The Capitol Beat: February 10-14, 2014

From Gaffney, Bennett & Associates

February 10, 2014 — February 14, 2014

Despite harrowing weather and widespread schedule cancellations during the past week, the 2014 legislative session continued steaming along.  In fact, public hearings on the Governor’s $19 billion adjusted budget for 2015 will be all but wrapped up in the Appropriations Committee on February 19. (The Elementary and Secondary Education budget hearing had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather and will be held Feb. 24).  In addition, on Friday (Valentine’s Day) the Judiciary Committee concluded its first public hearing on judicial nominations without fanfare; a public hearing on the remaining nominees is scheduled for next Wednesday at 10 a.m. Also next week, the Labor Committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday at 1 p.m. on the Governor’s proposal to increase the minimum wage (SB 32).  Following are some highlights and headlines from the past week —make that three days when you include the state holiday and snow day — at the state Capitol

  • Hospital Association Acts Pre-emptively on Fee Transparency

Responding to concerns from the Attorney General’s office and state legislators, the Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA) this week said it has recommended that its member hospitals provide patients with specific information on so-called “facility fees” they may incur if they seek care at hospital-owned facilities and physician practices.

Attorney General George Jepsen welcomed CHA’s announcement, but said he will still seek legislation requiring hospitals to provide patients with more information on expected charges, and greater transparency when it comes to fees.

  • Governor, Lt. Governor Prepare to Hit the Road Again

In keeping with an annual tradition he established when he first took office, Governor Malloy, along with Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, will begin holding community forums across the state next week.  “These meetings are a very direct way for citizens to have a voice in everything from how their tax dollars are being spent to how their children are being educated,” Lt. Governor Wyman said.

The first event of this year’s series will be held in Norwalk on Wednesday, February 19, 2014, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Community Room of Norwalk City Hall (125 East Avenue).  Additional forum dates and locations TBA.

  • Keno Could Vanish Before it Appears

Somewhere in the mix last session as lawmakers struggled to find revenues in every corner to plug stubborn deficits, the idea of putting keno games in retail outlets, much like you see in cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans, was put on the table.  And then it was put in the budget that was approved. Voile. But now, just as the administration moves closer to sealing a deal with the two Indian tribes that would allow keno to go forward outside the reservations in return for allowing the tribes to split 25 percent of the revenues, some lawmakers want to scuttle the plan altogether.  Specifically, Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, wants to put the kill shot on expanded gambling.

This week Governor Malloy said he did not put forth the keno proposal and would not stand in the way of its repeal if that’s the will of the Legislature.  Keno was brought forward last year during final budget negotiations to plug a revenue gap after lawmakers rejected the Governor’s proposal to auction off the electricity bills of about 800,00 residents to competitive bidders.

Revised estimates indicate that keno, if placed in 600 retail outlets, would only generate $13.5 million over two years.  The original revenue projection was $30.8 million over two years.

  • Democratic Candidates Emerge to Challenge Their Own

Two Democratic candidates announced they will primary fellow Democrats for their party’s nomination.

Democrat Jason Paul announced Wednesday that he is running for the state House of Representatives’ 48th District, a seat long held by Colchester resident and Democrat Linda Orange.   Paul cited Orange’s vote against last year’s gun control legislation as a major reason for jumping into the race.

The 48th district includes most of Colchester, as well as Lebanon, Mansfield and Windham. The district was redrawn in 2011 to include Mansfield and Windham.

Meanwhile in the 25th Senate district covering Norwalk, five-term Democratic state Senator Bob Duff faces a primary challenge from a newcomer to politics, 19-year-old Israel Navarro.  Navarro also aspires to attend UConn and become an entrepreneur.

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