My friend Ken Dixon penned this in the Connecticut Post:
HARTFORD — Lawmakers argued over the state’s power to regulate smoking in Connecticut’s tribal casinos on Monday, but majority Democrats won in the Government Administration & Elections Committee.
Republicans claimed that the state has no power over the sovereign Indian tribes, but Democrats, who prevailed in an 8-3 vote, said that since Connecticut issues liquor permits for the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos, the anti-smoking rules should also apply.
Under the bill, which next heads to the House, the casinos would not be able to renew liquor licenses unless they entered into negotiations with the governor on tactics for reducing smoking.
But after October 1, 2011, smoking would be banned from the facilities, if the bill were to become law.
“We’ve been dealing with the issue of second-hand smoke in the casinos for the last several years at the state level and the bill before us prohibits smoking in any area of an establishment operating with a casino permit,” Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg, D-Milford, co-chairwoman of the committee.
The transition period would require the casinos to set up designated nonsmoking areas and state-of-the-art ventilation systems.
“My guess is that this bill will continue to evolve as the process goes along, but ultimately I think this is really a public health issue that needs to be addressed,” Slossberg said, adding that within the compacts that allowed the casinos, the state reserved the right to make regulations on health and safety.
Minority members of the GAE Committee, including Rep. John W. Hetherington, R-New Canaan, and Sen. Michael A. McLachlan, R-Danbury, warned that if the bill goes forward, it would set up the state for a lengthy constitutional battle in the courts.
Now, this is shaping up as some fight. The Democratic-controlled legislature pushing for a smoking ban while the tribal execs threaten to hold back slot revenue. Maybe we should also threaten to plant toll booths in front of the casinos.
Or maybe the state is so broke we should start a campaign to allow Tribal Nations to establish slot machines exclusively in every Bridgeport bar, tavern and gin mill. Let’s create a new compact between the Golden Hill Paugussetts, and the Pequots and Mohegans that unearths a new-found bloodline. Hey, let’s give City Hall to the Paugussetts. Fire up those slots, baby! Poker in City Council Chambers. Craps in the treasurer’s office.
We’ll put Yahooy and Anna in charge of entertainment. Every night a Liberty Rock special. Slots, sluts and slogans.
Or maybe I slurped too much java this morning.
The Bridgeport Rescue Mission
Check out what Greater Bridgeport Transit is doing for The Bridgeport Rescue Mission. Rescue mission helps a lot of folks in the region. Let’s help them. www.bridgeportrescuemission.org
BRIDGEPORT — The highlight of GBT’s efforts for Earth Day 2009 is directed at sponsoring a food drive to benefit the Bridgeport Rescue Mission that they are calling “Help the Planet…Help Your Neighbor.
Marion Schrade, the Mission’s Manager of Community Projects & Special Events said “we feel blessed and so fortunate that Greater Bridgeport Transit’s staff thought of us. At this time of year, coupled with a poor economic climate, our pantry is low.”
Representatives from the Mission will be accepting donations at the Bridgeport Transportation Center (BTC), 710 Water Street, from 6:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22. Donors at the station will be entered into a drawing to win one of ten 31-Day and twenty 7-Day Ziptrip® passes.
The first 500 donors at BTC will also receive a Red Maple, Pin Oak or River Birch tree sapling for planting. Holcomb said these trees are indigenous to Connecticut and in general, trees have many benefits, “they can increase the value of a home, cut heating and cooling bills, provide fruit and nuts, as well as give wildlife a home.” Donations to the food drive will also be accepted aboard any GBT bus throughout the day
The bargaining unit representing state unions and bean counters for Governor Rell worked out a tentative agreement to keep the state budget from totally blowing to pieces. See news release below:
Tentative Agreement with the Rell Administration Would Save State More Than $700 Million
Leaders of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) met late Friday and voted to recommend a tentative SEBAC agreement (SEBAC TA) with the Rell Administration to be sent to union members. The tentative agreement would save the state more than $700 million dollars.
As part of that negotiation process, most of the individual unions reached contract agreements consistent with the overall framework previously approved by SEBAC leadership, and those contracts as well will be brought to members for ratification.
The votes on the SEBAC TA and any unit agreements will each be held in accordance with the rules of the particular unions as follows:
* Unions are holding informational meetings for members to review final details and have their questions answered;
* Membership will vote on ratification of the SEBAC TA, and on their individual bargaining unit’s TA, depending on bargaining unit rules; and
* SEBAC leadership will cast the final votes on the SEBAC TA, after individual bargaining units’ steps are completed.
Within the next two to three weeks, depending on the voting schedule and procedure of each union, SEBAC members will review and vote on the tentative agreement.
Ultimately, the overall tentative SEBAC agreement calls for significant sacrifices from SEBAC members, but provides major savings for the state’s taxpayers in a time of crisis, and preserves much-needed public services for the people of Connecticut.
SEBAC serves to unite approximately 50,000 Connecticut State public service workers to address issues of common concern. To learn more about the coalition’s campaign for a fair budget and a livable state with great public services, visit www.InThisTogetherCT.org.
The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition’s (SEBAC) member unions are:
• AFT Connecticut
• American Association of University Professors – Connecticut State University
• American Association of University Professors – UCONN
• American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees – Council 4
• Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges/SEIU Local 1973
• Connecticut Association of Prosecutors
• Connecticut Employees Union Independent/SEIU Local 511
• Connecticut Federations of School Administrators Local 61
• Connecticut State Police Union
• CSEA SEIU Local 2001
• International Brotherhood of Police Officers/SEIU Local 731
• New England Healthcare Employees Union , District 1199/SEIU
• Protective Services Employees Coalition/IAFF-IUPA
News release from Congressman Jim Himes
Himes Helps Weatherize a House to Highlight Recovery Act Investment
Congressman Himes says investments will create jobs, help move America towards energy independence
WASHINGTON-Today Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT) joined The United Illuminating Company to weatherize a house to highlight the $100 million Connecticut will receive for weatherization funding and energy efficiency grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Weatherization provides a lasting solution to high energy bills by addressing the cause through energy efficiency.
“These investments will offer an immediate boost to the state economy by putting people back to work weatherizing Connecticut homes,” said Congressman Himes. “Energy efficiency programs are also a smart long-term improvement that will help families cut their energy bills and move America towards energy independence.”
Today’s weatherization is expected to help Bridgeport homeowner Ana Espier reduce her apartment’s energy use to lower her utility bills. Ms. Espier’s utility bills have run into the thousands, and these improvements to her home will bring significant savings. The weatherization today began with an energy audit, which directed the UI staff and Congressman Himes to windows and baseboards in need of sealing. They caulked those leaks and installed energy-efficient light bulbs, and UI plans to address the possibility of improving the home’s insulation.
“Last year I paid very high energy bills because of the leaks in the apartment, and the weatherization will lower my costs significantly,” said Ms. Espier.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Connecticut will receive $65 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $38.5 million, which will come to the state through State Energy Program grants.
The Weatherization Assistance Program allows low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient, reducing heating bills by an average of 32% and overall energy bills by hundreds of dollars per year. It allows an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades and will be available for families making up to 200% of the federal poverty level – or about $44,000 a year for a family of four. More information about this program can be found here: apps1.eere.energy.gov/weatherization/about.cfm.
The State Energy Program funding will be available for rebates to consumers for home energy audits or other energy saving improvements; development of renewable energy projects for clean electricity generation and alternative fuels; promotion of Energy Star products; and improving the reliability of electricity and fuel supplies and the delivery of energy services. To learn more about the State Energy Program, click here: apps1.eere.energy.gov/state_energy_program.