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Connecticut lawmakers to return to Capitol for another round

Connecticut lawmakers may have closed out the regular legislative session on Wednesday night, but they're anticipated to return to the state Capitol soon to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. They're also expected to consider some remaining budget bills and possibly some other bills that didn't survive in the first round, including Gov. Ned Lamont's proposed regional Transportation and Climate Initiative Program that Republicans consider to be a gas tax. Lamont said Thursday he'd like to see the proposal revisited. The regular legislative session adjourned at midnight on Wednesday. No date has been set for the special session.


Police recover rifle after woman fatally shot while cooking

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Hartford police say they have recovered the rifle used in a shooting that took the life of a woman who was inside her apartment cooking when she was hit by a stray bullet. Police Chief Jason Thody says no arrests have been made in the Wednesday evening killing of 56-year-old Sylvia Cordova, but investigators have significant leads. Thody says the shot was fired through her apartment from the street and she was not the target. He says that shooting is unrelated to the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man a short time later in another part of the city.
 


Highlights of the two-year, $46.3 billion Connecticut budget

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers have approved a two-year, $46.3 billion state budget on the final day of the legislative session. The budget relies on $2.28 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds over two years from the American Rescue Plan. About $400 million has not yet been allocated by lawmakers. The budget provides an additional $130 million over two years for the Education Cost Sharing grant, the state's largest grant to local schools. There is also additional funds for school systems with higher numbers of low-income students and students whose second language is English. There's also more money for health care coverage.


Officer resigns and receives payout after fatal traffic stop

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (AP) - A former Connecticut police officer, who shot and killed an 18-year-old motorist during a traffic stop, received a $100,000 payout from Wethersfield's municipal insurer when he resigned from the department. That's according to documents obtained by the Hartford Courant. It is unclear if the money paid is a part of earned vacation or sick time or other benefits. Layau Eulizier shot and killed Anthony Vega-Cruz in April of 2019 after an officer discovered the license plates on Vega-Cruz's vehicle belong to a different vehicle. Town Manager Gary Evans declined to comment on the settlement, citing ongoing litigation. Vega-Cruz's father filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the town.


Woman who stabbed Hartford officer found

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A 42-year-old Connecticut woman charged with stabbing and severely injuring a police officer during an eviction dispute has been acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect of charges including attempted murder. Judge David Gold ruled Wednesday that Chevoughn Augustin will be committed to the custody of the Connecticut Psychiatric Security Review Board after a hearing which will be scheduled this summer. Gold found that Augustin suffered from a history of schizophrenia and other mental health problems when she stabbed Hartford Police Officer Jill Kidik in May 2018 during an eviction call at a Hartford apartment.


Connecticut lawmakers close out unusual session, pass budget

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers have closed out the legislative session, with the Senate passing a two-year, $46.3 billion state budget deal with no new taxes. Wednesday's vote, which comes after the bill passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, occurred on the final day of the regular legislative session that ends at midnight. While that's expected to pass in time, a bill legalizing adult recreational marijuana will not. House Speaker Matt Ritter said Democratic leaders plan to call a special session in the next week or two to vote on that and other bills. The move comes after Republicans threatened to debate the bill until midnight.


House approves budget bill as session winds down

The House of Representatives has passed a two-year, $46.7 billion state budget in a bipartisan vote.  The deal was reached between Democratic leaders in the General Assembly and Gov. Ned Lamont. Lawmakers say the package will help guide the state as it continues to emerge from the pandemic. The budget benefits from an historic infusion of federal COVID relief funds and an improving state economy. While there are no tax increases in the plan, there are spending increases in numerous areas, from education to municipal aid. 


Democrats push bill aimed at family that owns Purdue Pharma

A congressional committee has heard grievances against the owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma as it considered legislation that would keep them from using a corporate bankruptcy as a shield for personal liability. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney called two state attorneys general, opioid activists and an author to lay out the case against members of the Sackler family who own the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical giant. Sackler family members issued a statement saying many state and local governments support their settlement proposal for Purdue to exit bankruptcy and that it will go further to solve the epidemic than individual lawsuits.


House GOP leader says pot bill is 'tainted,' vote must wait

The Republican leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives says the chamber should not take up a long-awaited bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Rep. Vincent Candelora said the legislation is "tainted" and called for an investigation into how language was tucked into the bill that could have intentionally benefitted at least one individual. The regular General Assembly session is scheduled to adjourn at midnight on Wednesday. The bill narrowly passed the Senate early Tuesday after the contentious provision was stripped. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said an investigation is unnecessary now that the language was removed at his behest.


Connecticut Senate passes legal marijuana bill

The Connecticut Senate has approved legislation that legalizes recreational marijuana for adults. Monday night's debate, which was lengthy, came hours after proponents announced they reached a compromise on how to ensure the new industry will benefit those residents adversely affected by the nation's war on drugs. Under the bill, it would be legal for people 21 years and older to possess and use limited amounts of cannabis beginning July 1. Democratic Sen. Gary Winfield says the legislation addresses how the war on drugs decimated while communities. But Republican Sen. John Kissel says the legislation is a big mistake.  The measure was approved 19 to 17 and sent to the House.


