B94.5 Afternoons
3:00pm - 5:00pm
B94.5 Afternoons

State News Stories

Lamont admits to a "divide" with lawmakers over tolls

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged Wednesday there is a divide between his administration and Connecticut legislators over the need for electronic tolls to generate more state transportation revenue but vowed not to give up on the issue.

While the Democratic-controlled General Assembly adjourned on June 5 without approving a tolling bill, the Democratic governor and former businessman has held out hope that legislation authorizing tolls will finally be passed during a special legislative session. But it remains unclear whether that will happen.

“I would say there was quite a divide in terms of what we do, and I’m not sure that we’ve found a toll bridge to connect us,” Lamont said, following a two-hour closed-door meeting he organized with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. “But I’m going to try my best. I’ve been doing deals for a long time.”

Lamont and some of his top advisers provided a presentation to the lawmakers about Connecticut’s transportation funding needs, warning that the state faces the possibility of being penalized by the federal government in about 10 years for not keeping enough of its roads and bridges in good repair. The state is on track to spend about $875 million annually on transportation infrastructure, but Lamont’s administration estimates the need is actually about $1.2 billion a year.

The net revenue from tolls has been estimated to be about $800 million annually.

The issue of tolls is a politically contentious one. About a dozen citizens who oppose tolls, many holding signs, showed up at the state Capitol on Wednesday and shouted “no tolls” as Lamont, the legislators and others walked into the meeting. While they credit their lobbying efforts with helping to scuttle a vote during the regular legislative session, the toll opponents plan to keep up the fight.

“It’s a trust issue with me. I’m not going to take it for granted that they’re not going to do anything this time,” said Kevin Kupstis, an informational technology industry worker from Southington, who held signs that read “No Tolls! Cut Spending!” and “Tolls = Tax On Working Poor.”

To help make tolls more affordable and possibly more politically palatable, the package of proposals presented to the lawmakers Wednesday includes a plan for “middle class tax relief” by lowering the state’s lowest personal income tax rate of 3% to 2%.

In Connecticut, the first $10,000 of taxable income for single filers and first $20,000 for joint filers is currently taxed at 3%. Lowering that bottom rate would give all filers a tax break ranging from $90 to $180, according to Lamont’s proposal. There’s also a 20% tolling discount for low-income Connecticut residents; a 30% discount for all Connecticut residents with an EZ-Pass; and a 20% discount for frequent drivers.

The two Republican leaders didn’t appear to know a lot about the income tax proposal, saying Lamont’s presentation ended before the idea was discussed at length. But it didn’t seem to make much of a difference, with both the GOP leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate reiterating they continue to oppose tolls.

Still upset at not being part of the negotiations on the new two-year state budget, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides of Derby said she believes the Republicans were invited to Wednesday’s meeting because the Democrats don’t have enough support within their own ranks to pass a tolling bill.

“Do I believe they want us in that room to have this conversation? Yes,” Klarides said. “But I believe they want us because they don’t have the votes on their own.”

Despite saying there’s a divide with lawmakers, Lamont contends there is enough support among just the Democratic lawmakers to pass a tolling bill, and he’s working with the Democratic leaders to determine the right time for a vote. Asked if he’s confident there will be a decision on tolls in a special session, Lamont answered he’s “very confident.”

Connecticut's 'Facebook fugitive' finally turns himself in

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut man who promised to turn himself in if his wanted poster received 15,000 likes on Facebook has made good on his pledge.

It just took longer than expected.

Torrington police say 29-year-old Jose Simms called Enfield police on Wednesday and asked them to pick him up because he was wanted. Enfield police turned him over to Torrington police, who held him on $30,500 bond.

Torrington police posted Simms' poster on Facebook on May 22. He contacted police through the site and agreed to surrender if the post received 15,000 likes. It quickly surpassed that number.

The post had more than 29,000 likes as of Wednesday.

Simms was being sought as a fugitive after failing to appear in court on several charges. It couldn't be determined if he has a lawyer.

