One-third of Adults Do Not See Doctor Within 30 Days of Hospital Discharge

. December 30, 2011

According to a recent national study, one third of adult patients (21 and over) do not visit a doctor within 30 days of being discharged from a hospital. Over 17% had not seen a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant within 90 days after discharge. The Center for Studying Health System Change conducted the study for the National Institute for Health Care Reform.
The study found that over 8% of adults discharged from a hospital to the community were readmitted within 30 days, and over 32% were rehospitalized within one year.

Among the study’s other findings:

  • gaps in post-discharge care are common for adults covered by all types of insurance;
  • among people aged 21 to 64, readmission rates were highest for people with public coverage, especially Medicare or Medicaid (partly reflecting the relatively poor health of people in that age group who qualify for Medicare or Medicaid based on disability)
  • 90% of people admitted to a hospital reported having a usual source of care, but that did not guarantee easy access to their provider (e.g., only about one third with a usual source of care reported that after-hours care was available).

How Fair Is New York’s “Fair Tax Plan?”

On December 7, New York enacted new personal income tax rates that take effect January 1, 2012. According to the Connecticut Mirror, some consider New York's “Fair Tax Plan” a model for Connecticut because it raises taxes on high earners while reducing tax rates for the middle class. On the other hand, ProPublica reports that the new law cuts tax rates for a high-income couple earning between $500,000 and $2 million by 2.12% while a middle class couple earning between $40,000 and $150,000 gets a cut of only 0.4%. (Rates for couples earning under $40,000 are unchanged.)
So, is New York's new plan a tax increase or a tax cut for the wealthy? Both, actually.

In 2009, facing a large projected budget deficit, New York imposed temporary surcharge on high earners. The surcharge expires after the 2011 tax year and, under the prior law, marginal rates in 2012 would have automatically reverted to 2008 levels. The Fair Tax Plan instead establishes top rates higher than they otherwise would have been, but also lower than they currently are (see below).

MARRIED FILING JOINTLY
New York Taxable Income
Tax Rate
OverBut Not Over2011 2012 (Prior Law)2012-14 (New Law)
$40,000$150,0006.85%6.85%6.45%
150,000300,0006.85%6.85%6.65%
300,000500,0007.85%6.85%6.85%
500,0002,000,0008.97%6.85%6.85%
Over $2,000,0008.97%6.85%8.82%

Like the 2009-11 surcharge, the new plan is temporary and expires after 2014. In 2015, tax rates are once more scheduled to revert to 2008 levels and all married couples with New York taxable incomes over $40,000 will again pay a top marginal rate of 6.85%.



Race for Better Rate of Return

. December 29, 2011


In the last three years, the vast majority of states have either cut new worker’s pension benefits or required a longer term of service to reach the same benefit level all in an effort to reduce the money states will owe employees when they retire.

According to a Stateline.org article, some states and local governments are attempting to boost their pension outlook by trying to boost the investment return of their holdings by changing the management structure of public pension plans.

The article explains that 60% of public retirement trust funds comes from investment earnings so increasing earnings can increase a fund’s stability.

New York City is attempting to institute a new pension management plan, which needs approval by the state legislature before being put into action.

Deadline Approaching for Regional Performance Incentive Grant Program

Towns and regional entities have until December 31, 2011 to apply for state grants to jointly perform a service they have been performing separately. The grants, known as Regional Performance Incentive Grants, are funded by a portion of the state hotel tax and rental car surcharge.

In order to qualify for a grant, applicants must show that their proposed projects (1) are new (on a regional basis), (2) demonstrate cost savings, (3) would not result in any loss of services, and (4) are sustainable on a regional basis once established. The program is open to two or more towns, regional planning organizations, regional economic development districts, and any combination of these eligible entities.

As the Harford Courant recently reported, five towns are considering applying for a grant to conduct a detailed feasibility study for a regional 911 dispatch center. The proposed center would serve Berlin, Cromwell, Newington, Rocky Hill, and Wethersfield and could result in savings for each town.

Hot Report: Education Mandates on Local Schools

. December 28, 2011

OLR Report 2011-R-0457 lists the mandates that apply to all local and regional school districts. It excludes obsolete and expired mandates as well as those that apply:

1. only to certain school types of districts, such as priority or low-achieving school districts;
2. as a condition of receiving a state grant other than an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant; or
3. to all public agencies, such as the Freedom of Information Act requirements.

To see the list of mandates as well as the applicable statutes, read the full report.

Connecticut Hurricane Deductible Rules Change

On December 9, 2011, the Connecticut Insurance Department announced revised underwriting guidelines for homeowners insurance policies. The revised guidelines change when a hurricane deductible will apply. Now, the higher hurricane deductible will only be imposed when the National Weather Service reports that sustained hurricane-force winds – at least 74 mile per hour – have occurred anywhere in the state. Previously, the deductible could apply when a hurricane warning was issued, even if hurricane-force winds never materialized. Insurers have until March 1, 2012 to resubmit their policy forms to comply with the revised guidelines.

For more information, see this Hartford Courant article.

CIGNA Agrees to Review State Chiropractic Claims

. December 27, 2011


Attorney General George Jepsen announced in September that Cigna and its agent, American Specialty Health Networks, Inc., have agreed to review and reprocess their denial of chiropractic benefit claims dating back to April 1, 2010.

The insurer agreed to reconsider the claims after the attorney general’s office receive complaints from chiropractors that Cigna was not covering all the chiropractic services Connecticut law allows. State law requires health insurance plans to cover chiropractic care “to the same extent” the insurer covers services provided by physicians.

“Cigna promptly and fairly addressed the issue,” said Deputy Attorney General Nora Dannehy. As a result, she said, “providers will be paid for covered services and Cigna’s enrollees will continue to receive the care to which they are entitled.”

Cigna is the second insurance company to reconsider its claims process for chiropractic services. Aetna agreed in July to make sure its guidelines complied with state law.

Hot Report: Backgrounder: Implications of Climate Change for the Insurance Industry

OLR Report 2011-R-0427 summarizes what climate change will mean for the insurance industry.

