Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Don't under estimate a sense of humor...

Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd's bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination hasn't yet hit home, at least according to polls. The senator is still finding himself well back in the pack of candidates, barely registering in some polls. In an interview with the Hartford Courant regarding his showing in the polls, Dodd said this:

"I'm competing with the margin of error in most polls."

The Courant went on to say in its story that the senator "should be so lucky," noting that one recent poll conducted by Zogby had a maring of error of 5.4 percent - significantly better than Dodd's numbers.

Mid-week goings-on

Chris Healy has been named the new chairman of the state Republican Party. Healy had most recently served as campaign manager for former Congressman Rob Simmons, losing that election by the narrowest of margins - 91 votes out of more than 244,000 ballots cast.

It had been rumored that Simmons might be named chairman, with Healy serving as executive director taking care of the day-to-day operations. But that doesn't appear to be happening, giving some rise to speculation that Simmons may still throw his hat back into the ring for a rematch with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, in 2008.

Maybe we might get a bit more insight into what he's thinking later today when the end of the year election finance reports are filed. Then again, maybe not....

Elsewhere, in Hartford....a couple of Republican lawmakers are planning a press conference to talk about the one BIG issue facing the General Assembly and the governor this year that no one wants to really talk about...the Constitutionally mandated spending cap.

Republican Senate Leader C. DeLuca (R-Woodbury), Senator David J. Cappiello (R-Danbury) and Senator William H. Nickerson (R-Greenwich) along with members of the Senate Republican Caucus will hold a press conference to discuss the importance of protecting the spending cap. The Press Conference is scheduled for Thursday, February 1st, at 11:30 AM in Room 1A at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A sneak peek...

A week from tomorrow, Gov. M. Jodi Rell will unveil her proposed two-year state budget.. The governor has been, and continues, to keep things pretty quiet - remember last year's big surprise during her budget address to the general assembly where she proposed the elimination of the car tax?

This is, as has been in the case for several years now, another tough budget year for lawmakers in Hartford.

Tomorrow, at the state Capitol, there's an informational forum being held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. where representatives from various groups - organizations pushing specific legislative measures, the governor's office and others - will discuss what needs to be done and the challenges facing lawmakers in getting them accomplished.

At best, it may provide some insight as to what will be the top items that will become the focus of this year's budget negotiations. At worse, it may demonstrate just how difficult it's going to be in making any progress on any of these items.

The worse part of all of this is that cities and towns will likely come up on the short end once again.

This is the 'long session,' meaning the General Assembly session doesn't end until early June. That means cities and towns will have to wrestle with municipal budgets without actually knowing what the final outcome of state aid will be this year. Local communities begin drafting budgets in April, bringing them to residents for approval in May and finalizing the process in June - with fingers crossed that the guesses they make in the next several months are 'close enough' to what will become the reality later this summer.


They're gone...

Tomorrow, the Democratic House will take up the continuing resolutions to fund nine of hte 11 federal agencies for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The last Congress did not finalize those funding budgets, instead they adopted continuing resolutions that provided funding through Feb. 15 - leaving the next Congress to finish up the work.

As part of the Democratic plan, all earmarks - the specific pet projects included in the original proposals - have been stripped away. However, Democrats have increased the overall funding in many of the budgets - such as increases in veterans health care programs, Pell grants, Transportation funding, etc.

What it means is this:

Those projects that had been specifically signled out for federal funds are no longer part of the budget process - and agencies and organizations hoping to get federal funds for projects will now have to compete for those funds with other groups from across the nation.

It's still too early to say how that is going to affect projects and programs here in eastern Connecticut - and may be some time before that is known.

But for those who sought to eliminate the practice of "earmarks" in the federal budget - it's a minor success.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sitting in...

If you've ever watched Congressional proceedings on C-SPAN, you've probably noticed that the Speaker of the House isn't always at the podium weilding hte gavel. The same applies in Hartford, where deputy or assistant speakers fill in in overseeing the action on the House floor.

Tonight, a freshman gets his chance under the bright lights.

From 6:30 to 9 p.m. this evening, U.S. Rep Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, will be presiding over the House. You can catch him on C-SPAN.


We all know that last year's mid-term elections were the most expensive congressional races ever here in Connecticut - and despite former Congressman Rob Simmons and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's combined spending of nearly $6 million (for a job that pays only $165,500 a year), they actually finished last in the money game. They were outspent by the other two contested House races - not to mention that enormous amounts spent on the US Senate race.

I bring this up because Wednesday is the deadline for the candidates - winners and losers - to file their "year-end" financial statements. Those financial reports are not expected to provide any significant new information - just more detail. They could, however, provide some insight into future plans - or at least offer up some solid ground for good, old speculation.


And a good Monday morning to all...

Well it seems the state legislature will be taking up the issue of restoring toll booths to Connecticut's major highways this week. There's a public hearing on a proposal scheduled for Wednesday I believe.

I'm curious as to what you might think about bringing back tolls?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A final comment for the day...

Due to a death in the family, I'll be off line for a few days. Back on Monday.

One down...literally

One of the House Democrats' major "100 Hour" agenda items ran into a roadblock today - the increase in the federal minimum wage.

The measure stalled in the Senate where some lawmakers insisted on tacking on a provision that would provide tax breaks for restaurants and other businesses that rely on low-paid workers. The Houe bill would have increased the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over a period of years.

The Senate voted 54-43 in a losing effort to advance the measure to the president's desk for his signature.

One fewer hopeful...

The Associated Press is reporting that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry will announce later today that he will NOT be a candidate for president in 2008.

Update: Here's what U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, another of the Democratic presidential contenders, had to say about the Kerry decision:

“I have great respect for Senator Kerry, who is a valuable member of the Senate and has been a tremendous asset to our country. He served our country as a young man during a time of war and proudly carried the mantle of our party three years ago when he ran a tough and honorable race against a sitting President, again during a time of war.