Man sentenced for heroin and gun swap with undercover agent

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man has been sentenced to almost three years in prison after swapping heroin for guns with an undercover federal agent.

Federal authorities say 39-year old Patrick Rogers expressed an interest in accessing firearms during a recorded meeting where an agent bought heroin from him.

Authorities later arranged a deal to swap two guns with Rogers in exchange for 160 bags of heroin.

Rogers, whose last known address is in Waterbury, was on probation when he was arrested.

His previous drug convictions bar him from possessing guns.

Rogers' attorney sought a more lenient sentence arguing her client had entered crime at a young age and served as a lookout for neighborhood drug dealers. She said Rogers couldn't find permanent work after he was released from prison in 2017.


Gov. Lamont signs bill limiting police immigration actions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont has signed a bill into law that places limitations on when Connecticut law enforcement officers can hold individuals sought by federal immigration officials.

The Democrat released a video message Tuesday saying he's proud to sign the Connecticut Trust Act, adding "we're a nation of immigrants and refugees and nothing the president does will ever change that." Democrats have been critical of President Donald Trump's immigration policy.

The legislation takes effect on October 1.

Among other things, it prevents law enforcement from detaining someone on a civil immigration detainer unless it's accompanied by a warrant signed by a judge; the person is guilty of a serious felony; or the person is on a terrorist watch list. Critics say they fear Connecticut is becoming a so-called sanctuary state.

High school athletes file complaint over transgender policy

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Three Connecticut girls who ran high school track have filed a federal discrimination complaint, saying a statewide policy that forced them to compete against transgender athletes cost them top finishes and possibly college scholarships.

The conservative Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom filed the complaint on behalf of the girls Monday with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights. It seeks an investigation and actions to make competitions fair.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference governs high school sports in the state. It says its policy follows a state anti-discrimination law requiring students to be treated in school according to the gender with which they identify.

The complaint says transgender athletes have been consistently winning track and field events and the policy violates federal protections for female athletes.

Lamont signs bill increasing Connecticut's smoking age to 21

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont has signed legislation that increases the age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

The bill signed into law Tuesday by the Democrat also prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes and vaping products to anyone under 21. The new law takes effects on Oct. 1.

Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, says such "Tobacco 21" laws are "more important than ever" given the increase in youth e-cigarette use. He says adolescents and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction, making Connecticut's legislation "an important, life-saving measure."

The law also bans smoking on the grounds of child care centers and schools.

Critics of the legislation have complained it violates the rights of adults ages 18 to 21.

Man accused in killing of 1986 girl held on $5 million bail

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut judge has ordered a Maine man detained on $5 million bail in connection with the 1986 rape and killing of an 11-year-old girl.

The decision came Monday in Norwalk as 53-year-old Marc Karun made his first court appearance in Connecticut since being arrested last week near his home in Stetson, Maine.

Karun is charged with murder and kidnapping in the sexual assault and strangling of Kathleen Flynn. Police say the sixth-grader was killed while walking home from Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk on Sept. 23, 1986.

Karun has not yet entered pleas and his lawyer, Todd Bussert, declined to comment on the allegations Monday.

Police say Kathleen was killed in an attack similar to attacks on four other women of which Karun was convicted.

Couple seeks to stop release of more vaccine data

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut couple is seeking to stop the state Department of Public Health from publicly releasing additional information about immunization rates at private and public schools.

Brian and Kristen Festa, of Woodstock, have filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary injunction. The parents of an unvaccinated son say they've suffered "mental and emotional distress due to the vitriolic and hateful statements from the public" since the agency released immunization data on May 3.

The couple's 7-year-old son attends a private school in Meriden for students with autism spectrum disorders where 18.5% of students claim a religious exemption from vaccinations, one of the highest exemption rates in the state. They say it's "reasonable to presume" their son and other students will be harassed.

Attorney General William Tong's office declined to comment.

New Jersey man pleads guilty for food stamp fraud

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges for letting customers on food stamps sell their benefits for cash and buy restricted items at a Connecticut store.

