Thursday, June 30, 2005

Open Forum -- Malloy Update

The Malloy Q&A has been rescheduled from 11am to 3:30pm tomorrow. Sorry about the short notice! The questions I've seen from you so far have been good ones.

What else is new?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Interview, Q&A with Dan Malloy Set for Friday

I am pleased to announce that I will be posting an interview with Stamford mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Dan Malloy this Friday around 11am, after which the mayor will be responding to your questions in a forum here on the blog.

The mayor will be available, I have been told, between 11am and noon, which is a small window. Therefore, if you have a question you want to ask of the mayor but won't be around to post it, you can email it to me and I will post it for you with your username attached. My email is jeenaone(at)gmail(dot)com.

Some straightforward ground rules: Be civil. No name calling, no vicious snark, nothing offensive. I'll be moderating, and I'll remove anything that's inappropriate. However, I trust that most people who frequent this blog will ask thoughtful, insightful questions. All questions pertinent to Connecticut poltics and the Malloy campaign in particular are certainly fair game.

Second, in the interest of fair play, campaign staffers (especially those from other campaigns) should probably refrain from asking questions. Agreed?

It's my hope that we'll be able to do something like this for all the candidates for governor and for any other candidate who is interested.

Special Session Ends

Campaign Finance Reform Not Addressed

The special session ended early this morning without any movement on campaign finance reform, the AP is reporting. However, lawmakers did pass a mammoth transportation bill, as well as a bill endorsing Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's No Child Left Behind lawsuit against the federal government, an amendment to a budget implementer that would limit the governor's ability to privatize state services, and several smaller measures.

It's disappointing that campaign finance reform wasn't even brought up, and it's also disappointing that nothing was done about Connecticut's eminent domain laws in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling. Both could be addressed in additional special sessions, should they be called.

However, chances of that are slim at best.

The session's results were mixed for the governor, who saw her transportation plan passed by wide margins and mostly unaltered. However, she also saw Democrats tack what amounts to a limitation on her powers to privatize state services onto a budget implementation bill. She has not taken kindly to legislative attempts to curtail the power of the governor's office--she vetoed two bills that attempted to do that earlier this week. However, it's unlikely that she will veto the bill the amendment is attached to, if only because it was a large bill that took a lot of negotiation.

Still, the governor has now seen a majority of her plans implemented by the legislature, with the glaring exception of campaign finance reform. Not bad for someone being dismissed as a "lightweight" a year ago.

"Lawmakers wrap up special session with transportation plan, education lawsuit." Associated Press 29 June, 2005.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Connecticut Worst in Nation in Job Growth

FDIC Data Shows Employment At Early 1990s Level

Connecticut, apparently, never really recovered from the recession of the early 1990s. A lot of us have suspected as much for a long time, but here, at last, is the proof:

Connecticut has the worst job stagnation in the country, with employment only slightly higher now than at the beginning of the 1990s, a federal agency said Tuesday.

The state has lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 15 years and had the lowest growth in its professional and business services sector in New England, according to a report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. ...
FDIC officials said in a conference call that Connecticut's lack of job growth stems from the state's slow population growth and the steady loss of manufacturing jobs.(AP)

Connecticut, as the article correctly notes, relied heavily on the insurance, banking and defense industries for the boom we experienced during the 1980s. The recession of the early 1990s cut deep into those traditional employers, forcing many of them to either cut staff (Aetna), merge with larger companies (Travelers), relocate out of state (pick one) or shut down completely (countless smaller firms). We have, to put it bluntly, not recovered. The looming loss of the sub base will be yet another nail in the coffin of the old economy.

To make matters worse, our population growth is slowing to a crawl, as is traffic through the state. The cost of living is high, here, and the climate can be a little rough for the uninitiated.

So what can be done? What should the government be doing to help? I think a pertinent question is whether or not a government can legislate economic growth, or whether economic cycles happen independently of government. I believe that government actions do have an effect on the economy, but only up to a certain point. That being said, here's what the government can do:

1. Transportation. We need cheap, reliable public transportation linking the major urban and suburban centers of the state. This could take the form of rail lines, river lines, better bus services, busways, or anything else people can think of. Just don't put Amtrak in charge of it. We also need to upgrade the infrastructure of the state's highway system to handle the crushing pressure put on it every day.

2. Education. This is one of our strengths. Connecticut is home to many fine colleges and universities. Unfortunately, our state university system is not up to the standard of, say, Pennsylvania's. We can do better. We can also make sure that students who have the ability to go to college will be able to attend. One idea I keep hearing that I like is akin to the G.I. bill--students who put in a set amount of public service of some sort during college will get an awful lot of financial assistance. The government can also provide technology-heavy job retraining programs for people who are out of work.

3. Encouraging Businesses to Open and Stay. We do a poor job of this, and it isn't just because of taxes. There are other ways to support businesses. We don't have to rely on the old standbys of cutting taxes, keeping wages low and abolishing regulation (the evidence for the efficacy of these plans is spotty and mixed, to say the least). Addressing the pressing need of cities and towns for more state aid will help remove some of the property tax burden on business owners, and streamlining regulations to make business easier while still addressing the concerns the regulations were established for are steps in the right direction. A well-educated workforce and 21st century infrastructure will go a long way towards encouraging and retaining businesses as well.

Lord, I sound like I'm running for something. But there certainly are at least some steps the government can take. After that...? We may have to do the rest on our own, if we want to avoid the fate of so many other regions of the Rust Belt.

To drive home the point about just how much the state has done to spur job growth since the early 1990s, here's something I used to see when I commuted from Enfield to Newington every day back in 2000:

In a cracked and overgrown parking lot by the side of I-91 in Hartford, right near the Colt Building, sat a rusting, abandoned tractor trailer. On the side of it were the words: "The NEW Connecticut: Where JOBS are the 1st Priority!" It had been there for years.

The truck, and the slogan, were relics of the Weicker administration. I doubt that anyone had dusted off either since.

"State's Job Stats Grim." Associated Press 28 June, 2005.

Special Session: What Should We Expect?

Legislative Overtime Hopefully Begins Today

The special legislative session, which was supposed to have begun yesterday, will instead, with any luck, convene today. Here's what we can expect:

1. Slow but deliberate movement on campaign finance reform. I don't know how likely it is that something will be passed, but we can always hope. The House and Senate versions of the bill can be reconciled, if lawmakers are willing to compromise a bit more.

2. A transportation bill. Some kind of legislation is going to pass and be signed. Whether it's anything like the one the governor proposed back at the beginning of the session is up in the air.

3. The beginnings of a change on eminent domain. Legislators have everything to gain from acting to block cities and towns from taking land for private development in the wake of the unpopular Kelo v. New London decision. A passed bill may be a bit farfetched, though. Next year?