“We traveled in the Middle East together last month and his belief that America can regain our leadership in the world as well as once again be respected and admired was apparent. He will continue to be an important voice on both the world stage and in the Senate.”

About tie color, time and words...

CNN has dissected the President's State of the Union Address in many ways this morning. I thought you might find some of their observations interesting:

1. The speech contained roughly 5,577 words. Putting that in perspective, Harry Truman's 1946 speech was the longest ever at more than 25,000 words. And George Washington's 1790 address was the least with a mere 833 words.

2. The president did not use the word "Republican" or "surge" once during his speech. Here's a quick look at words and phrases he did use - and how often:
"America" or "American" - 49
"Iraq" or "Iraqi" - 34
"child" or "children" - 15
"enemy" - 10
"democratic" (little "d") or "democracy" - 8
"success" - 5
"War on Terror" - 4
"courage" - 4
"Madam Speaker" - 3
"failure" - 3
"troops" - 3
"Baby Einstein" - 3
"freedom" - 3
"evil" - 2
"friend" - 2
"victory" - 2
"Democrat" or "Democratic" (big "D") - 1

3. CNN noted the president wore a blue tie, raising some speculation that it was a tip of the hat to the new Democratic majorities in Congress. But then again, maybe not. They researched his six previous speeches to determine tie coloring in the past:
2002: Blue
2003: Blue
2004: Red
2005: Red
2006: Blue
2007: Blue

4. The speech was interrupted 63 times by applause and lasted 50 minutes. (The 2006 speech was interrupted 64 times - and lasted 51 minutes).

And this...

There is now an official "Draft Obama" organization in Connecticut, a group of citizen-actvisits hoping to gather petition signatures to convince the freshman lawmaker to officially get in to the presidential race (as if he needs any more encouragement).

Speaking for the group, Steve Wilmarth of Westbrook, CT said, "We want to send a signal that Senator Obama has real support here in Connecticut for a run for the office of President! Our nation yearns for a new brand of leadership, not based on cheap, divisive slogans, but on character, integrity, and honesty with the American people about the challenges that lie ahead. We believe Senator Obama will bring hope, fresh ideas, and strong leadership on the issues of most concern to Americans, America, and the world."

If you are interested, the Web page is www.Connecticut

The day after the speech...

A couple of noteable iems this morning.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd introduced his amendment today capping the size of American troops in Iraq, his attempt to halt the president's build up of American forces there without first obtaining congressional authorization. Here's what he had to say at the Senate committee meeting:

Mr. Chairman, I believe that the state of disarray in Iraq is terribly much on the minds of all Americans. As is the tragic loss of life of some of the most courageous of our young men and women in uniform.

As the first action by this Committee in the new Congress, I strongly believe we must demonstrate to the American people that we share their concerns and doubts about the President’s proposed plan’s to escalate our involvement in Iraq.

More important, I believe that we must demonstrate that we are prepared to lead on this issue – not simply sit back, fearful of taking positions most of us believe are in the interests of our country, namely to change the primary mission of our forces in Iraq from referees of sectarian violence and to undertake missions designed to turn over responsibility for Iraq’s security to Iraqis.

I was struck by the fact that when Secretary Rice was before this Committee earlier this month almost all of the Members of this Committee expressed serious reservations, if not outright opposition to the President’s plan to escalate our failed policies in Iraq.

I am unequivocally opposed to the escalation of US involvement in the ongoing civil war in Iraq. I want the Congress to consider meaningful and binding legislation to block that escalation. And I believe that should happen sooner rather than later.

Stopping the escalation of US forces is clearly only the first step.

There must also be a meaningful de-escalation of US combat activities in Iraq, to be achieved through the redeployment of US forces both within Iraq and to elsewhere in the region. It is critical that US combat troops get out of urban areas where sectarian conflict is greatest.

This will enable US forces to concentrate on expediting the equipping and training of Iraqi security forces to enhance their ability to bring security to Iraq, securing Iraq’s borders from outside interference and continuing effective counterterrorism initiatives to protect vital US security interests in the region.

Mr. Chairman, as you know on January 16, I followed up my statement of opposition to the President’s plan in Committee with the introduction of binding legislation in opposition to the President’s proposal to escalate US combat involvement in Iraq.

I have done so by statutorily limiting troop levels to those on the ground as of January 16, 2007, absent the explicit authorization in advance from Congress to increase those levels --An authorization which I would oppose as would a majority of the Senate and the House, I suspect.

There is ample precedent for this approach. 1974, Vietnam, 1983, Lebanon, 1984 US troops permanently based in Europe, 2000, Colombia.

In some cases these caps have been effectuated by restricting funding. In other cases the approach I have taken to simply prohibit additional troops without explicit authorization has been followed.

I feel very strongly that we must act now. If we sit back and let several weeks go by, the President will interpret this delay as lack of resolve on our part. I do not lack that resolve and I think that it is important that members go on record as to whether they are for or against the escalation of our involvement in Iraq.

And with all due respect, I do not think that the resolution before us is definitive enough on that score.

The text of my amendment is section two of my bill (S. 308). A copy of my amendment has been made available to all members.

And should my amendment prevail I will move that the text of the resolution as amended be reported as an original joint resolution of this committee with appropriate technical corrections to be made to the text to achieve that result.

The troops that my amendment would prevent being deployed to Iraq are destined for Baghdad – a city of 6 million people in the throes of sectarian conflict. Surely those troops will be less at risk outside of Iraq than on the streets of Baghdad.

As to the troops that remain, it has been my recommendation, to embrace the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, most especially the recommendation to “change the primary mission of US forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.”

Under those circumstances the cap levels envisioned in my amendment should be more than adequate to respond to unforeseen contingencies.

I believe that the American people are tired of the Congress not living up to its responsibilities to weigh in to change the course of US involvement in Iraq when we all know in our hearts that this needs to be done.