According to America's Climate Choices, a 2011 report by the National Academies of Science (NAS):

Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases [GHG] from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems. Emissions continue to increase, which will result in further change and greater risks.
Climate change confronts the insurance industry with risks, uncertainties, and opportunities. Among the risks of climate change are those associated with continued warming and sea level rises, more frequent extreme precipitation events (e.g., downpours and blizzards), and ecosystems changes, including those that may affect human health. At the same time, the industry will deal with substantial uncertainties, such as the relationship between climate change and tropical storms and how governments, businesses, and individuals will respond to climate change. Climate change presents the insurance industry with opportunities for new markets for a variety of products and related services, some of which are currently being offered. However, the bulk of market activity is in Europe, primarily from property and casualty insurers. And even among these firms, the offerings and overall market penetration are limited.

The Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) has a website on the implications of climate change for the insurance industry, http://insurance.lbl.gov/, which is the source of much of the information in this report. The Insurance Information Institute also has a website on climate-related issues for the industry.

For more information, including a review of a number of industry and government reports and studies, read the full OLR Report.

Vietnam’s Javan Rhinoceros Now Extinct

According to BBC News, the last remaining Javan rhino in Vietman as well as all of mainland Asia was recently killed, likely by poachers. It was also the last of a particular subspecies of Javan rhinos. Less than 50 Javan rhinos remain in the wild, all in Indonesia.
Rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horns are an increasing problem because of growing demand from Asian medicinal markets. Earlier this year, BBC News reported that more than 800 African rhinos have been killed for their horns in the past three years. On the black market, rhino horn can bring over $35,000 per pound. There is concern that continued poaching will undercut efforts taken to protect and stabilize the African black and white rhino populations. To combat the problem, conservationists seek increased cooperation between parties that protect rhinos, including law enforcement.

What Can We Learn from Soviet Economic Development?

. December 26, 2011

The things we can learn from Soviet economic development are how not to think and act. In his latest book, Why Success Always Starts with Failure, underground economist Tim Hartford tells the story of Peter Palchinsky, an engineer who couldn’t help but tell the truth. In the 1920s, Stalin wanted to demonstrate the triumph of Soviet Communism by building the world’s biggest dam—The Lenin Dam on the Dnieper River in the Ukraine—and a new city—Magnitogorsk—in a remote area of Russia.
The Soviets assigned Palchinsky to advise them on these projects. Well, he couldn’t help himself. First he warned that the Dnieper was too slow and that the proposed reservoir would swamp thousands of homes and much prime farmland. Palchinsky didn’t get any points when he pointed out that the reservoir would be so large that “simply growing hay on the land it had covered and burning it in a power plant would have generated as much energy as the dam did.”

Palchinsky also cautioned his Soviet masters about Magnitogorsk, where they planned to build huge steel plants near vast iron-ore deposits. He was worried about the living conditions for the workers and whether enough coal was available to fire the plants. Palchinsky’s reward for doing his job? He disappeared from his Leningrad apartment in 1928.

The Soviets could have learned much from Palchinsky, and perhaps so can we. Here are Palchinsky’s principles:

1. seek out new ideas and try new things;

2. when trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable;

3. seek feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along.

As Hartford points out, these principles rested on Palchinsky’s belief that the real-world problems are far more complicated than we think. These problems “have a human dimension, a local dimension, and are likely to change as circumstances change.”

Palchinsky’s principles also challenged Soviet thinking. According to Hartford,

The Soviet failure revealed itself much more gradually: it was a pathological inability to experiment. The building blocks of an evolutionary process, remember, are repeated variation and selection. The Soviets failed at both: they found it impossible to tolerate a real variety of approaches to any problem; and they found it hard to decide what was working and what was not.

Solar Industry Shining

. December 23, 2011

According to this month’s edition of State Legislatures, despite the high-profile bankruptcies of a few U.S. solar companies this year, by most measures the solar market is healthy and growing. Utilities across the nation—in response to government incentives, mandates, their own goals and customer interest—are increasing the amount of solar electricity in their portfolios. The solar industry’s sales increased 67%, from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion in 2010, and the rapid growth continued through the first two quarters of 2011. Although solar contributes less than 1% of the nation’s electricity needs, nearly 9% of all new electrical generation capacity installed this year is expected to be solar.

Electricity costs from new utility-scale solar projects built in 2011—including the federal government subsidy—were about 11 to 12 cents a kilowatt hour and are expected to fall to about 8 cents by the end of 2012, which will make them cost competitive with natural gas in some regions. (Without federal subsidies, utility scale solar would cost about 15 to 17 cents a kilowatt hour.) In comparison, electricity from new coal and gas plants is 7 to 12 cents, and 7 to 10 cents respectively. Wind is 4 to 8 cents a kilowatt hour. Rooftop-mounted solar costs about 13 to 19 cents a kilowatt hour.

The article also discusses federal and state policies on solar and the recent bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel maker in California.

Connecticut’s Technical High School System

The State Department of Education’s latest biennial report on the state’s Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) provides a wealth of information about the system’s programs, students, and graduates. The report covers 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. Highlights include:

 
  • Of the CTHSS’s 10,573 students, nearly 64% are male, 56.3% are white, 27.5% are black, and 14.5% are Hispanic.
  • Five schools operated at more than 100% capacity: Bullard-Havens (Bridgeport), Norwich Tech, Platt (Milford), Kaynor (Waterbury), and Wilcox (Meriden).
  • Bullard-Havens, with a capacity of 825 students and an enrollment of 884, is the most crowded of the 17 schools at 107.2% of capacity.
  • The trades with the highest system-wide enrollment were: culinary arts (10.7% of all students), automotive technology (9.6%), electrical (9.5%), hairdressing/barbering (8.8%), and carpentry (8%).
  • In 2010, 48.5% of CTHSS students got full-time jobs or went into the military immediately after graduation and 44.5% pursued postsecondary education. For the same year the statewide averages for all high school graduates were 84.5% and 10.4%, respectively.
  • The highest percentages of CTHSS graduates finding full-time work in fields related to their training upon graduation were: Bioscience Environmental Technology (100%), Welding (100%) Manufacturing Technology (80%) and Hotel/Hospitality Technology (72.7%). 

 The complete report is available in the Legislative Library.

Consumer Protection Holiday Shopping Tips

. December 22, 2011


With the holiday season upon us, the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) has some holiday shopping tips. These include shopping around and checking online prices first. Additionally, DCP recommends consumers read the sale flyers carefully and ask for sale adjustments and the return policy.