4. Grandstanding and posturing. Gov. Rell, fresh off a couple of vetoes of bills aimed at limiting the power of her office, is probably going to resort to more strongarm tactics to get campaign finance reform and transportation passed. Also, we should expect to see Blumenthal desperately trying to convince a reluctant legislature to endorse his No Child Left Behind lawsuit against the federal government. And what's a legislative session without Jim Amann saying something stupid? I can't wait.

The session probably won't last more than a week or so. After it's done, we have a long summer of waiting for Rell and Blumenthal to make up their minds ahead of us.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

New Poll

A poll has been posted about the Kelo v. New London decision (below the maps). Vote and, if you like, tell us why you voted the way you did here. This post can also be used as an open forum.

State May Change Eminent Domain Laws

Blumenthal Supported New London Decision

There's a possibility (although not a very strong one right now) of the state changing eminent domain laws in the wake of the Kelo v. New London decision released Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court:

Mrs. Rell, a Republican, issued a cautious response to the closely watched court ruling, one that found economic development, not just blight removal, an appropriate use of the government's power of eminent domain
"The governor said it is an issue the legislature ought to consider," said Dennis Schain, Mrs. Rell's spokesman. (Stowe)

Robert Ward, the House Minority Leader, was less cautious in his response:

Robert M. Ward, a Republican who is the House minority leader, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the court's ruling. Mr. Ward said he will introduce legislation in the next session of the General Assembly in February to protect property owners from losing their homes or businesses in the name of economic development.

Mr. Ward tried to get a similar bill adopted in the last legislative session. It would have removed the economic development provision from the state's eminent domain laws, allowing the government to seize only blighted property. He said Utah adopted a similar bill in March. The Connecticut bill died in committee. (Stowe)

This is a good idea and ought to be done as soon as possible. Using eminent domain to take private property for private economic development is an abuse of government power, and should not be classified as acting in the interest of the public.

Democratic leaders around the state have been eerily quiet about the decision, except for one:

On Thursday, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, first praised the court's decision as "vindicating long established eminent domain principles." He tempered his remarks on Friday, saying Connecticut's eminent domain law "deserves serious, critical scrutinizing" to ensure that it protects private property rights. (Stowe)

A masterful job of backpedaling. No word out of either the DeStefano or the Malloy campaigns about the decision, and the legislative leadership has also been mute. Why are state Democrats so quiet about this? They shouldn't be; they run the risk of being seen as against private property rights. Something like that could very well make Connecticut Republicans relevant again.

Stowe, Stacey. "Rell Seeks Legislative Review of Ruling on Eminent Domain." New York Times 25 June, 2005.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Open Forum

Lots to talk about today...

Gov. Rell leaning towards running, says the Courant. Enough flattering articles like these and she won't need to raise a dime! The most interesting tidbit is that she's ready for Blumenthal, should he run--and she already has good arguments against him, such as the fact that he sues all his problems and is cautious to a fault.

The New Haven Advocate has a long article profiling the DeStefano campaign.

Dan Malloy, meanwhile, is busy attacking Rell for her comments that she has "no big disappointments" after her first year in office, citing what he feels are her failures in office.

What else is happening?

Supreme Court: New London May Seize Fort Trumbull for Private Development

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, decided today that cities may indeed take land through eminent domain for private redevelopment. This apparently now qualifies as public use under the Constitution.

There are some good places to go for the full story and analysis:

AP Story

Connecticut Law Blog

SCOTUSblog (there are also links to opinions here)

I think it stinks. Private development that will only tangentially affect the lives of most people in New London is at the very fringes of "public use." Here is what Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had to say:

Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded–i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public–in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings “for public use” is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property–and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. (link to opinion)

This is a very slippery slope, as Justice O'Connor realizes.

So now what was once a perfectly functional working-class neighborhood will be destroyed, to be replaced by shops, apartments and entertainment for the well-to-do, in the hopes that some of the money generated might somehow find its way down to the people of New London. This is the public good? I can't see the justice in it. I just can't.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Blue Back Square Approved -- Again

For the second time, voters in West Hartford have approved the Blue Back Square redevelopment project, which had been vigorously denounced by a strange alliance of those who oppose big shopping areas in their towns--and Westfarms Mall. The mall, the less trendy end of which is located in the less trendy end of West Hartford, fears a big drop in profits should Blue Back revive the center.

This is an honest effort to renew a run-down and mostly empty section of town, and, even if it weren't, West Hartford residents approved it by wide margins. Twice. Not that this will stop Westfarms: legal challenges will continue apace until the square is built. I suppose having a toe in Farmington makes one feel entitled.

In the meantime, construction can finally begin. I just hope they get it up quickly.

Puleo, Tom. "Voters OK Blue Back Square." Hartford Courant 22 June, 2005.

Talkin' Baseball

Navigators to Stay in Norwich

Baseball may seem like a digression from local politics, but not when it comes to the weird relationship between franchises the cities they play in.

Today the Norwich Navigators announced plans to stay in Norwich through 2009, ending speculation that Connecticut was about to lose its second Eastern League team in as many years (the New Haven Ravens left Yale Field last year for Manchester, New Hampshire, where they are faring ever so slightly better in terms of attendance).

The Navigators had reason to leave. Attendance has been falling since the newness of the team wore off (168,559 last year, down from 281,473 in 1995) and the stadium is out in the middle of a big patch of nothing that bills itself as an industrial park. Access to the stadium from the highway is confusing and frustrating, and the stadium itself (assuming you can find it) is a pretty typical cookie-cutter suburban stadium. I attended a number of games there during the 1990s, and wasn't particularly impressed. New Haven at least had Yale Field, and New Britain had the decency to paint the seats green.

So if the Navs were going to stay... Norwich was going to have to pay up.

As part of the deal to keep the franchise, the city agreed to lower the rent on the stadium from $175,000 to $140,000 and pick up the cost of police coverage. (AP)

Police guide cars all the way from the highway to the stadium, so that's no small cost. But Norwich counts itself lucky that the Navs are staying at all. Professional sports matter to communities (ask Hartford about the Whalers sometime), and sports franchises know it. Actually, a lot of the team's problems weren't the fault of the city, such as the fact that the Navs haven't done a decent job of marketing. The owners even admit this:

"We need to do a few of the basic things right," [limited partner Glenn] Carberry said. "This market is large enough to generate a successful franchise. We've done it before, and we can do it again." (AP)

But because cities desperately want to hang on to their teams, the management can dig themselves into a huge hole financially, beg the city to bail them out, and generally have the city do just that. Gladly. No politician wants to bear the stigma of losing the city's sports teams (although it doesn't seem to have hurt John DeStefano, who oversaw the departure of two hockey teams, a basketball team and the Ravens from New Haven).

So Norwich will continue to have baseball, at a price. All in all, they got off pretty easy. The Navigators could have asked for a new downtown ballpark. In New London.

"Navigators To Get New Name, But Will Remain In Connecticut." Associated Press 23 June 2005.

Connecticut Activity in D.C.

What Are Our Representatives in Washington Up To?