If we were able to authorize the President to go war in 2002 – a vote many of us regret – surely we can take meaningful steps to right that wrong – it is long overdue that we do so.

I hope you, Mr. Chairman, and other members of the Committee will support this amendment.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The president's speech....

Here's a quick look at what the president will be talking about tonight during his State of the Union Speech. The White House issued "fact sheets" highlighting the issues to be discussed. They include:

Energy: President Bush will ask Congress and America's scientists, farmers, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs to join him in pursuing the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next ten years – Twenty in Ten. We will reach the President's Twenty in Ten goal by increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels and by reforming and modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and extending the current light truck rule.
The President's energy plan also includes stepping up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways and doubling the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)

Health Care: President Bush will announce his proposals to make basic, private health insurance available and affordable for more Americans. The President's plan includes reforming the tax code with a standard deduction for health insurance so all Americans get the same tax breaks for health insurance, and helping states make affordable private health insurance available to their citizens.

Spending Reform: President Bush will discuss three major reforms to spend taxpayer dollars wisely: balancing the budget through pro-growth policies and spending restraint, enacting common-sense reforms to help prevent billions of taxpayer dollars from being spent on unnecessary earmarks, and reforming entitlement programs.

Education: President Bush will discuss his priorities for strengthening and reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) this year.

Immigration: President Bush will call on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will secure our borders, enhance interior and worksite enforcement, create a temporary worker program, resolve – without animosity and without amnesty – the status of illegal immigrants already here, and promote assimilation into our society.

On the International front, the President will offer this:
War On Terror/Iraq: The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict – it is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq, and the President believes his new Iraq plan is the best way to succeed. Tonight, the President will propose to establish a special advisory council on the War on Terror made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties.

Strengthening Our Military: President Bush will ask Congress for authority to increase the overall strength of our active Army and the Marine Corps by 92,000 Soldiers and Marines in the next five years.

The president's speech....

Here's a quick look at what the president will be talking about tonight during his State of the Union Speech. The White House issued "fact sheets" highlighting the issues to be discussed. They include:

Energy: President Bush will ask Congress and America's scientists, farmers, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs to join him in pursuing the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next ten years – Twenty in Ten. We will reach the President's Twenty in Ten goal by increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels and by reforming and modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and extending the current light truck rule.
The President's energy plan also includes stepping up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways and doubling the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)

Health Care: President Bush will announce his proposals to make basic, private health insurance available and affordable for more Americans. The President's plan includes reforming the tax code with a standard deduction for health insurance so all Americans get the same tax breaks for health insurance, and helping states make affordable private health insurance available to their citizens.

Spending Reform: President Bush will discuss three major reforms to spend taxpayer dollars wisely: balancing the budget through pro-growth policies and spending restraint, enacting common-sense reforms to help prevent billions of taxpayer dollars from being spent on unnecessary earmarks, and reforming entitlement programs.

Education: President Bush will discuss his priorities for strengthening and reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) this year.

Immigration: President Bush will call on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will secure our borders, enhance interior and worksite enforcement, create a temporary worker program, resolve – without animosity and without amnesty – the status of illegal immigrants already here, and promote assimilation into our society.

On the International front, the President will offer this:
War On Terror/Iraq: The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict – it is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq, and the President believes his new Iraq plan is the best way to succeed. Tonight, the President will propose to establish a special advisory council on the War on Terror made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties.

Strengthening Our Military: President Bush will ask Congress for authority to increase the overall strength of our active Army and the Marine Corps by 92,000 Soldiers and Marines in the next five years.

More on tonight's speech...

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, has invited Woodstock resident Ken Goldsmith to be his guest at the Capitol to watch President Bush's State of the State Address tonight. Goldsmith is in the U.S. Navy reserves and nominated Courtney at the 2nd Congressional District convention last May. Goldsmith also appeared with Courtney at a couple of campaign stops during the election, voicing his concerns over the lack of health care afforded to those in the reserves and National Guard after returning from deployment.

Goldsmith has flown hundreds of missions in support of global military operations, including several extended periods in the Persian Gulf region. He also commanded a nine day mission flying relief supplies to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Locally, he serves on the Woodstock Planning and Zoning Commission and the board of directors of the Northeast Economic Alliance.

Bush's speech...

This little tidbit was dropped in last night's ABC News broadcast previewing the president's state of the state address:

President Bush comes into tonight's speech with the lowest approval ratings of any presidential state of the state address since Rich Nixon's speech in the midst of the Watergate scandal.


Monday was a Monday - filled with things that needed to get done, thus no entry on the blog yesterday.

It was also a rather busy weekend on the presidential campaign level with a number of "new" faces jumping into the contest. Chris Dodd apparently had a successful trip into New Hampshire over the weekend, based on the press stories I've read. No real commitment from the activists, but no one seemed to dismiss his candidacy, either.

The president delivers the state of the state address tonight. It will supposedly be one of the shorter speeches he's made since taking over the White House six years ago. Estimates put it at about 40 minutes. Reports suggest there will be very little said about Iraq, with most if not all of the speech fousing instead on domestic issues.

I look forward to hearing what you think afterwards.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Contact made...

I've just been informed by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's staff that the e-mail operation is now up and running, and constituents who wish to contact the congressman can now reach him at

And a couple of odd thoughts...

A few items I came across this week...
The Democrats and Republicans have selected their sites for the 2008 conventions. Democrats are going to Denver and Republicans are headed to Minneapolis/St. Paul. It marks the first time since 1936 that both political parties will hold their big coming-out party in states they lost in the last presidential election.

And then this...
Did you know that first borns are more likely to be president than middle or youngest born children in a family.
George W. Bush is the oldest of five children, and John Kerrywas the second oldest of four.
Bill Clinton was the first born in his family, and Bob Dole was the second oldest of our children in his.
I haven't done a thorough review of all the 2008 presidential hopefuls at this point, but it is something to consider when sizing up the field after everyone who's getting into the race, gets in.

