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Connecticut bill requires social workers to be credentialed

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Some Connecticut legislators want to make sure people who call themselves social workers are truly credentialed social workers.

The House of Representatives on Monday voted 111-25 in favor of legislation that prevents someone from using the title "licensed clinical social worker" or "social worker," or any initials associated with the title without first having earned a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in social work.

Democratic Rep. Pat Wilson Pheanious of Ashford, a social worker, says "virtually anyone can hold themselves out as a social worker." She says they often make mistakes and there is no one to hold them accountable, unlike licensed social workers who must obey strict ethical and professional standards.

The bill exempts certain municipal and state employees with a social worker title.

The legislation awaits Senate action.

Connecticut House passes mental health parity bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's House of Representatives has unanimously approved legislation ensuring health insurers treat mental health illnesses the same as other illnesses.

Monday's bill, which awaits Senate action, requires insurers to cover mental health and substance disorder treatment at the same level as physical health. The bill also requires insurance companies to submit documentation annually to prove they're complying with the legislation.

Former Democratic Rhode Island U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy appeared at the state Capitol in March, urging Connecticut lawmakers to pass the bill. The mental health advocate called it a "modern day civil rights bill for those with brain illness."

Democratic Rep. Sean Scanlon of Guilford, the bill's proponent, says he's proud of Monday's vote. He noted a 2017 study that showed Connecticut had the worst parity compliance in the nation.

Complexity of Connecticut toll plan could delay vote

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers may not vote on a highway tolling bill until after the legislative session ends, given the complexity of the bill.

Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said Monday he'd prefer the General Assembly authorize tolls on Interstates 84, 91, 95 and Route 15 before the June 5 adjournment, but said he wouldn't be opposed to a special session.

He said it's an "incredibly complex bill to write," especially considering the need for Connecticut to obtain federal approval.

The state is taking the unusual approach of seeking permission to build electronic tolls on existing highways. It would be allowed to do so through a federal traffic congestion mitigation program.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's administration and lawmakers have been working with the Federal Highway Administration on meeting the program's requirements.

Connecticut woman found dead in car in Massachusetts

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut woman has been found dead in Massachusetts under suspicious circumstances.

The New Haven Register reports 40-year-old Tamika Jones, of New Haven, was found dead Tuesday in a car in Fitchburg. The central Massachusetts city is about 125 miles (201 kilometers) away from New Haven.

Fitchburg Police say officers found Jones' body while responding to a report of an unresponsive person inside a car at around 1 p.m.

Authorities have not disclosed details about the death other than to say they're treating it as suspicious.

Owner of apartment complex facing housing violations

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The owner of an apartment complex in Connecticut is due in housing court to face a range of building code violations.

The owner of Barbour Gardens in Hartford is expected to answer to 16 counts of fire safety violations at a hearing in Hartford Housing Court on Tuesday.

The property has been cited for not having a fire alarm system and self-latching and closing doors. Inspectors have also cited the property for blocked hallways and improper storage of combustible liquids.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year ended its Section 8 contract with the owner of the public housing complex after residents complained they've been dealing with poor living conditions for years, from rodent infestation to broken windows and mold.

Police officer helps residents escape burning house

SHELTON, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut say a patrol officer helped residents escape from a burning house.

Shelton police say Officer Michael Kichar was on his way to work Sunday morning when he saw smoke coming from the house.

Kichar called 911 and then woke up the residents and helped them and the family dog escape. No one was injured but the fire spread quickly and gutted the home.

It took firefighters from two other neighboring towns to help control the blaze. The town fire marshal is now investigating.

The Hartford Courant reports the five-bedroom house was built in 1960.

Tolling bill advances as details still remain unfinished

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A key legislative committee has advanced a bill that could lead to electronic tolls on Connecticut highways, but proponents acknowledge some details are still being worked out.

Democratic Rep. Roland Lemar, of New Haven, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, says issues such as the final number of electronic tolling gantries, their location, and discounts for Connecticut drivers are still being negotiated.

House and Senate members have been working with Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's administration on the bill's language, as well as with the Federal Highway Administration, which will ultimately have to approve Connecticut's tolling proposal. Lamar says more information should be made public in the "very near future."

Lemar's comments came Wednesday, as the Democratic-controlled Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee approved Lamont's tolling bill on a partisan vote of 30-20.