Let's check in on our fine representation in Congress, shall we? What have they been doing lately?

Chris Dodd

Senator Dodd is busy pressing the Bush Administration for more information on John Bolton, whose nomination has been held up by Dodd and Senate Democrats (plus a Republican or two) for weeks. The possibility of a recess appointment (he would be installed without Senate backing) looms for Bolton:

Labeled up front as a short-timer and lacking the backing of the Senate could hamstring Bolton in the eyes of the international community and further polarize Congress.

"You want to send someone there that has the confidence not only of the president but also the Senate," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., a leading Bolton critic. (Raum).

On the home front, the entire congressional delegation has been quietly holding strategy meetings with consultants to try and figure out how to save the Sub Base.

Status: Active and visible
Focus: Mostly national

Joe Lieberman

Lieberman has apparently teamed up with John McCain again, this time to defend the environment:

A more ambitious proposal, strongly opposed by the White House, was expected to be offered by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., that would require greenhouse emissions to be cut back to where they were in 2000 within five years. It also would allow for an emissions credit trading system aimed at holding down the costs to industry. (Hebert)

It doesn't have a chance, of course. But good for him for trying!

He is attending the Sub Base strategy sessions, and continuing to press the DOD for more information about the base closing decision.

Status: Active, somewhat visible
Focus: Mostly national

John Larson

Larson has attended sub base strategy sessions. Last month, he was the only member of the congressional delegation to vote for an amendment that would have required the administration to develop a withdrawl plan for Iraq. He also voted to exempt libraries from Patriot Act scrutiny. But really, that's about all.

Status: Not very active, invisible, probably napping
Focus: Doing what the other Democrats are doing

Rob Simmons

Simmons went to Kings Bay, Georgia last week, to check out the sub base there. Not surprisingly, he deemed it inadequate:

Speaking to the media in his Norwich office Saturday afternoon, Simmons called the Georgia base a "very nice facility but also very limited."

Comparing the two bases would be like comparing apples to oranges, he said.
Groton is a fast-attack submarine base, while Kings Bay is a Trident submarine base.

Tridents are larger than fast-attack subs, and are manned and maintained differently.
"(Kings Bay) was designed from the ground up to be a Trident submarine base. You cannot simply take a fast-attack crew and personnel and stick them in a Trident facility," Simmons said. (Tsai)

On the national scene, Simmons voted to deny federal funding to marshals trying to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a county courthouse in Indiana.

U.S. Rep. Robert R. Simmons, R-2nd District, voted to deny federal marshals funds to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lawn of a southern Indiana courthouse because he sees the issue as a matter of states' rights, his top aide said today.
Simmons was the lone member of the state's House delegation to vote in favor of an amendment to a Justice Department appropriations bill proposed by Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind.

It marked the third time in as many years that Simmons has supported similar amendments proposed by Hostettler... (Michak)

He also voted against an amendment to condemn religious proselytizing in the military.

Status: Active, somewhat visible
Focus: 575 acres in Groton

Rosa DeLauro

DeLauro, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, helped to secure contracts for Sikorsky’s Black Hawk helicopters.

She also criticized the administration for not doing enough to prevent mad cow disease:

"It's just a lot of talk," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a senior House Democrat on food and farm issues. "It's a lot of talk, a lot of press releases, and no action." (Quaid)

She’s also spoken on a few workers’ issues, but little else.

Status: Somewhat active
Focus: Moooooo....

Christopher Shays

Shays has been joining some Democrats in expressing concern over Halliburton contracts in Iraq and the mass of money being shifted to that country in general:

Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress berated the Pentagon for withholding information about Halliburton's disputed billing under a $2.5 billion contract for Iraqi oil site repairs and fuel imports.

Saying the Pentagon is acting as if "it has something to hide," Representative Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut, said at a hearing Tuesday that he would support issuing a subpoena to the Pentagon next week if it did not provide long-requested documents relating to the contract, which was awarded to Halliburton in early 2003 without competition. (Eckholm)

He also co-sponsored an alternative to withholding U.N. dues, which failed.

Apparently, he also got a sword from Ross Perot. Weird.

Status: Active, becoming less visible
Focus: Finding that elusive moderate niche in Congress

Nancy Johnson

She introduced a bill in the House that would help make long term care 100% tax-deductible.

She’s also attended the Sub Base strategy sessions.

Nothing much else.

Status: Entrenched
Focus: Why bother?

That's the roundup for this week. If you know of anything else that our congressional delegation is up to, good or bad, post it here.

Quoted Sources

Hebert, Joseph. "Senate backs offshore energy inventory." Associated Press 22 June, 2005.

Raum, Tom. "Few Options for Bush on U.N. Nominee." Associated Press 22 June, 2005.

Tsai, Jason. "Simmons: Kings Bay falls short." Norwich Bulletin 19 June, 2005.

Michak, Don. "Simmons stands alone in defending Ten Commandments display." Journal Inquirer 20 June 2005.

Quaid, Libby. " Critics: US Doing Too Little to Prevent 'Mad Cow'." Associated Press 18 June, 2005.

Eckholm, Erik. " Pentagon criticized in Iraq billing dispute." The New York Times 23 June, 2005.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Rell Won't Attend GOP Fundraiser

Will Her Absence Hurt Her Next Year?

Governor Rell is going to skip the fundraising part of the Republican Governors' Association regional meeting next Monday in Boston:

Rell, who has given no hints about her plans for 2006, is attending the association's regional meeting next Monday in Boston. But she is leaving before the group's major piece of business: a big-ticket fundraiser. (Pazniokas)

Governors' associations have become serious fundraising machines, and can donate millions to state parties. If Gov. Rell is running next year, this is a can't-miss event, filled with rich executives and lobbyists. So why is she skipping it? There are two possibilities:

1. She isn't running. Why should she go to an event that has no significance for her? While this is certainly a possibility (she hasn't said a word one way or the other) I rather doubt it. My feeling is that she'll decide there's too much business left unfinished to walk away.

2. She doesn't like the company. Here's a description of what the fundraiser would entail:

The Boston Globe reported Monday that donations of up to $50,000 would buy lobbyists, business executives and others a day of "close, casual access" to Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and five other Republican governors, culminating in an outing at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. (Pazniokas)

Governor Rell, according to the Courant, hasn't met with lobbyists since becoming governor (a question: did she meet with them before becoming governor?). It could be that she wants to steer clear of these sorts of people to preserve her image as the prim, ethical, untainted reformer.

Then again, the idea of "close, casual access" time with business executives, lobbyists and other assorted scum may not be her cup of tea. Can't blame her. A schmoozer she ain't, unlike her predecessor, who thrived at events like these.

This, of course, leads to the question of how on earth she's planning to raise significant money if she's running next year. It's hard to imagine that she'll take in much money from traditional sources like, say, lobbyists and contractors--even if they contributed to her she would probably return the money.

