Carolyn Morwick: Legislative gridlock in the Constitution State

- Kumusser

- Kumusser

 

From the New England Journal of Higher Education, part of The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org):

On June 7, Connecticut legislators wrapped up their session without passing a two-year budget. The failure to pass a budget or a provisional budget reflects a deeply divided Legislature with an 18-18 split in the Senate and a slight Democratic majority, 79-72, in the House. As lawmakers adjourned, Gov. Dannel Malloy chastised them for failing to break the deadlock and pass a budget.

A big sticking point is a deficit of $3.5 billion over the two-year budget cycle. Previously, the deficit was estimated at $5 billion but was reduced to $3.5 billion as a result of concessions negotiated with state labor unions that are slated to save $1.57 billion over the next two years. The deficit for FY18 is $1.6 billion.

Malloy has indicated that at least $116 million would be cut from three of the state's major human services agencies—Social Services, Developmental Services and Mental Health and Addiction Services. The state’s hospitals could also be the victim of cuts. Malloy noted that state tax reimbursements of $35.6 million would, in turn, trigger $75.8 million in federal Medicaid funds, which could also be lost. His plan seeks to restore these funds.

One of the big challenges facing Malloy is getting the support of Connecticut municipalities to close the deficit. He has asked for the cooperation of municipal leaders to contribute to the teacher’s pension system, which is now financed by the state and the state’s teachers. Malloy also wants local leaders to help come up with a new formula for distributing a reduced amount of local aid to school districts. As if things weren’t bad enough, the capital city of Hartford has declared bankruptcy and is looking for a state bailout.

Solutions to help resolve this situation include new sources of revenue such as a hike in the sales tax. The current rate is 6.35%, which is the 12th highest in the U.S. The proposed increase would raise the tax to 6.99% which would be the second highest in the country. (California is the highest with a rate of 7.25 %.) Another source of revenue which has already received approval is a third casino proposed for East Windsor.

Legislation Passed, Signed Into Law

Workforce Development System

HB 5590 An Act Creating a Task Force to Improve the Workforce Development System in the State of Connecticut

Codifies the state’s existing longitudinal data system and governing board. Requires the state’s Labor Commissioner to develop a universal intake form for persons entering American Job Centers or Workforce Development Board facilities. The Commissioner uses the information from the standardized intake forms for an annual report to the General Assembly, including: the number of people using American Job Center or Workforce Development Board employment rates and average wages of persons who utilized those services; the number of people in various pathways; and the industry sectors in which completers find employment.

Separate Technical High School System

HB 7271 An Act Concerning the Establishment of a Technical High School System

Establishes the technical school system as an independent state agency, beginning July 2019.

Postsecondary Vocational Programs, Technical High School System

HB 7202 An Act Establishing a Division of Postsecondary Education Programs Within the Technical High School System

Classifies licensed practical nurse programs and aviation maintenance programs as “postsecondary education programs” to maintain students’ eligibility to for federal Pell Grants.

Transportation Lockbox

JR 100 Resolution Approving a State Constitutional Amendment to Protect Transportation Funds

Voters in the November 2018 election will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to ensure that money in the Special Transportation Fund be used solely for transportation-related costs–a transportation “lockbox.”

Third Tribal Casino

SB 957 An Act Concerning the Regulation of Gaming and the Authorization of a Casino Gaming Facility in the State

A third casino supported by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe was approved for East Windsor. This would be the first casino built on non-tribal land. MGM Resorts International, which has a casino under construction in Springfield, Mass., has issued a court challenge to the action taken by the Connecticut General Assembly.

Defendants Unable to Pay Bail

HB 7044 An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform

Reduces the chance some defendants will be jailed solely over their inability to afford bail.

Gay Rights

HB 6695 An Act Protecting Youth From Conversion Therapy

Bans conversion therapy for changing the sexual orientation of minors—a discredited practice blamed for depression and teen suicide.

Abused and Neglected Children

SB 895 An Act Concerning the Department of Children and Families’ Standards and Reporting Requirements

Improves investigating tools related to allegations of abused and neglected children. Requires Department of Children and Families to establish protocols for proper visitation and oversight by caseworkers.

Abused and Neglected Children in Foster Care

HB 6741 An Act Concerning the Right of Counsel to Access Records in Certain Abuse and Neglect Proceedings

Grants attorneys immediate access to records of abused and/or neglected children in the foster care system.

Requirements for Preschool Staff

SB 912 An Act Concerning Revisions to the Staff Qualifications Requirement for Early Childhood Educators

Requires an associate degree in early childhood education to be employed at state-funded preschool programs.

Graduation Requirements

SB 1026 An Act Concerning Revisions to the High School Graduation Requirements

Delays and revises the requirements set to go into effect with the freshman fall class that would have required additional credits in math, science and foreign language, senior project and passing exams in algebra, geometry, biology, American History and English to graduate as ordered by Superior Court judge. The legislation does away with exit exams and a senior project while expanding the description of courses needed for students to graduate.

