MOSQUITOES TEST POSITIVE FOR WEST NILE

The State has announced that mosquitoes trapped in Stratford on July 15, 2009 have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV). These are the first WNV-positive mosquitoes identified by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) this year.
“The isolation of WNV at this time of the season is expected in Connecticut,” said Theodore G. Andreadis, Ph.D., Chief Medical Entomologist, CAES. “Based on past experience, WNV activity in mosquitoes will continue to increase through the summer and early fall. Fortunately, Connecticut has an extensive statewide mosquito monitoring program.”
In 2008, eight Connecticut residents were identified with WNV infection; they included residents of Bridgeport (3), Fairfield, Sherman, Stamford (2) and a Greenwich resident infected while travelling out of the state. There were no fatalities.
“This is the eleventh year that West Nile virus has been found in Connecticut. The recent announcement of WNV-positive mosquitoes in Stratford should be taken seriously,” said J. Robert Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner. “Residents should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites during the mosquito season and eliminate standing water on their properties.”
Monitoring and risk assessment for WNV emphasizes mosquito trapping and testing results. The CAES maintains a network of 91 mosquito-trapping stations in 72 municipalities throughout the state. Mosquito traps are set Monday – Thursday nights with trapping conducted at each site every ten days on a rotating basis. Mosquitoes are grouped (pooled) for testing according to species, collection site, and date. Each pool is tested for the presence of viruses of public health importance. Positive findings are reported to local health departments, in press releases and on the CAES web site.
For information on West Nile virus and what you can do to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes, visit the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program Web site at www.ct.gov/mosquito.

LIEBERMAN-GRAHAM AMENDMENT PASSES

Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lauded the Senate’s adoption of their amendment expressing the sense of Congress that members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists captured on the battlefield should be tried by military commissions rather than in federal courts in towns and cities across America.
“If anyone believes we are not at war with Al Qaeda, they should review the excerpts of the combatant status review tribunal with Khalid Sheikh Mohommad (KSM),” said Graham. “KSM, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on America, made it clear he is at war with us. Our nation is engaged in a deadly conflict with a ruthless enemy. These are not common criminals who robbed a liquor store. They are warriors committed to their cause which is the destruction of our nation. When captured, they need to be tried as a military threat under the rules of military law. Military commissions, not federal district court, are appropriate venue for these trials.”
“These are terrorists who have committed heinous acts against our citizens, our country, our allies, and all standards of human decency,” Lieberman said. “This year’s National Defense Authorization Act creates a robust military commission system that surpasses the standards of fundamental fairness and due process required by our own Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. We have used military commissions to try war criminals throughout our nation’s history, beginning with their use by our first President, General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. We are at war today, and we should not deviate from our time-honored practice of using military commissions to prosecute violations of the laws of war.”
The Senators introduced the amendment in response to a report released Monday by a joint Department of Justice and Department of Defense Detention Policy Task Force charged with developing options for handling Guantanamo detainees. The Task Force announced the administration’s policy that “There is a presumption that, where feasible, referred case will be prosecuted in an Article III court, in keeping with traditional principles of federal prosecution.” With passage of the Lieberman-Graham amendment, the Senate has sent a strong message that there should be no such presumption. To the contrary, the Senate’s vote reflects that these terrorists are war criminals not common criminals and that they should accordingly be tried by military commission.

LARSON HOUSING AND EDUCATIONAL PRIORITIES APPROVED BY CONGRESS

The House of Representatives approved funding requested by Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) for critical housing and social services projects in the Hartford area at the Hartford Housing Authority, Mercy House and Shelter Corporation and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Hartford. The funding would allow for the renovation and revitalization of two local low-income housing facilities as well as the development of educational programs and facilities in distressed neighborhoods. The projects come as part of a broader bill that will help enact President Obama’s long term economic strategy to provide short term help to the neediest Americans and long term solutions to help improve our economy and give our youth the opportunity to succeed.
Congressman Larson said, “These vital projects will help our neighbors who have been hit hardest by the economic downturn now by providing them with a place to live and in the long run by giving their kids the tools to succeed in the future.”
  • The Boys and Girls Club of Hartford will receive $600,000 to establish a new presence in Hartford with a focus on decreasing neighborhood violence and giving local children new personalized educational opportunities.  The funding would allow the Boys and Girls Club to renovate space for a headquarters within the SAND Community Center and give them support to expand their educational-services during after school hours.
  • $500,000 in funding for the Hartford Housing Authority will help provide housing for those at risk of losing theirs by attracting new tenants into the apartments at Nelton Court. The complex, built in 1947 houses 90 families in units described as “non-repairable,” requiring extensive and costly upgrades to make them livable.  The less expensive plan will demolish the entire complex and replace it with approximately 80 units and a community center.
  • The Mercy House and Shelter Corporation will receive $500,000 to restore the 200 year-old landmark St. Elizabeth House to bring it up to code and make it usable for housing.
“These organizations provide vital services to our neighborhood and can help pave a pathway for a more robust local economy, a brighter future for our youth and a better sense of community on our streets,” said Congressman Larson.
These projects were included in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that will make targeted investments to provide short term help in the form of housing and jobs to those hurt most by the economic downturn and long term solutions like improved infrastructure to put our economy on sound footing for the future.  It invests in the next generation of high speed passenger rail and new commuter and light rail systems to increase our use of public transportation and help wean us off of our addiction to foreign oil.  It invests in grant programs that revitalize neighborhoods and spur economic development in vacant commercial and industrial sites and improves our nation’s aging highway system to make transportation safer and more efficient.

