Politics

Political news from WNPR

Chion Wolf / WNPR

A miscalculation announced by state budget chief Ben Barnes this week has pushed over the state's spending cap by $54.5 million, putting the proposed budget in the red only a few days after it was announced by Governor Dannel Malloy.

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "judgment" on talks with Iran on its nuclear program — the latest Obama administration official wading into the controversy stirred by the Israeli leader's planned talk to Congress on March 3 on the dangers posed by the Islamic republic.

James McCauley / Creative Commons

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a newspaper column about the Brian Williams debacle, except it really wasn't about that. It's about the way a relatively small story about a lie told by a news anchor seems to be the only national conversation we can have about our role in Iraq.

creative commons

Governor Dannel Malloy announced his two-year budget plan last week, and everything has been a mess ever since. The proposed budget would hurt social services and cause potential layoffs at UCONN, a situation that drew star basketball players to testify at the Capitol.  

On Tuesday, we learned that a SNAFU with accounting sets Malloy's proposed budget more than $50 million over the state's spending cap for the next fiscal year. That might be more cuts. OPM Secretary Ben Barnes issued a formal (somewhat confusing) apology.  

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is poised to approve a casino ethics ordinance, but the city’s mayor has been silent so far on the issue.

The Springfield City Council is expected to give final approval at its next regular meeting to an ordinance that would put restrictions on public officials obtaining jobs at the new MGM casino being built in the city.  Supporters say it is intended to foster public trust in the municipal decision making surrounding the casino project.

Updated at 4:04 p.m. ET

The White House has notified the Senate that President Obama has, as promised, vetoed congressional legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project.

"Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," Obama said in the notification to the Senate.

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET.

The head of Veterans Affairs has apologized for misrepresenting his military record, after telling a man that he had served in the U.S. Special Forces. Secretary Robert McDonald says he made a mistake.

The story drew attention late Monday, weeks after McDonald, an Army veteran and West Point graduate, made the claim during a conversation with a homeless man he met during a community outreach effort.

NPR's Quil Lawrence reports:

In a claim that's meeting with skepticism in Kiev, Russian-backed separatists say they've started to withdraw heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, as required by a recent cease-fire. Ukraine's military says separatist attacks are ongoing.

The development comes after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he thinks a war with Ukraine would be "apocalyptic" — but that the area is now on a path to stability, after the recent Minsk agreement.

Extremist fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, have kidnapped "at least" 90 Assyrian Christians in northeastern Syria, according to a monitoring group. The claim emerges from an area recently targeted by coalition attacks.

Alaska's voter initiative making marijuana legal takes effect Tuesday, placing Alaska alongside Colorado and Washington as the three U.S. states where recreational marijuana is legal. The new law means people over age 21 can consume small amounts of pot — if they can find it. It's still illegal to sell marijuana.

"You can still give people marijuana, but you can't buy it — or even barter for it," Alaska Public Media's Alexandra Gutierrez reports. "So, it's a pretty legally awkward spot. That probably won't stop people from acquiring it, though."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The General Assembly's budget-writing committee is beginning its work on a response to the two-year, nearly $40 billion tax-and-spending proposal offered by Governor Dannel Malloy.

The Appropriations Committee was scheduled to hold its first public hearing about the Democratic governor's plan on Tuesday evening. Additional public hearings and budget presentations from state agencies were planned throughout the week. 

After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Kathy Hanlon's life crumbled. Her Long Beach, N.Y., home had no electricity, her family was traumatized and one of her sons was getting sick. On top of that, there was the bureaucratic maze of flood insurance.

"I cried many times because I was so angry when I got off the phone with the insurance company," Hanlon says. "It was demeaning. We had to send them things repeatedly. We had to wait for phone calls. We had to wait for people to come visit the house."

Looking to take back a city that has high strategic and symbolic value, the Iraqi military will launch an offensive against fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the coming months, a senior U.S. military official says.

NPR's Tom Bowman reports:

"A U.S. Central Command official told reporters at the Pentagon that the military operation to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, will be in the April-May timeframe, and this operation will involve an estimated 20,000-25,000 Iraqi soldiers.

British fighter jets scrambled from their base on Wednesday after two Russian long-range bombers skirted the coast of Cornwall, in the southwest of England. The incident comes one day after British Foreign Secretary Michael Fallon warned about Russia's intentions in Europe.

DoNo Hartford LLC

The developers of the new minor league baseball stadium in Hartford are also building apartments around the venue. They're looking for ways to make some of those units accessible to people with lower incomes. 

Officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking earlier this week for the baseball stadium. Soon, across the street, the work to build the retail, residential, and entertainment project will begin. 

Chris Reed/iStock / Thinkstock

As part of his $40 billion biennial budget proposal, Governor Dannel Malloy wants to move more than 1,500 positions from the judicial branch's court support services to the Departments of Correction and Children and Families.

The proposal is part of the governor's "second chance society" initiative to change the state's drug laws so non-violent offenders have a better chance of re-integrating into society. Reforms include making certain non-violent offenses misdemeanors, and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession.

Just a little more than a month since Boston was chosen to become the next American city to put together an Olympic bid, Bostonians seem to be getting cold feet.

