to foster private development, state courts can invoke their own constitutions to narrow the scope of eminent domain, as the Michigan Supreme Court did this spring. State legislatures can also modify their laws to strengthen the rights of property owners.

    “We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any state from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. “Indeed, many states already impose public use requirements that are stricter than the federal baseline.”

    Utah became the first state to do this when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed Senate Bill No. 184 into law this March. The law forbids redevelopment agencies from using eminent domain for projects such as sports arenas, and it places a one-year moratorium on blight condemnations to give the legislature time to decide how badly a property has to deteriorate before the government has the right to seize it.

    State Sen. Curtis Bramble, the Republican who introduced the legislation, said support gelled after the city of Ogden tried to take three houses that were standing in the way of a Wal-Mart.

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at THE DAY (New London, CT) website]

    Governor M. Jodi Rell delivers "State of the State" address and calls for end to partisanship.
    Read details of bi-partisan revisions for Citizen's Ethics and Government Integrity Commission promoted by Governor Rell...

    Governor Rowland agrees to a plea bargain the day before Christmas 2004 on on count of tax evasion (didn't pay tax on gifts received - i.e. hot tub)
    Select Committee of Inquiry: created at Special Session.  Deadline extended to last day of Session (May 5)...and then, on May 5th at 10:20pm, to June 30...

    `The Public Is Ready For Change'
    February 3, 2005
    By MARK PAZNIOKAS, Courant Staff Writer

    Gov. M. Jodi Rell made a tightly scripted, highly anticipated appearance before a legislative committee Wednesday to urge passage of ethics and campaign finance reforms.

    Connecticut governors rarely appear before legislative committees, but Rell's testimony was calculated to generate momentum for what she hopes will be the signal achievement of her first year as chief executive.

    Rell, who became governor in July after an impeachment inquiry and federal corruption investigation forced the resignation of John G. Rowland, told lawmakers they must embrace reform in 2005.

    "I can tell you the public is ready for change. The public is demanding that we give them confidence again in their state government," Rell said. "You never thought you would be responsible for that, but you truly are."

    The Republican governor and the Democratic legislature agree on the broad goal of getting special-interest money out of Connecticut politics. Their approaches are different, and both sides maneuvered for advantage Wednesday.

    Rell has proposed a half-dozen bills, including a ban on campaign contributions from state contractors and lobbyists, lower limits on other contributions, restrictions on political action committees, new state contracting rules and a restructured ethics commission.

    Democratic legislative leaders favor the public financing of campaigns as the only sure way to limit the influence of special interests. Rell is opposed to public financing, though in remarks to reporters she signaled a willingness to compromise.

    "My position hasn't changed," she said, "but I've also been around this building long enough to know that you never know how a bill's packaged and whether it includes other provisions that I may support - whether the language is changed to, perhaps, say something like a pilot program."

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

    (Link below not to LWV of Weston site)
    Saturday January 28, 2005 Stamford ADVOCATE:
    Ethics reform gets mixed response at hearing
    By Tobin A. Coleman

    HARTFORD -- State officials yesterday testified on proposals aimed at tightening state and municipal ethics standards in the wake of the scandal that drove former Gov. John Rowland from office.

    The Government Administration and Elections Committee held hearings on reforms proposed by Democrats that include establishing a system of public campaign financing and imposing state ethics standards for public officials in cities and towns.

    "The people of Connecticut are watching," said Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, a Democrat. "They want to know there will be real consequences for public officials or public employees who breach their duty of faithful public service."

    The Democrats bills are similar to one by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Rell's proposals will be aired Monday, and she is expected to testify before the committee Wednesday.

    Ranking Republican committee member, state Rep. Livvy Floren of Greenwich, said some of the suggestions brought out at yesterday's hearing deserve a closer look. One was the suggestion from state Comptroller Nancy Wyman that protections for an innocent spouse or dependents be built into a bill that would strip the pension of any public employee found guilty of a crime related to abusing his or her public service.

    Floren also wants to take a look at a public campaign funding model used in Nebraska that Sullivan raised. The Nebraska law has politicians agree in advance to limits on their campaign spending raised from private sources. If the limits are broken, then public money is released to an opponent's campaign to level the playing field.