Wrapping up the week...

This week Republicans in the state legislature held a press conference to announce property tax refrom proposal. Basically, the Reublican idea is to eliminate it completely - and let municipalities decide for themselves how they want to raise revenues.That could include a local income tax, hotel taxes, maybe a local sales tax - and still keep a property tax, but probably smaller -at first at least.

When you consider all the talk we've heard about property tax reform over the years, this "new" solution isn't much of a solution. What it is, is nothing more than throwing one's hands in the air and admitting that you don't have an answer.

One would expect more...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

On the other side...

I haven't talked much lately about the other side of the 2008 presidential sweepstakes, the Republican race mostly because there hasn't been much to really say. However, the Boston Globe this morning has an interesting piece of a new American Research Group poll to be released later this week that suggests Arizona Sen. john McCain's bid is in trouble. Long considered the frontrunner in the GOP race, the ARG poll says independent voters in New Hampshire (and yes, they get to vote in party primaries) are abandoning McCain's campaign.

A year ago McCain was polling very well among independents a year ago - 49 percent. The new poll shows, however, only 29 percent support now. Those same kind of numbers are also cropping up in polls in Iowa and Nevada - two of the early caucus states.

And...for what it's worth...although he isn't running away with anything in the early polling, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is my guess as the GOP candidate most likely to emerge with the nomination. (But it's still early in the game, and that opinion might change several times in the weeks and months ahead.)

The 2008 trail....

Connecticut's senior Sen. Chris Dodd has carved out an ambitious weekend in his presidential bid. He starts tomorrow night with a rally in Hartford for friends, family and supporters at the Old State House, and then it's off to New Hampshire for a two-day blitz of the first in the nation primary state.

His presidential campaign committee released the details of his trip last night with campaign stops planned in Nashua, Hooksett, Dover, Henniker, Charleston, Hanover, and Cornish.The highlights of the trip includes:

Breakfast with Democratic activists at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua Saturday morning, followed a "Coffe with Chris" stop at a private residence in Hooksett, an afternoon Town Hall Meeting at the Bell Center for Music and Arts in Dover, before calling it a day at the Senate District 7 Celebration at Daniel's Restaurant & Pub in Henniker.

On Sunday, Dodd meets with activists at a private residence in Charlestown before delivering a speech at Dartmouth College in Hanover in the early afternoon, capping off the two-day visit at a House Party at another private residence in Cornish.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The economy...

I spent the morning at a conference in Groton on Energy & The Economy, a forum hosted by the Chambers of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and Mystic and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

One of the more interesting - and telling, I think, - things said came during an question and answer portion following the first half of the program between State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, and Jeffery Blodgett, vice president of research for the Connecticut Economic Resource Center..

Blodgett had completing his presentation providing an overview of the state and regional economy, basically describing the economy as a "Goldilocks Economy, not too hot, not too cold - just right." He also suggested that many of the challenges facing the state and business leaders are problems that didn't arise overnight - and won't be solved overnight, either.

That's when Urban rose to the microphone and said, that is the problem. The state works on a two-year cycle, not a long term basis. She noted that not only does the state legislature spend most of its time putting together a two-year budget, lawmakers then embark on re-election campaigns - every two years.

If the problems we need to face have to be dealt with on the long term, operating on a two-year cycle (or way of thinking) doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More on the Dodd rally...

The Dodd for President campaign released more information this afternoon regarding Friday's rally in Hartford.

Those wishing to attend will have to RSVP to

The event is slated for 5:30-7 p.m. at the Old State House at 800 Main Street.

An update on a previous entry...

Last week I posted a note about state Sen. Edith Prague's, D-Columbia, submitting a proposed bill in the Connecticut General Assembly to do away with the Electoral College - and award the presidential race to the candidate who garners the most votes rather than the current system of weighted votes based on individual states.

Well, it seems it may not be that far fetched an idea afterall. I came across this Associated Press story out of Bismarck, North Dakota...

BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) -- A movement to essentially junk the Electoral College and award the presidency to the winner of the nationwide popular vote is making some headway in states large and small -- including, somewhat improbably, North Dakota.

The National Popular Vote movement is aimed at preventing a repeat of 2000, when Democrat Al Gore lost despite getting more votes than George W. Bush. Backers are asking states to change their laws to award their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationally.

A bill to do that was introduced last week in the North Dakota Legislature, even though it could reduce the political influence of small states like North Dakota.

John Koza, a Stanford University professor who is one of the idea's principal advocates, said lawmakers in 47 states have agreed to sponsor the plan this year. It was introduced last year in Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New York and California, where the Legislature approved the measure only to have Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger veto it.

Backers say it would help bring a national focus to presidential campaigns

Looking forward just a bit...

Good news for those about to send a young one off to college:

Tomorrow the U.S. House of Representatives will take up H.R. 5, the College Student Relief Act of 2007. The bill , if signed into law, would cut interest rates on need-based federal loans for undergraduate students from 6.8% to 3.4% over five years. As the average subsidized, or need-based, loan is about $14,000, this plan would save the average student a little less than $5,000 over the course of that loan.

Also coming up tomorrow, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, in conjunction with the Mystic Chamber of Commerce and Connecticut Business & Industry Association, is hosting a morning forum on Energy & the Economy - two issues that are closely related and of particular interest to many out here in this part of the state. The forum is at the Mystic Marriott in Groton and runs from 7:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

The state story...

The big news statewide centers around the arrest of blogger Ken Krayeske during the governor's inaugural parade a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't there, instead I was roaming the streets of Washington DC for the opening of Congress that week, so all I know about the situation is what I've read. And that's about as much as I care to say about it right now.

However, I did get this email, as did many others, and I'm passing the information along for those who might be interested.

The Free Kenny Legal Defense Fund is hosting a fund-raiser to assist Krayeske defray some of the court and legal costs fighting his arrest. The fund-raiser will be held at La Paloma Sabanera, 405 Capital Ave., Hartford Friday night, 6-9 p.m.