A poll commissioned by NPR member station WBUR found that a plurality of Bostonians (46 percent) "oppose the idea of bringing the Olympic Games to the Boston region in 2024."

WBUR's Asma Khalid tells our Newscast unit that just 44 percent of those polled support the bid.

Jessica Hill / Associated Press

Governor Dannel Malloy has unveiled his biennial budget, a document aimed at closing yawning gaps projected in state finances in the next two fiscal years.

The governor wants to achieve this with a package of spending cuts and a reform of tax codes that will net the state government more revenue. “The budget I present to you is filled with tough choices,” the governor told the legislature. “All told, my proposal contains more than $590 million in cuts to the current services budget.”

Most of those cuts come in the areas of social services and higher education. While there will be no layoffs of state employees, the administration will implement what it termed an “aggressive” hiring freeze, aiming to shrink the workforce by attrition by several hundred positions over two years.

Stephan Ridgway / Creative Commons

Governor Dannel Malloy is proposing paying less to bury the poor. 

Malloy told legislators in his budget address that balancing the budget means hard choices. "The vast majority of these cuts are choices that, under ideal circumstances, Connecticut would not have to make," he said.

Four months after he was brought back to an agency that was struggling to cope with a series of embarrassing missteps, Joseph Clancy was named the permanent director of the Secret Service on Wednesday.

Clancy has been the agency's acting head since the service's director, Julia Pierson, resigned in October. He is the former leader of the Secret Service's Presidential Protective Division.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, is continuing support for a broadband initiative started under former Democratic governor Deval Patrick. The state is releasing $50 million of previously approved capital funding to expand internet connectivity in western Massachusetts.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy released the final details of his new two-year state budget on Wednesday. 

The Democrat has already warned that the budget is going to be “tough,” but he hopes it will provide relief to the state’s middle class with a slight state sales tax reduction. Republicans have been critical of his additional plan to eliminate the an exemption to the sales tax on up to $50.00 of clothing.

The new fiscal year beginning July 1 is predicted to face a $1 billion deficit. The following budget year is also facing a projected $1 billion in the red. 

On WNPR's Where We Live, Keith Phaneuf of The Connecticut Mirror called the governor's budget "a tired exercise in fiscal semantics." Promised cuts aren't coming, he said, and the governor is creating "a new definition of a tax hike" while still trying to say he "didn't really increase taxes." 

Ryan King / WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy revealed a 30-year $100 billion transportation plan Wednesday, preluding his annual budget presentation to the General Assembly later today, according to The Hartford Courant

Malloy will release a $10 billion buildup for the next five years, the Courant reported, to get several transportation projects started. These projects, however, are focused primarily on design rather than construction. 

Phil Roeder / Creative Commons

There's a new anti-corruption task force in Connecticut replete with billboards asking the public to report the corrupt. This hour, we explore the history of corruption and our complicated attitudes toward it. 

Jmabel / Wikimedia Commons

The Historic District of Litchfield Connecticut is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit regarding the rejection of plans for a synagogue in 2007. Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Connecticut cited the Litchfield Historic District Commission for religious discrimination over the denial of modifications to their building. 

The commission and the Borough of Litchfield asked the Supreme Court on Monday to hear the case. The move comes after the lawsuit was at first dismissed by a federal judge, then reinstated by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in September.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy delivers his budget speech on Wednesday, an event we've anticipated for weeks.

The address is expected to include details about Malloy's big transportation plans for the state, and how he plans to balance the budget while changing the sales tax system.

In our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse, we preview his speech while looking at the big picture: What do budget addresses mean, and what are the messages they send?

Today's edition of The Wheelhouse is in two parts. Part one is a preview of the budget speech. Part two is a broadcast of the budget address in its entirety and a wrap-up with WNPR reporters.

Following heavy shelling in what had been a Ukraine-controlled city, the central government's force is retreating from Debaltseve, a key railroad and transportation hub. Ukraine says it has now withdrawn 80 percent of its armed forces from the city.

"I can say now that the Ukrainian armed forces and the National Guard completed an operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of some units from Debaltseve this morning," Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said, according to the Interfax news agency in Ukraine.

City of Hartford

The ceremonial groundbreaking for a new $56 million minor league baseball stadium in Hartford happened Tuesday. The park for the New Britain Rock Cats has to be completed in just over a year.

The effort build a minor league baseball stadium began last June, when Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced a plan to build the stadium in the city. He called it a done deal, though it was anything but.

The next series of months saw the fundamentals of the proposal change several times over. What began as a stadium project is now a $350 million development to remake an entire neighborhood.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

A century ago, in April 1915, an event began that’s come to be known as the Armenian Genocide. One scholar believes that massacre should remind us of the long-term implications of events playing out in our own time. 

It’s thought that up to 1.5 million people may have been massacred or expelled from their homes in the Ottoman Empire during the worst atrocity of World War I. For almost a century, Turkey has denied the enormity of the event, but that may be changing. 

Thomas de Waal works for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Recently, he returned to Turkey with a group American Armenians -- descendants of those who fled the genocide in the early 20th century. 

Think you have a knack for names?

The folks behind minor league baseball in the city of Hartford want you to try your hand at naming an entire team. The only catch: the name has to include the word "Hartford."

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