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Stamford ADVOCATE website]

    Follow these bills...

    Rell: Ethics Panel `An Embarrassment' - Democrats Call For Overhaul After New Tape Revelations
    September 18, 2004
    By JON LENDER, Courant Staff Writer

    Attempts by the State Ethics Commission to evade its public-disclosure duty under the freedom of information law drew strong criticism from Gov. M. Jodi Rell Friday and a call from the state's Democratic chairman for a "major overhaul of that misguided agency."

    "I think they're an embarrassment to themselves and to the state of Connecticut," Rell said.

    "Today's revelation that the State Ethics Commission sought to circumvent FOI laws adds one more reason for a long-overdue overhaul of that misguided agency," state Democratic Party Chairman George Jepsen said.

    Both were referring to a Courant story Friday that revealed the contents of a tape-recorded February teleconference in which ethics panel members - unaware that they were being recorded by a commission clerk - talked openly of how to use the state FOI law to keep information from the public.

    "Are we sure that no one else is in on this public meeting?" commission Chairwoman Rosemary Giuliano asked at one point on the tape. As fellow members laughed, Giuliano wondered if TV viewers "will hear my voice on Channel 3 tonight."

    She was unavailable for comment Friday night.

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

    Sunday, September 5, 2004 Hartford Courant:
    A Blueprint For Restoring Integrity In State Government

    On July 1, I stood on the north steps of the state Capitol and took the oath of office to become Connecticut's 87th governor.

    That day, I made a pledge to restore faith, trust and integrity to our state government. Those were not just words on a piece of paper. I made that promise because it is what is in my heart.

    I want Connecticut to be the national model of integrity in government. I want our contracting procedures to be the most bulletproof in the country. My goal is for other states to point to Connecticut and say, "That's the way we should be doing it."

    Even the most aggressive and far-reaching policies, however, cannot always prevent the worst of human behaviors. But we can put systems in place, with appropriate checks and balances and internal oversight, to ensure integrity in the way the state conducts its business.

    That is why six weeks ago I established the Governor's Task Force on Contracting Reform. I charged the task force with reviewing and recommending improvements in the procedures used by state government to purchase goods and services.

    The task force members put in long hours reviewing documents and state statutes and listening to testimony. Last week, I received their report, which contains 133 recommendations. Each of the recommendations has a common goal: to ensure that one dollar in value is received for every dollar we spend of the taxpayers' money - and that each and every dollar the state spends is done with scrutiny and with accountability.

    The state spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on goods and services. The scope of state purchasing includes the awarding of contracts for construction, leases, personal services, property management and equipment.

    The problem is that state purchasing procedures are inconsistent, the training of personnel varies by state agency and not all selection processes are conducted in the open. We have dozens of state agencies - and if two are conducting business the exact same way, it's probably by accident.

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

    Rell Hikes Ethics Budget;   Allows Hires For Expanded Workload
    August 13, 2004
    By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, Hartford Courant Capitol Bureau Chief

    Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who took office pledging to make ethics her top priority, has boosted the State Ethics Commission's budget by about $200,000 - roughly 20 percent - allowing the agency to hire two more employees and upgrade its computers.

    "It is not enough simply to talk about ethics reform," Rell said Thursday. "These funds will provide the ethics commission with the tangible tools it needs to do its job properly."

    Rell was responding to a request from the commission's executive director, Alan Plofsky, for help meeting an expanded workload. One reason for the extra work: On her first day in office, Rell ordered all state employees involved in the awarding of state contracts to file statements of their financial interests with the commission to prevent conflicts of interest.

    State contracts have come under intense scrutiny as part of a federal criminal investigation that started during the administration of former Gov. John G. Rowland. Rowland's former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, pleaded guilty last year to criminal charges in what federal prosecutors called a conspiracy to steer state contracts. The FBI has been investigating contracts awarded to Tomasso Brothers Inc., a New Britain-based contractor that built a juvenile prison in Middletown, among other projects. Rowland resigned, effective July 1, in the midst of an impeachment inquiry into his own ethics lapses.

