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State News Stories

Conn. unemployment compensation fund changes proposed

A bipartisan proposal to restore Connecticut’s insolvent unemployment compensation fund was announced Tuesday, with advocates predicting the plan will create “long-term viability” for the fund that has taken a huge financial hit during the pandemic.

Financed by employers, the fund has been insolvent for 48 of the past 50 years, according to Lamont’s office, forcing the state to borrow money from the federal government. So far, $712 million has been borrowed during the current recession, a huge sum that many employers feared they would have to repay in higher unemployment taxes.

Besides restoring the fund’s solvency, proponents said the proposal, which needs legislative approval, will reduce taxes on at least 73% of businesses by reducing rates on certain employer taxes, reforming benefits and other changes.

Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, called the package of reforms “the most significant set of reforms in the history of the state’s unemployment system.”


Bill ending religious vaccine exemption now heads to Senate

A contentious bill that would end the state's long-standing religious exemption from immunization requirements for schools now heads to the Senate. The legislation cleared the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on a 90-53 vote just before 3 a.m. Tuesday after more than 16 hours of debate. The bill now heads to the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats. It's unclear when a vote will be held. The bill was amended to allow students who are now exempt from immunizations because of religious regions to continue to be exempt. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont says he'll sign the bill into law.


Rock star Van Zandt helping Connecticut students re-engage

Connecticut is turning to music in an effort to get kids more interested in school and help combat the learning loss suffered during the pandemic. Gov. Ned Lamont and state education officials announced Tuesday that Connecticut's public schools will be integrating a curriculum called TeachRock, the brainchild of Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Steven Van Zandt and his nonprofit organization, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. The curriculum includes lesson plans in most subjects, tailored to different grade levels, all viewed through the lens of music. Also Tuesday, a bipartisan proposal to restore Connecticut's insolvent unemployment compensation fund was announced.


Connecticut to lift most mandates on businesses, outdoors

Connecticut plans to phase out many COVID-19 restrictions affecting businesses next month, including long-shuttered bars, while keeping the mandatory indoor mask-wearing rules in place for now, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Monday.

The announcement came as the state surpassed 8,000 COVID-associated deaths.

Beginning May 1, outdoor restrictions will be lifted on businesses, such as mask-wearing when social distancing can’t be observed. Also, the rule that alcohol can’t be served without food will be lifted, essentially allowing outdoor bar service.

Additionally, table seating outdoors will no longer be limited to eight people and business curfews will be moved back from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m., giving restaurants an opportunity to have a second seating and putting Connecticut on course with New York.

“I think these are all ways we have earned the right to get back to our new normal,” said Lamont, who urged people to still “continue to be cautious with the mask.”

Beginning May 19, all remaining business restrictions will end, including capacity limits on movie theaters and outdoor gatherings. Lamont said he expects the state will issue guidance but it will essentially be left up to the businesses to decide what COVID safety measures to maintain.

“I think businesses have all the freedom in the world to do everything they can to give their customers confidence, 100% confidence. And if they want to have a mask requirement, if they want to say, ‘I want people to get tested,’ if they want to say, ‘vaccinations,’ that’s up to the business. That’s up to the venue,” Lamont said. “What we have is a set of minimum requirements, which I think are necessary to keep the state of Connecticut safe.”

Meanwhile, indoor bars that don’t serve food will also be allowed to reopen on May 19, but patrons will still need to wear masks when they’re not drinking. Lamont said he needs to work with state lawmakers to determine whether that rule should be mandated or whether it should be guidance issued by the state. Lamont’s executive authority is set to expire on May 20 and efforts are underway to determine which of his executive orders should be extended or set in law.

Lamont stressed that the plan to lift the business restrictions could change if the state’s relatively low infection rate and continued improvements in vaccination rates change.

As of Monday, 1.1 million residents have been fully vaccinated. That figure accounts for 61% of people 18 years and older. Meanwhile, the state continues to see more infections. There were 2,700 more reported since Friday, while the number of hospitalizations increased by eight to 494. The number of deaths increased by 19 to a total of 8,014.

Yale University has joined a growing list of colleges and universities that will require students to received the COVID-19 vaccine before returning in the fall.

University President Peter Salovey and Provost Scott Strobel made the announcement Monday in an email to the Yale community, urging students to get inoculated as soon as possible.

“Although the course of the COVID-19 pandemic over the coming months remains uncertain, vaccination is the strongest tool for preventing transmission of the virus,” the officials wrote. “There is abundant evidence of the vaccines’ effectiveness and growing confidence that vaccines will be widely available by early summer.”

Salovey and Strobel said there will be reasonable exceptions made for religious or medical reasons. They said the school will vaccinate any students in the fall who could not get access to the vaccine this summer. The school announced Friday that Yale Health had secured enough doses for all students to receive Pfizer vaccines over the coming weeks.

The school still is evaluating whether to impose a similar mandate on faculty and staff, with a decision expected in June.

