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This is the last edition of our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse for 2013. We're looking back at the year that was (and is) with our team of reporters and analysts.

We'll discuss the performance of the state legislature, which passed gun legislation after Sandy Hook, quietly approved Keno, and loosened campaign finance laws while former House Speaker Chris Donovan's campaign workers went on trial for corruption charges.

What will you remember about 2013?

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Dan Esty, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, has a plan for energy security that includes a huge investment in natural gas. But what about the effects of natural gas extraction methods like fracking and the uncertainty of future low prices? What about the need for renewable sources of energy?

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The budget deal reached last week in Washington will have a real economic impact on companies in Connecticut. United Technologies CEO Louis Chenevert welcomed the agreement, saying it gives his defense dependent corporation more ability to plan for the future.

The reviews are coming in for the bipartisan budget deal crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and as the Los Angeles Times says, the package seems to have "something for everyone to dislike."

A batch of internal documents recently leaked to The Guardian has revealed new insights into the goals and finances of the secretive group called ALEC. The American Legislative Exchange Council is a group that brings together state legislators and representatives of corporations. Together, they develop model bills that lawmakers introduce and try to pass in their state legislatures.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

James Redeker, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, joins us to talk about the latest in infrastructure. What with Metro-North woes, CTfastrak progress, talk of changes to the I-84 viaduct in Hartford, and more emphasis on transit-oriented development, is the state doing everything it can to improve the quality of our trains, buses, bridges, and roads? Check in below to see what Redeker has to say.

CT-N

The Council on Environmental Quality met Thursday to hear public opinion on how the state's environmental laws might be improved. 

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The Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill, said she may seek the authority to dissolve companies that don't comply with state registration requirements.

All businesses forming in the state must register with the office each year. 

Sujata Srinivasan

The public will soon have access to a one-stop web portal for information on tax credits and direct financial assistance the state is offering to help businesses grow and expand in Connecticut. Governor Dannel Malloy at a press conference in Bloomfield said taxpayers have the right to know what their state government is doing to promote economic development and job creation. 

It seems Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has given up on trying to make a point about the separation of church and state during the holiday season.

In a short statement issued on Monday, Chafee said the 18-foot blue spruce that will be raised inside the State House on Thursday will be called a "Christmas tree."

Technology giant Pitney Bowes has announced it will remain in Stamford, ending a months-long search for a new location. The company will also add 200 new jobs in Connecticut, after striking a deal with the state for a low-cost loan.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Another chapter in the political scandal that derailed former House Speaker Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign has come to a close as one of the key figures in the case was sentenced earlier this week. Our weekly political news roundtable The Wheelhouse will discuss this and what the Obamacare delay means for Connecticut. And will Foxwoods get a casino in Massachusetts?

Mark Pazniokas / The Connecticut Mirror

A former labor union official will spend six months in a halfway house for his role in a conspiracy to funnel illegal campaign contributions to former Connecticut House Speaker Christopher Donovan. 

When you think of Oregon and food, you probably think organic chicken, kale chips and other signs of a strong local food movement. What probably doesn't come to mind? Food stamps.

And yet, 21 percent of Oregon's population – that's one out of every five residents – relies on food stamps to get by. And like many people across the country, these Oregon families who have come to rely on federal food assistance program for meals are learning to make do with less as of this month.

Now that the 2013 general election is behind us, all eyes are on the 2014 races. Connecticut is gearing up for a heated race in the Republican primary and general election. Governor Dannel Malloy has not yet formally announced his candidacy for re-election but that hasn't stopped his Republican opponents from attacking his record.

On The Wheelhouse, we talk about the 2014 race both here in Connecticut and in Illinois, where Bridgeport, Connecticut Superintendent Paul Vallas is Governor Pat Quinn's running mate. We also check-in with Connecticut's Filipino community. Their home country was utterly devastated by last week's typhoon.

The Connecticut Mirror

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn has selected former Chicago schools CEO and 2002 gubernatorial candidate Paul Vallas as his running mate in 2014.

The Chicago Democrat announced Vallas as his pick in an email Friday.

Quinn says he's known Vallas for 30 years and "he's never been shy about fighting for education, reform and opportunities for working people."

