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GOP lawmakers want special session to scrap food tax

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's top Republican legislative leaders are urging their Democratic colleagues to call the General Assembly into a special session to stop a planned surcharge on prepared meals.

A majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate - 50% plus one - must submit petitions to the Secretary of the State, requesting the session.

Wednesday's call for petitions comes after Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont directed the Department of Revenue Services to revisit a memo he said "too broadly interpreted" which prepared food items would be affected by the extra 1% tax.

GOP leaders are insisting lawmakers must change the law.

Republicans and Democrats have raised concerns that Revenue Services listed food items sold in grocery stores that have never been taxed, including containers of lettuce and loose baked goods.


Elephant at center of 'personhood' legal fight dies

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - An elephant at the center of a legal effort to give animals "personhood" has died.

Catherine Pappas, a spokeswoman for the Eastern States Exposition, on Wednesday confirmed the death of Beulah at age 54. Beulah had been on display at the fair.

Andre Bell, spokesman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, tells WWLP-TV the death was reported to the agency. The cause is unknown.

Beulah was owned by Connecticut--based Commerford Zoo.

The Nonhuman Rights Project had asked the courts to grant the animals the same rights as humans, saying they were mistreated and belonged in a sanctuary.

The Connecticut Appellate Court last month upheld a lower court's decision denying the elephants personhood. The decision has been appealed.

A spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling on the zoo to retire its animals.


Connecticut regulators approve Millstone electric power deal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut regulators have approved a contract between the owner of the Millstone nuclear power plant and the state's two major electric distribution utilities.

The deal approved Wednesday by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has been seen as crucial to keeping the Dominion Energy facility in Waterford open for the next decade. Dominion had signaled Millstone could close in 2023 if a long-term power contract wasn't achieved.

The contract requires Eversource and United Illuminating to purchase approximately half of Millstone's electricity output for 10 years, beginning this year. Connecticut officials say that will give the state and region more time to expand renewable and other clean energy resources, including offshore wind power.

Dominion says the deal ensures Millstone will continue powering 2.1 million homes for "at least the next decade."


Danbury officials recommend resolution opposing tolls be approved

Members of the City Council have met about highway tolls.  The group was requested by Council President Joe Cavo in order to take a stand against the prospect of a gantry system coming to I-84. There's been no movement since the legislature adjourned in June about how to pay for long term infrastructure improvements. 

The bipartisan members of the City Council Ad Hoc Committee expressed opposition to tolls and recommended the full City Council vote in favor of the resolution.

Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says there will be some residual traffic on local roads from drivers looking to bypass the tolls.  He says positioning gantries where the exits are, is going to be critical.  He hopes a study will best position them to lessen the impact to local roads. 

Planning Director Sharon Calitro expressed concern at Tuesday's meeting about the impact of tolls on neighborhoods and businesses.

Danbury state Representative David Arconti attended the meeting.  He was asked about federal regulations preventing tolls from being placed on the borders.  Arconti told the committee that he believes a gantry can't be placed approximately 12 or 16 miles from the state border.  In response to a question about if the regulation was circumvented by having tolls all along a roadway, Arconti said he was unsure.

Councilman Vinny DeGillio said Danbury hasn't had a voice in the conversation, but Arconti disagreed.

The lobbyist hired by the City suggested that the committee, in addition to or in place of this resolution, offer up solutions and be a bigger part of the conversation.  Cavo responded that there are many solutions, including lawmakers not taking money out of the Special Transportation Fund.  He says 62-cents per gallon of gasoline and motor vehicle registration fees should be enough.


Eversource to dig 'test pits' along Main Street in Ridgefield

Eversource's contractor plans to begin digging test pits along Main Street in Ridgefield. There are 6 holes planned to locate underground utilities and to establish the exact elevation. The work is expected to take a couple of days.  Eversource says this work is necessary to take the next step into final design plans of the upcoming State's Main Street project.  Ridgefield officials say most of the holes are not deep and should not take that long. They will be more toward the curbs and not in the traffic lanes.