Legislation That Failed

Dreamers

SB 17 An Act Assisting Students Without Legal Immigration Status With the Cost of College

Would include undocumented students as eligible for student financial aid.

Transfer Requirements

SB 971 An Act Concerning the Promotion of Transfer and Articulation Agreements

Streamlines the process for transferring credits from community colleges to state universities, resolves the lost transfer credit

Early Voting

HJ 37 Resolution Proposing a State Constitutional Amendment to Provide for Legislation by Direct Initiative and Referendum

Requires a change in the state constitution, which could take several years unless the General Assembly votes by supermajority to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Approved by House; Senate failed to vote on this.

For-Profit Colleges

SB 972 An Act Concerning Tuition Integrity at For-Profit Institutions of Higher Education

Limits what for-profit colleges can spend on advertising to recruit students while putting a cap on federal financial aid spent on non-instructional costs.

Tesla

HB 797 An Act Concerning the Licensing of New and Used Cars Dealers

Authorizes the commissioner of motor vehicles to issue a new or used car dealer’s license to an electric vehicle manufacturer.

Women’s Health

SB 586 An Act Expanding Mandated Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents.

Preserves the Affordable Care Act’s protection for women and children in Connecticut should the ACA law be repealed. Failed in House; passed in Senate.

K-12 and Higher Education In Limbo Without a State Budget

On Aug. 15, school superintendents, teachers, administrators, members of school boards and parents pleaded with Malloy and members of the Connecticut General Assembly to produce a budget before the school year starts. The failure to produce a budget has forced school districts to cut dozens of positions and put hundreds more on hold.

Higher Education Funding

Malloy proposed cutting an additional $62.2 million for the University of Connecticut, the UConn Health Center, Connecticut state colleges and universities. Both the UConn and the Board of Regents for Higher Education are expected to wait on setting final budgets until the size of the cuts are known.

Carolyn Morwick directs government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.

 

 

 

By the crustacean calendar

Which one will be pardoned in return for his contribution to Maine tourism?

Which one will be pardoned in return for his contribution to Maine tourism?

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com:

So here we have a story from WLBZ-TV, in Bangor Maine, in which a group  of Mainers (or Mainiacs) report that Passy Pete the Lobster “has predicted six more weeks of summer at an annual ceremony.’’

“The crustacean has been fished out of the Passagassawakeag River {which runs from  Waldo to Belfast, Maine} for the past three years in a tradition modeled after famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil's winter prediction in Pennsylvania,’’ the station reported.

Passy Pete is watched as “he picks a scroll to determine whether Maine will see an extended summer or soon be greeted by winter.’’ Pete's been right the past two years. Or so they say. Anything for a photo op to draw some tourists as the main tourist season winds Down East.

 

 

Ignorance is bliss

Harvard Square.

Harvard Square.

Born to Harvard, she had gone to Smith and returned to marry Harvard. She had grown up in contact with the beauty and chivalry of Cambridge. She, and presumably her husband as well, represented the cultivation, good manners, consideration for others, cleanliness of body and brightness of mind and dedication to high thinking that were the goals of outsiders like me, dazzled western barbarians aspiring to Rome.

-- Wallace Stegner, in the novel Crossing to Safety (1987)

If Kenya can ban plastic bags, why not us?

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com:

Kenya, of all places, has enacted the world’s strongest ban on those flimsy single-use plastic bags. While the law is mostly targeted at manufacturers and suppliers, police can go after individuals, although the government indicated that it would go easy on “the common man’’. And, The Washington Post reports, the penalties “could include four years in prison and up to {the equivalent of} $40,000 in fines.’’

Some other African nations have imposed full or partial bans on plasticbags, perhaps surprising given their poverty. However, they realize that their long-term prosperity depends in no small part on protecting their environment.

Probably for a long time to come, such a ban will only happen in a few localities in America. We usuallyvalue convenience above environmental protection. That’s too bad because the petrochemical-based bags cause tremendous plastic pollution, kill much wildlife that ingest them and clog sewers and other drains. There are toxic chemical compounds in these bag, and they take many, many years to decompose. These nasty if handy things ought be phased out by a proposed federal law to be enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, but don’t expect that from the Trump administration,  whose EPA is all too often anti-environment. (More mountaintop removal for coal!)

 

Carolyn Morwick: Maine legislature overturns the will of the people on tax on the affluent

By Jana Matusz, in the show "Land, Sea, Sky," at ArtProv Gallery, Providence, Sept. 20-Nov. 4.

By Jana Matusz, in the show "Land, Sea, Sky," at ArtProv Gallery, Providence, Sept. 20-Nov. 4.