Bill would require nursing homes to post staffing levels

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut nursing home residents and their families may soon have a better idea of how many staff members are on duty.

The Senate voted 31-4 on Wednesday to require each facility to calculate on a daily basis the number of nurses and aides providing direct care. That information would be posted in a conspicuous place at the beginning of each shift.

Democratic Sen. Saud Anwar, of South Windsor, says the legislation aims to make nursing home operations more transparent for residents and families.

Republican senators on Wednesday unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill, which now awaits action in the House of Representatives. One proposal would have provided a 1% rate increase to nursing homes, which are facing a potential strike. Democrats say that issue will ultimately be addressed in the budget.

Connecticut officer shoots dog that bit a child and then him

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut police officer has shot and killed a dog after it attacked a child and then turned on the officer.

A Stratford officer saw the dog biting the child Tuesday afternoon.

Capt. Frank Eannotti said in a statement the dog would not release the child, so the officer used an electronic stun gun on the animal.

The dog let go of the child, who ran to safety.

The dog then turned on the officer who used the stun gun again, but "to no effect."

The officer retreated and shot the dog to stop the attack.

The child was taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries.

The dog died at the scene.

Police did not release the dog's breed or the age of the child. The investigation is ongoing.

Speaker: No final decision yet on ending vaccine exemption

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz says no final decision has been made about whether to eliminate Connecticut's religious exemption from vaccines for schoolchildren, but there's strong support among his fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives for such a move.

The Berlin lawmaker said Tuesday it was good to have Monday's informational hearing on the subject, which drew dozens of parents worried about vaccine safety.

But Aresimowicz says his caucus "is locked in on this issue" based upon new state data showing more than 100 schools have vaccination rates that fall below recommended federal guidelines.

Aresimowicz and Democratic House Majority Leader Matt Ritter plan to review a thick packet of testimony from the hearing. Ritter says he'll also be talking with Republicans and senators.

The legislative session adjourns June 5.

Lawmakers announce plan for more security after mosque fire

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A bi-partisan group of Connecticut lawmakers has announced plans to free up $5 million in state bonding to increase security at houses of worship.

The move comes in response to Sunday's fire at New Haven's Diyanet Mosque, which is being investigated as arson. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp says evidence of incendiary material was found on the site.

State Sen. Saud Anwar, a Democrat from South Windsor and one of the main sponsors of the legislation, says the money will help create a sense of resiliency and protection at churches, synagogues and mosques across the state.

The legislation would establish a competitive grant program similar to one that already makes money available to schools to install such things as remote door entry systems, video monitoring and shatter-proof windows.

Bill extending helmet law to those under 21 clears House

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut is moving closer toward requiring anyone age 20 and younger to wear a helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle.

The House of Representatives voted 113-33 Tuesday to update the state's existing law, which requires anyone under 18 to wear a helmet.

The bill awaits Senate action.

Democratic Rep. Jillian Gilchrist of West Hartford says the legislation doesn't go far enough. She promised to push for a universal helmet law in the next legislative session. Advocates hoping to reinstate Connecticut's full helmet law, who waged an active lobbying campaign, hoped this would be the year that such a bill would finally pass.

But opponents have questioned the effectiveness of a universal helmet law. And some lawmakers on Tuesday questioned the fairness of even expanding it to those under 21.

Prosecutor to examine Russia probe origins

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General William Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was "lawful and appropriate."

Barr has appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct the inquiry.

Durham has previously investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office's relationship with mobsters.

Durham was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2018. At the time, Connecticut’s two Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, called Durham a “fierce, fair prosecutor” who knows how to try tough cases.

He will continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.

Fire chief: Connecticut mosque fire appears to be arson

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A top fire official says a fire at a Connecticut mosque appears to be arson.

New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said Monday investigators had found evidence the Sunday afternoon blaze at the Diyanet Mosque was "intentionally set" and a criminal investigation is underway.

He didn't disclose the nature of the evidence.

Alston says the one person inside when flames broke out escaped, and no one was hurt.

The fire occurred during the holy month of Ramadan. The front of the mosque was under construction, but some areas were still being used for worship.

Mosque president Haydar Elevli says area churches had offered his congregation a place to hold services.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont visited the mosque and said he finds "an attack like this especially hurtful and hateful."

