DAN HAAR

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Front Page - DAN HAAR

Any new gover­nor’s ad­min­is­tra­tion brings prom­ise and po­ten­tial, at least for the party in power. For Gov.-elect Ned La­mont, the tran­si­tion is a time of new ideas in a very or­derly way.

Here are 15 of the big­gest and bold­est, one each from the 15 tran­si­tion work­ing groups that the vic­to­ri­ous Demo­crat con­vened just a few weeks ago. Most re­late in one way or an­other to the state’s econ­omy.

While some of us take it easy with fam­ily over the hol­i­days, La­mont and his top tran­si­tion aides will pore over these re­ports, all of them pre­sented this past week. Each con­tains a pas­sel of big-pic­ture and small­ball rec­om­men­da­tions.

We hope these folks will also take some time off ahead of the Jan. 9 in­au­gu­ra­tion.

The writ­ten re­ports are still not pub­lic doc­u­ments be­cause they’re con­sid­ered drafts, a spe­cious des­ig­na­tion at best, and the tran­si­tion teams aren’t gov­ern­ment agen­cies. But the ideas are out of the bag, open for de­bate.

A word of cau­tion be­fore you get too up­set, La­mont doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily en­dorse these. He al­ready re­jected a hearty en­dorse­ment of high­way tolls for cars and trucks, of­fered by his trans­porta­tion work­ing group. La­mont says he wants to charge only in­ter­state trucks pass­ing through.

When I asked for his fa­vorite ideas, the gover­nor-to-be de­murred and said he’ll weigh in soon enough. But he spoke glow­ingly of the work by his tran­si­tion groups.

“I was sur­pris­ingly pleased,” he said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day. “We had peo­ple with di­rect, rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence on these com­mit­tees vol­un­teer­ing their time ... folks from the not-for-prof­its, folks from busi­ness, folks from la­bor ... think­ing about new ways to solve these prob­lems.”

He added, “My job now is not just to cull through and pick the best ideas, but also to fig­ure out how to keep these folks en­gaged.”

I’ve graded each idea based on its bold­ness,

vi­a­bil­ity and pol­icy di­rec­tion for the state.

Econ­omy/jobs: A north­east sum­mit

This group ad­vised La­mont to con­vene a sum­mit on eco­nomic growth with the gov­er­nors of the states that touch Con­necti­cut. That would give La­mont an in­stant plat­form for lead­er­ship among some large per­son­al­i­ties, all of whom — Repub­li­can Char­lie Baker of Mas­sachusetts and Democrats Gina Rai­mondo of Rhode Is­land and An­drew Cuomo of New York — have na­tional rep­u­ta­tions. I’d add New Jer­sey, which is al­ready work­ing with its north­east­ern neigh­bors on op­pos­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s anti-blue-state tax re­form and other is­sues. To be clear, these states are ri­vals as well as friends. This idea could have more im­pact than the panel’s other bold plan, to add a state “sec­re­tary of com­merce” to over­see busi­ness re­cruit­ment. Grade: B

Health­care: Pro­mote e-con­sults for Med­i­caid

This panel aims to make Con­necti­cut the health­i­est state — we’re not far off now — and ad­vance au­to­mated in­for­ma­tion and pay­ments based on value and out­comes, not vol­ume of ser­vice. Those are all big buzz­words in the sec­tor. Among specifics, elec­tronic doc­tor con­sul­ta­tions, along with “Med­i­caid pay­ment for e-con­sults that cov­ers costs to im­prove ac­cess,” is a plan with some teeth. We’ll be hear­ing more about this from places such as Com­mu­nity Health Cen­ter Inc. Grade: A-

Women: Hir­ing quo­tas for top La­mont ap­pointees

This is the only group to con­vene based on iden­tity. The panel en­dorsed eco­nomic poli­cies to help low-wage work­ers and vic­tims of felony sex crimes and sex­ual ha­rass­ment, and to move closer to gen­der-pay eq­uity. And this: “Com­mis­sioner and Ex­ec­u­tive Branch ap­point­ments should be com­prised of 50 per­cent women, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to women of color, to re­flect the state’s pop­u­la­tion.” That’s bold, for sure, but de­mean­ing and the wrong way to achieve equal­ity. Grade: D-