From The New England Journal of Higher Education, a unit of  The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe,org)

The first regular session of Maine’s 128th state Legislature was exceptionally challenging, as lawmakers engaged in a bitter fight over the budget while wrestling with four ballot questions approved by voters in the November 2016 election. Lawmakers were divided on Question 2, which was approved by voters and would have imposed a 3% tax on those making $200,000 or more. Funds would be used to support teacher salaries in K-12 school districts. Lawmakers rejected this question, but included $162 million in new funding for K-12 school districts in the budget—providing an additional $48.4 million in FY18 and $113.6 million in FY19.

Days before the July 4 holiday, budget deliberations reached an impasse, resulting in a four-day government shutdown. A compromise was reached by lawmakers, and on July 4, Gov. Paul LePage signed a two-year budget of $7.1 billion. This legislative session lasted nine months, the longest on record.

Part of the final budget included the following:

New education funding for K-12 school districts in the amount of $162 million (this was the response of legislators who agreed to reject Question 2)

Budget language to prevent further cuts to support services for children and adults with severe and persistent mental illness

A transfer of $3 million into Maine Clean Election Fund to provide access to funds for candidates for governor and the Legislature

An investment of $14.25 million in additional funding for employees serving those with disabilities

Doubling the number of hours to serve Mainers receiving disability services

Continues the reimbursement rate for “Critical Access Hospitals” that serve most of Maine’s uninsured residents statewide.

Legislative Action on Ballot Questions 1, 2, 4 and 5

Question 1 provides for the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana. Lawmakers passed legislation, subsequently signed by the governor, to delay implementation to February 2018.

Question 2 imposes a 3% tax on those making $200,000 to fund education. Lawmakers rejected this question, siding with opponents who argued that it would hurt the economy, particularly small businesses, and would leave Maine with one of the highest marginal tax rates in the country.

Question 4 raises the minimum wage in increments to $12 per hour by 2020.Lawmakers passed LD 673, which restores the tip credit and allows employers to pay tipped workers, half the minimum wage.

Question 5 provides for rank choice voting. Under this system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one has 50% of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the candidate who had been eliminated would have their ballots added to the total of the second ranked candidate. Then the votes would be re-tabulated. This process continues until one candidate has a clear majority of the vote. Lawmakers failed to pass legislation to overturn the voters’ will. The Maine Judicial Supreme Court ruled rank choice voting unconstitutional, but the vote to approve the ballot question still stands.

Legislation Passed, Signed Into Law

Firearm Registry

LD 9 An Act to Prohibit the Creation of a Firearms Owners Registry

Prohibits a state agency or political unit from keeping a comprehensive registry of privately owned firearms and the owners of those firearms within its jurisdiction.

Mining Regulations

LD 820 An Act to Protect Maine’s Clean Water and Taxpayers from Mining Pollution

Bans open-pit mining and other mining operations on public lands, prohibits underwater storage of mine waste, requires mining companies to create a trust fund large enough to cover the costs of cleaning up or treating any environmental contamination on a site for at least 100 years after closure of the mine.

Implementation of Marijuana Legislation

LD 88 An Act to Delay the Implementation of Certain Portions of the Marijuana Legalization Act

Clarifies that marijuana is legal for Mainers age 21 or older, prohibits the consumption of marijuana while operating a vehicle and delays the start of retail sales until February 2018, giving agencies more time to craft and implement rules governing the industry.

Opiates, Treatment of Addiction

LD 952 An Act to Ensure Access to Opiate Addiction Treatment in Maine

Allows but does not require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to increase Maine’s Medicaid reimbursement rate to methadone providers–currently $60 per person per week, the lowest in the nation.

Cell Phones

LD 1089 An Act to Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving

Prohibits a person from using a mobile telephone or handheld electronic device while operating a motor vehicle, unless the phone or device allows for hands-free operation and the hands-free feature is, in fact, being used by a person age 18 or older or the mobile telephone or device is being used to communicate with law enforcement or emergency services personnel under emergency circumstances.

Raises Age to Purchase Tobacco Products

LD 1120 An Act to Reduce Youth Access to Tobacco Products

Prohibits someone who has not reached age 21 from purchasing tobacco products.

Legislation That Failed

Workforce

LD 1467 An Act to Expand Competitive Skills Scholarships and Strengthen Maine’s Workforce Development Program

Proposes to expand and strengthen the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program that helps low-income, underemployed and unemployed workers acquire new skills needed to obtain good-paying jobs in growing industries. Builds on a successful program that helps Mainers get good jobs, and helps small businesses find workers with the skills they need to succeed.