Yale’s announcement came the same day that leaders from several other colleges and universities across the state joined Lamont to announce they expect most classes and other activities, including watching sports, will go back to being in-person in the fall.

The leaders said they expect that some protocols, including wearing masks while indoors and staying 3 feet (1 meter) apart in classrooms, will remain in effect.

“We’re going to reduce the restrictions by a longshot, (but) of course we’re the following state guidelines in the fall,” Quinnipiac University President Judy Olian said.

Those leaders said they would be encouraging students staff, and faculty to get vaccinated and will host vaccination clinics, but do not plan to mandate the shots.

Lamont said he approved of that approach.

“We’ll find out later in the year if that’s enough and we’ll be able to make some determinations later,” he said.


Man charged in fatal shooting of 3-year-old boy in Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A 19-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the shooting of a 3-year-old Connecticut boy whose death dismayed the community and prompted state lawmakers to call for more anti-violence funding. Hartford police say they arrested city resident Jaziah Smith on Monday for the killing of Randell Jones in a drive-by shooting April 10. A message was left for the public defenders' office. The arrest came on the same day of Randell's memorial service. Hartford police say the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy two hours later was related to the killing of Randell, who was an unintended victim of the drive-by.


UConn's Stamford campus being equipped with 5G system

The University of Connecticut is setting up a high-speed internet system across its Stamford regional campus, which officials say will give students and researchers access to 5G technology for classes and research. The system is scheduled to go online in time for the fall semester. It will make the regional campus one of the first in the nation to have a dedicated 5G network. Terrence Cheng is the director of UConn Stamford. He says the network will allow for projects and course offerings that were not previously possible in fields such as the development of mobile applications, 3D graphics and wearable technology.


State Supreme Court to consider women-only areas of gyms

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case that advocates say could have a wide-ranging effect on anti-discrimination laws. The court will consider whether it's discriminatory for gyms to have areas restricted to women only that formerly were for both sexes. Experts say if the court exempts women from anti-discrimination laws, it could erode existing laws that ban discrimination against other groups in public places or organizations. Among the groups weighing in with friend-of-the-court briefs are religious groups, transgender people and civil liberties groups. The court is scheduled to hear arguments on May 5.


Molotov cocktail attack suspect to appear in federal court

NEW YORK (AP) - Authorities say a Connecticut man accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at police in New York City is in federal custody and will be formally charged in a virtual court hearing on Monday. Police say 44-year-old Lionel Virgile, of Bridgeport, threw bleach at an officer in Brooklyn on Saturday. They sat he then drove away and tossed a flaming Molotov cocktail at officers who were pursuing him. The officer who was splashed with bleach was treated at a hospital for skin and eye irritation. It's not clear if Virgile has an attorney who can speak for him.


Panel votes to invest $2 million to shore up firing range

SIMSBURY, Conn. (AP) - The State Bond Commission has approved $2 million to shore up the flood-prone Connecticut State Police firing range in Simsbury. Friday's vote comes after years of unsuccessful attempts to relocate the facility to another community, most recently Griswold. Gov. Ned Lamont's budget director said the money is needed to make some immediate improvements to address water issues. Melissa McCaw said while the administration believes the facility can meet the needs of both state and local police for now, she didn't rule out eventually finding a new location. Lamont promised during the 2018 to scrap plans for a range in Griswold.


Housing for migrant kids currently unneeded in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Federal authorities have told Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration they do not, for the moment, need sites in Connecticut to house unaccompanied migrant children who have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers, state officials confirmed Friday.

Last week, Lamont said state officials planned to make a recommendation soon to the federal government on possible sites after Vice President Kamala Harris asked the Democratic governor during a visit to the state last month whether Connecticut could take some of the children at the border.

“The urgency of this ask has slowed, as facilities have been stood up in other states. We have been informed Connecticut’s efforts to pursue additional options for them are not needed at this time,” according to a joint statement released Friday from Lamont Chief of Staff Paul Mounds and Department of Children and Families Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes.

Mounds and Dorantes said they were humbled by the legislators, advocates and agencies across Connecticut that came forward offering to help with the children.

“The true spirit of Connecticut’s humanitarianism was demonstrated repeatedly as we assessed our ability to help,” they said in the statement.

Lamont’s administration was considering using a now-shuttered juvenile detention facility in Middletown that drew criticism over its prisonlike conditions in the past. Lamont visited the site with other officials to determine if it was suitable.

Meanwhile, a Connecticut organization is already helping to find housing for some children who cross the border alone and are sent to the state.

For the past five years, the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants has been the only group in the state with a federal contract to help migrant children in federal custody. The institute helps as many as 75 children a year find homes with relatives and other sponsors, and provides legal services to those in a shelter in the state overseen by the federal government, among a variety of other services.

For safety reasons, the institute has not specified where the federally contracted shelter was or how many children are housed there. The organization said it expects to serve more children because of the recent increase in border crossings but had not been contacted by state officials about using the former training school.


