HARTFORD — Connecticut residents seeking to understand the Iran nuclear agreement can have their questions answered at a community forum on Thursday in Hartford.
Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) will host Chris Backemeyer of the U.S. Department of State for a community forum on the Iran nuclear agreement.
The meeting will be held Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at a location to be announced.
This meeting is a part of President Barack Obama’s overall strategy to win approval of the Nuclear deal with Iran.
Larson supported Obama’s Iran agreement on July 31. Backemeyer is the Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy, and served as the lead sanctions expert in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran will help demystify why the U.S. is helping to stop Iran from building a bomb and what it means to Americans.
“Obviously this is a complex issue, and there is a significant amount of information to be debated and considered,” said Larson. “I am hosting this forum in the hopes of providing more information and gathering additional feedback. It is an honor to have Mr. Backemeyer join me, and I know my constituents will benefit greatly from his insights.”
In the weeks since the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), Larson has attended numerous briefings both classified and otherwise with officials in the State Department and intelligence community.
He has also spoken directly with President Obama, and gathered feedback from constituents and advocacy groups on both sides of this agreement. His full statement can be found here.
Connecticut gained 4,100 jobs in July as the unemployment rate fell to a seven-year low of 5.4 percent, marking three consecutive months of job growth that have brought the state’s unemployment rate close to the U.S. average of 5.3 percent.
Average private-sector weekly pay was $958.91, up 2 percent over a year ago. The increase represents a gain in buying power, since the consumer price index rose by just two-tenths of a percent.
The report released Thursday by the Connecticut Department of Labor was one of the rosiest since the start of the state’s slow recovery from the great recession of 2008. The unemployment rate hasn’t been as low as 5.4 percent since May 2008.
“This is good news – our state should recognize the progress we’re making,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement. “Jobs are dramatically up, the unemployment rate is significantly down, and we’re on track to reach private sector job levels that the state hasn’t seen since before the Great Recession.”
Overall, the state now has regained 102,000 jobs, or 85.7 percent of the 119,000 seasonally adjusted positions lost from March 2008 to February 2010, when the recovery began. The private sector now has recovered 97 percent of the 111,600 jobs it lost.
“Connecticut is certainly recovering, and we seem to be accelerating somewhat,” said Peter Gioia, an economist at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. “But we’re not alone in that other states still seem to be outperforming us.”
Massachusetts, with a larger economy, gained 7,200 jobs in July and has an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent.
Democratic legislative leaders saw only positive news in the report.
“Connecticut’s economic development policies are helping businesses create jobs, and the state’s job training programs like STEP-Up are preparing workers for a 21st century economy. There’s more work to do but this is extremely positive news,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.
“Early on, the General Assembly partnered with Governor Malloy to make smart, targeted investments aimed at creating jobs, and our efforts are bearing fruit,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.
The report comes as the state’s business climate still generates bad press. General Electric, headquartered in Fairfield, is considering moving out of state, blaming Connecticut’s fiscal environment.
The report is based on preliminary nonfarm employment data for July gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Six of the 10 “super sectors” tracked by the BLS gained jobs, led by 1,600 jobs in health and education, 1,100 in financial activities, 1,000 in government and 600 in manufacturing.
Construction was the biggest loser, seeing a loss of 2,300 jobs. But it still has net growth of 1,900 over the year.
Growth was uneven throughout the state, with gains in the Harford region and lower Fairfield County and losses in the New Haven market and eastern Connecticut. Danbury reported no changes.
The private sector numbers in Connecticut have a built-in anomaly: Two major employers — the tribal casinos of eastern Connecticut — are owned by sovereign governments and are listed as public-sector employers.
The casinos have been shedding jobs for months in the face of new competition in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.
HARTFORD — Hartford police on Monday arrested a local man for allegedly possessing a gun illegally and resisting arrest.
Amauris Flores, 21, of Hartford, was charged with criminal possession of a firearm, violating his probation from a protective order and interfering with police.
Flores, a convicted felon was taken into custody after police interrogated him at his Main Street apartment on Monday. Police found him in possession of a loaded .22 caliber revolver, which is a violation of his probation, police said.
Officers said Flores “forcefully pulled away” from officers when they tried to apprehend him. He was handcuffed after police chased him, police said.