Higher Education Funding, Tuition and Fees

University of Maine System

For the first time in six years, tuition rates will go up at University of Maine campuses. In-state rates will increase from $8,370 to $8,580 and will go into effect in fall 2017. Of great concern to the University System is $25 million in funding that could be lost in the federal budget proposed by the Trump administration. This includes $8.3 million in indirect costs for federal grants at the University of Maine, as well as several programs that could be cut or eliminated. The Trump budget makes significant cuts for Federal Work Study, Trio, and SEOG grants and eliminates funding for the Sea Grant program.

Maine Community College System

Tuition and fees at Maine’s community colleges will not increase. Tuition and fees average $3,600 per year, which are the lowest in New England.

The FY18 budget funds the Maine Community College Systems Strategic Workforce Initiative at $10 million for strategic initiatives related to occupational programming and statewide workforce development.

Carolyn Morwick directs government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.

 

 

 

One last taste

harbor.jpeg

"People that build their houses inland,
   People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
   Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
   Tons of water striking the shore,—
What do they long for, as I long for
   One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
   Spanking the boats at the harbour’s head,
What do they long for, as I long for,—
   Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
   Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning,—
   One salt taste of the sea once more?''

- -"Inland,'' by Edna St, Vincent Millay

Our traditional 'line storms'

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"September is the month {in New England} of the supposed occurrence of the equinoctial, or "line storm.'' The time-honored concept of an annual storm in late September goes back among seafaring men to the middle of the eighteenth century and perhaps earlier.  It was believed that a major storm always occurred when the sun crossed the equator, or "line''; any storm coming a week before or after was so classified.''

From The Country Journal New England Weather Book, by David Ludlum

Editor's note: Most of these "line storms'' were probably weakening hurricanes moving northeast off the Eastern Seaboard.

Mass. legislators to take up some hot issues

The famous Massachusetts State House, designed by Charles Bullfinch and completed in 1798.

The famous Massachusetts State House, designed by Charles Bullfinch and completed in 1798.

From The New England Journal of Higher Education, part of The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org):

Two weeks into fiscal 2018, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a $39.4 billion spending package that increases spending by 1.7 percent over the prior year. He vetoed $320 million from the budget, including $222 million in spending for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. Baker has proposed reforms to MassHealth including a “gate” that blocks eligibility for full-time workers who have access to affordable health coverage through their employers. The pared-down budget contains no new taxes or fees. Other features of the budget are listed as follows:

$3.5 million for new State Police division that focuses on homeland security, criminal intelligence and counterterrorism

$6 million for gang-prevention initiatives called “Shannon Grants”

An increase in funding for the Department of Children and Families by $9.8 million to support 450 new employees.

Language to allow casinos to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.

Transfers $127 million in operating funds to MBTA and adds $60 million in new capital funding.

In the new session, when legislators will tackle issues associated with MassHealth, including eligibility and trimming Medicaid costs. Other issues include immigration and criminal justice reform. Legislation called the “Safe Communities Act” would impose sharp limits on cooperation between local police and federal immigration officers.

The Legislature will also take up criminal-justice reform, AirBnB (online marketing and hospitality service) and issues regarding “distracted driving.” Lawmakers may also take up Baker’s vetoes in the FY18 budget.

Legislation Passed and Signed Into Law

Office of Technology Services and Security Will Be Part of Governor’s Cabinet

HB 3731 Filed by Gov. Charles Baker Pursuant to Article 87, Amendments to the Constitution.

An Act to Reorganize the Information Technology Function of the Commonwealth to Improve Data Security, Safeguard Privacy and Promote Better Service Delivery

Office of Information Technology (MassIT) to be re-established as the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security, led by a new secretary of technology who will be part of the governor’s cabinet.

Legalizing Marijuana

HB 3776   An Act to Ensure the Public Health and Safety of Patient and Consumer Access to Medical and Adult Use of Marijuana in the Commonwealth

Revises the ballot question that was approved by voters and sets a 10.75% state excise tax on recreational marijuana that would be assessed on top of the state’s regular 6.25% sales tax. Local communities can also tack on an additional 3% tax on pot sales, totaling a 20% tax. Medical marijuana would remain untaxed.

Working Conditions for Pregnant Workers

S 2093 An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act

Offers pregnant women reasonable accommodations, including more frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks, time off to recover from childbirth with or without pay, acquisition or modification of equipment, seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with manual labor or modified work schedules.

Transportation Projects

H. 3648 An Act Providing for the Financing of Certain Improvements to Municipal Roads and Services

Authorizes $200 million in Chapter 90 transportation funds for municipalities across the Commonwealth in this construction season. Chapter 90 transportation funding supports reimbursement of municipalities for road-related construction projects and comes from general obligation bond issuances.

Opiates, Treatment, Education

H. 4056  An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment and Education

Includes numerous recommendations from the Governor’s Opioid Working Group, including prevention education for students and doctors. This is the first law in the nation to establish a seven-day limit on first-time opioid prescriptions.

