The Capitol Beat: December 9-13, 2013

From Gaffney, Bennett & Associates

December 9, 2013 – December 13, 2013

We appear to be heading into a gentler, kinder season, if the bipartisan federal budget fix and today’s Bond Commission meeting are any barometer, and for that we are eternally grateful.  May this be a harbinger of the year to come and may 2014 bring you peace and prosperity. In this spirit, we pass along a sampling of the week’s news from within and outside the Capitol dome.

  • Shocker:  Transportation Survey Concludes CT Roads Beset by Congestion

A recent transportation survey of 6,000 Connecticut firms conducted in the fall by a group of business, industry, and transportation organizations, suggests that highway and rail system improvements still rank among the top transportation priorities for those doing business in the state.  Respondents ranked transportation third behind economic development and education when it comes to state spending priorities, emphasizing the system’s impact on quality of life and ability to attract and maintain a high-caliber workforce.

The survey was produced by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Stamford Chamber of Commerce, the CT Construction Industries and Motor Transport Associations.  It was released at the first annual Connecticut Transportation Summit held in Stamford yesterday. Other issues discussed by panelists and audience members at the Summit included:

  • Recent Metro-North difficulties/challenges.
  • Concern about federal transportation funding becoming non-existent over the next few years.
  • Changed funding sources for local capital improvement projects.
  • LEAN initiatives undertaken by CT DOT.
  • DOT’s $800 million spending plan for I-84 project (expected to be advertised summer of 2014 with construction to begin fall of 2014).
  • The Atlantic Street bridge project in Stamford (expected to be advertised summer of 2014 also).
  • Use of “Design Build” and “Construction Manager at Risk” contracting methodologies for DOT projects.
  • Transform Connecticut – the DOT 50-year strategic plan.
  • The need to improve access to and use of CT ports.
  • Tolls (there doesn’t appear to be the ability or appetite to undertake).
  • Increasing truck weights (requests from audience members – DOT staff reiterated insufficiency of infrastructure to withstand).

Right click on “open hyperlink” to view transportation survey:

  • Majority Leaders’ Working Group Eyes Mandated Retirement Plan

A working group, convened by the CT House and Senate Majority Leaders, is finalizing a legislative proposal that would require most Connecticut employers to offer employees a state-administered IRA-type retirement plan, unless they choose a commercial plan before the proposal becomes law.  Given the state’s enormous, existing unfunded state employee retirement liability, and the potential cost to taxpayers of such a state-sponsored plan if it does not meet its investment goals, this could meet some resistance. The working group was formed after a bill proposing the same arrangement failed in the Legislature last session.   Right click to open and view SB 54:

  • Governor Appoints Fourth Nominee to Supreme Court

Governor Malloy this week appointed his fourth nominee to the state Supreme Court bench, tapping Appellate Court Judge Richard A. Robinson to replace retiring Justice Fleming L. Norcott Jr.

Governor Malloy said his Stamford nominee has won respect from his peers on the bench and attorneys throughout the state as “a dedicated, thoughtful, and measured jurist.”

Robinson’s nomination will be the focus of a confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, December 19, and will need to be approved by the Legislature when it reconvenes.

Robinson was appointed to the bench in 2000 by former Governor John G. Rowland, becoming an Appellate Court judge in 2007 under then-Governor M. Jodi Rell.

  • Republican Senator Thanks Malloy for Early ‘Christmas Present’ at Bond Commission Meeting

As a moderate Republican and modern financier, state Sen. L. Scott Frantz of Greenwich has been the self-appointed keeper of the purse strings for the GOP as a member of the State Bond Commission.   Today, at the final meeting of the Commission in 2013, Sen. Frantz thanked Governor Malloy for honoring his commitment to keep under a soft debt cap of $1.8 billion – if only by $10.5 million — for the year.   “I thought it was an early Christmas or holiday gift,” Frantz said.

  • Comptroller Lembo Expands “Open Connecticut” Initiative

Full disclosure and open government.  This is Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s mission for Connecticut residents.  In this vein, Lembo established the “Open Connecticut” website –  – to create an online hub for state financial data (e.g. state budget, revenue, spending, borrowing, financial forecasts, tax breaks and exemptions).  This week he announced that the site has been expanded to include state quasi-public agencies and federal financial transparency resources. The site also includes a link to the newly created interactive map of programs and tax benefits created and administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development.  Have a look!

Be careful out there!

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