Trans­porta­tion: Full-scale tolls

This panel, dom­i­nated by plan­ners and pub­lic tran­sit of­fi­cials, fa­vors in­vest­ment in all sorts of in­no­va­tive ways to move peo­ple around, in­clud­ing more bi­cy­cle­friendly streets, which we need des­per­ately. But you can’t ig­nore the ele­phant in the room and that’s tolls, along with pos­si­bly higher gaso­line taxes, al­though they also said high enough tolls could lead to lower levies at the pump. La­mont said no to both, but he’ll face pres­sure on both. Grade: B

En­ergy: State sets an ex­am­ple

This panel sug­gested a “Coun­cil on En­ergy Af­ford­abil­ity and Eq­uity,” an in­no­va­tive idea as far as new bod­ies go, but over­all its ad­vice is a tes­ta­ment to green en­ergy. On that score, in the “lead

by ex­am­ple” cat­e­gory, the panel called for La­mont to com­mit to “re­duc­ing en­ergy con­sump­tion in state build­ings by 40 per­cent from cur­rent lev­els by 2030” and “con­vert­ing state ve­hi­cles to zero emis­sions for 50 per­cent of its light­duty fleet and 30 per­cent of its buses from cur­rent lev­els by 2030.” We’ll see whether tech­nol­ogy makes that doable. Grade: A-

Hu­man ser­vices: Fix non-emer­gency trans­porta­tion

Hu­man ser­vices is about as broad a cat­e­gory as the state has, and this group sug­gested a vast num­ber of ba­sic im­prove­ments em­brac­ing co­op­er­a­tion and tech­nol­ogy. You may have read about their push to re­store vot­ing rights to peo­ple on pa­role. Plau­dits for iden­ti­fy­ing a huge prob­lem most peo­ple don’t think about, the vastly ex­pen­sive and un­work­able sys­tem of non-emer­gency med­i­cal trans­porta­tion (NEMT). Among the ideas: “Cre­ate a pri­vate right of ac­tion for those ag­grieved by poor NEMT ser­vice.” Grade: B+

Arts, cul­ture and tourism: Cul­tural fa­cil­i­ties fund

This group could have used more artists for cre­ative think­ing. Ba­sic stuff here, mainly re­or­ga­nize and spend more money, both def­i­nitely needed in a sec­tor that gen­er­ates high re­turns. A “cul­tural fa­cil­i­ties fund” would bring at­ten­tion to arts and cul­ture venues, for sure. Whose money? Grade: C-

Pub­lic safety: Tighter firearms safety rules

This group looked in a dis­ci­plined way at opi­oid ad­dic­tion, mo­tor ve­hi­cle safety, po­lice re­sources and firearms safety. Col­lec­tively, the list of firearms rules makes sense. Among them: “Pro­hi­bi­tion on leav­ing firearms in the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment of mo­tor ve­hi­cles:” pro­hi­bi­tion against 3D-made guns, which are not a prob­lem yet, but could be­come one; and tighter stor­age rules around ju­ve­niles. In light of a re­cent tragedy with­out pros­e­cu­tion in this state, I’d add en­force­ment power, too. Grade: B+

En­vi­ron­ment: Car­bon pric­ing for the re­gion

No short­age of ways to make an im­pact from this group, in­clud­ing phas­ing out sin­gle-use plas­tic bags and ex­pand­ing pub­lic com­post­ing of food waste. Most in­trigu­ing, and po­ten­tially con­tro­ver­sial: “Lead the way in de­sign­ing car­bon pric­ing that fits Con­necti­cut and the re­gion.” We’re talk­ing about taxes or fees on car­bon use, folks, and you know what that means. But panel lead­ers as­sure us it would be re­gional, and there are many ways to do it, as we’ve al­ready seen with the Re­gional Green­house Gas Ini­tia­tive. Grade: B+