Electric Cars

S. 2505    An Act Promoting Zero Vehicle Emission Adoption

Works to increase access to zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) charging stations for the general public by prohibiting owners of public charging stations from charging users a subscription or membership fee and requiring the use of payment options available to the general public. The legislation also allows municipalities and private businesses to restrict parking spaces specifically for ZEV use.

Economic Development

H. 4569    An Act Relative to Job Creation and Workforce Development

Provides tax credits to promote investments in new companies, creates a commission to examine online gaming in Massachusetts, and encourages workforce development by extending to families a new tax deduction tied to college savings plans. The SoarMA initiative makes 529 college savings accounts available to families of eligible seventh-graders from five pilot schools. Funded through public and private partnerships, every account will be seeded with $50, and families must save at least $100 in the first year to become eligible for matching funds up to $500 saved toward future college tuition payments. At the present time, funding for the program is in question and proponents hope to resolve the issue during the legislative session.

The bill also establishes an “angel investor tax credit” to encourage early investment in new companies. Investors would be able to receive an income tax credit of 20% of their investment in qualifying Massachusetts businesses that have no more than 20 full-time employees and $500,000 in revenues. For fledgling businesses located in the state’s 26 “gateway cities” where educational attainment and median income are below the state’s average, the credit totals 30% of the investment.

Additional Legislative Action

Millionaire’s Tax Approved, Measure Ready for November 2018 Election

On June 14, 2017, Massachusetts lawmakers voted to approve an amendment to the state Constitution, known as the Fair Share Amendment, which would impose a 4% surtax on millionaires. The measure will go on the 2018 November ballot. The surtax would apply only to portions of income over $1 million. The state’s current income tax rate is 5.1%. The 4% surtax would raise an estimated $2 billion per year for education and transportation.

K-12 Funding

The budget includes a 2% increase in funding or $4.74 billion in Chapter 70 aid to cities and towns, which reflects a minimum spending increase of $30 per pupil for 322 operating school districts. Overall Chapter 70 aid increases by $119 million. Also included in the budget is a $38.5 rate increase for Early Education Care. The budget level-funds charter schools reimbursement at $80.5 million.

Higher Education Funding

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees raised tuition and fees by 3%. As a result, students will pay $416 more in the coming academic year. All five campuses will share a pot of $3.3 billion for FY18, which falls short of the requested amount.

The State University Incentive Grants (originally funded for $2.5 million in the House budget and $2.9 million in the Senate budget) were eliminated in the compromise budget.

Language was included in the final budget authorizing the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to allow accredited, degree-granting institutions in Massachusetts to deliver distance-education programs to other states who are part of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a program of the New England Board of Higher Education.

Free College

Building on the Commonwealth Commitment program and the city of Boston’s Tuition Free Community College initiative, which were both established in 2016, a new pilot program called the Boston Bridge is available to all 2017 high school graduates who live in the city of Boston, including students from Boston Public Schools, charter schools and parochial schools. The city of Boston and the Commonwealth together will cover students’ tuition and fees, after taking into account federal Pell grants, from the time a student enters community college to when they graduate from a four-year public college or university. Students who enroll in Boston Bridge must major in one of the Mass Transfer pathways, which ensures that credits earned in any community college are accepted at any public four-year institution. Pathways include biology, chemistry, economics, history, political science and psychology.

Carolyn Morwick directs government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.

 

 

 

Restoring the ecology of the Herring River estuary

Enjoying the Herring River.

Enjoying the Herring River.

From ecoRI News

A $700,000 Massachusetts state grant was recently awarded to help advance the restoration of the Herring River estuary in Wellfleet and Truro, one of the largest ecology-restoration projects in the Northeast. The grant leverages a total of $985,034 in funding for the project in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Restoration Center.

Spanning some 1,000 acres across the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Herring River estuary hosts one of the largest river and wetland systems on Cape Cod. In 1909, a dike was built across the river’s mouth, severing its connection to Wellfleet Harbor and the life-giving tides of the Atlantic Ocean. Without that connection, the salt marshes decayed, the river turned acidic, shellfish beds were contaminated by bacteria, and multiple fish kills resulted from low dissolved oxygen. The loss of tidal flow transformed this once-thriving and productive coastal ecosystem into the highly degraded landscape found there today.

The towns of Wellfleet and Truro are working with the National Park Service, the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) and other partners to revive the health of the Herring River and its wetlands. The project will rebuild the main dike at the river’s mouth and make other improvements across the estuary, allowing carefully controlled restoration of tidal flow to the ecosystem while protecting low-lying roads and other structures from flooding.

Reconnecting the estuary to the ocean will improve water quality, increase habitat productivity for fisheries and other wildlife, restore large areas of shellfish beds, and enhance boating, fishing, and other commercial and recreational opportunities, according to state officials.