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

    Official In Tribal Ruling Resigns
    August 14, 2004
    By RICK GREEN, Courant Staff Writer

    A top Interior Department official responsible for granting federal recognition to the Kent-based Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has abruptly resigned.

    But the pending Sept. 10 departure of Aurene Martin is unrelated to any recognition decisions or other problems at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, spokesman Dan Dubray said.

    "I don't think there is anything at all to that," DuBray said. Martin, who was in charge of recognition decisions, was on vacation Friday. The department would not release her resignation letter.

    On Friday, a website that closely follows tribal issues,, described the departure of Martin and other aides as a possible housecleaning of employees not loyal to BIA Director David Anderson.

    Dubray said this was false. The report "names me as someone who was pushed out," said Dubray, who was recently promoted to a new communications job. "That makes it absurd on its face."

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]

    Connecticut tribe denied recognition, casino hopes dashed
    Monday, June 14, 2004 New Haven REGISTER

    By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer,  4:29 PM EDT
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Golden Hill Paugussetts' plans for a Connecticut casino and thousands of acres of land claims were dealt a major setback Monday, as the Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected their bid for federal recognition for a second time.

    The Paugussetts have been struggling to gain recognition since 1982. They were rejected by the BIA in 1996, but got a second chance when the Interior Board of Indian Appeals reviewed the decision and sent it back to the BIA for reconsideration, launching a second full review of the petition.

    "The Golden Hill Paugussett have failed at every step in the process - despite numerous opportunities - to prove its case," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.  "The group does not descend from a historical Indian tribe, it has not continuously existed as a distinct community, and it has not continuously exercised political authority or influence over its members."

    In order to become recognized a tribe must satisfy seven criteria, proving it has been active as a community and a political unit, and that the members descended directly from a historical Indian tribe.  The Paugussetts are recognized by the state and have about 330 members and reservation land in Trumbull and Colchester. Messages seeking comment were left Monday with Paugussett Chief Quiet Hawk.

    In the past 15 years the Paugussetts filed claims on more than 700,000 acres of land, setting off a flurry of legal challenges. And in 1993, then-tribal leader Moonface Bear, also known as Kenneth Piper, was the central figure in 10-week armed standoff between state police and the tribe, for selling untaxed cigarettes on its Colchester reservation.

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the New Haven REGISTER website]

    Indians Say Recognition Hijacked
    May 3, 2004
    By RICK GREEN, Courant Staff Writer
    A rival band of Indians is charging that the federal recognition of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation was hijacked by outside investors and high-priced lobbyists intent on winning a lucrative gambling franchise for their own benefit.

    "The recognition process is no longer seeking to right a wrong - the exploitation of Native Americans on this continent by the early settlers. It is now about a                    multibillion-dollar industry called gambling," say members of the Coggswell family in documents filed recently with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The                    Coggswells are Schaghticokes whose lineage dates to the origins of the tribe in western and southern Connecticut.

    In their appeal challenging the Bureau of Indian Affairs' ruling on the Kent-based Schaghticokes, the Coggswells argue that the process "has provided another way for
    non-Indians who are predominately businessmen [and] women to capitalize and control a benefit that was initially intended for Indians."  Schaghticoke Tribal Nation leaders did not return calls requesting comment.

    This relationship among investors, lobbyists and Indian tribes, frequently shrouded in secrecy, has attracted the attention of Congress and Interior Department           investigators. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Government Reform will examine the BIA decisions to recognize the Schaghticokes and another Connecticut
    tribe, the Eastern Pequots. Meanwhile, the Interior Department's inspector general is continuing a probe into the Schaghticoke ruling and a controversial BIA memorandum that outlined a strategy for skirting rules in order to grant the tribe recognition.

    The state of Connecticut, fearing more casinos, has appealed the Eastern Pequot ruling. The state's appeal of the Schaghticoke decision is expected to be filed Wednesday, the same day as the Washington hearing.  The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has sought federal recognition for decades. But since the mid-1990s - when Subway Restaurants founder Fred DeLuca and a secretive partnership in Middletown called the Eastlander Group started backing the tribe - questions have multiplied about the investors' influence over the tribe and how they stand to gain from a casino the tribe hopes to build.

    [Please read the rest of this article in the archives at the Hartford COURANT website]