Women's Center, DHS coaches team up for new initiative

The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury has teamed up with the Danbury High School Athletics Department as part of the Coaches as Partners initiative. The program of the Sexual Violence Prevention Collaborative consists of five local nonprofits working together to eliminate sexual violence across Fairfield County. 

Coaches are given education and skill-based tools for sexual violence prevention. Coaches as Partners aims to empower coaches and other adults involved with youth sports with the tools to promote an inclusive and respectful sports culture. 

Three trainings will be provided throughout the academic year to reach coaches of all sports teams. 

The initiative marks the first of its kind for this area.  Ann Rodwell-Lawton, Director of Education & Outreach at the Women’s Center, says coaches wield a significant amount of influence on their athletes and can shift the paradigm by modeling prosocial behaviors and demonstrating what it means to be an ally in ending sexual violence. 

The SVPC consists of the following agencies: The Center for Family Justice, The Rowan Center, Triangle Community Center, the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, and YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services. SVPC is made possible by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls.


Congresswoman introduces Pell Grant Restoration Act

The Pell Grant Restoration Act has been introduced by 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes.  She says the measure supports students defrauded by for-profit colleges by restoring their Pell eligibility.  Hayes added that Congress should be working to help students, not trapping them with a degree that has no value and no means to pay for an actual education. 

In Connecticut, there are more than 1,000 students that have been defrauded by predatory colleges and could qualify for Pell Grant restoration.  Under existing federal law, all students are entitled to 12 semesters of Pell Grant eligibility.  Students deceived into attending for-profit colleges, who used Pell Grants to do so, now find themselves in the position of trying to attain an actual education without Pell Grant assistance.

As a Pell Grant recipient herself, Hayes says she know just how vital a lifeline it can be in helping students on their path towards a degree.  But she says some students are stuck with mounds of debt and no means to acquire the education necessary to secure gainful employment.


Licensed Redding hemp grower reports theft of 45 plants

A Redding man has reported having 45 hemp plants stolen from a licensed home growing plot last week.  The Redding Road man called Police on September 9th to report the theft of $11,200 worth of plants.  The state Department of Agriculture has issued 82 growers licenses as part of a pilot program allowing the cultivation of hemp.  The man gave Redding Police his license number, and the Agriculture Department asked that the resident contact them for follow up.  Police are no longer investigating.  Hemp is a cannabis plant, but it does not contain high concentrations of THC, the substance which gets marijuana users intoxicated.


Local lawmaker to take part in Sacred Heart University legislator-in-residence program

Sacred Heart University will debut a legislator-in-residence program this fall.  State Senator Tony Hwang, whose district also includes Newtown, will spend two days on the campus meeting with groups as part of the program engaging state lawmakers, students, faculty and the entire community in dialogue and discussion on a host of current policy topics.  The University’s Institute for Public Policy is sponsoring policy forums, classroom visits and other events.  The initiative builds on outreach efforts, including a Congress to Campus program that welcomed two former U.S. congressmen to Sacred Heart to foster civil literacy and increased participation in government.  As a nonpartisan entity, the legislator-in-residence program will include Democrats and Republicans from the Connecticut General Assembly.


Sandy Hook Promise Premieres Latest PSA 'Back-to-School Essentials'

NEWTOWN, Conn., Sept. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Following one of the deadliest years on record for school violence in 2018, Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is debuting its latest PSA, "Back-to-School Essentials", a powerful and impactful video that highlights the anxiety and fear students face in the reality of school shootings. Since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook School almost seven years ago, reactive measures to gun violence such as active shooter drills and bulletproof backpacks have increased.

Many students fear that it's only a matter of when, not if, a shooting will erupt on their school campus. Subconsciously accepting shootings as regular occurrences has become the "new normal" at schools and public spaces across the country.

The PSA starts off as a cheery and often-familiar back-to-school ad but slowly unfolds to highlight students using everyday back-to-school items to survive a shooting, shedding light on the gruesome reality that students face.