“We look forward to the day when a restored Herring River estuary provides much-improved habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, river herring, white perch, and other fish and wildlife,” Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon said. “The project will also greatly enhance people’s access to the natural environment by improving opportunities for shellfish harvest, fishing, boating, and other outdoor recreation.”

The DER grant will also support engineering design and permitting to prepare the project for construction. The project is being managed by Friends of Herring River, a nonprofit organization based in Wellfleet.

 

 


 

Proud but abandoned

"Abandoned (Truro, Mass.)'' (archival pigment print), by Eleanor Steinadler, in her show "Off the Beaten Path: New Photographs by Eleanor Steinadler,'' at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, Oct. 4-29. The gallery says: "This exhibition will counterpose two new series of Eleanor Steinadler's photographs from 2016-17 -- the "Abandoned Construction'' series from Truro,  on Cape Cod, and the 'Edge of the Sea' series shot on the Matador Island, in the Florida Keys.  "The poignancy and the humor often coexist in the Abandoned series photographs. A long-abandoned ship out of the water, sits in the middle of nowhere. In the clarity of full unforgiving sun it casts a strong stark shadow. A battered hull still preserves some of its proud bearing, as well as the remnant of a carefully chosen two color paint job''  

"Abandoned (Truro, Mass.)'' (archival pigment print), by Eleanor Steinadler, in her show "Off the Beaten Path: New Photographs by Eleanor Steinadler,'' at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, Oct. 4-29. The gallery says:

"This exhibition will counterpose two new series of Eleanor Steinadler's photographs from 2016-17 -- the "Abandoned Construction'' series from Truro,  on Cape Cod, and the 'Edge of the Sea' series shot on the Matador Island, in the Florida Keys. 

"The poignancy and the humor often coexist in the Abandoned series photographs. A long-abandoned ship out of the water, sits in the middle of nowhere. In the clarity of full unforgiving sun it casts a strong stark shadow. A battered hull still preserves some of its proud bearing, as well as the remnant of a carefully chosen two color paint job''

 

Chris Powell: Ditching 'antiquated gender norms' on Metro North

metro.jpg

 

Metro-North, the biggest commuter railroad in the country, which serves southwestern Connecticut and the lower Hudson River Valley, announced the other week that it no longer will note a purchaser's gender identification on month-long train tickets.

The railroad said it used gender identification to discourage people from letting others use their monthly passes. But that did not impair people in lending their passes to others of the same sex -- and what harm would have come from that anyway? If ticket sharing increased ridership, the railroad could have increased the price of the monthly passes. Besides, unlike airline passengers, train passengers are not carefully screened. Screening them would require a lot more train staff and would impossibly lengthen boarding times.

But in praising the railroad for dropping gender identification on the monthly passes, Gov. Dannel Malloy drew a cosmic conclusion in pursuit of the political correctness that has characterized his administration. "We should not be using antiquated gender norms as a method of personal identification," the governor said.

Yes, some men want to be and dress as women, some women want to be and dress as men, and some people don't want to identify with either sex. But do such people number even one in every thousand? And what about everyone else, the overwhelming numbers who, antiquated as the governor may view them, continue to choose to identify as men or women, a choice in which they are supported by biology?

Given those numbers, how can the governor be sure that there are no longer any circumstances in which it is useful to distinguish male from female? While the governor seems to think that the right of anyone to assume either gender at any time trumps the right of sexual privacy in bathrooms, he strangely has not yet insisted on erasing the divisions between boys and girls and men's and women's sports. (That might take the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team down a peg.) And what would become of bird watching?

Of course public policy should not seek to make life harder for those who are uncomfortable in their biological gender. But even if the governor really thinks that gender norms are "antiquated," there's not enough time left in his term for him both to run Connecticut's creaky old government and to convince the rest of the world that there are no longer boys and girls and men and women, just undifferentiated life forms. He should leave that task to his successor, assuming that he, she, or it is another Democrat.

Higher education isn't that high

While the governor was hailing the supposed end of gender, his president of the Connecticut State Universities and Colleges system, Mark Ojakian, was striking another politically correct pose.

In a letter to students and faculty, Ojakian called "devastating" President Trump's phasing out the official amnesty given to about 800,000 young people living illegally in the country. Ojakian added: "We once again pledge our commitment to our students who feel targeted based on their immigration status."

"Feel targeted"? That sounds like what is illegitimate is not to enter the country illegally but to enforce immigration law.

It would have been one thing for Ojakian to say the university system supports the efforts of the students at issue to legalize their residency. But such students are not being "targeted" any more than any other lawbreakers are.

Instead Ojakian said in effect that the university system supports those of its students who claim that their pursuit of higher education puts them above the law. But higher education is not yet that  high.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

 

Not ready for the Realtors

house.jpg

"I am going to make up a legend.

It is going to concern a pink house in Connecticut.