This could be one of the unusual races in which a Democratic candidate actually outraises and outspends the Republican, since Democratic candidates (so far) seem to have no compunctions about where their money is coming from. A monetary advantage could either level the playing field and nullify the incumbent advantage--or sink the Democratic candidate entirely, depending on the public's mood. Either way, it isn't going to be a normal race.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Rell Skips GOP Governors' Fundraiser." Hartford Courant 21 June, 2005.

Monday, June 20, 2005

New Weekly Polls

I've put two new polls up on the sidebar. The first has to do with political persuasion. The second is about the legislative session, which may seem a little late. However, now that the thing's been over and done with for more than a week, we can think back on the whole session instead of focusing solely on the debate over campaign finance reform. So go ahead and vote, and feel free to defend your answers here if you like.

In other news, I've seen some posts both here and on the DeStefano blog about the appropriation of "," which happens to be the name of the Malloy blog, by the DeStefano campaign. It's a fair move, but not a particularly civil or nice one. It reminds me of the Google bombing that both sides engaged in during last year's presidential campaign: such as orchestrating links so that whenever someone typed "waffles" into Google, for example, the Kerry for President page popped up. Legit, but not particularly mature.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Open Forum

Anything interesting happening?

Candidate Blogs as Rapid Response

DeStefano, Malloy Blogs Dismiss Sullivan

One feature of a candidate blog that hasn't really been explored here is the capability blogs and websites in general to respond quickly to new developments. Witness the quick reaction from both the Malloy campaign and John DeStefano to Lt. Governor Kevin Sullivan's signaling of his intentions to signal his intentions to run for governor next year. Luke Bronin of the Malloy campaign had this to say about Sullivan's time in Hartford:

...I have to say, though, that I think Connecticut would do best to look to a candidate who can come to the Capitol in 2006 without the blinders and baggage of having spent decades in Hartford, through the Rowland years. It's time we had a fresh perspective, and while Kevin Sullivan has been a dedicated public servant, I think Connecticut is looking for someone who represents change and has a history of strong executive accomplishment.

On his campaign blog, John DeStefano attacked Sullivan for his contention that everyone would be out of the race if Richard Blumenthal jumped in:

If you think someone else should be Governor, you shouldn’t run for Governor—it’s too important of a job.

(Was this edited? I seem to remember a somewhat longer statement attacking Sullivan for checking the wind before running, or something like that. I may, of course, be losing my mind or remembering a different post elsewhere. That's another problem/advantage of the web--statements can be altered, and no record of the previous statement exists.)

In both cases, the campaigns responded to a news article quickly and effectively through their blogs. Blogs lend themselves to exactly this kind of rapid response; indeed, it's when they are at their best.

Sullivan (Most of the Way) In

As Ebpie noticed in the Open Forum, there is an article in today's Courant about Lt. Gov. Sullivan gingerly dipping his toe into the governor's race. Ebpie is also correct that Sullivan is far behind the other three declared candidates in fundraising, and may have difficulty catching up.

That's putting it mildly. I don't think there are many Democrats out there who are excited about the prospect of Sullivan running for governor. He did little to endear himself to Democratic voters when he was President Pro Tem of the Senate, and he's been something of a nonentity since being consigned to the Lt. Governorship, popping up only once in a while to criticize the governor before vanishing again. When Jodi Rell was Lt. Gov., she at least had that public access cable show.

Here are some choice tidbits from the article:

"What this means is I have an absolutely clear deck," Sullivan said Thursday of his ability to run for governor. "I am leaning very strongly in that direction."
"If Dick Blumenthal runs, that's going to define the race," Sullivan said. "Everyone goes away if it's Dick Blumenthal." (Pazniokas)

He's the only candidate to admit that Blumenthal, if he were to run, would have a huge advantage over other candidates. Right now Blumenthal is the elephant (donkey?) in the room for everybody else.

Rell, who turned 59 on Thursday, said she is not likely to announce her plans until after a vacation in July. The governor is hugely popular, but she has yet to assemble a campaign team or otherwise signal her intentions. (Pazniokas)

In this she kind of reminds me of George Bush the Elder, who was also loathe to assemble a campaign team or even think about the 1992 election because he wanted to focus on governing (see James Carville and Mary Matalin's book All's Fair : Love, War, and Running for President). Of course, his reluctance to focus on campaigning and his inability to campaign effectively cost him the election. I could see Rell being similarly uncomfortable with the concept of a long campaign, but she has a knack with the media and the public that George Sr. lacked.

As for Sullivan... right now his chances don't look good. One gets the feeling that he's running because he really isn't sure what else to do.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Sullivan Clears Way To Run For Governor." Hartford Courant 17 June, 2005.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

CT House of Reps. Map Updated

The state House of Representatives map is now accurate and entirely redone. The new map has far clearer high-resolution and now includes district numbers (no town names--that becomes clunky). Again, the link to the high-res map is down at the very bottom, and is titled "Original BMP." Click on this to get the high-res (3.6MB) original map, in which you can actually read the district numbers.

For a map of all districts (warning, large file) including town names check this map created by the state after redistricting in 2001. For a list of legislators by district (also created by the state), go here. You can click on the district number for a map of the town with district boundaries. Very cool!

In other news, TalkCT, Dan Malloy's blog, is up and running. It also has comments enabled. This could be a trend--and if so, it's a good one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Open Forum

The end of the legislative session has prompted a bit of a lull in political news. I am reformatting the state House of Reps. map, which is the map I am least happy with, and it should be done and posted in a day or two.

What's happening in your part of the state?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Campaign Sites - Governor

Candidates Stake Claims on Web 17 Months Before 2006 Election

In yet another sign of how American political campaigns are lengthening to the point of never really stopping, in many cases, most declared statewide candidates for the 2006 election have already invested considerable time, effort and money in their websites. Compare this to the 1996 election, the first in which campaign sites were really used, and Bob Dole's lonely web outpost (actually not too bad for the time), and you'll see just how far campaign sites have come.

Web presence is such an integral part of a campaign these days that it's difficult to see how a candidate beyond the strictly local level could be competitive without one. Your basic campaign site has information about the candidate, lots of pictures of the candidate, his/her family and happy waving supporters, some position statements and very prominent DONATE MONEY HERE section. A new feature of campaign sites is the campaign blog, which is evolving from a simple journal by the candidate or campaign staff into a much more interactive forum for (gasp) actual contact with the public. We should expect to see a lot of interesting things being done with campaign blogs next year, since the start of the current campaign cycle coincided with a sharp spike in blog influence and popularity.

So who's doing what on the web? Today we're going to look at the three declared candidates for governor. Other candidates will be examined as 2006 nears and more sites go live.