As with its previous PSAs, including the award-winning " Evan " that was viewed over 100 million times and the Emmy-nominated " Point of View ", SHP reinforces that there are proven preventative solutions, including its Know the Signs programs. These programs teach students and adults to recognize warning signs and threats that often precede an act of violence or self-harm, along with the steps to properly intervene and get help before violence occurs.

In conjunction with the PSA, SHP also provides a downloadable brochure that highlights many of the warning signs to help students and adults recognize them when seen. This Know the Signs brochure is available at www.SandyHookPromise.org.

"So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country. Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn't have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic," said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting.

To date, more than 7.5 million people nationwide have been trained in Sandy Hook Promise's lifesaving Know the Signs programs that focus on gun violence prevention by training youth and adults how to identify at-risk behavior and intervene to get help before a tragedy can occur. Through these no-cost proven programs, Sandy Hook Promise has averted multiple school shooting plots, teen suicides, and countless other acts of violence.


Funeral services announced for men killed in wrong-way crash

Funeral services have been set for the Newtown man killed by a wrong-way driver on I-84 in Southbury over the weekend.  48-year old Diego Jimenez is survived by his wife, two daughters, mother and a brother.  Calling hours will be held at Honan Funeral Home in Newtown from 5pm to 8pm.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30am tomorrow at St Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown.  The motorist who crashed into the limo that Jimenez was driving, 46-year old David Hozer of Southbury, was also killed in the accident.  A memorial service was held yesterday in Southbury, with a private burial.


New Milford Public Works taking icing prevention measures

The New Milford Public Works Department is taking on ice prevention projects ahead of the winter season.  Many areas of town will be addressed over the coming months to assure water runoff is captured in proper drainage channels, and not flowing onto roadways.  Officials say this will not only keep drivers safe from icing issues, but should also help to preserve the quality of roads from the  freeze/thaw cycle and unnecessary water damage.  Public Works crews are adding a catch basin off roadways, along with perforated pipe and stone to collect any ground water that may affect the area during the rainy season.  New curbing is meant to help ensure all water will stay off the road and drain properly into the underlying stone.


Conn. woman killed in horse accident in Dover, NY

A horse accident has resulted in the death of a Connecticut woman.  New York State Police from the Dover Plains barracks responded to a family farm on Byrds Hill Road in Dover on Monday morning for a report of a female fallen off a horse.  Investigators determined that the horse reared for an unknown reason, and fell on top of the rider.  23-year old Samantha Calzone of Greenwich was pronounced dead at the scene.  Northern Dutchess Paramedics and the Dutchess County Medical Examiner’s Office also responded to the scene.


Putnam County temporarily suspends 2019/2020 School Tax Collection process

The Putnam County Commissioner of Finance has temporarily suspended the 2019/2020 School Tax Collection Process due to a file control error.  It caused Veterans Exemptions to exceed maximum limits, making the bills incorrect.  New tax bills will be mailed out this week and will be clearly marked 'Corrected Tax Bill' printed in yellow.  The vast majority of taxpayers will see a small reduction in their tax bill, while about 3,300 people receiving the affected exemptions will see a bill comparable to previous years.  Due to this error, the tax collection period will be extended.  First half partial payments will be due October 7th.  Full Pay payments without interest are due October 21st. Taxpayers who already paid will receive a refund if their school taxes were overpaid, or must pay the difference to the Local School Tax Collector if they are underpaid.


School shooting hoodies with bullet holes draw criticism

There's an uproar over a line of sweatshirts embroidered with names of schools where mass shootings have occurred.  The controversy is because the designs have holes that look like they came from bullets.  The names include Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech.  Sandy Hook Promise denounced what they called the “offense and traumatic release” of the sweatshirts.  The organization's two founders, who each had a son killed on 12/14, called it repugnant and deeply upsetting.  The designer said they wanted to make a comment on the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.  Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden said this is not about inspiring change to prevent these acts of violence.  They called for an immediate halt to production. 


