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Lawmakers: Use Fare Increases for Upgrades

Many lawmakers are supporting proposed legislation to keep bus and rail fare increases for bus and rail upgrades.

 

PLAY FAIR WITH THE FARE

“The administration is doing exactly what I feared it would do regarding the train fares,” said state Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing Wilton and Norwalk in the 143rd House District. “It has proposed reducing the state's subsidy to both rail and bus transit, as a consequence of the 4 percent increases.”

Lavielle said it appears the state may also put part of that money into the general fund. “So passengers are paying for a service, and the money is being used for something else,” she said.

Jim Cameron of Darien, president of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, recently wrote in a news release for his organization: "A review of Governor Malloy’s proposed FY 2013 budget finds that, while an additional $9.27 million will be raised by the Jan. 1, 2012 fare increase, $9.8 million less will be spent on rail operations than last year.

“Commuters were told that the railroad needed more money. So why then did the fare increase revenue just offset earlier subsidies and not get spent on the trains?”

Many lawmakers are on board with H.B. 5067, proposed legislation to keep bus and rail fare increases for bus and rail upgrades.

“I’m very supportive of this bill,” Wood said. “As legislators we are there to do the right thing. When you designate money in a budget you stick to that.”

Here is a list of local lawmakers who support the bill:

“Money from the fare increases should go to improving that system—as I understand it, the rate hikes were sold on that basis.  I take my lead on these issues from Gail Lavielle, who is terrific,” Markley said.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD?

Some in the Fairfield County delegation are crying foul over Norwalk’s share of the Education Cost Sharing Formula.

“I was surprised when I saw the numbers,” said State Rep. Terrie Wood. “It isn’t equitable.”

After taking a look at the Education Cost Sharing Formula and deciding it didn’t do right by Norwalk, Lavielle proposed H.B. 5059. The proposed legislation would amend the ECS formula to a money-follows-the-child approach.

There will be public hearings on Tues., Feb. 21 and Wed. Feb. 22. Testimony on the financial portion starts Wed. at 1:15pm.

“On the Norwalk ECS issue, it certainly does seem clear that only one municipality in the state is seeing a decline in state funding for education. Rep. Cafero is right. This action by the Governor does not send a message of bipartisanship and fairness,” said State Rep. Jason Perillo, a Republican representing Shelton in the 113th House District.

DON’T COME ROUND HERE NO MORE

This year the state focuses on sex offenders to see how well Connecticut is doing reducing crime and becoming more efficient. According to a Feb. 15, 2012 report, recidivism and changes in the correctional population are two key signs of how well the system is working.

Some key findings in the report:

"The sexual recidivism rates for the 746 sex offenders released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The real challenge for public agencies is to determine the level of risk which specific offenders pose the public."

"According to this analysis, arrest on a prior sex charge was the single best predictor of being sentenced to prison for a new sex crime in the five years following release from prison."

Mike Lawlor, under secretary for criminal justice policy and planning division at the State Office of Policy and Management, wrote in the introduction: "At the end of the day, our goal is public safety by reducing the level of recidivism. Based on our analysis, post-release supervision focused on the high-risk sex offenders appears to be a cost-effective strategy to prevent crime."

The study tracked 14,393 men for a five-year period following their 2005 release or discharge from a Connecticut prison in 2005.  According to the report this is the first time the state has measured offenders with previous sex offense convictions as well as convicted offenders who were originally charged as sex offenders but who were ultimately convicted of other offenses.

Over the next five years, 286 of these men were arrested and charged with sex offenses committed after they were released from prison. Of those, 134 men were convicted for new sex offenses after release and 99 were returned to the prison to begin new prison sentences for a sex crime. Of the 99 men who received prison sentences for new sex crimes, only 13 had served a prior prison sentence for a sexual offense.

The report said readers should  “recognize, however, that these men were not the only men released from prison in 2005 who had been involved in prior crimes in which a significant, criminal sexual component had been present. These 746 men were the only ones who had actually been convicted for specific sexual offenses and sentenced to prison.”

That doesn’t assuage Markley.

“I think the high recidivism rate is a good reason not to expand early release for violent criminals, as the Legislature did last year at the governor's urging,” Markely said.

Here's a link to the report (in PDF form). A copy of the report is also attached to this article.

HOMELESS VETERANS

According to the U.S. Veterans Administration, the number of veterans’ families in its homeless programs is marching steadily upward. In 2012, 4,383 veterans’ families, or 86 percent more than in 2009, required VA assistance.

“In the military community there is a higher percentage than in the civilian community,” said State Sen. Carlo Leone, a Democrat representing Stamford and Darien in the 27th Senate District and co-chair of the Veterans Committee.

To help mitigate homelessness, the committee is looking into ways to make more supportive affordable housing available to military families in need. Leone said the committee will explore various non-profit and private sources to help. One idea is to refurbish vacant homes for military families.

One local foundation shows what a difference one person can make. The New Canaan-based Peter Wojtecki Foundation helped three veterans in 2011, for a total of more than $10,000 in grants.

In Darien, the National Veterans Services Fund provides social services and limited medical assistance to Vietnam and Persian Gulf War veterans and their families.

While the number of homeless veterans’ families has been increasing, the total number of homeless veterans, mostly single males, dropped 12 percent in 2011, according to the VA. The annual Homeless Assessment Report showed 67,495 homeless veterans counted on a single night in January 2011, a drop from 76,329 the previous year.

Editor's note: Additional quotes were added to this report: in the "Play Fair with the Fare" section from David Cameron and in the "Don't Come Round Here" section from the OPM report.

About this column: Capitol DisPatch examines the issues and bills facing local representatives in the Connecticut General Assembly. Related Topics: 2012 Commuter Fares

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