Connecticut Weighs Ranked Choice Voting

People Voting Polling Place

Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont wants the state to look into scrapping the state’s winner-take-all electoral system for ranked choice voting.

Lamont has created a new bipartisan commission to study a legislative proposal that would allow local governments and political parties in Connecticut the option to use ranked choice voting in caucuses, conventions, primaries and municipal elections.

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Connecticut City Rejects Flying ‘Thin Blue Line’ Flag to Honor Fallen Trooper; Flies Pride Flag at Half Staff Instead

Aaron Pelletier

Council members in Wethersfield, Connecticut voted against flying a “Thin Blue Line” police flag in honor of Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, who was killed last week in a hit and run, opting instead to hoist a gay pride flag at half staff.

Pelletier was conducting a routine traffic stop in Southington, Connecticut last Thursday, when he was hit outside of his cruiser by Alex Oyola-Sanchez, a Puerto Rican native who had already been convicted of third-degree murder, attempted homicide and other felonies.

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Connecticut Gov. Lamont Signs Paid Leave Bill into Law

Ned Lamont

Connecticut employers will be required to provide workers with up to a week of paid leave under a proposal signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, despite a number of concerns from the state’s business community that it will drive up costs and hurt bottom lines.

The new law pushed through the state Legislature despite Republican opposition, will require Connecticut employers in most retail and service occupations to provide up to 40 hours of annual leave. It would allow eligible workers to accrue one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum mandated benefit of 40 hours a year.

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Disabled Connecticut Veterans to Receive Break on Taxes

Disabled Veterans

Connecticut veterans with disabilities will get a break on their property and vehicle taxes under a bill signed by Gov. Ned Lamont.

The measure, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, covers veterans with a permanent and total disability rating resulting from their active-duty service. The exemption, expected to impact about 1,200 veterans in the state, will apply to the primary resident owned by an eligible disabled service member or, if they don’t own a home, to one motor vehicle owned by the service member.

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Police Union Pushes Back over Claims About University of Connecticut Protesters

UConn Division of University Safety

The union representing University of Connecticut police is pushing back on claims officers injured pro-Palestinian protesters when they broke up an encampment last month and arrested more than two dozen people.

The Connecticut Police & Fire Union, which represents UConn police, said the claims about the April 30 encounter made by another union in a letter to school leaders was an “unconscionable attack” on the officers who were just “doing their jobs” by shutting down the “unauthorized” encampment on school grounds.

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Connecticut Wrangles over Spending Controls amid $1 Billion Surplus

Connecticut Capitol

Connecticut will end the fiscal year with a record surplus, according to a new report, which is fueling calls by progressive Democrats to roll back the state’s spending controls.

The consensus revenue forecast, released by the Office of Policy and Management and Office of Fiscal Analysis on Monday, shows the state is likely to close out the fiscal year more than $645 million above initial budget projections. That’s a roughly $1 billion surplus through 2026, according to the report.

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Connecticut Committee Advances Bill Proposing Increased Threshold for Felony Unemployment Insurance Fraud

Connecticut House Bill 2570, which proposes increasing the threshold for felony unemployment insurance fraud from $500 to $2000, advanced from the Joint Judiciary Committee on Apr. 5 by a vote of 24-13. The Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee approved the bill with a vote of 8-4 on Mar. 7. The bill is now pending consideration before the full Connecticut House.

Under current law, a fraudulent payment, benefit, or contribution is a class A misdemeanor if it amounts to $500 or less or a class D felony if it amounts to more than $500. The bill increases these thresholds to $2,000 or less for a class A misdemeanor and more than $2,000 for a class D felony.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Approve 2.5 Percent Raises for State Workers

Worker at Desk

Tens of thousands of Connecticut state workers could be getting a bump in their paychecks with lawmakers advancing a proposal to give them a 2.5% across-the-board pay raise.

A proposal approved by the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Friday would authorize a 2.5% wage increase for an estimated 46,000 state employees that was hammered out in negotiations earlier this year by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents unionized workers.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Moving to Restrict ‘Faithless’ Electors

Matt Blumenthal

Connecticut has never had a “faithless” elector who refused to certify the results of a presidential election, but some state lawmakers argue there needs to be a law preventing it.

A legislative proposal, which recently cleared a key committee, would nullify the electoral vote of a so-called “faithless” presidential elector in Connecticut who fails to cast their ballot for the candidates that the elector ran on the official ballot.