There are going to be four people in my legend.

A husband, a wife, a son, and a daughter.

Their house is about to be surrounded by trees.

The lawn grows higher and higher.

Sometimes the curtains are not opened for days on end.

Lights are seen at all hours of night.''

 

-- From "The Writer's House,'' by Dick Allen

 

Carolyn Morwick: GOP infighting in N.H. legislature's budget battles

The New Hampshire State House, built in 1816-19. Public-building architects in the 19th Century loved golden tops.

The New Hampshire State House, built in 1816-19. Public-building architects in the 19th Century loved golden tops.

From The New England Journal of Higher Education, a unit of The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org):

New Hampshire lawmakers ended hard-fought budget deliberations on June 22 and passed a two-year $17.7 billion budget along party lines. During House budget deliberations, Republicans faced opposition in their own party coming from the newly formed Freedom Caucus. The result was the Republican-dominated House failed to produce a budget, which hadn’t happened in several decades.

The Republican House and Senate eventually overcame the objections of conservative factions, including the House Republican Alliance and the Freedom Caucus. The final budget represents an increase in overall spending of 4.1% with cuts in the business tax, elimination of the electricity consumption tax and new mobile scratch tickets, all of which Republicans say will balance the budget.

The budget:

Cuts the business profits tax from 8.2% to 7.5% for business with more than $50,000 in receipts

Cuts the business enterprise tax which is applied to wages, interest and dividends, lowering the rate from 0.72% to 0.5 %

Adds $100 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund

Invests in mental-health and child-protection services, including $22.6 million and 60 new beds for community treatment options, and creates a fourth rapid response mobile crisis unit to divert hospitalizations for mental health issues.

Eliminates the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) and creates two separate agencies; the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which will oversee two divisions; Parks and Recreation and Forests and Lands, and, the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, which will oversee the current Economic Development and Travel and Tourism Divisions

Creates the first youth drug treatment center in New Hampshire; doubles the Alcohol Fund, adding $7 million for treatment and recovery services over the next two years; and establishes a $4.5 million drug-interdiction program to bring together federal, state and local resources to disrupt the supply chain that brings drugs into the state

Increases funding by $57 million for the developmentally disabled community to reduce the wait list for services

Increases funding for roads, bridges and school buildings

Increases state aid to cities and towns

Increases funding for charter schools by $15 million.

The budget provides no funding for full-day kindergarten, which has been a priority of Gov. Chris Sununu. However, a Republican-backed bill, SB 191, passed and was signed by the governor to fund full-day kindergarten with proceeds from Keno. Cities and towns must decide on whether to allow Keno.

Legislation Signed Into Law

Marijuana, Penalties

HB 640 An Act Relative to the Penalties for Possession of Marijuana

Reduces the penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana-infused products by a person age 21 or older from a misdemeanor to a violation. Violators will receive a $100 fine for the first and second offenses instead of a year in prison and a $2,000 fine for a third offense.

Guns

SB 12 An Act Repealing the Licensing Requirement for Carrying a Concealed Pistol or Revolver

Increases the length of time that a license is valid to carry a pistol or revolver. Allows a person to carry a loaded, concealed pistol or revolver without a license unless such person is otherwise prohibited by New Hampshire statute; requires the director of the division of state police to negotiate and enter into agreements with other jurisdictions to recognize in those jurisdictions the validity of the license to carry issued in this state; and repeals the requirement to obtain a license to carry a concealed pistol or revolver.

Voting, Principal Residence

SB 3 An Act Relative to Domicile for Purposes of Voting

In order to vote, someone would have to prove that the address they are providing as a domicile is “the principal or primary home ... in which habitation is fixed and to which a person, whenever he or she is temporarily absent, has the intention of returning after a departure or absence.”

Legislation That Failed

Children’s Savings Accounts

SB 193 An Act Establishing Education Freedom Savings Accounts for Students

Establishes education freedom savings accounts from the Department of Education for children ages 5 to 20. The program allows the parent of an eligible child to contract and receive a grant from a scholarship organization to pay for qualified educational expenses.

Union, Collective Bargaining

SB 11 An Act Prohibiting Collective Bargaining Agreements That Require Employees to Join or Contribute to a Union

Prohibits collective-bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union. No person shall be required, as a condition of employment, to resign or refrain from membership in a labor organization, or become or remain a member of a labor organization or pay dues, fees, assessments or other charges to a labor organization.

Common Core Standards

HB 207 An Act Prohibiting the Implementation of Common Core in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools

Prohibits the department of education and the state board of education from requiring any school or school district to implement the common core standards

K-12 Education Funding

The fiscal 2018 budget provides additional per-pupil aid to charter public schools of $625 per pupil; provides $45 million in special education aid; $14.8 million in career and technical education tuition and transportation aid; establishes the dual- and concurrent-enrollment program, which will provide up to $250 per STEM-related course at a public schools for robotics teams.