Home Care Less Expensive Than Nursing Home Care


The Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century (Institute) reports that the AARP ranked Connecticut 8th among states for overall long-term care affordability and accessibility. But the state ranked 48th in affordability of nursing home care, compared to 12th in home care affordability.

A recent Institute report cites long-term care rebalancing as the key to addressing the state’s long-term care system. Rebalancing involves reducing the number of people in nursing homes and increasing the number served by home- and community-based services (HCBS). Currently, the state’s long-term care system balance is 53% HCBS and 47% institutional care.

For more information on long-term care rebalancing, see OLR Report 2009-R-0042.

NLRB vs. House of Reps. Over Expedited Union Elections

. December 21, 2011

According to the New York Times, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently approved new rules aimed at simplifying election procedures and shortening deadlines in unionization elections. At the same time, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would delay the same elections for at least 35 days. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate. Proponents of the new rules maintain that they limit unnecessary delays and help union organizing efforts fight employer stalling tactics. Opponents argue that the rules limit employers’ free speech and make it more difficult for them to oppose union organization. The board hopes to issue its final approval by the end of the year, before it might lose its three-member quorum (the five-member board currently has two open seats and another member’s term expires at the end of the year).

Hot Report: Connecticut's Children Immunization Program

OLR Report 2011-R-0439 summarizes information about Connecticut's childhood immunization program.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) operates a federal “Vaccine for Children” (VFC) entitlement program and its own state immunization program funded by an assessment on the state's life and health insurers. The VFC program provides all 16 routine childhood vaccinations recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) free of charge to children who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, underinsured, Native Alaskan, or American Indian.

By law, DPH must also administer a state childhood vaccination program that provides certain vaccines, including combination vaccines, at no cost to healthcare providers within available appropriations. Vaccines must be made available to all children who are ineligible for the VFC program regardless of insurance status. Connecticut's program is a “universal-select” vaccine purchase program, meaning that it provides most (11) but not all of the 16 CDC-recommended vaccines to children through age 18. Vaccines not supplied by the program include pneumococcal, rotavirus, influenza, hepatitis A, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

According to DPH, in FY 11 the state program cost $8,829,534. The department estimates that it would cost approximately $24,462,012 to expand to a “universal” vaccine program that provides all 16 CDC-recommended vaccines.

The VFC program pays for vaccine brands recommended by the CDC. From these, DPH chooses the brand for all vaccines provided by both the VFC and state programs, but it is considering transitioning to a “full-choice” VFC program, allowing participating providers to choose the brand. DPH is conducting a feasibility study of such a transition and a vaccine choice pilot program with one VFC provider in Hartford, Charter Oak Health Center, Inc. that began on November 1, 2011. The department must report to the Public Health Committee by June 1, 2012 on the pilot results and any recommendations for future program expansion. If the pilot program does not (1) show a significant reduction in child immunization rates or (2) an increased risk to children's health and safety, it will expand to any VFC provider starting July 1, 2012.

For more detail, read the full report.

Vermont’s Quick Response to Hurricane Irene Damage

After massive damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene, Vermont acted swiftly to get roads and infrastructure repaired to allow, among other things, tourism dollars to continue to roll in at a critical time of year, according to a December 5, 2011 New York Times article. According to the article, “Within days after the storm hit on Aug. 28, the state had moved to emergency footing, drawing together agencies to coordinate the construction plans and permits instead of letting communications falter.”

Within three months of the storm, “the state repaired and reopened some 500 miles of damaged road, replaced a dozen bridges with temporary structures and repaired about 200 altogether,” according to the article.

The article said that “state roads, which are the routes used most by tourists, are ready for the economically crucial winter skiing season. But Vermont had many of those roads open in time for many of the fall foliage visitors, who pump $332 million into the state’s economy each year, largely through small businesses like bed and breakfasts, gift shops and syrup stands.”

Do You Want to Create Jobs, Stimulate Private Investment, and Boost Productivity? Repave Your Roads...

. December 20, 2011

…among other things. That’s the loud and clear message Haas School of Business professor Laura D’Andrea Tyson heard in two recent reports on the state of the nation’s infrastructure. But the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the New American Foundation provide “sobering evidence of the growing deficiencies of infrastructure in the United States, which millions of Americans experience every day in traffic and airport delays, crumbling and structurally unsafe schools and unreliable train and public transit systems.”

All these deficiencies cost money—freight train bottlenecks costs about $200 billion a year and air traffic delays, about $33 billion per year. And this picture isn’t likely to change soon. The American Society of Civil Engineers documents a five-year gap of more than $1.1 trillion between the amount needed for maintenance and improvements of the nation’s infrastructure and the amount of public funds available for that purpose.

Pouring money into infrastructure improvements is a cost-effective way to create jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office ($1 billion spent on infrastructure creates between 4,000 and 18,000 jobs). But it takes time to plan, approve, and complete infrastructure projects.

But the problem is more basic than that. For example, state and local governments would rather spend money building new roads and bridges than fix existing ones “despite compelling evidence that repairs are more cost effective.” Roads, for example, tend to deteriorate slowly at first, but then their deterioration rate picks up over time. Consequently, it’s cheaper to repair roads early when they’re still in good condition than when they fall into serious disrepair.

Tyson isn’t the only one weighing in on infrastructure. Michael Mandel agrees our infrastructure’s in bad shape, but frames the issue this way: Should we spend scarce resources on improving road links to a regional shopping mall or should we place top priority on infrastructure improvements that might entice foreign firms to locate manufacturing facilities in the U.S.?

New York City Parking Meters’ Days Are Numbered

A recent New York Times article reports that after 60 years of service, New York City is removing its traditional single space parking meter from sidewalks and replacing them with solar-powered box meters. These new box meters can handle eight parking spaces at once and can shut themselves down on free parking days. A Wi-Fi connection in the meters enables the city to remotely set special parking rates and times. The meters also read credit cards, speak seven languages, and require less maintenance.

The new meters will cost the city $34 million but they afford the city the opportunity to get more revenue than it did from traditional coin meters. These include a button for drivers to automatically pay for the maximum allowable time. In addition, drivers will not be able to use left-over paid meter time from a previously parked car. The meters also are less susceptible to thievery.