Governor 2006

Susan Bysiewicz, John DeStefano and Dan Malloy each have active websites.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz's site is nicely designed, but has very little of substance. There are plenty of pictures of the candidate, including the rotating home page pic, which could be either Susan posing with an uncomfortable-looking UCONN player or campaigning for Joe Lieberman in 2004 (see the Joe Bus in the background?). There is a nice biography of Bysiewicz, and a lot of links to various forms (campaign information, donations, newsletter, donations, volunteer, donations...). But I can't find what Bysiewicz actually stands for, not counting a few generalities sprinkled here and there about restoring integrity to the governor's office, creating jobs and other campaign cliches. This may be on purpose--after all, saying nothing specific while speaking in comforting generalities has worked well for some candidates in the past.

This site has seemed pretty dormant lately. The press releases section was last updated over a month ago, and that's the latest update I can find. There's nary a whiff of bloggery about the site--indeed, there's nothing interactive at all.

The one thing that has that the other sites lack is a prominent link to the page in Spanish. Other than that... this site is disappointing.


John DeStefano has the most expansive web presence of any candidate so far. His site has detailed policy statements, an updates list of events, lots of New Haven boosterism and a very active blog run almost entirely by staffers.

The site is easy to navigate, for the most part, and manages to convey a lot of information without feeling too cramped. There is an intense quality to the site, accentuated by hard edges and primary colors. It isn't searchable, however, and it can be a bit hard on the eyes after a while.

There's a lot to do here, including participating in Blog for Connecticut, which is the campaign/issues blog run by the staff. So far the candidate himself has only posted once or twice, which is a shame, and hasn't responded to comments. But the blog itself, which is updated very regularly by several different staffers, is interesting and usually issue-oriented, although it has been criticized for appearing to digress from time to time. The most fascinating section of the blog is the comment area, of course, if only because it's entirely unpredictable. It's pretty bold of a candidate to include an open comment section--I don't know of many others that do. It's rather a nice change from the usual tightly-controlled on-message site.

This is a fun and informative site, and by far the best of the three at this time. Will it help DeStefano in the long run?


Dan Malloy's site was in limbo, as was the rest of his campaign, during an investigation for ethics violations. But he was cleared of any wrongdoing, and his site is back up and running. The long down time has left the site feeling half-finished.

The front page of the site is a form to sign up for email updates, which can be bypassed. It's a neat idea, but I found it kind of annoying after clicking through it a dozen times or so. Maybe as the campaign progresses, it will be integrated into the main site.

The main site, once reached, is dominated by a slideshow of candidate pictures with somewhat matching titles ("Values," "Experience," "Results," etc.). It looks like it should be clickable, but it isn't. A statement by the candidate is directly under the slides.

There are up-to-date news and events on the right sidebar (mostly Stamford boosterism for now), and a clickable map of the state to find regional events (mostly town committee meetings right now). However, the "In the News" section of the "Newsroom" has what look like links to stories, but apparently aren't.

Once again, it's not easy to find detailed positions. The link titled "The Issues" leads only to a statement about crime. There are hints of interactivity here, though. Unfortunately, the tantalizing "Dan's Blog" heading leads only to a "Coming Soon" message. I have yet to try "Ask Dan."

There's a lot of potential at this site, and I imagine that we'll see some of that fulfilled as soon as the campaign gets soldily back on its feet.


As for the incumbent, someone has registered However, it's not active yet, and probably won't be until she announces her intentions. I have no idea what to expect from Jodi Rell when it comes to a campaign site.

These sites are going to grow and change as November 2006 approaches. We should expect Susan Bysiewicz's site to become more active, John DeStefano's site to evolve in interesting new ways, and Dan Malloy's site to fulfill that early potential.

Do campaign sites matter? Maybe. A strong web presence helped Howard Dean for a while in 2004. New, different and innovative sites may help candidates to interact with citizens and better express their messages. Of course, not even the nicest, slickest site in the world will matter if voters just don't like a candidate.

I'll continue this series later on this summer, probably with Secretary of the State candidates.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Legislative Session Wrapup

Yes, I know. There's a special session still waiting, but I think we can put that in, well, a special category.

So how did the legislature do this year? Naturally, the miserable failure of campaign finance reform is looming large in our minds right now, and in most other sessions a failure of that magnitude would doom the entire session. But this General Assembly accomplished so much else of note that it's very difficult to dismiss them out of hand. Let's take a quick look back and see what was accomplished:

Some Notable Accomplishments

Civil Unions

Probably the most important bill from a national standpoint. Connecticut is the fourth state to recognize some sort of legal arrangement for same-sex couples, and the first to do so without being compelled by the judiciary. Following pressure from Catholic groups and the governor, a legal "definition of marriage" as being between a man and a woman was placed into the bill despite AG Blumenthal's assurances that the bill would not, in fact, make gay marriage legal.

It was a huge step forward, socially, and it passed without too much of a fuss. Not bad at all.

Minimum Wage Increase

This was a sensible and pragmatic move by the legislature, and (again) it came with the full blessing of the governor. A lot of fiscal conservatives feel that the minimum wage hike will hurt businesses, but I haven't seen any data to back that up from previous hikes. If someone can show me that the negative effect on jobs and the small businesses is greater than the positive effect on poor families, I'll reconsider my stand on the minimum wage, but for now I think it's going to help much more than it will hurt.

The Budget

Here's something where everyone gets a little something, and no one gets everything they want. Great! The budget increased aid to cities and towns, funded HUSKY and taxed the rich a bit more (but didn't include the millionaire's tax). It came in mostly under the spending cap. It left some issues poorly addressed, like Fairfield County's transportation problems, and it really didn't fix the troubles in nursing homes. But it's a lot better than the last couple of budgets, that's for sure.

Notable Failures

Campaign Finance Reform

This was the governor's number one priority, and it failed. It may come back in the special session... but if it doesn't, we've lost a golden opportunity to overhaul the system.


No gas tax=no big transportation plan... I-95 is still a parking lot.

No FOI on email

A bill passed late in the session (with about a minute to go) exempted legislators' email from FOI requests. That by itself doesn't seem fishy... but the way it was done, at the end of the session... that's fishy. The governor vetoed it.

It was an acrimonious session, full of partisan rancor and cross-Capitol sneering, but by and large the legislature accomplished more than it failed to accomplish.


Gov. Rell: She defined herself as a tough moderate who could get things done. Not a bad image for someone facing a mob of Democrats who want her job next year. Despite all the controversy, Rell emerged from the session barely scratched. Yes, she did alienate some of the hard right and the social conservatives, and yes, those on the extreme left will never trust a Republican... but she's going to find a lot of support from just about everybody else.

Democrats: The Democrats in the GA got a lot of their agenda enacted, for once. Good for them! Can't hurt, going into an election year. The leadership, now...

Connecticut's Image: Hey, it really couldn't get any worse. Better to be known for civil unions than John Rowland.


Republicans: By bypassing the GOP caucus to negotiate directly with the Democratic leadership, Governor Rell showed us just how unimportant the tiny GOP minority is, and how fragile the state Republican Party has become. There's a good chance that the Republicans won't pick up more than a few seats next year (if any), and lose two of three Congressional races (Simmons and Shays are some of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress). If they're really unlucky, they'll lose Jodi Rell, too. But let's face it: the GOP isn't going to have a majority in the General Assembly for the foreseeable future. Maybe they should think about why that is.