No RSVP is required, and the suggested donation is $25 per person - or whatever you can afford.

For more information, email Steve Colangelo ( or call him at 860-508-4740.

Obama is in....kind of.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama made it official today, filing papers to create an exploratory committee to pursue a potential presidential run in 2008. In a letter to supporters, Obama said the final decision on whether he's in or out will be made on Feb. 10.

Rally details...

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., brings his presidential campaign home Friday for a rally at the Old State House in Hartford.
The rally will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Dodd, who visited Iowa and South Carolina after announcing is candidacy last week, will travel to Dover, New Hampshire Saturday for a town hall meeting.

Monday, January 15, 2007

And on the state side of things...

State Republicans are again criticizing their Democratic counterparts for making a second attempt to take away the powers of the governor - in particular, one Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The latest attempt is a proposed bill that would strip the governor of her authority to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate - if a vacancy should suddenly crop up.

It was an issue first raised six years ago when U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman was tagged to be Al Gore's running mate in the 2000 presidential election. Lieberman declined to step aside from his Senate re-election bid, setting up the possibility that he could win re-election to the Senate and election as vice president - meaning he would resign as a senator and then Gov. John Rowland, a Republican as well, could appoint his replacement.

Nothing much was done about it after the 2000 campaign. But now, with U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd looking at a 2008 run, Democrats back here apparently want to cover their bases.

Democrats currently hold a slim 51-49 majority in the U.s. Senate. If Dodd were to win the presidency in 2008, and Rell were to replace him to fill out the remainder of his term, that would shift the balance of power in the Senate to Republicans (provided, of course, that both sides held to the current balance of power in that 2008 campaign where 36 senators will be running for re-election.)

New Hampshire first..

The first in the nation presidential primary state is not to be outdone - even when it comes to just talking about the presidency. A few minutes ago I posted an item saying the "first" debate among 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls would be April 26 in South Carolina.

Well...not so fast.

It seems New Hampshire is not going to let anyone have it first. CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire union Leader have scheduled back-to-back debates with the presidential hopefuls on April 4-5.


It's a bit of a slow day today because of the holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day - a good opportunity to scour the Internet and catch up on what's up politically. I found this little bit of information...proof that elections never seem to end. No sooner have we just finished with the mid-terms, and 2008's elections are shaping up.

The first public debate among Democratic candidates for president has been scheduled. It will be held on April l 26, 2007 (yes, just about three months from now) in South Carolina.

I can only hope that venue has a very large stage...

The problem with these kind of debates is that you never really get a chance to size up the candidates. With so many contenders in the field, the logistics of debate with that many participants becomes a nightmare - and none of the candidates get the opportunity to really show who they are and what they're all about Even in the best of circumstances, it's hard to get a candidate to answer a question beyond the prepared sound bite. Trying to glean something substantial under this format is next to impossible.

Monday morning....

Could be another interesting week(s) ahead...

Illinois Sen. Barrack Obama is expected to announce his plans this week, and indications seem to suggest he intends on throwing his hat in the presidential ring....

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will reportedly announce her candidacy next week....

More on the U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd candidacy. He is scheduled to conduct a town hall meeting in Dover, New Hampshire on Saturday...

On the state level...the legislature's Public Safety Committee has scheduled a public hearing next week.

On Tuesday, January 23 at 12:30 p.m. the committee will hear testimony on the recently-released report on improprieties exposed by an investigation into the Internal Affairs Division of the Connecticut State Police. The committee will also hear about the circumstances surrounding the January 3 arrest of a freelance journalist covering the governor's inaugural parade and his subsequent treatment.

“The integrity of our State Police force and its ability to police itself is of paramount importance in our law enforcement hierarchy, so we must act swiftly to address numerous inconsistencies in the administration of the department's Internal Affairs,”said state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, co-chairwoman of the committee. "And the suspected presence of a list on which certain Connecticut residents are identified by and for law enforcement, to be treated differently and perhaps more harshly raises many questions that must be thoroughly explored.”

What do you think...

Friday, January 12, 2007

And if you want to play along...

Since some enjoyed the last Web link I put up here - testing your knowledge of where the 50 states are - you might enjoy this one.

It's a Web page that is keeping track of the 2008 horserace for president by listing the Top 24 contenders based on people's vote. It's not divided by party, so Democrats and Republicans are ranked solely on how people vote - and it appears those rankings will change as more votes are cast over time. (Right now Connecticut's Chris Dodd is #23 - the last among Democrats).

If you're interested in taking a look, or bookmarking it to keep track of how things seem to be going, you can find it at:

Enjoy the weekend.

The Dodd candidacy

The details of the event haven't yet been released, but a rally in support of U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd'sbid for the White House is being planned for Friday night in Hartford. In a phone conversation with the senator this afternoon - who is in Iowa today - he said one of the things he hopes to do is invite Connecticut supporters who have supported him these past 30-plus years to "join him, and come along" for the ride.

In my column that will appear in Sunday's paper I remark how different people seem to be taking Dodd's bid compared to how folks responded to U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's 2004 presidential run.

So...I'd like to know how you feel. Would you support Dodd, or are you supporting another candidate in the race - Democrat or Republican - or, are you sitting on the sidelines waiting to see who else might get in the race?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


It has been a hectic morning to say the least.

The big news today - Chris Dodd is running for president . I didn't feel a need to jump on the blog immediately since most everyone knew this last night. (And, I might add, in my Sunday newspaper column last week I said he was going to announce and make the run.)

So...what do you think?

The political pundits say it's a long shot bid. Those who know him and who have worked with him say, don't rule out quite so fast.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

To the capitol....

I'm off to Hartford this afternoon, my first visit to the Capitol since the legislative session began last week.

Of course, the big news of the day today is the president's speech on his new strategy for Iraq. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of the speech - so feel free to comment later tonight after he delivers it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


The blog page was down today for maintence...but apparently whatever they were doing is now done.