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Connecticut and 11 Other States Warn Gunmaker to Retain Decades of Files

Glock Gun

An Illinois lawsuit has led Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and attorneys general from 11 other states and the District of Columbia to notify gunmaker Glock to preserve 37 years of documentation regarding its handguns.

Earlier this month, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Glock alleging the company failed to change the design of a pistol. Chicago claims Glock knew a do-it-yourself “switch” could make the handguns a “machine gun” and resulted in a “proliferation of illegal machine guns.”

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Connecticut Elections Chief Calls for Reforms After Ballot Stuffing Scandal

Stephanie Thomas

Connecticut’s top election official is calling for reforms in the wake of a ballot stuffing scandal in Bridgeport’s mayoral race, where some people were allegedly paid cash to fill out mail ballots.

Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas said her office had referred allegations about election “malfeasance” in the February redo of the mayoral race to the State Elections Enforcement Commission to investigate, including reports from voters who received absentee ballots despite not requesting them.  

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Connecticut Democrats Rip Biden’s Proposed Cuts to Sub Production

Submarine

Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation are criticizing President Joe Biden’s preliminary budget proposal that would cut spending for nuclear submarine production, saying the move would cost jobs and impact the state’s economy.

The Pentagon announced on Monday that it plans to cut a Virginia class submarine built by Groton, Connecticut-based Electric Boat from its proposed fiscal 2025 defense budget.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Urged to Shine Sunlight on Local Campaign Finances

CT Capitol Money

Political contributions to municipal elected officials in Connecticut would be more accessible to the public under a proposal being considered by state lawmakers.

The legislation, which is pending before the Legislature’s Committee on Government Administration and Elections, would require candidates running for local elected office to file their required campaign disclosures with the state’s Electronic Campaign Reporting Information System, known as eCRIS, which supporters say will increase transparency in local elections.

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Connecticut GOP Unveils Plan to Reduce Energy Costs

Stephen Harding

Connecticut Republicans have unveiled a slate of proposals aimed at addressing rising electricity costs in the state, which they say are putting the squeeze on energy consumers.

The package of proposed policy changes, calls for setting limits on Power Purchase Agreements by utilities so that no contract can be for more than 100% over the wholesale electric market price while providing relief to ratepayers by tapping into $190 million in unspent pandemic-related federal funds to pay down rate increases.

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Yale University Reinstitutes Standardized Testing in Admissions

Yale University

Another elite university in the U.S. has backtracked on its decision to eliminate standardized testing in admissions after years of following the practice.

Yale University announced Thursday that it would be instituting a “flexible testing policy,” which allows students to submit several different test scores for admissions, including ACT, SAT, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced Placement scores, according to a Yale website. The university said that after performing extensive research, they found that “test scores are the single greatest predictor of a student’s future.”

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New Report on Connecticut’s Social Studies Standards Details Troubling Effect on Students

The National Association of Scholars’ Civics Alliance coalition released a comprehensive report critiquing Connecticut’s social studies standards, which is the state’s guide for teachers detailing what students should be learning from Pre-K through 12th grade.

The 34-page report, titled “Disowned Yankees: How Connecticut’s Social Studies Standards Shortchange Students,” details how the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) produced the curriculum, the result of implementing the curriculum, as well as “recommendations for how to fix the adoption process and the substance of Connecticut’s social studies instruction, by substantive revision of the Standards.”

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Connecticut Delegation Blasts Army over Helicopter Contract

Blackhawk Helicopter

Connecticut’s congressional delegation is calling on the Army to provide more details about its decision to reject a local company’s bid for a multimillion-dollar defense contract to build long-range helicopters.

Sikorsky Aircraft, maker of the iconic Blackhawk helicopters, submitted a proposal to the Army in 2018 to develop a new armed scout helicopter. But last week, the Army announced that it was scrapping its Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program, delivering a major blow to the company.

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Connecticut to Wipe Out $1 Billion in Medical Debt

Gov. Ned Lamont

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont plans to cancel up to $1 billion in medical debt for hundreds of thousands of residents, making it the first state to take the step.

Lamont made the announcement Friday during an appearance on ABC News, saying the plans call for leveraging $6.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds the state has received to wipe out the medical debt held by about 250,000 residents who meet the basic income qualifications.

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Connecticut Proposal to Phase Out Gas-Powered Vehicles Gets a New Lane

Matt Ritter

CT lawmakers ditch plans for special session on EV mandate.

Consideration of a proposed ban on sales of new gas-powered vehicles in Connecticut could happen in regular legislative session, but will not happen in a special called one.