Democratic Leadership: Speaker James Amann really looked like an idiot during the budget fight, and he looked even worse when he kept campaign finance reform off the special session agenda. Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, who refused to compromise or even meet with Amann or Rell more than once or twice in the final days of the session, is getting a lot of the blame for campaign finance reform's failure. Both were played by Rell at some point during the session. Neither endeared himself to the public.

So that's it, at least for now. Feel free to add your own ideas about who the winners and losers were this session, and what you think is important that I left off this list.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

New Poll

Who bears the lion's share of the blame for the collapse of campaign finance reform? If you have another answer from those listed or want to defend what you chose, have your say in the comments section of this post.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Open Forum

Whatever's on your mind.

Campaign Finance Reform Not in Upcoming Session?

Oh, this is just great.

House Speaker James Amann said he expects that a special session - tentatively set in the House for June 23 and the Senate the next day - would focus on a series of bills that do not include campaign finance reform....

When asked if campaign finance needs to be done in the upcoming session, Amann, a Democrat, said, "Right now, no. ... It's been five months. People are tired." (Keating)

I can't believe it. I just can't believe it. So that's the end of campaign finance reform until at least 2007 (What? You thought they'd pass it in an election year?). I'm disgusted with Amann, Williams and the legislature in general right now. The House and Senate bills are absurdly close. Surely a compromise could be made... right?

Well, Speaker, I'm sorry you're tired. I hope you get some rest.

In fact, maybe you should consider retirement.

Keating, Christopher. "Campaign Reform Not In Special Session." Hartford Courant 10 June 2005.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Malloy, Bysiewicz Would Return Campaign Cash if Bill Passes

DeStefano Against Changing Rules Mid-Campaign

Since most of you don't get the Journal-Inquirer, I thought I'd share a few pieces of an article I mentioned earlier with you. When the three declared gubenatorial candidates were asked if they supported public financing of gubenatorial campaigns, even if it meant giving up some or all of the money they have raised so far, here's what they had to say:

...Two of the Democratic Party's candidates for governor say the $1.8 million total they have on hand now shouldn't be used as a reason to block public financing--even if they never get to spend the money.
"I think it is better to invest in good government rather than to pay later," [Susan Bysiewicz] said.
Malloy, who has been mayor since 1995, has raised about $1.1 million and still has about $700,000 on hand...

Still, he said, it would be better to have public financing set to start in 2006 -- and to be part of a system that would make those dollars essentially useless -- than to have campaign finance rules remain unchanged.
DeStefano said that in his case, it simply is an issue of fairness.

"I'll follow whatever the law is. But I've been in this race for 15 months, he said, adding, "My view is, no, you don't change the rules in the middle of the game." (Phaneuf)

This is a terrible mistake on DeStefano's part. Let's be honest: public financing of gubenatorial campaigns isn't going to happen until at least 2010. Neither the House nor the Senate bill proposes starting it in 2006. To claim that they would give up the money costs Bysiewicz and Malloy nothing, and makes them look like champions of reform. DeStefano, on the other hand, looks like he isn't really committed to public financing despite earlier strong statements in favor of it.

This probably won't hurt him down the road, unless Bysiewicz and Malloy make a big deal out of it, which they certainly might. But DeStefano erred in giving them anything to throw at him at all, especially this early in the game.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice fairness for the greater good. It would have been nice if all the candidates had realized that.

Phaneuf, Keith M. "2 Gubenatorial Hopefuls Ready to Give Up War Chests." Journal Inquirer 8 June 2005. (Sorry, no link, it isn't posted on the web)

Nothing Doing

Campaign Finance Reform Must Wait for Special Session

Campaign finance reform ground to a halt last night as the House and the Senate failed to agree on a compromise between their competing bills. Then the blaming started:

"Compromise and consensus was really that close - within our reach," Rell said, holding her thumb and forefinger an inch apart. "But pettiness and bruised egos replaced responsible stewardship."

Williams called the governor's comments a "complete overreaction," then suggested there was "blame to go around."
But first Scully distributed blame for the failure of reform among Rell, Amann and the speaker's chief reform sponsor, Rep. Christopher L. Caruso, D-Bridgeport.

Rell pointed the finger right back at Williams. (Pazniokas)

Had enough? There's more:

“ ... (Some) let time slip through their hands,” [Rell] said of legislators in a statement. “They seemingly cared more about brinksmanship than leadership, and as a result the legislature's work is not done.”
“The reason that this blew up was not because the House Democrats couldn't play well with the Senate Democrats,” Scully said. “This blew up because the House chairman of the GAE committee has absolutely no credibility on this issue, personally attacked the Senate president and should not be a part of this negotiation in any way.”

“I also say that it also blew up because the speaker didn't show the leadership to rein in Representative Caruso, and we think he should,” Scully added. (Mann)

Everyone is blaming everyone else right now, but Williams comes closest when he says that "there's blame to go around." There is. Williams and Amann couldn't agree. Caruso made an ass of himself by attacking the leadership. Rell shook her finger and frowned on the sidelines, even though the fact that this was so late in the session was mostly her fault. In the end, nothing happened.

So a special session will be called a few weeks from now, and hopefully something will emerge from it.

In other news, Keith Phaneuf of the Journal-Inquirer reported yesterday that Susan Bysiewicz and Dan Malloy have offered to return money from contractors and others specified by the governor's reform proposal (there's no link to this story--the J-I didn't post it. I'll have the citation later today). John DeStefano, who leads Malloy and Bysiewicz in fundraising, has said that he wouldn't return the money. Hmm... any reason why not?

Mann, Ted. "Campaign financing overhaul A dead Issue." The Day 9 June 2005.
Pazniokas, Mark. "Next Move: Special Session." Hartford Courant 9 June 2005.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform Stalls

Senate, House Pass Different Bills on Last Day of Session

The legislative session will end tonight at midnight, and it's looking less likely that campaign finance reform will be passed. Both the House and the Senate passed different bills, and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams called the bills "irreconcilable" (AP).

The bills appear to differ on the timeline for implementation (the House bill wants it sooner) and restrictions for lobbyists, contractors and PACs (the House bill has more). But apparently those differences are enough to scuttle campaign finance reform for this year. Even if the Senate version were passed, Gov. Rell has expressed displeasure with it and may not sign it. However, the House bill has problems of its own. Here's what CT News Junkie reported about that:

Many Democrats- both in the House and in the Senate- expressed concern today over the House bill. They believe taking away traditional funding sources like ad books in 2006, without implementing public financing until 2008, could leave them at a serious disadvantage against Republicans.
Another potential problem for the House version lies in the way it is financed. Because the plan would use surplus dollars, some members wondered whether the bill would need three-fifths of the chamber to sign off. If so, that would mean supporters would have to garner 91 votes instead of 76, a much more difficult task. (Levine)

So, if midnight comes and campaign finance reform turns into a pumpkin, who is to blame?