The budget includes $10 million in new student scholarship programs over the next two years, and provides grants to schools that encourage student engagement in the STEM science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The budget upgrades and rehabilitates the Plymouth and Rochester Career Technical Schools to provide workforce-ready students by age 18.

Higher Education Funding, Tuition

The University System of New Hampshire was flat-funded at $81 million for each of the two years of the biennium. The budget signed into law also provides for $3 million in capital improvements at Plymouth State University and $10 million for the Governor’s Scholarship Program.

USNH Chancellor Todd Leach in his budget request to the governor sought $88.5 million for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which represents a 12.5% increase over the two-year cycle. In return, Leach offered to freeze in-state tuition for two years and offer free tuition for all valedictorians and salutatorian graduates from New Hampshire high schools who apply to a USNH institution.

The Community College System of New Hampshire faired better in the budget with an increase in funding for the system of $6 million or an overall increase of 7% in the two-year budget. An additional $10 million was included for the system’s capital budget.

Carolyn Morwick directs government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.

Those pesky island police logs

Downtown Block Island from the New London ferry.

Downtown Block Island from the New London ferry.

 

Block Island Police Chief Vincent Carlone doesn’t want the island’s weekly newspaper, the Block Island Times, to publish police logs identifying people arrested for such offenses as drunken driving because, he says, it’s unfair to shame them in this way. Or is it because he thinks that publishing such logs would be bad for business on the resort island, which is almost entirely dependent on tourists (many of whom are not averse to getting drunk) and rich summer residents? (B.I. has turned into something of an extension of the Hamptons in recent years.)

In a Sept. 4 story,  headlined “Chief lobbied paper not to run crime stories,’’ the chief told The Providence Journal:

“This is a nice community, and I’ve made that representation to them {a request that the paper not publish on paper or online police logs}.’’ And he said that the paper has “apparently agreed at some level.’’  Indeed, the paper has not published the arrest log for quite some time, although it had been a tradition for years.

Well, I think that people on such a small place as Block Island deserve to know what’s going on and to be able to decide  for themselves what constitutes a serious offense. Drunk driving, for one, would seem to fall under that heading, since it can get people killed. John Pantalone, who’s chairman of the University of Rhode Island’s journalism program, told The Journal how he sees the problem:

“If the Police Department has chosen to withhold this information so as not to embarrass people in a small community, that seems like a bad policy.  Communities need to know about misbehavior both for their own protection and to discourage further, perhaps more serious, misbehavior.”

The biggest problem in publishing such police logs is that sometimes a charge doesn't hold up and/or anarrest is found invalid. News media are morally obligated to inform the public when that happens but they often don’t, or they publish the update so inconspicuously that virtually no one sees it. Very unfair!

In any event, these logs are public records. It’s up to the Block Island Times what to do with them.

Of course, most people love to read the dirt on local bad behavior. Most of us have a voyeuristic streak and a touch ofschadenfreude – pleasure at seeing someone else’s misfortune. No matter how bad we think things are for us, someone near us has it worse. How comforting!

Not running police logs cuts readership. The Providence police reports once were among the most read things in The Providence Journal and the very droll “Crime and Punishment’’ section of The Boston Guardian (on whose board I sit) may be the most read part of that paper, Boston’s biggest weekly. (More exciting might be a story there about an apartment at 39 Beacon St. being rented for $50,000 a month – another sign of just how fancy downtown Boston has become because ofmoney from financial services, health services, tech and flight capital flowing in from around the world. If only Providence could siphon off more of that moolah. So near and yet so far.)

It’s unclear if the police logs policy has anything to do with the paper’s sale last year to Michael Schroeder, who owns several Connecticut newspapers, and has links with casino mogul (and Trump pal) Sheldon Adelson.

Hit this link to read the Block Island story:

http://www.providencejournal.com/news/20170903/block-island-police-chief-says-hes-lobbied-to-keep-crime-stories-out-of-print.

 

Sometimes 'camouflaged as summer'

In New Hampshire's White Mountains. Photo by Someone35

In New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Photo by Someone35

"A New England fall has the sort of reality summer will never have. Summer is an idyll; lush, throbbing, lazy, it delivers promises and fantasies spun in February. Fall puts an end to the dreaming; But while it is an end, it is also a beginning. Things start up once more. You regather and regroup.

"As for Nature in fall, she's in a tricky mood. The fields pulsate yet with the sound of cricket and cicada. The trees are round and full as they were in mid-July; the ponds lie there misty, warm, seductive. One day camouflaged as summer, fall can easily toss of this disguise and appear as a prophet: cold, wet, angry. ''

-- By the novelist Anne Bernays, from her introduction to the "Fall'' chapter of New England: The Four Seasons, by Arthur Griffin.