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Ousted Iran Deal Negotiator to Teach Yale Class on Israel-Palestine Conflict Despite Ongoing FBI Investigation

Robert Malley

Robert Malley, a Biden administration official who was embroiled in controversy while working as Special Envoy to Iran, is set to teach a course on the Middle East at Yale University.

The syllabus for the class, which is titled “Contending with Israel-Palestine,” says the course will take “an in-depth look at important questions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to Yale Daily News.

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Connecticut’s Democrat AG Shuns Ranked Choice Voting

William Tong

The election process known as ranked choice voting isn’t compatible with one of the oldest state constitutions in America, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, says. 

Tong released an 11-page legal opinion Tuesday stating that the system of voting, which allows voters to rank their choices of candidates, violates at least two standing provisions of the Connecticut Constitution. The state’s attorney general said it was a “close call,” however.

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Connecticut Doles Out More Security Money to Houses of Worship

Churches, synagogues and mosques in Connecticut are getting more money to bolster their facilities against terror attacks or hate crimes, according to Gov. Ned Lamont. 

Lamont said state funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program will expand to $5 million this year. The grants can reimburse nonprofits for the cost of metal detectors and surveillance cameras, adding more lighting, fencing, or locks and other security upgrades.

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Poll: Connecticut Voters Oppose Electric Vehicles Sales Mandates

EV Charging

A majority of Connecticut voters oppose a Democrat-led push to phase out the sale of gas-powered vehicles in the state, according to a new poll.

The poll commissioned by the Specialty Equipment Market Association — a trade association representing aftermarket auto manufacturers and retailers — found that nearly 60% of the voters surveyed opposed proposed legislation to phase out the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks over the next decade.

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New England Outages Point to Grid Issues That Are Often Blamed on ‘Extreme Weather’

Power Grids

Storms in New England over the weekend have left thousands of people without power. Government data and studies show that these weather-related outages are becoming more frequent and lasting longer, which is often attributed to climate change, but analyses of grid resilience and research into disaster costs question that conclusion.  

In New York, about 55,000 people were without power on Monday morning after a storm brought high winds and two to four inches of rain, according to The New York Post. The same storm left as many as 45,000 households without power Monday morning, NJ.com reported. As of 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time Monday, 226,626 residents of Maine were without power, and local Maine television stations say the worst may be yet to come.

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Connecticut to Wipe Clean 80,000 Criminal Records

Connecticut is set to wipe clean the criminal records of more than 80,000 people with previous convictions under a long-delayed law set to go into effect in the new year. 

The Clean Slate law, which was approved by the state Legislature in 2021, will automatically erase the criminal records of people seven years after the date of their conviction for a misdemeanor or 10 years after the date of their conviction for certain low-level felonies if they hadn’t been convicted of other crimes.

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Connecticut Non-Disclosure Agreement Advocates Enlist Former FOX News Anchors

Gretchen Carlson

A push to ban non-disclosure agreements in Connecticut is getting a boost from former Fox News anchors turned women’s rights advocates pushing for its approval.

Connecticut lawmakers are expected to revisit a proposal that would ban employers from imposing contracts that prevent employees from talking about their claims of workplace sexual harassment or assault. Democrats back in the proposal say they expect to file the bill in early 2024 when the new legislative session begins.

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Connecticut Reduces Workers’ Compensation Rates for Employers

Connecticut businesses will pay less for workers’ compensation insurance next year, with the state again reducing premiums paid by private employers, which regulators say reflects an ongoing decline in claims. 

The Connecticut Insurance Department has approved an annual workers’ compensation rate filing for 2024 with a decrease of 9.8% in voluntary market loss costs and a decrease of 10.5% in assigned risk plan rates. 

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Report: Connecticut’s Revenue Down, Budget Still Balanced

Connecticut’s revenues are down about $460 million, according to a new report, which says the state’s financial outlook remains positive despite a drop in tax collections.

The consensus revenue forecast, released by the Office of Policy and Management and Office of Fiscal Analysis on Monday, shows the state is likely to close out the fiscal year more than $630 million above initial budget projections. That’s still a surplus but well below the $1.1 billion projections when the budget was approved in June.

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Yale Is a ‘Campus Without Care’ After Hosting ‘Anti-Israel’ Event, Jewish Students Say

Two students said Yale University barred them from an “anti-Israel” event this week, prompting them to listen through the door to “two hours of denial, lies and incitement” against Jews like themselves.