Agri­cul­ture: Boost green­house prod­ucts, in­clud­ing hemp

Give this panel credit for buck­ing the seem­ingly in­evitable trend by op­pos­ing a min­i­mum wage in­crease, at least for farm work­ers. That’s not in­no­va­tion; for cre­ativ­ity, we turn to hemp — a form of cannabis used for cloth­ing and other ac­ces­sories — as a cash crop. That would re­quire some

fed­eral ap­provals and it makes sense in a block­ing-and-tack­ling sort of way. Grade: C

Dig­i­tal strat­egy: Manda­tory com­puter ed­u­ca­tion

You’d ex­pect the dig­i­tal group to act ag­gres­sively and they didn’t dis­ap­point. Hire a state tech czar (I fa­vor a tsar in­stead), help fi­nance tech em­ploy­ment in all sports of ways, cre­ate task forces, it’s all here. But they rec­og­nized state’s short­age of tech grad­u­ates stems (get it?) from early ed­u­ca­tion, thus this: “Be­gin work on a manda­tory com­puter science pro­gram for our mid­dle and high schools.” That’s good only if it’s heavy on the­ory and light on trade ed­u­ca­tion for kids. Grade: B-

Shared ser­vices: Split­ting town tax bills

Prod­ding towns to work to­gether on ser­vices is like ex­pect­ing your 15-year-old pal around with your bestie’s teenager. But it’s a cri­sis in this state and this group is tired of foot-drag­ging by towns. Lots of re­quire­ments in here, which towns won’t like, in­clud­ing this: “Mu­nic­i­pal bod­ies and boards of ed­u­ca­tion would each set their own mill rates and levy their own prop­erty taxes,” the bet­ter to see who’s spend­ing what. Most states al­ready do it. Who knew? Grade: B-

Hous­ing: End all home­less­ness by 2023

Points off for us­ing the word “lever­age” 12 times in a 2-page syn­op­sis, as in, “a new par­a­digm that at­tracts pri­vate cap­i­tal to lever­age holis­tic pub­lic in­vest­ment in Con­necti­cut’s com­mu­ni­ties.” Se­ri­ous jar­gon, but the ideas mat­ter, in­clud­ing a statewide hous­ing data­base. End­ing home­less­ness might be im­pos­si­ble sim­ply be­cause it’s a con­stant process, not a static goal. Bold and im­por­tant, build­ing on a great legacy by Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy. Grade: B

Ed­u­ca­tion: No more tiny school sys­tems

Less jar­gon from this group than we saw in hous­ing, who’d have thunk it? And the ed­u­ca­tion panel cov­ered many of the same shared ser­vices and dig­i­tal and science cur­ricu­lum ideas as other groups, in­clud­ing manda­tory com­puter ed­u­ca­tion. For bold­ness, you can’t beat this: “Re­quire small school districts to in­ter­nally con­sol­i­date or re­gion­ally share ser­vices.” Re­quire, based on fund­ing for­mu­las rather than out­right fiat, we as­sume. Grade: A

Crim­i­nal jus­tice: Erase some crime records af­ter crime-free time

Here’s an­other strong Mal­loy legacy cat­e­gory and the panel wants to con­tinue the out­go­ing guv’s pro­grams — no sur­prise since Cathy Mal­loy is a co-chair. I’m no ex­pert but it seems to be work­ing based on the data. Bold­est idea: “Clean-Slate leg­is­la­tion pro­vid­ing for the au­to­matic era­sure of mis­de­meanor and some felony con­vic­tions af­ter a per­son has been crime-free for a pe­riod of time.” Times should be long and crimes non­vi­o­lent. Also, no clean slate for fi­nan­cial fraud. Grade: B

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

Gov.-elect Ned La­mont and Lt. Gov.-elect Su­san Bysiewicz greet sup­port­ers at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hart­ford af­ter this year’s elec­tion.

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