The Capitol Beat: December 16-20, 2013

 The Capitol Beat

From Gaffney, Bennett & Associates

December 16, 2013 – December 20, 2013

“Positive, though modest growth.” This would seem to characterize Connecticut’s employment picture in 2013—a year in which the state added an average of 1,400 jobs per month. November was a notable exception: a strong surge in the retail sector helped Connecticut post a gain of 4,000 jobs last month, helping further chip away at the state’s stubborn unemployment rate; it dropped from 7.9 percent in October to 7.6 percent in November. The national unemployment rate is 7 percent. You can bet that this monthly tally from the state Department of Labor will take on new importance as we head into a statewide election year in 2014.

  • MTA Metro-North, Under Close Scrutiny, Issues Update on Remedial Actions

Under intense scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration, the State of Connecticut, and state and federal lawmakers, the MTA/Metro-North Railroad Tuesday provided a progress report to Governor Malloy on remedial actions the commuter railroad has taken in the wake of multiple incidents in 2013. Those included two passenger train derailments – one in Connecticut and one in New York – and the death of a track worker in West Haven, Connecticut. The remedial actions include a reassessment and implementation of:

• Track maintenance and inspection programs and procedures.

• New train dispatching and employee protection protocols.

• Speed enforcement technology and practices.

• Track and safety departments’ organizational capabilities and structure.

• Programs and training related to overall safety and the safety culture at Metro-North.

In addition, the railroad has instituted confidential, uniform reporting as well as new protocols encouraging employees to freely communicate safety concerns, something that has not always been commonplace in the rules-driven railroad culture, CT DOT Commissioner James Redeker told members of the

Transportation Committee Wednesday at a forum on Metro-North’s woes. Redeker noted that MTA Metro-North is expected to complete a Best Practices report in 60 days, which DOT will evaluate along with all the other reports before determining whether changes need to be incorporated in Metro-North’s contract when it comes up for renewal in 2015. Some lawmakers urged DOT to consider a new operator when the contract comes up for renewal, but Redeker said there really aren’t that many vendors who could duplicate what Metro-North does. “Metro-North is the biggest, busiest commuter rail in the country…their track record over the past 36 years has been exemplary,” Redeker said.

  • Frontier Communications, AT&T Ink Agreement Involving CT Operations

AT&T and Stamford-based Frontier Communications Tuesday announced an agreement that will see Frontier acquire AT&T’s wireline operating company in Connecticut, assets worth $2 billion. Under the agreement, Frontier will inherit approximately 415,000 data, 900,000 voice and 180,000 video residential (U-verse) connections, in addition to AT&T’s local business connections and its existing carrier wholesale relationships. AT&T said it plans to use proceeds from the sale to expand its 4G LTE network across the country, among other things.

  • CT Trade Delegation Hopes Israel Trip Produces Fruit

Fresh back from a trade mission to Israel with area economic development and business representatives, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith presented Governor Malloy with what might we aptly described as a Christmas-Hanukah gift. During her travels, Commissioner Smith signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Israel Tech Transfer Organization (ITTN), allowing companies in Connecticut and Israel to find prospective partners to collaborate with on R&D, manufacturing, pre-clinical and clinical studies. ITTN, a private, nonprofit organization, and its partner organizations have affiliations with leading research, hospitals, and educational institutions, including the Weizman Institute of Science, The Hebrew University, and Tel Aviv University.

  • Did You Know…

For those interested in obtaining health insurance coverage effective January 1, 2014 under Access Health Connecticut insurance exchange, the deadline for enrolling is Monday, December 23. Those who sign up after December 23 would be eligible for coverage beginning February 1. For more information, go to:

In the news