The big news these days is the president's planned speech tomorrow night where he'll unveil his new strategy for the War in Iraq. Given everything that has been said already, it's unlikely anything he does say in the nationally televised debate will come as a surprise. We know he wants to increase the number of troops by 20,000 - send more money over to reconstruction and jobs programs - and he'll call for new "benchmarks" that the Iraqi government will be expected to meet so that the withdrawal of American troops can begin.

It is equally a good bet that few are going to find anything positive to say about this "new" strategy. And I would suspect that most, if not all, who might be compelled to comment to this entry will not have positive things to say about the plan.

But the purpose of today's blog is to look at what options Congress actually has - versus what is being said. Certainly this Congress, now controlled by the Democrats, will do more to exercise its constitutional powers of oversight than the previous Congress. But there are limits as to exactly how much it can do.

According to a report from the Center for American Progress...Congress can:
Condition, limit or shape the timing and nature of troop deployments and the missions they are authorized to undertake;
Cap the size of military deployments; and
Prohibit funding for existing or prospective deployments.

But what Congress also has to be watchful of is any steps that might put American troops into harm's way.

That's not to say those currently deployed in Iraq are not now in harm's way. But Congress, in its zeal to flex its new found muscles, needs to be careful in its deliberations over what actions it will take in response to the president's plans not to make matters worse.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Keeping track of things...

The state legislature has a wonderful tool on its Web page that allows residents to keep track of what's happening in Hartford. It's called "Bill Tracker," and how it works is like this...

You can select a specific bill, or list the names of any and all legislators you have an interest in, and ech time they file a bill - and as that bill makes its way through the legislative process - you get an email telling you that something has happened. You can learn what legislation your lawmaker is proposing, co-sponsoring and when and where hearings on those bills will be held.

Admittedly, it does get a bit hectic and you'll get lots of emails as more than 6,000 individual bills are submitted, so patience is a virtue.

The one draw back to the system is that later on in the session, when individual bills start to get blended in with other bills, and committees rather than individual lawmakers get listed as the "new" sponsor, you can lose track of some of them. But, depending on how interested you are in a particular issue or lawmaker, it is a great way to stay on top of things.

For example...a quick scan this afternoon of what bills have already been filed from the eastern Connecticut delegation produced this one:

It seems state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, has introduced a bill designed to elliminate the Electoral College as the means by which we elect our president - replacing it with an agreement among states to use the popular vote to determine the outcome of presidential elections.

The bill has been forwarded to the legislature's Government, Administration and Elections Committee. No date for a public hearing has yet been set.

Home again....

Back in Connecticut, and the focus now switches to Hartford and state issues.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities released it's legislative agenda - the annual wish list - of items they are hoping the governor and General Assembly will address this session. No surprise, property tax relief tops the agenda. It's been the number one item on the CCM legislative agenda for as long as I can remember.

The other two top priorities are controlling development sprawl and using the state surplus for bonding purposes to invest in Connecticut's infrastructure.

All good ideas, but never easy to implement. And at this point, lawmakers don't have a lot of answers either. How this will all play out is really an unknown at this point until Gov. M. Jodi Rell sends over her proposed 20007-09 two year budget proposal - which lawmakers will go over and amend - and evenutally adopt their own budget proposal covering the next two years.

One of the biggest hurdles facing the General Assembly and the governor this year, as I noted in a previous column in the newspaper, will be the constitutionally mandated spending cap. It's not an issue of how much money the state has to spend - it's an issue of how can it spend, and where and on what.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A final entry from Washington...

Friday was a busy day, trying to catch up with some of the Connecticut folks before they left the city for the return trip home - some interviews up on the Hill - and then lots of writing (three stories and the Sunday column for the paper).

Last night was take out pizza and relaxing. This morning it's pack up the car and make the return trip myself. But as I was emptying my notebooks yesterday, I came across an interview with someone who just didn't fit with any of the stories I was writing. So I thought I'd use the blog to tell his story.

His name is Mike Parker and he lives in Mississippi, although he spends quite bit of time in Wahington. Parker is a lobbyist with Welch Resources Inc. based in Alexandria, VA. He's also a former Congressman. A Republican congressman, no less. He served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1989-99.

I ran into Parker outside Union Station. He was there to U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's victory party at the train station. My interest was peaked for a number of reasons. First, Lieberman's support from lobbyists was an issue in last year's mid-term elections. His Democratic challenger Ned Lamont tried to use that againt the incumbent - so here was a chance to talk to a lobbyist who supported Lieberman's indepedent bid.

It's also very obvious that the Nov. 7 election outcome did little to sway anyone's opinion regarding the junior senator from Connecticut. Those back home opposed to his re-election continue to be opposed. So Parker, who knew Lieberman as a Congressional colleague and worked with him as a lawmaker, struck me as someone who could offer an outsiders view of the senator and the controversy.

His opinions are his own - and likely those who have their own opinions will either disagree or agree. That's your choice. But here is what Parker had to say about Lieberman:

"He may be, I don't know the right word, but he may be the most morale man I've ever met. I can only think of people in my own family that I find that same level of morality."

"I've known him a long time. I worked with him when we both served in Congress and I've worked with him since I've left Congress. He's a very issue-oriented man. He wants to know exactly what the issue is, then he makes his decision - on the issue, not the politics of it."

"I've never known him to play the partisan game - not when I was in Congress, and not since. So I expect him to continue to do the same job he's done in the past. He's not someone who's going to change who he is. He does things for the right reasons. I think that's why people respect him so much. I really think that's something the people of Connecticut should be very proud of. In this city, that's not something you can say about everyone."

Time to start packing up the car...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Coming up for air...

It has been quite a day, and it's not over yet. Right now I'm sitting at Union Station where, in about an hour, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman will host his celebration party with friends, family and supporters.