Federal authorities say at the WB Trade Fair Grocery in Waterbury, 50-year-old Muhammad Shahbaz and other employees allowed customers to purchase restricted items like cigarettes and sold them at double the normal price.

According to a release, during a normal year, the store could normally receive $120,000 to $240,000 per year in food stamp benefits. During 18 months starting in 2015, redemptions totaled $3.2 million.

Three other store employees have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud. Shahbaz, of Jersey City, New Jersey, will be sentenced by a federal judge in October. He faces up to five years in prison.

Suspect in 1986 killing of girl expected in court

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The suspect in the rape and killing of an 11-year-old Connecticut girl more than three decades ago is expected to appear in court to face charges.

Authorities say 53-year-old Marc Karun will likely appear Monday in Superior Court in Norwalk to face charges of first-degree sexual assault and murder in the 1986 slaying of Kathleen Flynn in Norwalk.

Karun was arrested at his Stetson, Maine, home last week and extradited to Connecticut on Friday. He has been held over the weekend on $5 million bond.

Police allege Karun, a former Norwalk resident, killed the girl as the sixth grader was walking the roughly half-mile home from Ponus Ridge Middle School.


Connecticut trooper hurt while helping disabled vehicle

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut State Police trooper has suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries while helping a motorist who had pulled over.

Police say Trooper Gregory Sawicki was helping the occupants of a car that had pulled over in the median of Interstate 95 in Fairfield at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

Sawicki stopped his cruiser behind the disabled vehicle and activated his emergency lights.

A third vehicle, an SUV that was driving in the left-hand lane of the highway, struck the cruiser from behind, pushing it into the first car.

Sawicki was taken to Bridgeport Hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries.

Two occupants of the disabled car and the driver of the SUV that struck the cruiser also suffered minor injuries.

The crash remains under investigation.

Lamont plans to meet with leaders about electronic tolls

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to meet privately in the coming days with Connecticut legislative leaders to discuss a possible special session on transportation funding, most notably electronic tolls.

The Democrat has made it clear he's not giving up tolls, but acknowledged he's open to making changes to the proposal that was being crafted during the regular legislative session, which ended June 5. He recently suggested to News 12 Connecticut that tolls might be ramped up over a period of time, or "maybe we do tolls not everywhere but somewhere."

While some Democratic legislators, who control the General Assembly, say they're open to changes, Republicans say they're still opposed to the concept.

Lamont has called for no more than 50 tolling gantries on Interstates 84, 91, 95 and Route 15.

Man arrested in 1986 rape and killing of 11-year-old girl

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - Police in Maine have arrested a man in connection with the 1986 rape and killing of an 11-year-old girl in Connecticut.

Authorities in Norwalk, Connecticut, say Marc Karun was taken into custody Wednesday as he left his home in Stetson, Maine. Officials say Karun is expected to be charged with murder and sexual assault when he is brought to Connecticut.

Kathleen Flynn disappeared on Sept. 23, 1986, while walking home from Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk. Her body was found about 100 feet off a path near the school.

Police have not release details about the arrest.

It's not clear if Karun has a lawyer who could respond to the allegations.

Kathleen's family released a statement thanking police and saying it continues to be a difficult time for them.

Police: Man who stole Christmas gifts for needy caught

HEBRON, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut have finally caught up to a man they say broke into a home before Christmas and stole presents that had been collected for a needy family.

The Journal Inquirer reports that Hebron police have charged 33-year-old Clarence Braun III with burglary and larceny.

Police say Braun broke into a Hebron home on Dec. 6 while no one was home. The thief was caught on a security camera taking about two dozen unopened boxes.

The homeowner, Maria McKeon, say the presents including a television and computer had been collected for a New London family in which the mother was suffering from a heart condition.

Braun is being held on $5,000 bond pending a July 3 court date. No defense attorney was listed in online court records.


GOP leader predicts state budget could face legal challenge

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Senate's Republican leader predicts the state could face legal action if Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signs a new, two-year $43 billion state budget.