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It’s a municipal election year, and voters throughout the state hit the polls to vote for their town officials and usually they hit those polls in pretty small numbers. Our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse discusses the results from around the state plus a casino referendum in Massachusetts. How'd you vote? And how busy were the polls?

Chion Wolf

Superior Court Judge Julia Auriemma ruled to reinstate Middletown Realistic Balance Party candidates Stephen Devoto and Steven Smith to the ballot on Monday, October 21, two weeks before Election Day. Devoto and Smith, candidates for Middletown's Planning and Zoning Commission, had been removed from the ballot by Middletown Town Clerk Linda Bettencourt in September for failing to comply with an election law unfamiliar to several municipalities around Connecticut.

The U.S. Navy's first "supercarrier" is being sold for just 1 cent to a ship breaker.

The USS Forrestal, launched in 1954 and decommissioned in 1993, is the first of three conventional (non-nuclear) carriers due to be scrapped in the coming years. The Forrestal is best known for a devastating fire in 1967 that engulfed the ship's flight deck, killing 134 sailors and wounding 161 others.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut is preparing to undertake a searching review of state regulations. Governor Dannel Malloy sees it as a way to kickstart economic growth.

Saying "American workers and families will have a champion in Janet Yellen," President Obama officially nominated her to chair the Federal Reserve, once Ben Bernanke completes his term in January.

Yellen "is the kind of person who makes everybody around her better," Obama said, adding that Yellen is "extremely well qualified" and "renowned for her good judgement."

Obama made the announcement at the White House on Wednesday, flanked by Yellen and outgoing Fed chief Ben Bernanke. If confirmed, Yellen will be the first woman to head the American central bank.

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Wednesdays are usually reserved for our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse. Just like last week, the big story is the federal government shutdown. From outside Washington, it doesn't look like Congress and President Obama is any closer to reaching a deal. We talk with political observers about the shutdown and what needs to be done (or will be done) to resolve this.

Who do you think needs to budge to reach a deal? House Republicans? Or President Obama and Senate Democrats?

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Connecticut’s federal public defender, Terence Ward, said money to fund his office may run out early next week if the government shutdown continues. "The shutdown, it’s a nightmare," he said. During the first ten business days of the shutdown, his office of 17 employees is operating on funds money from court fees.

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The state of Connecticut's Department of Revenue Services is offering a amnesty program for individuals and businesses that owe back taxes. Those who take advantage of the program will get a 75 percent reduction in accrued interest, and all other penalties waived. But there are a few catches.

The work that Shaun O'Connell does is required by law, yet now he's sidelined by the government shutdown.

O'Connell reviews disability claims for the Social Security Administration in New York, checking that no one's gaming the system, while ensuring people with legitimate medical problems are compensated properly.

Billions of dollars are at stake with this kind of work, yet O'Connell is considered a nonessential employee for purposes of the partial government shutdown.

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The effects of the federal shutdown have begun to ripple across Connecticut. In Bridgeport, 13 Head Start sites have been closed, leaving needy families scrambling.

From Acadia in Maine to Zion in Utah to the North Cascades in Washington, America's 401 national park areas have gates blocking entrance roads.

The last remaining campers and hotel guests in the parks must leave Thursday, and park rangers will patrol to keep others out.

The national parks "belong to the American people, and the American people should have the right to come in," says National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. "But the only way I can protect these places during this period is to shut them down."

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The federal government shutdown does not (directly) affect our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse. But it sure does give us something to talk about tomorrow. We'll be joined by Wheelhouse regulars to talk about this shutdown -- or, as Rep. David Schweikert called it on NPR's Morning Edition, a "government slowdown."

When a government shutdown loomed in 2011, the Twitterverse had some fun with #govtshutdownpickuplines.

They're back!

Here are some of the better, slightly naughty ones we're seeing (we also also checked #shutdownpicklines):

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy on Friday defended state borrowing that will help finance the opening of Bass Pro Shops at Steelpointe Harbor in Bridgeport. The state will invest more than $30 million to bring the sporting goods retailer to anchor the long-delayed commercial development.

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