1. Governor Rell

Why did she wait until the last minute to signal her acceptance of public financing of campaigns? The more cynical-minded have been suggesting that Rell, long an opponent of public campaign funding, is hoping for the bill to fail so she can blame the Democrats. Indeed, a vigorous frowning and finger-shaking from the governor's office will doubtless be forthcoming should a bill not be adopted, and Rell will try to emerge as the champion of reform whose desires were thwarted by the Democrats. But if she had changed her mind three weeks ago, a compromise bill could have been worked out.

Her stubbornness isn't helping, either:

"The House version of the bill offers far more immediate, lasting and real reform for campaign finance than the Senate bill and will garner the governor's signature," said Lisa Moody, Rell's chief of staff. "The Senate bill simply puts off the real reform that the people of Connecticut need and deserve." (AP)

We should take any step that leads toward reform, governor. In this case, something is better than nothing, and the governor should be accepting of either proposal if she is serious about reform.

2. Democratic Leadership

Amann and Williams seemed absolutely paralyzed when Rell dropped her opposition to public funding, even though everyone who supported the idea was urging quick action. Why did this come on the last day of the session? What are their priorities?

I do have a little sympathy for the Democratic leaders, though. No matter what happens tonight, they're going to come out on the short end of this one. If the bill passes, the credit will go to Rell. If it doesn't pass, a lot of the blame will fall on Democrats.

To their credit, they appear to be trying. It would have been nice if they'd tried a little harder, talked to one another more often (say, perhaps, once) and acted a bit sooner.

Amann was annoyingly sanguine about the matter yesterday:

"I guess it would depend on how people waking up tomorrow and how they feel," Amann said. (AP)

Why can't it depend on you and Donald Williams getting together and crafting a compromise, Speaker? Why can't the Speaker and the President of the Senate control their membership enough to pass a compromise bill? Why can't they even get onto the same page?

Of course, even if a bill is passed, certain parts of it may be struck down as unconstitutional. It is, for example, probably not kosher to ban all political contributions for certain classes of people, like lobbyists and contractors. But that probably won't matter, because it's very unlikely at this point that a bill will be passed.

When midnight comes without campaign finance reform, the fur will fly and the fingers will point. Both the Democratic leaders and the governor will be half right about who is to blame.

"Dueling reform bills pass, compromise in doubt." Associated Press 8 June 2005.

Levine, Dan. "BREAKING NEWS: Rell Will Veto Senate Reform Bill." CT News Junkie 8 June 2005.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Competing Bills Pass." Hartford Courant 8 June 2005.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Republicans: Irrelevant?

Budget Passes

Today both the House and the Senate passed a compromise budget that pleases both Democrats, who get aid for towns, tax increases on wealthy citizens and wider health care coverage under HUSKY, as well as Governor Rell, who headed off the millionaire's tax and, with the exemptions for nursing homes she originally proposed, fit the budget neatly under the state spending cap.

But Republicans in the General Assembly are furious at the budget. Only one senator, John Kissel of Enfield, voted for it. Kissel, whose margin of victory in 2004 (under 2%) was the smallest of any state senator, said that what mattered most was "...the increase in state aid the bill offered to several municipalities in my district and throughout the state." (AP) Other Republicans were less kind:

Senate Republicans took issue with the planned two-year corporate tax surcharge in the budget - 20 percent and 15 percent for the next two income years. They also complain that only $76 million of the estimated $700 million surplus is deposited into the state's Rainy Day Fund.

"...The problem is, we have a $700 million or $637 million surplus that is supposed to pay down debt. What are we doing with it? We are spending just about every last dime on ongoing expenses," [said Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury].

"[Nursing home owners] are imploring me not to support this budget," said Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen. "Rather than a life raft, this may be the ball and chain that drags them under water."

Republicans said they were not allowed to fully participate in the budget negotiations, and criticized the budget for including $18 million for undefined "contingency needs." (AP)

The last quote is the heart of the matter. The Republican Party was shut out of the negotiations between the Democrats and the Republican governor. When John Rowland was governor, this was not the case, especially since many of them held the same political views as he did.

But now, moderate Republican Jodi Rell is governor, and times are different. This governor is willing to compromise in order to move forward, and her actions over the past six months have shown her to have much more in common with the Democrats than with her own party. For example, she signed bills allowing civil unions and stem-cell research, and has proposed public funding of state campaigns, all things that the Republicans have vehemently opposed. Campaign finance reform is the exception, but only because in it Republicans sense a way out of their present funk.

In essence, no one needs the small Republican minority any more. They play little role in the legislature except to complain loudly about the things the Democrats and the governor are doing without their input.

The problem with the Republican Party in Connecticut isn't that it's ideologically out of step with most citizens, although in many cases it certainly is. The Republican Party right now is a stubborn, stagnant institution that has for a decade been living off the fact that the governor of the state is a member of their party while consistently bleeding seats and high-level state positions. Now that the governor is willing to work with Democrats instead of exacerbating partisan tensions by siding with a small minority, Republicans find themselves irrelevant.

How can they fix this? Well, for one, social conservatism has only a small foothold in this state, and has been mostly tapped out politically. Besides, social conservatism wasn't what drove the Republicans of the days of Prescott Bush, but fiscal conservatism. If Republicans drop the social conservatives like the porcupines they are and concentrate on smaller, smarter government, they may yet get some traction. Jodi Rell's mix of fiscal pragmatism and social tolerance seems to be working for her, at least for now. Republicans would do well to follow her lead to the middle of the social divide, instead of sitting stubbornly on the right with and grumbling about their lack of influence.

Not that I expect this to happen, of course. One consistent trait of Connecticut's state Republican Party is its remarkable lack of understanding of state politics, which means that Democrats will dominate the state for the forseeable future.

"Legislature Approves New Two-Year Budget." Associated Press 7 June 2005.

Budget Updates

Check out the loaded poll question posted by the Hartford Courant about the budget.

The House passed the budget last night, so it goes on to the Senate. Here's the roll call if you're interested. It should be done soon. The only people who aren't happy? Every Republican in the capitol who isn't the governor. They, however, are becoming more and more irrelevant. More on that later.

The House and Senate Democrats aren't too far apart on campaign finance reform, though some harsh words were exchanged. I expect that something will be done before the session ends.

Monday, June 06, 2005

New Poll

There's a new weekly poll up about the campaign finance measures being proposed by the governor. What do you think? Should the bill be rammed through as quickly as possible (it can be done) or ignored?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Budget Compromise Hammered Out

Quick post about the compromise on Saturday:

Democrats gained a tax increase on businesses and estates valued at over $2 million/year, while blocking further "sin" taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. Rell can claim a victory in that tax increases were much lower than expected, and that the so-called millionaire's tax on households earning very high wages won't be enacted.