And are you looking for a unique living room decoration? The Times reports that the city intends to publicly auction off its old meters next year.

Do You Spend 1/3 of Your Paycheck on Food?

. December 19, 2011

That’s the assumption that has formed the basis for the official poverty measure ever since 1964 when Social Security analyst Mollie Orshansky developed it. She started with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 1955 “thrifty food plan,” which was designed for “temporary or emergency use when funds are low.” Estimating that households of three or more spent about 1/3 of their after-tax income on food, Orshansky tripled the thrifty food plan’s cost; people with incomes below that threshold were classified as poor.

Poverty experts have been pushing for years for a more realistic measure. This past November, the Census Bureau released a supplemental poverty measure. That formula takes into account the cost of food, clothing, and shelter as well as how family budgets are affected by tax policies, noncash benefits, child care assistance, medical costs, and geographical region. The new measure will not affect benefit eligibility; that will still be based on the current poverty formula.

When the supplemental formula is applied, the number of people in poverty increases from 46.6 million (a 15.1% poverty rate) to 49.1 million (16.0%). Poverty rates fall among children but rise among seniors, primarily due to high out-of-pocket medical costs. At the same time, the new measure shows 44 million people with incomes between 100 and 150% of poverty – an increase of 50% over the existing measure. Poverty advocates point out that cuts in public assistance programs may push these families back into poverty.

Hot Report: Small Business Assistance Programs

OLR Report 2011-R-0452 lists and summarizes the state and federal programs providing financing and tax incentives to a broad range of businesses for various purposes, including constructing facilities and purchasing new machines.

New Haven Gun “Buy-Back” Nets 60

According to a December 3rd New Haven Independent article, the New Haven Police Department recently held a gun buy-back program. The program’s goal was to remove guns from homes so they would not be stolen and end up on the street.

The program offered $50 and $100 gift cards to Stop & Shop or Walmart for each pistol and rifle returned, respectively. Police issued a total of over $2,400 in gift cards in exchange for 34 handguns and 26 rifles, including three sawed-off shotguns, two fully automatic rifles, and an Uzi.

The guns will be test-fired to see if they are connected with any open investigations and then destroyed.

Seven Percent of Households Victimized By Identity Theft

. December 16, 2011

In 2010, 7.0% of U.S. households had at least one member (age 12 or older) who was victimized by identity theft. This is according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. The victimization rate was 7.3% in 2009, and 5.5% in 2005. According to the report, the increase from 2005 to 2010 was largely due to a rise in identity theft related to existing credit card accounts.
Among households that were victimized by identity theft, a lower percentage experienced a direct financial loss due to the event in 2010 compared to 2005. In 2010, among households with losses of $1 or more, the median loss was $300 and the mean loss was $2,190.

Among other findings in the report (which apply to both 2005 and 2010):
  • households headed by someone age 65 or older had lower identity theft victimization rates than other households;
  • victimization rates were higher in households with a married head of household compared to other households; and
  • victimization rates were higher in households with $75,000 or more household income compared to households with lower or unknown income.








Hot Topic: Witt Associates Report on Utility Outage Restoration

OLR Report 2011-R-0458 summarizes the “Connecticut October 2011 Snowstorm Restoration Report” prepared by Witt Associates.

The Witt Associates report assesses the preparedness, response, and restoration efforts of the electric companies, primarily Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P), in connection with the October 2011 snowstorm. It provides a brief summary of the snowstorm, describes how Witt Associates developed the report, and presents findings and recommendations for improving power restoration response. The report states that it is intended to provide a basis for further examination of key issues and improvement planning by the state, municipalities, and utilities.

Among the report's key findings are:

  1. the level of preparedness, including planning, training, and exercises, for a widespread power outage or events that damage infrastructure is inadequate across all sectors;
  2. in particular, CL&P was not prepared for an outage of this size;
  3. the company's public commitments to restore power by specific times, which had not been verified internally, unnecessarily contributed to customer frustration and challenges for municipalities;
  4. CL&P's Town Liaison Program, while a good concept, had not been fully developed at the time of the snowstorm and was not consistently effective; and
  5. the use of external mutual assistance and contract crews, while needed to restore power, presented communication, reporting, and tracking challenges because they often did not have the same communications or field reporting technology as local crews.

 On the other hand, the restoration effort was accomplished without any deaths or serious injuries.

 
The report makes 27 recommendations. In general terms, it recommends that CL&P:
  1. improve its planning, procedures, training, and pre-staging practices to adequately prepare its crews and resources for the scale of incidents it and its customers potentially face by significantly increasing the scale of planning scenarios;
  2. develop an ability to manage large-scale incidents by implementing an Incident Command System (ICS) structure that expands with the requirements of the incident;
  3. improve its processes for (a) information management, including message verification and communication; (b) coordination with local governments; and (c) dissemination of public information to its customers, external partners, stakeholders, and the media; and
  4. more closely coordinate and integrate preparedness activities with state and local governments to include ongoing planning, training, and exercise for utility disruption.
Similarly, the report also recommends that state and local government planning and preparedness address major power disruption more comprehensively and inclusively, including coordinating with utilities and developing procedures for damage assessment teams.

For more information, read the full OLR Report.

Public Adjusters Offer Alternative on Insurance Claims

The November 28th edition of HartfordBusiness.com discusses how consumers can use public adjusters to deal with their insurance claims. It compares these adjusters, who typically require no retainer for their services and do not collect any fees unless the policy holder receives payment on a claim. It compares the role of public adjusters to staff adjusters who work directly for insurance companies; independent adjusters who work for insurers through a third-party. It notes that public adjusters primarily handle claims of more than $25,000, which brings them into play in the case of larger-scale damages many have recently experienced.

“The Times They Are A Changing” for Homebuilders

. December 15, 2011

But are they changing with the times? No, wrote Allison Arieff in the October 2, 2011 New York Times, and she didn’t pull any punches about saying so. So, why are homebuilders behind the times? The reasons are complicated, but basically come down to this—homebuilders don’t like risk.

Consequently, homebuilders “don’t look to innovating but rather to an easier fallback strategy: a new marketing plan.” They, and us, won’t turn the corner “until we stop thinking about the home as a decorative object and begin considering it as part of a larger whole.”