Sen. Len Fasano of North Haven reiterated Thursday he believes it would be unconstitutional for Lamont to sign the Democratic budget because it counts on labor savings that haven't been finalized by state employee union leaders. He says "there are groups out there that may challenge" the legality of the budget after it takes effect July 1.

Lamont says he's signing the budget.

Lamont and his budget chief say only a portion of the labor savings in the budget, $234 million over two years from refinancing state pension payments, needs approval from union leaders. Lamont says he has the authority to enact other savings initiatives.

Connecticut town bans flip-flops at work

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut town has barred municipal employees from wearing slide sandals or flip-flops to work.

Mary Pepe, director of human resources in Greenwich, tells the Greenwich Time the policy that took effect June 1 was not made in response to a specific incident, but to create safer conditions and avoid accidents that can result in injuries, absences and workers' compensation claims.

Megan Damato, the town's director of risk management, says flip-flops or slide sandals can be a tripping hazard.

Pepe says she's heard from several workers supporting the policy, but so far there have been no formal complaints.

There are exceptions. The policy does not apply to lifeguards, staff at town-run camps or swim instructors. Sandals that close around the back of the foot or around the ankle are permitted.

UConn providing sign language interpreters for musicals

STORRS, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Repertory Theatre at UConn has teamed up with the school's interpreting services to make its plays more accessible to the deaf community.

UConn Interpreting Services will provide interpreters this summer for performances of the musicals "Mamma Mia!" and "Cabaret."

The two interpreters will stand just off stage right signing the dialogue and lyrics to a section of the audience where those with hearing loss will be sitting, while also trying to convey the emotions in the words and music.

UConn recently approved American Sign Language studies as a major, beginning in 2020, which will include a concentration in interpreting.

Audrey Silva, the director of UConn Interpreting Services, says the school hopes to eventually offer internships with her office.

Homecare agencies ask Lamont to veto part of budget bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A coalition of homecare agencies is asking Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to veto part of the state budget bill they say will harm the industry.

The advocates said Wednesday they were surprised to see language appear in the bill that would ban "non-solicitation clauses" in employee contracts. Such clauses prevent a worker from soliciting an agency's clients to become a private client or to follow them to another agency.

The provision was originally part of a human services bill the Democratic governor proposed earlier this year. Lamont has not yet signed the budget bill.

Advocates say the legislation could have harmful consequences for clients who might decide to forgo using an agency that screens workers.

Lamont's spokeswoman says the administration believes the health and safety of clients won't be harmed.

Connecticut gov says United Technologies will hire in-state

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont says he's been assured United Technologies Corporation plans to hire 1,000 additional workers at Pratt & Whitney over the next few years.

The Democrat said Tuesday he's also been assured Otis elevators, which UTC plans to spin off to become an independent company, will remain in Connecticut and hire more people.

Lamont's announcements follow news UTC is moving its headquarters from Farmington, Connecticut, to the Boston area as part of a merger with Raytheon Co.

David Lehman, Lamont's economic adviser, says the administration would prefer UTC keep its headquarters in Connecticut, but UTC's CEO Greg Hayes has given Lamont "an endorsement of sorts of the footprint they have here" and their plans to keep growing it.

Lehman says the 1,000 new jobs include manufacturing and engineering positions.

Missing mother's estranged husband posts bail

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - The estranged husband of a missing Connecticut mother of five has posted $500,000 bail in a criminal case related to her disappearance.

Fotis Dulos was still in an orange prison uniform and declined to answer questions as he left the state courthouse in Stamford shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Dulos and his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, pleaded not guilty earlier in the day to evidence tampering and hindering prosecution charges connected to the May 24 disappearance of Jennifer Dulos, who remains missing.

The estranged couple is involved in a bitter divorce and child custody case. Jennifer Dulos' mother is caring for the children and seeking custody.

Fotis Dulos declined to answer questions during a family court hearing Tuesday afternoon, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

On Air Now

B94.5 Afternoons
3:00pm - 5:00pm
B94.5 Afternoons