Lamont says review of taxed, prepared foods under way

Bethel state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan has signed onto a letter to the Department of Revenue Services Commissioner calling for a review of the policy guidance release last week on the meals tax.  He says the unilateral decision by the agency to expand the sales tax to additional food items is not consistent with the intent of the budget. 

Allie-Brennan says the budget assumed the definition of meals as enforced at the time by DRS.  He says while the guidance is an attempt to resolve some of the inequities in the current definition of meals, complete understanding of the real-world impact is necessary. 

Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano says lawmakers who voted for the budget need to clean up their mess in a Special Session.  He says they created the confusion and the public uproar over a damaging policy.  If they now regret their actions, Fasano added that they need to admit their mistakes and fix the legislation. 

He notes that it is not unprecedented.  The legislature returned in a special session in 2018 to restore funds for the Medicare Savings Program.

Gov. Ned Lamont says Connecticut's tax department "too broadly interpreted" a planned tax on prepared foods and will revisit which items should be taxed.  The Democrat said Tuesday his budget office and legislative Democrats, who crafted the final budget deal, only planned an extra 1% tax on items already subjected to the 6.35% sales tax, such as sandwiches and pizza sold at restaurants and many grocery stores.

Lamont hopes the revenue department can clarify things before the tax takes effect October 1. Republicans say a special session is needed to change the law.


Science experiment gone wrong prompts Bethel High School early dismissal

A science experiment sent Bethel High School students home early yesterday when the sprinkler system was set off.  The chemistry experiment led to a small fire, and the sprinklers flooded a handful of rooms shortly after 9:30am.  Classes at Bethel High School were dismissed around 10:45am.  All after-school sports and activities still scheduled took place in the afternoon.  Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says the rooms were professionally cleaned and classes are back on as normal today.  Carver says the experiment will be investigated as a personnel matter to determine whether it was an appropriate experiment.


Proposed short term renal regulations get hearing in New Fairfield

Proposals about short term rental regulations in New Fairfield were up for a public hearing last night.  The Zoning Commission is looking into an amendment allowing rentals of six or fewer days as long as a property owner obtains a zoning permit.  Rentals of at least seven days would not require a permit.  For short term rentals, the owner would have to pay 500-dollars every two years, hold a certificate of insurance and live on the same property, or an abutting one.  Current New Fairfield Zoning regulations only have a special permit detailed for bed and breakfasts.  The Zoning Commission's next meeting is set for October 2nd.


Bethel Public Works Director resigns after week of administrative leave

After being placed on administrative leave, Bethel's Public Works Director has resigned.  Doug Arndt held the position for nearly 5 years.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker has not commented on why Arndt was placed on leave, or why he volunteered to resign.  Knickerbocker told Hearst Media that it was time for a change for both Arndt and the town, but noted that he did a lot of good work overseeing various water projects and intersection realignments.  Assistant public works director and highway superintendent Bob Dibble is filling the role on an interim basis.  The job opening post says Bethel is seeking a director with a professional engineer license who has management experience.  Knickerbocker said in the published report that the new Director would focus on building maintenance and highway planning, as well as using technology to analyze how the town could save on vehicle costs.


Local businesses featured at annual "Discover Connecticut" reception in DC

The sixth annual “Discover Connecticut” reception, which will showcase more than 30 businesses based in Connecticut, is being held in Washington DC today by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and the Connecticut State Society. 

Among the small-batch food producers, restaurants, breweries, tourist attractions, and other businesses featured are Bethel-based Noteworthy Chocolates and Candlewood Coffee Roasters and DiGrazia Vineyards, both from Brookfield.  The reception is expected to attract more than 300 guests, including Members of Congress, national retailers, and Connecticut residents. 

Blumenthal says the Discover Connecticut event is an opportunity to showcase some of the nation’s most inventive businesses and tourist attractions.  Whether they’re household names or local favorites, he says they create thousands of jobs, boost economic development and represent a sample of Connecticut’s diverse industries. Some of those household names are products like PEZ Candy, Newman’s Own, defense manufacturer Sikorsky and minor league baseball team the Hartford Yard Goats.


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