To address these challenges, “all aspects of the industry, from designers to lenders to planners to consumers, should meet it. In this era of anti-government fervor, subsidizing the American Dream isn’t an option; transforming it is the only one we’ve got.”

Are the homebuilders in denial? Harvard Business School Professor Richard S. Tedlow might know. His 2010 book, Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face—and What to do About it tells the story about businesses in denial, which he defined as an “unwillingness to see or admit a truth that ought to be apparent and is in fact apparent to many others.” Denial kicks in to block information that challenges our basic assumptions. Some powerful companies suffered because of denial. They include the Ford Motor Company, Coca Cola, and IBM. But Tedlow’s story isn’t all doom and gloom. Some companies, like DuPont, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson faced hard challenges and thrived.

State’s Presidential Preference Primary Calendar Set


The Secretary of the State’s Office recently published a calendar of the deadlines associated with the state’s presidential preference primary. This year the legislature moved the primary back from the first Tuesday in February to the last Tuesday in April, which in 2012 is April 24. New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware will also hold their primaries that day.

Among the key deadlines are the following:

  1. On February 10, the secretary places on the primary ballot candidates who are “generally and seriously advocated or recognized according to reports in the national or state news media.” Such candidates may withdraw from the ballot by submitting a signed letter to the secretary by March 19.
  2. Candidates who seek to petition onto the ballot must file petition pages by March 2.
  3. Enrolled party members who wish to switch parties and vote in their new party’s primary must do so by January 24.
  4. New or unaffiliated voters who wish to enroll in a party and vote in its primary must do so by April 19.

 

Connecticut Court To Consider Teeth Whitening Restrictions

. December 14, 2011


A Virginia-based law firm filed a federal lawsuit in Connecticut in response to a recent Connecticut State Dental Commission ruling restricting who can perform teeth whitening services. In June, the commission ruled that teeth whitening is licensed dentistry, making non-dentists who perform it under certain conditions subject to fines and imprisonment.

The suit was filed by the Institution for Justice, a libertarian, public interest law firm, on behalf of two local teeth whitening businesses the state closed. These businesses argue that the commission’s ruling was unconstitutional because it interfered with their right to compete for business. Many small businesses nationwide now offer teeth whitening services in malls, spas, and salons.

The dental commission stated its ruling was based on public safety concerns, citing the inherent risk to patients from tooth whitening products and office bleaching procedures, including tooth sensitivity and tissue burns.

The lawsuit was filed against the Connecticut public health commissioner and the state dental commission members.



Hot Topic: Federal Money for Connecticut's Subsidized Guardianship Program

OLR Report 2011-R-0371 looks at whether the state is taking full advantage of funding available under the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, specifically as the act permits states to use federal funds in their subsidized guardianship programs.

The state has just recently received federal approval to use Title IV-E (foster care and adoption services) money for its relative guardianship program. While it has run this program since 1997, it could not use IV-E funds until the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 authorized it. The legislature amended its guardianship law to comport with the 2008 act.


The 2008 act also requires states to notify adult relatives when children are removed from their homes due to suspected abuse or neglect; Connecticut law satisfies this requirement as well.
 
For more infomation, read the whole report.

Feds Recommend National Ban on Phoning/Texting while Driving

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is, for the first time, calling for a nationwide ban on drivers using personal electronic devices (PEDs), including cell phones.

The NTSB recommended that all 50 states and the District of Columbia ban the non-emergency use of all PEDs while driving after discussing a 2010 Missouri multi-vehicle accident in which two people were killed and 38 injured. The NTSB investigation revealed that the driver of the pick-up truck that started the chain-reaction crash had sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the crash.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,000 people were killed in 2010 in crashes related to distracted driving.

The New York Times reports that the NTSB is recommending that states even ban drivers from using hands-free devices such as headsets. According to the Times, no state currently bans the use of these devices.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 10 states, including Connecticut, now ban talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving. IIHS says that 35 states, including Connecticut, ban text messaging while driving.

Tax Credits Up for Auction in Oregon

Oregon’s Department of Revenue Services is in the midst of its second tax credit auction of the year, after its initial auction drew fewer bids than expected.

Individuals and businesses had until 5 pm on December 9, 2011 to submit bids for tax credits that they can apply against their state income tax liability for 2011. Each tax credit is worth $1,000 and the minimum bid is $950. The credits are nontransferable but unused portions can be carried forward for three years.

The first auction, held from October 24 through November 4, attracted only 23 bidders and raised $411,683. The current auction is a second chance for people to bid on the nearly $1.1 million in remaining tax credits.

Lawmakers created the tax credit auction in 2011 to fund a new grant program for renewable energy development projects. Oregon’s Department of Energy will administer the grant program, which is expected to provide grants of up to $250,000 or 35% of an eligible project’s cost.

Zebra Mussels Found in Lake Housatonic

. December 13, 2011

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced on December 1, 2011, that zebra mussels have been found in Connecticut’s Lake Housatonic. The lake, located in Derby, Monroe, Oxford, Seymour, and Shelton, is the most downstream of three large impoundments of the Housatonic River. Zebra mussels had previously been found in Lakes Zoar and Lillinonah, the other two large impoundments located upstream of Lake Housatonic.

The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) is a small, nonnative mollusk that was first discovered in North America in 1988. It is believed to have been transported in the ballast tanks of ships from western European ports. Zebra mussels are prolific breeders with each female producing one million eggs each year. Young zebra mussels are so small (the size of the diameter of a human hair) that they spread easily by water currents. Adult zebra mussels are less than two inches long and attach to hard surfaces, including boats and boat trailers. Adult zebra mussels can spread from lake to lake when a boat carrying them is moved from one body of water to another. Under highly favorable conditions, the mussel can foul boat hulls and engine cooling water systems and clog power plant, industrial and public drinking water intakes.

DEEP advises boaters and anglers to follow certain precautions to prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals, including zebra mussels. For example:

Before leaving a boat launch:

CLEAN: all visible plant, fish, and animals as well as mud or other debris. Do not transport them home.

DRAIN: all water from every space and item that may hold water.