Security at the Capitol today was tight, creating extremely long lines everywhere you went. One of the more interesting moments of the day was around mid-afternoon. I was waiting in a small hallway on the Senate side of the Capitol, just outside the Senate dining room. I was there waiting for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd. Suddenly, this large contingency of Capitol Police came down the stairs, uniformed and plain clothes. One of the uniformed officers positioned himself directly in front of me as another stream of people rushed down the stairs - followed by more officers. In the midst of the pack, Vice President Dick Cheney. He looked over at me, but was hustled out long before it dawned on me who it was. Never got a chance to yell out, do you have a moment for a couple of questions Mr. Vice President?

The oddest moment of the day - the so-called "private" ceremonial swearing in of House members by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It was organized chaos at its finest. And there was nothing very private about it with more than four dozen television, newspaper radio reporters and cameramen (and women) crfammed into the room as the assebmly line-like process played out.

I've got three stories to file tonight for tomorrow's this will likely be the last update for the day. More tomorrow.

Let the festivities begin...

It is a feastive crowd gathered at the Rayburn House Office Building as constitents from Connecticut's 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts gathered to watch the swearing-in ceremonies on closed circuit TV.
"I'm here because of the realization of it," said Cathy Osten of Sprague. "We finally did it, and had to come and see it. It's the reward for all the hard work."
Osten, president of the state Correction Department Supervisors Council, was one of many union workers from eastern Connecticut working on behalf of Congressman Joe Courtney's campaign in last year's mid-term elections - and not being in Washington this week to celebrate the victory today was something she couldn't bring herself to miss.
Several hundred Connecticut residents attending the "viewing" party, gathering around the lone television set broadcasting the House ceremony at the Capitol.
A separate, private ceremonial swearing-in ceremony will be held in the Rayburn Room on the second floor of the Capitol later this afternoon. Courtney, who made a brief appearance at the viewing party, brought his father's old Bible with him.
"It's sentimental," he said.
His father passed away in 1997.

The big day....

Democrats officially assume positions of power today as the 110th Congress convenes for the 2007 legislative session. But a good portion of today will focus on ceremony and celebration. It will be a busy day. Here's a quick look at today's activities.

It all starts in less than an hour. At 9 a.m. Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership are hosting a bipartisan Interfaith Prayer Service in honor of men and women in uniform at St. Peter's Catholic Church.

Follow the service, members of Congress will head to the Capitol. At noon, the official swearing in ceremonies in the House and Senate starts - and then history will be made in the House when members vote for Speaker, making Pelosi the first woman ever to hold that office.

In order to accommodate friends and supporters who have traveled to the Capitol to participate, U.S. Reps.-elect Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Chris Murphy, D-5th District, have arranged for a "viewing party" at the Rayburn House Office Building where the ceremony will be broadcast on closed circuit television.

U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman is hosting an invitation-only luncheon for his friends and supporters at the Park Hyatt at 1:30 p.m. About dozen eastern Connecticut Democrats who supported Lieberman's independent bid for re-election last year will be attending.

A separate, private ceremonial swearing in will take place at the Capitol at 3 p.m. It is restricted to family members and local media. Murphy and Courtney - along with other new members - will be sworn in individually by the new House Speaker. They do this because cameras are not permitted on the House floor - so it's an opportunity to capture one of those "Kodak" moments.

Courtney has scheduled an open house in his new offices over at the Cannon House Office Building from 2:30 to 5 p.m. A chance for him to meet with constituents who came down for today's ceremonies, and a chance for constituents to meet with his Washington and District staffs.

At 6 p.m. the partying swings into full speed:

Lieberman is hosting another party for supporters at Union Station.

Connecticut's incumbent Democratic congressional members, U.S. Reps. John Larson and Rosa DeLauro are hosting a Connecticut delegation party for supporters where Courtney and Murphy and thier guests will be honored. the same time...Speaker Pelosi will be hosting the Swearing-in Celebration Concert at the National Building Museum.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A long but good day...

Just spent the last couple of hours with Norwich Mayor Ben Lathrop. He and a number of other eastern Connecticut constituents, like Billy Caron from Montville, are in Washington this week at the personal invitation of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman invited them down to take part in the ceremonies here because of their support for him in last year's election. Lathrop and Caron, both Democrats, threw their support to Lieberman last May during the state conventions - and stuck with him after he lost the Democratic primary.

Tomorrow, after the official swearing in ceremony in the Senate chambers, Lieberman has invited his supporters to an invitation only luncheon, and then later in the evening a party at Union Station.

As for me, it's been a long day - but a good one. It's time for me to file my story for tomorrow's newspaper - grab a nice dinner - and then call it a day. It will be a busy day tomorrow in the Capitol - I'm looking forward to it.

The other chamber...

Much of the focus of this trip has been on U.S. Rep.-elect Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who, along with the 434 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, will offically be sworn in to office tomorrow. But's he not the only story.

U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman will also be sworn in tomorrow when the Senate convenes. A three-term incumbent, Lieberman begins his fourth six-year term in the Senate after winning re-election in the November mid-term elections - as an independent. He lost the Democratic nomination in a bitterly contested Democratic primary to Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, but easily won the general election in November running as a petitioning candidate.

Lieberman continues to caucus with Democrats, and now refers to himself as an Independent Democrat. He has retained his seniority and will chair the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Friends and supporters will join Lieberman and his wife Hadassah following tomorrow's swearing in ceremony for an invitation-only luncheon at the Park Hyatt Hotel.

First impressions...

U.S. Rep.-elect Joe Courtney got his first look at his new congressional office this afternoon, stopping by Room 215 in the Cannon House Office Building before this afternoon's Democratic caucus meeting.

"It's pretty nice, isn't it?" he said as he looked over the three rooms that he and his staff will be sharing for the next two years.

I asked him how he was doing on the eve of his swearing in as a member of Congress, and he said "Great."

