and because Tuesday is Election Day, Capitol DisPatch asked lawmakers the importance of local elections.
Connecticut was the first of the 13 colonies to adopt a constitution, “The Fundamental Orders of 1639”. That explains the moniker “The Constitution State” and the state’s tradition of representative government, according to the newly released Civic Health Index. The state’s 169 towns and municipalities shed county government in the 1960s, a move that created unique challenges.
Last week Secretary of the State Denise Merrill told Capitol DisPatch much work must be done to get more people to vote and to encourage more people to register to vote. This week, lawmakers hope the public turns out for the local elections.
“Of course I'd like to see everyone registered and everyone voting, but I most want to see everyone paying attention,” state Sen. Joe Markley, a Republican representing towns in the 16th Senate District including Cheshire and Southington, said. “It's not the size of the electorate so much as their engagement that makes for good choices. Government has an ever-greater impact on our lives--that should be reason enough for people to get involved.”
Getting people to vote is always a challenge, particularly when like this year its mostly local races, said state Rep. Vincent Candelora, a Republican representing North Branford in the 86th House District.
Candelora said abstaining from the ballot box is counterproductive because in Connecticut things such as property taxes carry concern everyone.
“Municipal elections have the biggest impact on the educational level, the tax levels,” Candelora said.
And now with so many people still getting over last weekend’s snow Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an Executive Order extending voter registration until Mon. Nov. 7, at noon.
“The severity of the power outages and other damage from this past weekend’s snow has the potential to disenfranchise thousands of Connecticut voters who are without electricity and even unable to leave their homes,” said Secretary Merrill, Connecticut’s Chief Elections Official in a press release.
TO GRANDPARENTS HOUSE WE GO…OR NOT?
The Task Force on Grandparents Rights, which stems from the Committee on Aging, keeps meeting to determine how best to enhance visitation rights for grandparents.
The task force must study legal and social issues related to grandparents' access to visitation, the impact of the loss of contact on families, the social supports to promote the continuation of these relationships, and that any legislative proposals are consistent with the state constitution. Their report is due Feb. 1, 2012.
Carmen Stanford, program manager of Generations, a community of 24 townhouses for grandparents raising their children testified that grandparents “may be in the 40’s, or they may be in their 70’s, when they step in to help their families."
Several court cases led to the task force creation.
In Roth v. Weston, a maternal grandmother and aunt petitioned for visitation with children whose father had terminated it after the children's mother committed suicide. The relatives claimed visitation served the children's best interest, although they didn’t argue the father was unfit. In his response, the father presented reasons why he believed visitation wasn’t in the children's best interest.
The trial court granted the petition. However, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the petition, ruling it would be unconstitutional unless it required any third party, including a grandparent or a great-grandparent, seeking visitation to make specific and good-faith allegations that (1) a parent-like relationship exists between the child and the person seeking visitation and (2) denial of the visitation will cause real and significant harm to the child. That degree of harm must be analogous to a claim that the child is neglected, uncared-for, or dependent within the meaning of Connecticut's child abuse statutes.
Grandparents’ rights, particularly visitation rights, are complicated, said Candelora, who practiced family law.
“There’s concern that children’s rights aren’t put first and foremost at times,” he said. “There needs to be a balancing act for what parents need, grandparents need and kids need. Kids can end up bouncing around from house to house, but there needs to be continuity for the children. I’m sympathetic to the parents but also to the estranged grandparents and that bloodline that gets disconnected.”
I WANTED TO BE…A LUMBERJACK!
“Can FEMA send electricians, tree cutters and troops to help restoration efforts? Not to omit those who truly are in need, but do we need untold amounts of food and water?” So said one comment posted on Patch after the storm.
Tree cutters being the operative words here. Seems what towns really want are troops of buffalo plaid, chain saw touting citizens marching down the streets.
“Oh, where to begin,” state Rep. John Frey, a Republican representing Ridgefield in the 111th House District posted on Facebook. “Yes, more tree trimming is needed. With the second highest electric rates in the country, one would have to question the need for yet higher rates. Don't the utilities in other states trim trees too? Wouldn't less outages be cost-effective for the utility? And the hearings following Irene were a joke. Don't hold your breath for a remedy out of Hartford.”
CL&P officials conceded more frequent tree trimming could keep power outages to a minimum, but they said that would necessitate electric rate increases.
Of course those tremendous trees don’t have to go to waste. City Bench, the creation of Ted Esselstyn and Zeb Esselstyn of Higganum, creates furniture from trees once destined for the wood chipper. An exhibition at the Connecticut Historical Society “New Life for Connecticut Trees” highlights their work.