At home or prior to your next launch:

DRY: anything that comes in contact with water (boats, trailers, anchors, propellers, etc) for a minimum of 1 week during hot/dry weather or a minimum of 4 weeks during cool/wet weather.

For related information, see OLR Reports 2011-R-0013 and 2011-R-0063.

PURA Lowers CL&P and UI Electricity Rates

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) recently approved lower generation rates for customers who use the standard service electricity generation provided by Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and United Illuminating (UI).

Beginning January 1, 2012, the rates for CL&P’s residential customers will drop from 9.482 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 8.279 cents/ kWh while rates for UI’s residential customers will drop from 10.616 cents/ kWh to 8.727 cents/ kWh. For a customer using 750 kWh, this translates to a savings of about $9 a month for CL&P customers and $13.50 a month for UI customers. Business customers will receive similar rate reductions. The rate reduction will not necessarily affect the 47% of residential customers who have switched from the utility provided standard service to a retail electricity supplier.

Achievement Gap=Income Gap?

. December 12, 2011

Rising income inequality in the U.S. has exacerbated the academic achievement gap, according to a new study by Sean Reardon of Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy and Analysis. Although the link between poverty and low academic achievement has long been recognized, Reardon’s analysis shows that the so-called “income achievement gap” (the difference in academic achievement of children from families in the 90th vs. the 10th percentile of family income distribution) is 30% to 40% larger among children born in 2001 than among those born in 1976.

Reardon also found:

  • The income achievement gap is now nearly twice as large as the gap between blacks and whites. Fifty years ago these two factors were reversed, with the racial gap being 1.5 to two times larger than the income gap.
  • The income gap is large when children enter kindergarten and remains relatively constant as they progress through school.
  • Family income is now nearly as strong a predictor of children’s educational achievement as their parents’ educational levels.
  • Much of the income gap appears to stem from a 30% to 60% increase since the 1970s in achievement among children from families above the median income. This growth appears to stem from higher-income parents’ increased investments in their children’s cognitive development.

Reardon’s study will appear as a chapter in the upcoming book Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances (Russell Sage Foundation, 2011).

OLR: 2011 Public Act Summary book

The Office of Legislative Research has released the 2011 Summary of Public Acts. This contains summaries of all of the acts passed in the regular and special sessions in 2011.

Family Dinners Prevent Teen Alcohol and Drug Use

That is the conclusion of the authors of The Importance of Family Dinners VII, the latest survey of American teens and their parents. The authors of this year’s report looked at the link between the frequency of family dinners and teens’ substance abuse use, their access to substance abuse, and the quality of their relationships with their parents and siblings.

The authors found that compared to teens who have frequent dinners at home with their families (five to seven times a week), teens who eat less frequently with their families are more likely to (1) use tobacco (almost four times as likely), (2) use alcohol (more than twice as likely), (3) use pot (two-and-a-half times likelier), and (4) say they expect to try drugs in the future (almost four times more likely).

Foreclosure Prevention in New England

. December 9, 2011


The housing crisis has led states to look for ways to limit foreclosures. A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s New England Public Policy Center discusses how the New England states have responded. The report focuses on two major responses: mediation and financial assistance. The report discusses each state’s policies, measures their effectiveness, and makes recommendations for the future.

American Girl Bracelet Kits Recalled


The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) is warning consumers about a voluntary recall of American Girl Crafts Pearly Beads & Ribbon Bracelet kits because some of the beads had coatings containing excessive lead levels. Lead is dangerous to children when ingested.

According to DCP, about 75,000 of the kits were distributed nationwide through Michaels Stores and other retailers between September 2009 and June 2011. The kits each contain 56 pieces, including pink, blue, orange, and white beads and orange, red, blue, and purple ribbons. They cost about $8 each.

The recalled kits have a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) number of 30-585331 located on the package back in the lower right corner. Consumers should take the kits and finished bracelets away from children and contact the company for a full refund.

Dallas $24 Million Bridge over Homelessness Waters

. December 8, 2011


The Bridge is actually a facility housing many different services, all aimed at ending homelessness. The money to build the facility came from a $23.8 million bond authorization Dallas residents approved in 2004. The nonprofit Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance operates the Bridge.

What so special about the Bridge? It provides a wide range of services under one roof usually provide by separate agencies in different locations. For example, the Bridge provides:

  • Day shelter for about 1,200 people;
  • On-site night shelter for about 325 people;
  • Various care management services for about 600 people per week;
  • Care management services—including behavioral health care, primary health care, and storage—for 600 people per week;
  • Jail diversion and reentry service for 600 people per week;
  • Job seeking service for more than 75 people per week; and
  • Housing seeking services for 75 people per week.

That’s a lot of services, but are they working? They seem to be, according to Next American City, which reported:
  • Crime dropping in The Bridge/Farmers Market Neighborhood,
  • About $3 million in savings from reduced jail stays,
  • An improved quality of life for people experiencing homelessness,
  • Over 1,500 jobs placements, and
  • 982 housing placements from May 2008 to March 2011.

Jobs for Veterans

This month, First Lady Michelle Obama announced private sector commitments to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses as part of her “Joining Forces” effort during a keynote address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Business Steps Up: Hiring our Heroes event, according to a November 10 press release the Chicago Sun Times published.

Meanwhile, according to an AP story that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, on November 21, 2011, President Obama signed “… legislation, which creates tax breaks for companies that hire jobless veterans.…”

If you are a veteran looking for employment, the following links may be useful:

For more information about “Joining Forces,” visit their website.

Additionally, there is more information on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s yearlong nationwide event available.


Children of Incarcerated Parents and Foster Care

. December 7, 2011


In 2009, more than 14,000 children in the U.S. entered foster care at least in part because of a parent’s incarceration. This number is likely even higher because of underreporting by states to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office looked at this data, and at strategies 10 states use to support family ties in these situations. The strategies include caseworker training, helping inmates participate in child welfare hearings by phone or other means, special visitation hours and programs for children’s prison visits, video visitations, and interagency training and liaison positions between corrections and child welfare agencies.

The report’s recommendations include improving data collection, increasing state agencies’ awareness of the resources available to them, and helping states share promising practices.

Hot Topic: Mandated Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse

OLR Report 2011-R-0397 list all Connecticut mandated reporters of child sexual abuse and (2) identifies states that have a universal mandated reporter requirement (i.e., they require anyone to report, not just enumerated professionals).