WETHERSFIELD — After a surprised investigation into the employment practices of beauty shops, the Department of Labor closed 23 salons, including five in Hartford, state officials said.
The investigation, officials said, is in response to several complaints from nail salon employees and recent news articles about questionable health and employment practices at nail salons.
According to State Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer, as a result of these investigations the wage division recovered more than $47,350 in owed wages for the employees – primarily for required minimum wage payments – and expects to collect additional money for workers.
An additional $79,000 in civil penalties was levied and collected for under reporting payroll and paying employees in cash and $21,300 for wage and hour violations.
Unannounced visits to the salons on Aug. 3 resulted in Stop Work orders being placed on the following establishments:
Hartford: La Nails, American Nails, Modern Nails, Pink Nails, Touch Nails
New Haven: Magic Nail and Spa, Fashion Nail and Spa, Outo Nails
Stamford: Fiji Nail Salon, Cozy Nail Salon, Classic Nails, Lux Nails, Ace Nails
Branford: Oasis Nails, Pretty Nail and Spa, Sera Nail Salon, Town Nails, Simply Nails
Westport/Darien/Southport: Posh Nail and Spa LLC (3 locations), Queen Nail and Spa, Finger Nails
According to Gary Pechie, Director of the Wage and Workplace Standards Division, labor agents and investigators determined that workers were being paid in cash with no payroll records, wages were below the minimum wage of $9.15 per hour, and no overtime payment was being provided.
Officials said all 23 salons are now in compliance with state workplace laws and have been allowed to resume operations.
BERLIN — After state police Berlin man on Wednesday was arrested for child pornography distribution.
Cory Korchman, 25, of 110 Shrub Road in Berlin was arrested on Aug. 11 after state Police Computer Crimes Unit initiated an investigation into child pornography and seized a computer and multiple computer related items.
Korchma was taken into custody and transported to Troop H-Hartford where he was processed.
He is held on $ $150, 000 bond, and presented in court on Aug. 11.
WETHERSFIELD – The importance of selecting the correct type of flame resistant clothing will be discussed during a Breakfast Roundtable Discussion Group meeting sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Guest speaker Peter Kumiega, New England sales manager for Bulwark FR Apparel, will provide information and answer questions during the 8:15 to 9:45 a.m. roundtable meeting to be held at the agency’s Central Office, 200 Folly Brook Blvd. in, Wethersfield on Aug. 18.
The morning session will include a continental breakfast.
“When it comes to selecting this type of clothing, employers and their employees face many options,” explains John Able, CONN-OSHA Certified Safety Professional and coordinator of the Breakfast Roundtable Discussion Group. “As a certified trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the flame resistant industry, Peter will use his expertise to help guide people in the right direction.”
Kumiega will focus on three points: understanding flame resistant options and how they relate to NFPA 70e and 2012 standards; the effects of the new OSHA standard 1910.269; and tips for partnering with a supplier that can meet specific company needs.
According to Able, admission to the seminar is free, but pre-registration is required. Please contact Able at email@example.com or call him at (860) 263 – 6902 to register for the breakfast roundtable or for additional information.
HARTFORD — The state’s college system will have a college fair for residents in August to encourage them to stay in Connecticut.
A “Super Saturday Registration Blitz” will be held at the Connecticut Community Colleges on August 22 to allow students to “Stay Near. Go Far.” with their college education. The 12 community colleges of the Connecticut State College and Universities (CSCU) system will host this event to help new community college students enroll in fall classes.
The “Super Saturday Registration Blitz” will offer one-stop access to fall 2015 class registration at the state’s 12 community colleges. On Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., campuses will be open for registration and application fee waivers will be available. Community college staff members will also assist students through the registration process and with class schedules, course selection, financial aid, testing and other matters. Food and refreshments will be served.
“At the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, we are making it easy and quick for students to enroll in fall classes,” said CSCU President Gregory Gray. “On Aug. 22, we are making community college staff available to prospective students to help get them started on the path to a college degree at the state’s community colleges — Connecticut’s best value in higher education.”
The event will be held at community college campuses statewide including: Asnuntuck Community College, Enfield; Capital Community College, Hartford; Gateway Community College, New Haven; Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport; Manchester Community College, Manchester; Middlesex Community College, Middletown; Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury; Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted; Norwalk Community College, Norwalk; Quinebaug Community College, Danielson; Three Rivers Community College, Norwich; and Tunxis Community College, Farmington.