Bill expanding Attorney General's powers heads to governor

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers have voted to formally expand the state Attorney General's powers to include investigating allegations of certain hate crimes and civil rights violations and to initiate legal proceedings. The bill on Monday passed 96 to 51 in the House of Representatives. It now moves to Gov. Ned Lamont's desk after it previously passed in the Senate on Friday. Under current law, the office has the authority to pursue civil litigation in civil rights violation cases. However, it does not have the large-scale ability to investigate allegations or bring legal proceedings and seek relief for the affected person.


Final deal reached on budget, first vote planned Tuesday

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - House Speaker Matt Ritter says a new two-year state budget has been reached with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. Ritter says the House of Representatives will take up the bill Tuesday morning. Ritter said the deal with his fellow Democrat Lamont was finalized Sunday night. He's hoping some Republicans will vote for the plan, which Democrats contend does not raise new taxes, yet makes major investments in education, health care, municipal aid, workforce development and other programs, due in part to federal COVID-19 relief funds. Lamont and Democrats announced Friday they were very close to reaching a "comprehensive understanding."
 


Man pleads guilty to setting fire to Shakespearean theater

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man has pleaded guilty to setting fire to a renown Shakespearean theater and several other structures in four towns. The Connecticut Post reports 20-year-old Christopher Sakowicz, of Stratford, faces 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to arson charges on Friday in Bridgeport Superior Court. Sentencing is set for Sept. 10. The American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford was destroyed in the January 2019 blaze. Its stage had been graced by the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Christopher Plummer and James Earl Jones. The theater was built in 1955 and modeled after London's Globe Theatre, which famously burned in 1613. Two other men were charged in the Connecticut fire.
 


Ex-cemetery manager accused of desecrating graves dies

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A former caretaker of a Connecticut cemetery who was arrested in 2018 after police said they found bones strewn about and new graves placed over old ones has died. Hearst Connecticut Media reports the chief medical examiner's office said Thursday that Dale LaPrade, of Stratford, died and the cause was cardiovascular disease. The media group's report did not say when LaPrade died. Her criminal cases remained pending and she had pleaded not guilty. In 2018, authorities said they found about 130 graves disturbed at Park Cemetery in Bridgeport, including those of Civil War veterans. Gravestones and remains had been removed to make way for the newly dead.


Hamden police say Meriden man arrested after police chase

HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) - Police say a Meriden man was arrested after he hit a police vehicle with his car in Hamden and then led officers on a chase to his home. Hamden police responded to a report of a driver who had passed out in his car at 4:30 a.m. Sunday. Police say an officer tried to put the car into park, but driver Donald Woodson shoved the officer out and nearly hit him with the car. They say Woodson hit a police car and then led officers on a chase to Meriden, where he was arrested. It's not clear if Woodson has an attorney who can comment.


Connecticut lawmakers pass major expansion of Bottle Bill

Connecticut lawmakers have passed legislation that significantly updates the state's "Bottle Bill" for the first time in decades. The bill, approved Thursday in the House of Representatives by a vote of 105 to 42 expands the list of drink containers requiring a deposit, to climb from 5 to 10 cents, to include hard seltzer and hard cider, plant water, juice, juice drinks, tea, coffee, kombucha, plant-infused beverages, sports and energy drinks beginning in 2024. The legislation also requires liquor wholesalers to collect a 5-cent surcharge on 50 milliliter liquor bottles known as "nips" and the money will help municipalities clean up the tiny bottles.


Connecticut reports a day with zero COVID-19 related deaths

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Health Department's daily COVID-19 report listed zero coronavirus-related deaths Thursday for the first time since last September. Gov. Ned Lamont touted the milestone while speaking at a news conference to announce the allocation of $2 million in federal COVID relief funds to summer jobs programs for teens. Connecticut has recorded 8,247 deaths related to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the governor's office. There were 89 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday.


Democratic budget deal remains uncertain as deadline nears

A final budget agreement between Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative Democrats is still uncertain as the General Assembly's adjournment deadline nears. The Democratic governor and his top advisors said Thursday they remain concerned about the level of spending and borrowing that lawmakers desire. Lamont and his team say they've been willing to agree to a two-year plan that already includes large-scale investments, thanks in part to the state's share of federal COVID-19 relief funding. But House Speaker Matt Ritter says the Democrats have already set aside the tax increases that Lamont opposed and a deal needs be reached on Thursday.


Lawmakers get warning for excessive drinking during sessions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Speaker of the House Matt Ritter says lawmakers who continue to drink alcohol excessively during legislative sessions could face serious consequences, including losing coveted committee assignments. The Hartford Democrat said on Wednesday that both he and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, have admonished members of the Democratic House caucus "on multiple occasions" about drinking in the legislative complex, including the parking garage, while the House is in session. They stressed it's not widespread. The state Capitol building is currently closed to the public and many House members are voting from their offices due to COVID-19.  State Rep. Robin Comey of Branford, on Wednesday issued a public apology for her behavior last week when she was seen stumbling over her words during an evening House debate. Her unusual conduct, captured on Connecticut Network television footage, prompted lawmakers to stop the proceedings and rush to her aid.


Police link Capitol shooting to shootings in Southington

Connecticut state police have linked the gunshots fired at the state Capitol over the holiday weekend with a series of similar incidents in Southington. No charges have been filed in the gunfire at the Capitol, but the assistant to the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection says a 74-year-old man is already in custody in connection with the Southington shootings. Foley said the incidents involve "mental health" issues and police do not believe there is any current danger to the public. Capitol police say they are also investigating a separate security breach involving a car driving onto the building's lawn Tuesday night.


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