Connecticut law requires people in certain professions or occupations that typically bring them into contact with children and parents to report to either the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or law enforcement officials if, during the ordinary course of their employment or profession, they reasonably suspect that a child under age 18 has been abused. These people, who are generally referred to as mandated reporters, include physicians and other health care workers, teachers and other school employees, law enforcement officials, child care providers, mental health professionals, DCF employees, and domestic violence workers. All other members of the public are nonmandated reporters, who may but are not required to report suspected abuse.

Eighteen states have a universal reporter requirement, meaning that anyone who suspects child abuse is required to report. Sixteen of these specify professionals who must report but also require everyone else to report, regardless of profession. Of the 18, nearly half appear to mandate reports only in situations where the abuse is perpetrated by a parent or other person responsible for the child's care or custody.

For more information, read the full report.

FAA Stepping Up Campaign against Laser Strikes against Aircraft


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is stepping up its campaign against people shining lasers at aircraft. The number of incidents is on the rise, despite the FAA’s decision to impose civil penalties against people who point a laser at an aircraft cockpit.

In October, the FAA unveiled a website recounting the dangers the lasers pose and encouraging people to report laser incidents online.

The FAA said pilots reported 2,795 laser incidents through October 20, 2011, which means the number of incidents this year is liked to surpass the 2,836 incidents in 2010. The number of reported incidents has increased steadily since 2005.

The FAA says that lasers can temporarily blind a pilot, threatening the lives of the airplane crew, passengers, and people on the ground.

In June, the FAA declared that pointing a laser at an aircraft from the ground, as well as from inside a plane, violates FAA regulations prohibiting interference with a flight crew. Violators face a maximum civil penalty of $11,000.

Growth in Chinese Student Enrollment Brings Challenges

. December 6, 2011

Colleges and universities are increasingly looking to China to diversify their enrollments and, in some cases, raise additional revenue. But as a November article in The Chronicle of Higher Education notes, there are many challenges, both before and after the students are admitted.

In the admissions stage, institutions must decide whether Chinese students’ applications and representations of their English-speaking ability are authentic. These issues are sometimes traced to the private education agents who both shepherd students through the admissions process and put schools in touch with interested applicants.

Once enrolled, the students face cultural challenges, such as requirements for class participation and original work that exceed those in China as well as difficulty in connecting with their American classmates. Still, the flow of students from China continues to rapidly increase, as 40,000 Chinese undergraduates are now enrolled in American colleges and universities, a figure that’s tripled in just three years.

Felons Finding it Easy to Regain Gun Rights

A recent New York Times article reports on how easy it is for some violent felons to get their gun rights restored. Every year, the article claims, thousands of felons nationwide have their gun rights reinstated with little or no review. “While previously a small number of felons were able to reclaim their gun rights, the process became commonplace in many states in the late 1980s, after Congress started allowing state laws to dictate these reinstatements.” According to one researcher cited in the article, “depending on the type of crime, in more than half of the states, felons have a reasonable chance of getting back their gun rights.” The article cites multiple cases in which ex convicts legally obtained guns and used them to commit crimes.

Hot Report: OLR Background: Alternative Fuel Vehicles

. December 5, 2011


OLR Report 2011-R-0359 provides information on the use of alternative fuels to power vehicles.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuel Data Center, there are currently 85 stations that provide alternative fuel in the state. These include 39 electric charging stations (one of which is powered by solar energy), 16 propane stations, and 14 compressed natural gas stations. A map of these facilities is available at www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/locator/stations/state.

This backgrounder describes initiatives in Connecticut and other states to promote alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and discusses some of the policy issues surrounding these vehicles. Connecticut currently has a limited number of initiatives to promote AFVs. It has a grant program for producers of biodiesel (a mixture of vegetable oil and diesel fuel). The program is currently scheduled to end on January 31, 2012. There are also requirements for the use of AFVs in the state's fleet and grants for municipalities for AFVs. Prior law provided a number of tax incentives to promote AFVs. Specifically, the law provided a credit against corporate business taxes equal to 10% of the costs of alternative fuel stations and the added costs of electric and natural gas vehicles. Prior law exempted new electric and gas vehicles, the cost of converting gasoline vehicles to use these fuels, and the equipment used in fueling stations from the sales tax, which expired in 2008.

Governor Rell's Executive Order No. 34 established the Electric Vehicles Infrastructure Council. The council set a goal of deploying 25,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in the state by 2020. It developed five additional strategic priorities and 30 specific action steps.

Most recently, PA 11-80 allows the state's Clean Energy Fund to:

  1. support projects that seek to deploy AFVs and associated infrastructure and related storage, transmission, distribution, and manufacturing technologies or facilities; and
  2. provide low-cost financing for these technologies.

For more information, read the whole report.

New California Law Bans Teens From Using Tanning Beds


On October 9th, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation’s strictest teen tanning law. SB 746 bans all minors from using tanning beds starting January 1, 2012. Under prior law, minors age 15 and older were allowed to tan with parental permission.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states, including Connecticut, limit minors’ use of tanning facilities. Connecticut law requires written permission from a parent or guardian for a person under age 16 to use a tanning facility. A tanning facility operator may be fined up to $100 for violating this requirement.

A recent report from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer encourages policymakers to enact measures to discourage adults and prohibit minors from using indoor tanning facilities in order to protect people from additional skin cancer risk.

The “Worst” States for High Earners

Forbes.com has compiled lists of the 10 states where high earners pay the most state income taxes. And Connecticut does not appear on any of them.