Sahar Tartak, a sophomore, said in a post on X that she believes her school “has become a campus without care for its Jews.”

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Tong and 18 Other Attorneys General Oppose Opt-Out Option from LGBTQ+ Books for Second Graders

 A coalition of 19 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of a local Maryland board of education’s policy that does not allow parents to opt their children out of LGBTQ+ inclusive texts. The lawsuit was filed by three families against the Montgomery County Board of Education, with two of the three families suing on behalf of policies for their second grade children, while the third did not list the grade level of its elementary school children. The parents, who are Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Ukrainian Orthodox, filed their lawsuit on religious freedom grounds. 

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Group Seeks to Overturn Connecticut Religious Exemption Ban

Critics of a Connecticut law banning religious exemptions from school vaccination requirements have lost several rounds in federal court but are planning to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.

A lawsuit, filed by We the Patriots USA Inc. on behalf of parents whose children attend a school at Milford Christian Church, argued that Connecticut violated their First Amendment rights by repealing the state’s long-held religious exemptions to childhood vaccines.

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Blumenthal and Other Democrat Lawmakers Urge Biden to Reduce Energy Costs

A group of Democratic senators are calling on President Joe Biden to provide more funding for fuel assistance with winter approaching. 

In a letter to Biden administration officials, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, led by nearly 30 other Democrats, urged the White House Office of Management and Budget and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to “take additional steps” to reduce energy costs for Americans through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. 

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Connecticut Attorney General Pledges to Scrutinize Gas Rate Hike

Connecticut’s consumer advocates are pushing back against natural gas rate increases sought by one of the state’s largest utilities, which comes as the company fights state regulators’ rejection of an electric rate hike in court.

In filings to the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Southern Connecticut Natural Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas request approval to increase their average gas distribution rates by 5-9% during the winter season.

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Yale Study: Asians Feel ‘Invisible’ in Medical School

A group of Yale doctors and other healthcare researchers recently published a small study that stated there is “anti-Asian racism” in medical school programs and concluded that Asian students are “invisible.”

However, the researchers who conducted the study rejected the idea that a small sample size and biased sampling methods made the study inapplicable.

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Connecticut to Move Presidential Primary Date

Connecticut is one of the last states in the nation to hold a presidential primary, but that would change under a proposal awaiting action by Gov. Ned Lamont.

A proposal approved by the state Legislature last week during a special session would change the presidential primary date to the first Tuesday in April, which in the next nominating cycle would be April 2. Under the current law, the primary is held on the last Tuesday, which would be April 30. Lamont, who backs the move, is expected to sign the bill into law.

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Connecticut to Spend $25 Million on New Voting Machines

Connecticut will spend $25 million to replace its aging voting machines ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Gov. Ned Lamont said the State Bond Commission will vote at its Oct. 6 meeting to approve the borrowing to purchase new ballot-counting tabulators for use in elections and primaries statewide. He said the current voting machines are over 17 years old and approaching the end of their useful life.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Press for Absentee Ballot Probe into September Incident

Connecticut lawmakers are calling for an investigation and changes in state election laws following allegations of absentee ballot fraud in a mayoral election.

Following the Sept. 12 primary, John Gomes, a Democrat who challenged incumbent Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, released video footage showing a woman depositing absentee ballots into a dropbox a week before the election. Gomes lost to Ganim by 251 mail-in or absentee votes despite beating him at the polls, according to the election results.

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Connecticut’s Indexed Minimum Wage Set to Rise in 2024

Wages will rise for hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers in Connecticut next year under a 2019 law that pegs the state’s minimum wage to the federal employment index. 

Beginning Jan. 1, Connecticut’s wage floor will rise from $15.00 per hour to $15.69 per hour as a result of the state’s first-ever economic indicator adjustment. 

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Former Yale Student Accused of Rape Can Sue His Accuser for Defamation, Court Rules

A former Yale student who was acquitted of rape in 2018, and later kicked out of the college, can sue his accuser for defamation over statements the accuser made during a school hearing, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in June, according to the New York Post.

Saifullah Khan sued Yale in 2019 for $110 million, and has been attempting to bring his accuser into the lawsuit, according to the Post. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled ruled that he can sue the accuser, and that she shouldn’t received “qualified immunity,” which prevents people from being sued over statements in judicial cases, from her testimony that Khan raped her in 2015.

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Connecticut’s Indexed Minimum Wage to Rise in 2024

Wages will rise for hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers in Connecticut next year under a 2019 law that pegs the state’s minimum wage to the federal employment index. 