Connecticut considers making phone calls free for prisoners

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut is considering legislation that would make it the first state in the country to make telephone calls free for prisoners.

It would be following the lead of New York City, which began allowing free phone calls earlier this month.

One obstacle in Connecticut is the potential loss of the revenue generated by the calls. Currently, inmates or their families pay $4.87 for phone calls of up to 15 minutes. That's the second-highest rate in the nation.

In the 2018 fiscal year, Connecticut inmates made calls costing $13.2 million. The state took in $7.7 million for various programs from the phone calls, which are handled by a vendor contracted by the state, Securus.

Connecticut man accused of threatening to kill Trump

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man has been indicted on charges that he threatened to kill President Donald Trump and sent letters he claimed contained anthrax.

Gary Joseph Gravelle of New Haven faces charges including conveying false information about an explosive and threats against the president.

Authorities say 51-year-old Gravelle last year sent letters addressed to Trump, the Islamic Center of New London and other places that contained a white powdery substance with messages such as "you die." Some of the letters appeared to contain baby powder.

Officials say Gravelle also made bomb threats at a variety of locations.

He has been in custody since he was arrested in September for violating the terms of his supervised release. He was previously convicted in 2013 of sending threatening letters.


Police: Teen arrested after hitting cruiser with stolen car

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut say a 19-year-old intentionally crashed a stolen car into a police cruiser before fleeing.

Hearst Connecticut Media reports that Bridgeport police officers went after the car on Saturday night after a man reported that it had been stolen in Milford.

Authorities say officers caught up with the stolen car and the driver intentionally hit the police cruiser. The car fled and police continued to chase it before eventually stopping the car at West Avenue and West Liberty Street.

No one was injured.

Authorities say the driver, Raheem Dashawn Sumra, was taken into custody and faces charges including larceny and reckless driving. It wasn't immediately clear Sunday whether Sumra has a lawyer.

Police say two juveniles who were also in the car were released to their guardians.

$20M residential project proposed for Fort Trumbull area

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - A Pennsylvania-based developer is proposing a $20 million multifamily residential project to be located on the long-vacant Fort Trumbull waterfront property.

The Day reports that A.R. Building Co. won approval for the project from the Renaissance City Development Association on Thursday.

The proposal is still in the early stages, but calls for 104 units. It will include three buildings on parcels near the Coast Guard station.

The Fort Trumbull neighborhood was at the center of a landmark 2005 eminent domain case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the city's favor.

That decision allowed the city and its development corporation to take over the area, clear out homes and upgrade infrastructure.

Despite the ruling, the planned development project fell through and the area has remained mostly empty.

Lamont makes pitch for tolls as opponents submit petitions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont is trying to rally Connecticut lawmakers to support electronic tolls, acknowledging it's a "tough vote" for the General Assembly.

The Democrat sent a letter Thursday to state legislators, saying it's time to "move forward without compromising our core principles for an easier vote." Lamont has been meeting privately with lawmakers on a compromise bill.

Lamont is promising toll rates will be frozen for three years.

Lamont says his bill allows for a monthly credit loaded on an EZ-Pass, as well as ways to load cash on the passes at local convenience stores. 

As for more transparency into the state’s long-range transportation planning and development, a Connecticut Transportation Commission would be created.  It will be a bipartisan group of legislators, commissioners and the treasurer, reviewing and approving the DOT’s plan. 

His letter comes the same day toll opponents delivered more than 100,000 signatures from residents opposing tolls. Patrick Sasser, founder No Tolls CT, says the grassroots group believes it's time for taxpayers "to band together and say we've had enough."

The group collected the signatures through its website, more than 30 protests it has held and at grocery stores and other locations.

Bill barring plastic foam trays in schools clears Senate

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut schools and colleges may soon have to find alternatives to plastic foam cafeteria trays.

The Senate voted 29-to-5 on Thursday in favor of a bill that gives school districts and state institutions of higher education until July 1, 2021, to discontinue use of trays made from expanded polystyrene. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for final legislative action.

The bill had originally only applied to secondary schools, but lawmakers agreed to extend it to state colleges and universities as well.

Proponents say the legislation is a step toward reducing the impact of plastic foam trays on the environment. Lawmakers noted they are not recyclable products.

But some senators voiced concern with the increased cost of switching to plastic reusable trays or ones made of recyclable materials.






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