The lists are based on effective state tax rates for married couples with two children; varying charitable and mortgage interest deductions; and joint earnings of $250,000, $500,000, and $1 million. The “winners” are:

RankState
Effective
Tax Rate
Top
Tax Rate
Top Rate
Threshold
$250,000
1Oregon7.61%11%$500,000
2Hawaii6.98%11%Over $400,000
3Maine6.86%8.5%$39,900
4D.C.6.68%8.5%Over $40,000
5North Carolina6.47%7.75%Over $100,000
6New York6.36%8.97%Over $500,00
7Idaho6.32%7.8%$52,640
8California6.3%10.3%$1 million
9Minnesota6.0%7.85%$134,171
10West Virginia5.84%6.5%Over $100,000
$500,000
1Oregon8.06%11%$500,000
2Hawaii8.06%11%Over $400,000
3California7.78%10.3%$1 million
4D.C.7.46%8.5%Over $40,000
5New York7.42%8.97%Over $500,00
6Maine7.34%8.5%$39,900
7Minnesota6.96%7.85%$134,171
8North Carolina6.80%7.75%Over $100,000
9Idaho6.75%7.8%$52,640
10Wisconsin6.43%7.75%$298,941
$1,000,000
1Oregon9.98%11%$500,000
2Hawaii9.66%11%Over $400,000
3New York8.75%8.97%Over $500,00
4California8.75%10.3%$1 million
5D.C.8.16%8.5%Over $40,000
6Maine7.89%8.5%$39,900
7Minnesota7.53%7.85%$134,171
8North Carolina7.24%7.75%Over $100,000
9Idaho7.24%7.8%$52,640
10New Jersey7.19%11%$500,000

Coming Soon: Connecticut’s First in the Nation Paid Sick Leave Law

. December 2, 2011


Although Connecticut’s new mandatory paid sick leave law does not take effect until January 1st of next year, the Labor Department already created a new web page with guidance for employers to comply. Under the law, employees begin accruing time for paid sick leave on January 1, 2012, but they can’t use the time until they have worked for the employer for at least 680 hours starting on that date. So for most employees, it will be several months before they can use the leave benefit. This gives employees and employers time to grasp the law, which has detailed eligibility criteria and a number of employer exceptions (including manufacturers and some non-profits).

The new website provides a link to the guidance document as well as a downloadable sick leave notification poster that employers will be required to display.

OLR Map Room: October 2011 Power Outages

OLR's Map Room page now has a one-page PDF file prepared by the state's Military Department showing the progression of power outages and then restorations for Connecticut after the October snow storm.

Stakeholders React to New Requirements for Subdivision and Site Plan Modifications


The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) recently issued a bulletin regarding a new law (PA 11-79) that, among other things, revises the types of bonds or surety that developers can use to comply with municipal land use commission requirements for subdivisions and site plan modifications. According to CCM, towns have expressed confusion over how to interpret and implement the new law. The bulletin includes the minutes of an August meeting of municipal planners, attorneys, and developers to discuss the legislation’s impact.

A Game Changer in Downtown Revitalization

Quincy, Massachusetts is the midst of $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment that will raze most of its 50-acre center and replace it with new housing, retail, offices, entertainment, hotels and parking. While the scale of this redevelopment plan is unusual on its own, as Governing magazine recently reported, its funding plan makes it “a game changer.”

In a traditional redevelopment project, the municipality pays for the public improvements (e.g., utilities, roads, and landscaping) upfront, before the private builder begins construction on the shops, apartments, and offices. But Quincy officials struck a deal in which the developer will assume almost all of the financial risk. Once the developer installs the public improvements and leases a certain percentage of the retail and office space, the city will issue general obligation bonds to repay the debt. With the bond guarantee and signed leases in hand, the developer can then tap private equity and debt markets to finance the next phases of construction.

The Quincy center developer, Street-Works Development, is the same builder responsible for Blue Back Square in West Hartford.

CLASS Act Abandoned

. December 1, 2011

According to The New York Times, President Obama’s administration announced on October 14, 2011 that it was abandoning a government-run insurance program for long-term care authorized by the federal health care reform law. The program was called the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services said premiums for the program would be so high that very few healthy people would sign up, leading to adverse selection. Adverse selection refers to the tendency of poorer risks (e.g., older and sicker people) using insurance to a greater extent than better risks (e.g., younger and healthier people). For more information about the CLASS Act, see OLR Research Report 2010-R-0313.

Redistricting: The Hispanic and Latino Effect


States are in the process of redrawing their legislative boundaries to reflect the country’s population change—an often politicized process that happens every 10 years. According to this NPR story, lawsuits have already been filed challenging redistricting plans in at least 28 states. And many of these lawsuits focus on the best way to represent people of Hispanic or Latino origin. Groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund are pushing for majority-Latino districts given the huge growth in this population over the last 10 years.

To be sure, the number of people of Hispanic or Latino origin increased from 35.3 to 50.5 million between 2000 and 2010 and now represent about 16% of the U.S. population. According to the Census Bureau, this huge jump equals a 43% increase in the Hispanic and Latino population and towers above total U.S. population growth of 10%. This 2010 Census Brief provides a good overview of these numbers.


Hot Report: Use of Restraints on Children in DCF Group Homes


OLR Report 2011-R- 0366 gives background information on the use of restraints in Department of Children and Families (DCF)-licensed therapeutic group homes and (2) when they were outlawed.

Both the law (CGS §§ 46a-152 to -154) and regulations adopted under CGS § 17a-16 contain requirements governing the use of restraints on children in DCF care and custody. But in practice, DCF applies the more restrictive provisions in CGS § 46a-152. This law was enacted in 1999. To comport with the law, DCF has adopted policy that largely follows the law but that is tailored to its clients and programs.

Since 1999, Connecticut has limited the circumstances in which state schools and certain institutions and facilities may use restraints on the people they care for. Specifically, it prohibits individuals who provide direct care, education, or supervision to a “person at risk” in these settings from using involuntary physical restraints on such people. Persons at risk include children who receive care, education, or supervision in an institution or facility operated by, licensed or authorized to operate by, or operating under a contract with, DCF or other specified agencies or operating under a contract with a local school board.

The law establishes a general exception to this prohibition. It permits restraints as an emergency intervention to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the person at risk or others, provided they are not used for discipline or convenience or as a substitute for a less restrictive alternative. DCF policy mirrors this. (Another exception exists for the Whiting Forensic Division within the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.)

DCF regulations contain an additional exception, allowing the use of restraints when a possibility exists that a child could run away while being transported from one location to another.

Contracts between DCF and therapeutic group homes contain language that recognizes that there may occasionally be the need for restraints, but encourage the homes to employ other strategies; they do not reference the law. Presumably, when the homes use restraints, this is done according to CGS § 46a-152, et. seq. and agency policy.

For more information, read the full report.