BLUMENTHAL REACHES DEAL WITH AT AND T

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced that AT&T has agreed to his request that it allow Connecticut consumers to block all third party charges on their phone bills.
Blumenthal earlier this month asked AT&T to give state consumers the option to block all third party fees on their phone bills to prevent unauthorized charges. He asked for the block because his office is receiving growing numbers of complaints about fees put on phone bills without consumers’ consent. His office is investigating the practice, which is called “cramming.”
“This major victory for consumers slams the crammers, nipping fraud in the bud,” Blumenthal said. “I am pleased that AT&T listened to my concerns and agreed to let Connecticut customers block all non-AT&T charges. This block is a powerful fraud fighter, scuttling scammer access to consumer bills.
“My office is vigorously and aggressively investigating alleged fraudulent charges on phone bills. If questionable fees appear on your bill, insist the phone company remove the charge and contact my office. I will fight to assure that consumers pay only for services that they want and request.”
Third party charges are typically for various services such as for pay web sites or travel services. The service providers hire so-called “aggregators” who contract with AT&T to put their clients’ charges on AT&T bills.
Scammers use a variety of methods to get their charges on phone bills, including deceptive web ads to trick consumers into signing up.
Consumers with unauthorized charges on their phone bills should call the Attorney General’s Office at (860) 808-5240.
Consumers will be able to request a full block by late September.

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ANNOUNCES TRANSPORTATION PLAN

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is announcing the completion of the State’s 2009 Long-Range Transportation Plan (2009 LRP). The LRP is a federally mandated policy document that outlines the State of Connecticut‘s transportation policies and strategies for at least a 20-year period. It is updated every three to five years. The 2009 LRP, which updates the 2004 LRP, covers the period 2009 – 2035.
The 2009 LRP includes a strategic five-point action plan for prioritizing the State’s investments in the transportation system. It will serve as a framework for developing future, more project-specific transportation planning documents such as the Department’s 2011Master Transportation Plan and the State Transportation Improvement Program,” said Commissioner Marie.
The Department solicited public input on transportation issues and priorities prior to and during the development of the 2009 LRP. “In developing this plan, the Department reviewed and considered the Connecticut’s Transportation Strategy Board’s January 2007 report, the State Plan of Conservation and Development, regional long-range transportation plans and various other transportation-related plans and studies.  We also considered public input received in the fall of 2007 during the public comment period and seven Listening Sessions that were held prior to the development of a draft plan, and throughout the 45-day public review and comment period on the draft LRP, which ended on April 30, 2009,” said Commissioner Marie.
This document, titled Connecticut on the Move, Strategic Long-Range Transportation Plan, 2009 – 2035, is available on the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s web site at http://www.ct.gov/dot/LRP for viewing and downloading

HARRIS SUPPORTS STANDARD WAGE VETO OVERRIDE

State Senator Jonathan A. Harris (D-West Hartford), the Senate Chairman of the Public Health Committee, today joined in a Senate override of several of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s recent vetoes, including her killing of a bill which would raise the wages of people who toil cleaning state buildings or otherwise maintaining state property.
House Bill 6502, “An Act Concerning the Standard Wage for Certain Connecticut Workers,” creates a new method for determining the hourly wage and benefits for employees under Connecticut’s standard wage law, which governs compensation for employees of private contractors who do building and property maintenance, property management, and food service work in state buildings. The governor vetoed the bill on July 2.
“If we can’t make an investment to provide health care for the people who clean the bathrooms and sweep the floors in state buildings and who cut the lawns and plow the parking lots of state properties — if we can’t treat them fairly keep them and their families from sliding into the taxpayer-funded HUSKY health care program which costs us more — I say shame on us,” Sen. Harris said. “Fortunately, this legislation benefitted from a bipartisan veto override in the Senate, which recognizes that this is the right thing to do and will save taxpayers in the long run.”
The House overrode Gov. Rell’s veto of HB 6502 on a 106-35 vote; the Senate overrode her veto 30-6, with half of the Republican Senate caucus joining with the Democrats in the veto override.

SENATE PRESIDENT STATEMENT ON VETO SESSION

“Today was an historic day for families and businesses across Connecticut. The legislature took action to improve Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure, remove politics from the budget forecasting process, help protect Long Island Sound from environmental threats, and address skyrocketing health care costs.”
“Of course, there is no question that the Sustinet bill is one of the highlights of today’s veto session. Anthem’s recent proposal to increase rates by an average of 23 percent should be a reminder to everyone that the status quo isn’t acceptable — not for families and not for businesses.”
“We must control costs, improve access, and grow jobs. The passage of the SustiNet bill will help Connecticut do this and prepare for national reform that President Obama and Congress are working on right now.”
All told, there were 89 Republican votes — both in the Senate and House — to override Governor Rell today. Not since 1974 has the legislature been successful in overriding so many gubernatorial vetoes. (The legislature overrode 7 vetoes in 1992 and 9 in 1974).