"There's a lot of juggling with the family and their schedule, getting the apartment up and running, but I'm trying not to let those nuts and blots things distract me from what going on," he said. "There really is something special going on. It's exciting."

Courtney's family is back at the 3rd Street apartment - with his two kids waiting for "cable guy" to come and hook up the cable TV.

"Somethings never change," he said.

In the attic...

The Connecticut State Flag is now flying proudly outside the doorway of Room 215 in the Cannon House Office Building. But probably not much of what else is stored in the fifth floor storage area will be coming down.

There was box of official congressional stationary - for Congressman Rob Simmons. There's a white mailbox - with Simmons scrolled on the side. And a lot of other "personalized" items that no longer fit.

There are, however, a few items stored there of interest. Two large, framed 2nd District maps are amoung the items - one depicting the "54-town" district that existed prior to the 2001 reapportionment, and the other a "65-town" map depicting the district as it exists today. There's also a microwave, refrigerator, couches, chairs and wood book cases/cabinets - several file cabinents and boxes of files.

Also located on the fifth floor - the offices of U.S. Rep.-elect Chris Murphy, D-5th District.

New/old digs...

I'm sitting in Room 215 in the Cannon House Office Building, former Congressman Rob Simmons' old office - and soon to be newly-elected Congressman Joe Courtney's new offices. His staff literally picked up the keys to the office about an hour ago and have begun the process of setting up shop to conduct the people's business.

Right now, the place is pretty stark. The walls are bear and only a couple of desks show any signs of life. Boxes are the most obvious decoration in the place. The phones work, they're checking on the computers - and searching for the Connecticut State flag. Every House member has his/her state flag outside the office door in the hallway. The thought is that Connecticut's flag that will soon adorn the entrance is located somewhere in the storage area.

The Congressman is attending a special mass at this time at Trinity University. Later this afternoon he has a Democratic caucus meeting scheduled with the other members of the new Democratic majority that will be sworn in tomorrow.


The spotlight - politically speaking - is on Hartford today where Gov. M. Jodi Rell will be sworn in to office for her first, full four-year term. A parade is planned followed by the ceremonies at the state Capitol and capped off later this evening with the state's first inaugural ball since 1998. The rest of the constitutional officers and members of the General Assembly will also be sworn in today.

Here in Washington, we still have one more day to wait for the start. Congress will officially convene Thursday - so today is more or less a work day for congressional staffs as they prepare for the start of business. U.S. Rep.-elect Joe Courtney's staff are in a bit of no-man's land - unable to officially move into their offices until tomorrow. They've been sharing offices wherever possible, and this morning I'm going to try and track them down and see how things are going. Courtney's district director, former Colchester First Selectwoman Jenny Contois, is expected to be here for tomorrow's ceremony before returning to Norwich and moving into the district office in downtown Norwich.

Another 150 to 200 eastern Connecticut residents will also be arriving in Washington today to be part of the ceremonies. Included among them are Norwich Mayor Ben Lathrop and Norwich City Manager Bob Zarnetske. There's no organized event for them scheduled for today, so we'll try and find some of them later this afternoon and see what plans they have for today.

My first stop this morning will be up to the Capitol to register for my credentials. The forecast is calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to upper 50s.

More later...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

In Washington....

I've been to Washington seven times in the last six years. That thought crossed my mind as I was driving down here today. But the last time I was here for the opening of Congress was 12 years ago. That's when Republicans took control of both chambers, and there was still some doubt lingering about the 2nd Congressional District race. Republican challenger Ed Munster failed to overturn the results of the election through the recount, and subsequent court challenge. His last hope was an appeal to Congress - which was never filed.

What I remember most about that particular visit was how cold it was here. That's not the case today. It's quite nice...very nice.

And so was the ride down. I timed the trip to avoid the usual rush hour delays through the major cities. In fact, the only real traffic problem encountered was getting off the New Jersey turnpike and trying to get through Delaware. (A note to Connecticut lawmakers - I'd think twice about bringing back toll booths. You can't believe what a nightmare they are. Although I will admit, for a small state, Delaware certainly does make a ton of money with its two tolls.)

U.S. Rep-elect Joe Courtney and his family - wife Audrey and children Robert and Elizabeth - arrived in town shortly after 3 p.m. - about an hour before I got here. They stopped first at his "new" basement apartment to drop off a few things before heading over to the Hyatt Regency for the evening. According to the new Congressman, he doesn't have any bedding - and the furniture doesn't arrive until tomorrow.

Tonight the family took a casual stroll along the Capitol grounds. A chance to take in the "wonder of it all" before the festivities begin on Thursday. (Sorry Foxwoods, but Washington does have the first dibs on that "wonder of it all" theme.)

Several bus loads of eastern Connecticut residents will be descending on Washington tomorrow, coming down to help celebrate the swearing in of Connecticut's two newest members of Congress, Courtney and Chris Murphy. We'll try and catch up with some of those folks tomorrow.

The biggest problem I'll be facing are the rules down here. Because I'm not a "regular" member of the press covering the Congress, I have to make a visit to the House Press Gallery every morning to get my daily pass. You would think they would make some special arrangments for visiting press that might help avoid a daily stop there before going anywhere else. But such is life...who am I to complain.

More tomorrow...

A New Year...

Happy New Year to you all...

I'll be leaving for Washington in about an hour, driving down as I normally do when making the trip to the Capitol. It's about a 7 hour drive, the worse of it usually getting out of Connecticut along I-95. I expect to arrive in Washington sometime between 4-5 p.m. this afternoon.

Much, if not all, of today's activities in Washington will center around the state funeral for former President Gerald Ford. By the time I arrive, all of that will be over, and the focus will then shift to the activities planned this week regarding the opening of the new Congress.

There's a lot planned, and a lot that will happen this week. I'm looking forward to covering the events and reporting on Connecticut's newest Congressman, U.S. Rep.-elect Joe Courtney.

I'll add a new entry later today after I arrive in Washington.