The windfall of a budget surplus meant that taxes don't need to be raised quite as much, so absolute budget armageddon was averted for at least another year.

The budget is pretty fair, all things considered. Most importantly, cities and towns will get more state aid, which they desperately need.

The Courant has a good breakdown of the budget here, as do most other local papers.

We can look forward to an interesting week in the General Assembly, however, as Democrats run every which way trying to figure out whether or not to pass Gov. Rell's campaign finance reform proposal. I'm still a bit surprised by their reaction, and the reaction of other Democrats. Isn't this exactly what we wanted? Then why not do it?

If a bill isn't passed by the time the session ends, Democrats are going to look like hypocrites, and Jodi Rell will look like John McCain. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Open Forum

The cell phone ban is one step closer to becoming a completely unenforcable law. The House has said OK to a bill requiring paper trail for electronic voting machines. I still prefer the old mechanical machines. They broke down from time to time, but they were accurate and easy to use.

What else is new?

Rell Proposes Full Public Financing of State Campaigns

Yes, you read that right.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has made a dramatic offer to revive stalled campaign finance legislation, proposing full public financing of campaigns for offices ranging from the General Assembly to governor beginning in 2010.

With only days remaining in the legislative session, Rell's staff promised legislators that the governor would drop her opposition to public financing if lawmakers accept her call for strict limits on contributions from state contractors, lobbyists and political action committees. (Pazniokas)

Can anyone tell me why this is bad? Limiting contributions from contractors, lobbyists and PACs sounds, well, ideal. Democrats and other supports of public funding, however, are a bit suspicious at the turnaround:

"What is the governor's [motive] in this? That's really the question," said House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford. "Is it political, or is it pure?" (Pazniokas)
"I hope to be proven wrong, but I am wary of last-minute deals supported by historic opponents of real campaign finance reform," [executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group Tom] Swan said.

It does seem a little... odd. But so far, a catch is not forthcoming. There are two possibilities here. You decide which makes the most sense:

1. Governor Rell has decided that the only way to get her limitations on contractor, lobbyist and PAC contributions through a very resistant legislature full of politicians addicted to those sources of revenue would be to offer public funding, which she previously opposed, as a compromise. This isn't entirely out of character for her: when backed into a corner, she does tend to want to compromise her way out.

2. This is part of some evil GOP conspiracy to take over the state and quite possibly kill puppies.

My instinct is to look this compromise over carefully, first, and then, if all seems to be above-board, take it! A better offer is probably not forthcoming.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Rell Offers Reform Package." Hartford Courant 2 June, 2005.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Stem Cell Bill Passes

Rell Will Sign Bill, Further Distancing Herself from Washington

In yet another move seemingly designed to infuriate hard-core conservatives and the leaders of her own party, Gov. Rell has announced that she intends to sign a bill passed overwhelmingly by the state House of Representatives committing $100 million to stem cell research.

For Rell, the issue is apparently more about jobs than morality:

"I am committed to making Connecticut a leader in the field of stem cell research. I am committed to growing high-tech jobs. We all know we have the talent at our world-class research universities like UConn and Yale. Now, that talent will have the resources to literally improve our quality of life," Rell said. "I thank the General Assembly for passing this bill. Connecticut is now ahead of the curve." (Pazniokas)

To no one's surprise, some conservatives opposed the bill on moral grounds:

"Before asking, `Can we do it?' perhaps we should be asking, `Should we do it?'" said Rep. Marilyn M. Giuliano, R-Old Saybrook.
Opponents said Tuesday that Connecticut was rushing into a $100-million, 10-year investment in an unproven area of research that some residents find morally objectionable. (Pazniokas)

In case you've been under a rock since 2001, embryonic stem cells are taken from human embryos which are slated to be discarded by fertility clinics. Social and religious conservatives want to protect the embryos from being harvested for their stem cells, although apparently it's all right to discard the embryos one isn't planning on using. Many scientists believe that stem cells will be key to making medical breakthroughs like, say, curing diabetes. So, in essence, these human embryos can either be used to help sick people get well again or thrown away. Where's the moral question there? Very, very few of these embryos ever become actual children.

Gov. Rell and our state government are doing the right thing. Protecting these embryos helps no one, and actually harms humanity as a whole, while researching stem cells taken from embryos has the potential to be a great help to us all.

President Bush, of course, doesn't see it that way. Don't expect him to come and campaign for Rell next year if she runs.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Landmark Stem Cell Financing Bill Passes." Hartford Courant 1 June, 2005.

Stamford Advocate: DeStefano, Malloy Very Similar

Gubenatorial Candidates Chat in Chester

The only mention I could find of last night's "conversation" between Malloy and DeStefano in Chester was in today's Stamford Advocate. I suppose it's a bit too early for most papers to be covering the governor's race.

The article portrays DeStefano as a more intense version of Malloy, but takes great pains to emphasize their similarities. An example:

Each man has spent the past decade running one of Connecticut's largest cities. Each has won re-election several times, easily defeating the opposition, when there was any. And each has a wife named Cathy. Well, almost. Dannel Malloy's spouse spells her name that way. John DeStefano's wife uses a "K."
...They agreed that Gov. M. Jodi Rell, whom they repeatedly linked to her disgraced predecessor, had no plan to change the tax system. Both said that job retention and growth depend heavily on improving transportation and education, where they again said Rell was not doing enough.
...Malloy, the Stamford mayor, and DeStefano, New Haven's mayor, took turns sharing similar visions for Connecticut's future. (Dalena)

There's been a lot of talk lately labelling DeStefano the "liberal" or "progressive" candidate and Malloy the "centrist" or "pro-business" candidate. Dalena, whose coverage of the Naugatuck mayoral race I found to be very insightful, doesn't draw this distinction at all. Some of the few differences he mentions:

DeStefano advocated investing in economic sectors where Connecticut already leads, such as fuel cell technology, pharmaceutical research, insurance and financial services. Malloy said he would align state spending on education toward areas that had the best chance of producing good jobs.
After Malloy said that if elected he would minimize the state's reliance on property taxes over the course of several legislative sessions and several years, DeStefano said he would not wait.
Malloy said he would hire a diverse set of commissioners without regard to political party, while DeStefano said he would hire people unafraid to challenge him who were actually experts in their fields, not learning the job on the state's time. (Dalena)

...That's it? Those are the differences?

Okay, it's early. Okay, it was just a candidate forum, not a debate. But supposedly these two men have very different aims and appeal to very different constituencies within the Democratic Party (the Lieberman wing vs. the Dean wing). Why not stress that?

I'll listen to Colin McEnroe (who moderated) this afternoon to see if I can get a few more insights. I imagine that as the campaigns unfold, the differences will become sharper. ...Right?

Dalena, Doug. "Tale of two mayors vying for top state post." Stamford Advocate 1 June, 2005.