Beginning Jan. 1, Connecticut’s wage floor will rise from $15.00 per hour to $15.69 per hour as a result of the state’s first-ever economic indicator adjustment. 

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Connecticut Health Exchange Plans to Rise by 9.4 Percent

The cost of health insurance plans offered through Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act Exchange will increase next year by nearly double digits, state insurance regulators said.  

The Connecticut Insurance Department has approved a 9.4% proposed rate increase for health insurers for plans available on and off Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange.

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Group Drops Anti-Affirmative Action Lawsuit Against Yale After Compromise

The group responsible for the nationwide overturning of affirmative action has dropped its lawsuit challenging the race-based admissions policies of Yale University.

According to Politico, Students for Fair Admissions (SFA) came to an agreement with the Ivy League school in which they would voluntarily drop their lawsuit, in exchange for Yale making several changes to its admissions policies prior to the Fall 2023 undergraduate application season.

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Connecticut Picks Up Health Care Costs for Paraeducators

Connecticut taxpayers will be covering some health care costs for thousands of paraeducators as the state seeks to fill workforce shortages in public schools.

A new program rolled out Wednesday by state Comptroller Sean Scanlon includes a one-time $5 million subsidy that will help pay paraeducators’ health insurance bills not covered by local school districts. 

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Ramaswamy Blasts DeSantis ‘Monster PAC’ Following Report of Fake News Dirty Politics

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is blasting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and “Monster PAC” following a report exposing the political action committee\’s campaign in “spreading dirt” and “misstatements” about the poll-rising Ramaswamy.

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Yale University Seeks African American Studies Professor Versed in ‘Feminist and Queer Studies’

Yale University is seeking a “Global Black and African Diaspora Studies“ tenured associate professor well-versed in topics such as ”African/diasporic queer and feminist activism” and “transnational feminist and queer studies” to begin July 1, 2024.

“The Program seeks candidates whose research and teaching focus on the formations and lived experiences of Blackness, with emphasis on global, comparative, indigenous, or transnational perspectives drawn from African, Indigenous, Asian, Middle Eastern, European, or Latin American and Caribbean contexts,” the job posting by the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Department states.

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Connecticut Attorney General’s Office Receives Criticism for Poor Fiscal Management

Connecticut’s top law enforcement office is being faulted for poor accounting practices that have cost the state millions of dollars in unretrievable debt and allowing unauthorized overtime that tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report by the state Auditors of Public Accounts, released Wednesday, found that an estimated $10 million owed to the AG’s office and other state agencies from court settlements and other receivables is “unrecoverable” and cited decades of lax accounting practices for the loss of revenue to state coffers.

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Connecticut Police Union Votes ‘No Confidence’ in Leadership

The union representing Connecticut state troopers has taken a vote of “no confidence” in the police agency’s leadership, citing their response to the controversy over a phony ticket scandal.

The union spells out its grievances in a scathing letter to State Police Commissioner James Rovella and Deputy Commissioner Colonel Stavros Mellekas, accusing them of fostering “an environment of mistrust” in the agency and that has “failed to protect their Troopers” and of making decisions “based on self-preservation.”

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Connecticut Bans Harvest of Horseshoe Crabs

Connecticut has banned the harvesting of horseshoe crabs along its coastline amid concerns about the ecological health of the species, which is prized for its life-saving blue blood.

The ban, approved by the state Legislature, outlaws horseshoe crab hand harvesting beginning on October 1. Anyone caught violating the law faces a $25 fine for each crab harvested. There are exemptions for scientific and medical purposes if it is determined that doing so will not harm the overall horseshoe crab population.

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Connecticut Taps Federal Pandemic Funds for Free School Meals

Connecticut is tapping into federal funding to provide hundreds of thousands of public school students with free breakfast and lunch.

The state Department of Education announced that $16 million of funding the state received from the American Rescue Plan Act will be diverted to Connecticut’s free school meals program for the 2023-2024 school year, allowing students to get free meals regardless of their family’s income.

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Appeals Court Upholds Connecticut Ban on Religious Exemptions

A federal appeals court has upheld a 2021 Connecticut law banning religious exemptions for immunization requirements for schools, colleges and early education, but critics of the restrictions are vowing to take their case to the Supreme Court.

In the 2-1 ruling issued on Friday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling that rejected a lawsuit challenging the repeal of the state’s long-held religious exemptions to childhood vaccines. 

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