Bill would give US vets of 1966 Spain bomb accident benefits

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - New legislation in Congress would provide disability benefits for U.S. veterans exposed to radiation while responding to a 1966 hydrogen bomb accident in Spain. Many veterans who responded to the accident in Palomares, Spain, and later became ill have been denied benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut. Two U.S. planes collided and crashed near Palomares in 1966, killing seven crew members. Hydrogen bombs on one of the planes did not explode, but caused plutonium contamination. About 1,600 service members were sent to clean up the contamination.


Pandemic may lead to long-term changes in school calendar

Connecticut officials say the impact of the pandemic on students and their families could lead to long-term changes in how the school day and school year look in the state. On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont joined federal and state political leaders and local and state education officials to discuss the future of education, including using federal funds to combat pandemic-based learning loss. Meanwhile, Connecticut has a second FEMA mobile vaccination clinic that will provide people with dose doses after the administration of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on hold. Also, the number of variant cases is growing.


Spring storm brings rain, snow, wind to New England

BOSTON (AP) - A storm is bringing rain, snow and a messy morning commute to New England just as it appeared spring weather was arriving. The areas around Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, Connecticut; and Boston are getting mostly heavy rain and wind Friday. But parts of northern New England could see a fair amount of wet, heavy snow. That's especially true in higher elevations. The National Weather Service predicts some interior areas could get as much as 10 inches of snow. Princeton, Massachusetts, had over 4 inches before dawn. Winter weather warnings or advisories are posted for large swaths of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.


Lamont criticizes FDA's decision to pause J&J vaccinations

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is criticizing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for recommending a pause in the administering of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The Democrat said Wednesday the response to a potential for a blood-clotting side effect, reported in six cases out of more than 7 million inoculations in the U.S., was an overreaction. Lamont says he has told the administration he would have handled it different. Meanwhile, representatives of the state's nursing home and assisted living industries on Wednesday welcomed news that the state will continue to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing through June 30.


Police: Gunman who opened fire on busy street killed himself

BRANFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut police say a gunman who held officers at bay for hours while randomly firing from a second-floor window on a busy street killed himself and was found with numerous weapons and ammunition. The chief medical examiner's office on Wednesday identified the gunman as 38-year-old Matthew Walker and said he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during Tuesday's events in Branford. A man shot by the gunman is hospitalized in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery. That's according to police and his relatives. Police say they're still trying to determine a motive for the shooting.


Bill barring birth dates on job applications clears Senate

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A bill that would prevent Connecticut employers from asking for a job applicant's date of birth, school graduation or school attendance dates has cleared the Senate. The bill passed unanimously on Wednesday and now awaits further action in the House of Representatives. State Sen. Derek Slap is a Democrat from West Hartford. He has pushed the legislation over the past three years. He says the state moved a "giant step closer" to closing a loophole in that had allowed older workers to be discriminated against. Connecticut has the sixth-oldest workforce in the U.S.


After months on lam, slaughterhouse escapee beefalo caught

PLYMOUTH, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut say an 800- to 900-pound beefalo that has been roaming the woods in western Connecticut since it escaped on its way to a slaughterhouse more than 250 days ago has been captured. The cross between a bison and domestic cattle eluded its handlers on Aug. 3, while being loaded off a truck at a meat processing business in Plymouth. Nicknamed "Buddy," his adventures including appearances on a wildlife camera set up by police and failed attempts to lure him into a pen with food gained widespread attention. He's been spared the death penalty and will retire to Florida.


Connecticut man found dead after standoff with police

BRANFORD, Conn. (AP) - Police say a man who fired numerous gunshots from a Connecticut building as officers surrounded the property has been found dead inside. Police say the man holed up Tuesday afternoon in a building on Main Street in Branford. Officials say one gunshot victim was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive. Officers from surrounding towns joined Branford and state police in responding to the scene. SWAT teams also were called in. One witness told The Hartford Courant it seemed like the person had fired hundreds of shots, including at police officers.


NTSB: Pilot error likely caused vintage bomber's fatal crash

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The National Transportation Safety Board says pilot error probably caused the 2019 crash of a World War II-era bomber in Connecticut that killed seven people and wounded six others. The board released a report Tuesday that also blames inadequate maintenance. Pilot Ernest McCauley reported engine trouble shortly after takeoff. The plane crashed into a maintenance building and burst into flames during a landing attempt. The NTSB says the plane's landing gear was put down too early and the plane was not traveling fast enough. Plane owner the Collings Foundation did not directly address the findings in a statement.


Court rejects appeal of killer of 3 in home invasion

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a man convicted of murder, sexual assault and other crimes in the killings of a woman and her daughters, ages 11 and 17, in a 2007 home invasion. Justices issued a 7-0 decision Monday upholding the convictions against Joshua Komisarjevsky. He appealed on several arguments including that the state's failure to move his trial out of New Haven to counter pretrial publicity denied him a fair trial. Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes are serving life prison sentences for the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, in their Cheshire home.


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Cara Carriveau
Cara Carriveau
10:00am - 3:00pm
The Hawk Middays