HARTFORD — The top Republican in the state Senate charged Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state employee unions Friday with making an end run around the legislature to resolve a disability pension controversy that the state auditors said may have cost Connecticut millions of dollars in improper payments.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, also called upon Democratic legislative leaders to insist Malloy submit the agreement reached with unions – which endorses a more lenient standard for awarding disability pensions – to the General Assembly for consideration. The auditors also recommended the legislature consider the issue.
“Untold millions of taxpayer dollars have already flown out the door in unwarranted disability benefits for ineligible state government retirees,” Fasano said. “Now, Governor Malloy has handed over rule-making authority to state employee unions and said, ‘OK, go ahead and write your own eligibility standards.’
“Can you say ‘conflict of interest’?”
Fasano’s objections concern a memorandum of understanding signed by Malloy’s administration and ratified Thursday by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.
Both sides effectively agreed on how the state would implement Connecticut law regarding disability pensions. And because the parties don’t consider it to be a new contract or a contract amendment, it will not be submitted to the legislature for action, the Democratic governor’s budget office confirmed Thursday.
Spokesmen for the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate declined to comment.
But the process Malloy and the unions took runs counter to the recommendation of the state auditors of public accounts, Robert M. Ward and John C. Geragosian.
In a special June 17 report to the governor, the auditors detailed a problem that also was highlighted in a lawsuit filed this summer by state whistleblower Virginia Brown, a former attorney with the retirement services division in the comptroller’s office.
According to state law, an employee is disabled for up to 24 months if unable to perform the duties for which he or she was hired because of job conditions. After that, the employee may continue on disability retirement only if certain other conditions are met. In particular, that employee must not be able to perform some other “suitable or comparable” state occupation.
Both the auditors and Brown assert that, at times, workers have been allowed to maintain disability pay as long as their injury prevented them from returning to their original job.
“Democrats will likely not want to touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, but it is not something that is going away,” Fasano said, adding that Senate Republicans would introduce legislation next year to reform the disability pension system. “… Republicans will not allow Connecticut taxpayers to be disrespected as their money gets wasted time and time again in our one-party-rule state.”
“Isn’t it pretty hypocritical for the minority leader to advocate for this for his friends on one day, but send out statements (of opposition) the next?” Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia responded.
Puglia was referring to Fasano’s advocacy for a publicly financed pension for East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo.
“Seems like he has one standard for his friends and then another standard for everyone else,” Puglia said.
The state retirement commission, which also administers the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System, determined Maturo, a Republican, could not collect a disability pension – related to his work as a firefighter – while also collecting his salary as mayor.
Fasano argued this was unfair given that the state commission also determined it was OK for longtime Democratic activist Marilynn Cruz-Aponte to collect a regular pension for her work in New Britain government while also receiving a salary as assistant to the public works director in Hartford.
Hartford attorney Daniel Livingston said the memorandum on disability pensions basically returns the state to an interpretation it has followed for most of the past three decades: If a disabled worker cannot return to his or her original job within 24 months, they are entitled to an ongoing disability pension. Livingston could not be reached for comment Friday.
Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo also questioned whether this was the correct interpretation of the law after he took office in 2011. And while Brown asserts that Lembo and his staff pressured her not to raise concerns about how pensions were awarded, the comptroller – who insists Brown was not coerced in any way – directed the state’s Medical Examining Board to impose the more stringent disability pension standard in the fall of 2013.
But after this resulted in a significant increase in disability pension denials – and complaints from the unions – Lembo suspended all 24-month reviews and asked the administration and the unions to negotiate a solution.
Ward and Geragosian, who warned in June that millions of dollars in pension payments likely were improperly issued, either because of an incorrect standard or because of the suspension of medical reviews, urged the legislature to clarify the matter.
“This is a matter of state statute and legislative and regulatory authority,” Fasano said, adding that the legislature enacted a statute creating disability pensions and establishing the State Employees Retirement Commission to administer it, working with the comptroller. “SEBAC has no authority to draft or approve administrative rules or interpret state statutes. … This is another secret deal negotiated in the dark and is a bad joke on Connecticut taxpayers.”