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Doug Dubitsky to host legislative town hall

March 13, 2020

State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-47th District, and State Sen. Dan Champagne, R-35th district will host a legislative town hall from 6 to 7 p.m. March 19 at Hampton Town Hall, 164 Main St.

The lawmakers will discuss major issues being addressed during the 2020 legislative session along with any other statewide issues that are important to the residents of Hampton and the surrounding region.

Connecticut lawmakers vote on long-awaited bonding bill

March 12, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers were voting Wednesday on a long-delayed borrowing package, with some Republicans arguing the proposal negotiated with Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont spends too much.

Lamont has said Connecticut needs a “debt diet,” arguing that curtailing borrowing by nearly 40%, to less than $1 billion annually, will ultimately boost economic growth. But Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven noted the legislation authorizes $1.55 billion in fiscal year 2020 and $1.52 billion in fiscal year 2021 for projects such as school construction, local aid and infrastructure improvements.

“The governor laid out a principled goal of prioritizing needs over wants,” Fasano said. “But that’s not the package before us today.”

The state averaged nearly $1.6 billion in annual bond authorizations when former Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was in office. Max Reiss, Lamont’s spokesman, noted that authorizations in this proposal, depending on the type, are down 11% to 19% compared to Malloy’s tenure.

“This is not a time for baseless allegations and finger-pointing, but it is time for effective governance of this great state and its finances, which will always be measured and balanced with making appropriate investments in Connecticut’s future,” Reiss said in a written statement.

Not all Republicans agreed with Fasano’s criticism. Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, the top GOP House member of the legislature’s bonding subcommittee, said the negotiated plan was a good compromise.

“It adheres to the debt diet without imposing starvation,” she said.

Rep. Patricia Billie Miller, D-Stamford, the top Democratic House member of the bonding subcommittee, noted how the plan is below the state’s self-imposed cap on borrowing and funds key initiatives, such as clean water projects, affordable housing, lead remediation, and road and bridge improvements.

The legislation easily cleared the House of Representatives, 126-20, and the Senate, 31-5, on bipartisan votes despite the criticism. It was expected to pass in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon. The vote came on the eve of a planned deep cleaning of the state Capitol complex because of the new coronavirus outbreak over the next four days, putting the rest of the General Assembly’s schedule in limbo.

The borrowing bill was supposed to have been passed during the last legislative session, but it got tied up in the debate over highway tolls.

Betsy Gara, executive director of the Council of Small Towns, said her members welcomed the long-awaited passage of the bill, which funds key state grants to cities and towns.

“COST was very concerned that the clock on the spring construction season was ticking. If action on a bond package was delayed any further, towns would have lost a whole construction season, leaving roads, bridges and other infrastructure in disrepair,” she said. “Towns are now breathing a huge sigh of relief.”

Some Republicans raised concerns about how the bill includes $65 million over two years for renovations to the XL Center, the aging, downtown indoor arena in Hartford. Also, Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, questioned why there was $5 million in borrowing to address possible costs associated with COVID-19. He said such costs should be covered instead by the state’s budget reserves.

Canterbury gets new traffic sign after crash outside school

February 23, 2020

The town of Canterbury has gotten new traffic safety signs on Route 14 in front of the Dr. Helen Baldwin Middle School, after a mother driving to pick up her children was seriously injured in an accident last year.

“I’m hoping that this will make people more aware, slow down, pay more attention, and we’ll see,” said First Selectman Chris Lippke, who pushed for state approval for the new sign. “Hopefully, it works out.”

The town held a ribbon-cutting for the sign on Feb. 20.

The official speed limit on Route 14 is 45 miles per hour, but the average speed is about 55 miles, according to a state traffic study, Lippke said. The traffic sign has flashing lights that alert drivers to a lower speed limit of 35 during school drop-off and pick-up times.

“Our first priority is the safety of our students, family, and community. The lights will go a long way towards ensuring that traffic in front of Baldwin is safer,” Garrett Dukette, the principal at the middle school, told the Bulletin.

Lippke had to campaign for the state to approve the sign. In order to get it, the town had to agree to pay for the sign, including its installation and maintenance. Lippke estimates that it cost the town about $12,000.

“Twelve thousand dollars is a big amount of money for a small town, that’s for sure,” Lippke said.

The impetus for the sign was a serious accident that occurred last year. A mother driving to pick up her children was rear-ended, causing her car to veer into the opposite lane, where she had a head-on collision. The women survived but was seriously injured and had to undergo a long rehabilitation. The family has since moved out of Canterbury, according to Lippke.

Lippke said the town’s residents seem pleased with the effort to improve traffic safety at the middle school. “After the accident we did what we could to try to keep people safe on that road,” he said.