Connecticut has led the country in its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, but demand is starting to slip as the state moves toward three-fourths of adults having received at least one shot. With the number of people seeking shots slowing, the state is getting creative, offering new incentives and finding new ways to reach those who haven’t yet received a vaccine.
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70% of Connecticut adults have at least one COVID-19 shot but rate is slowing: Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that he expected more than 70% of adults in Connecticut to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the week, far outstripping the goal laid out by President Joe Biden, who is pushing for 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one dose by July 4. But while the state still ranks high nationally for its overall vaccination rate, Connecticut has not been immune to slipping demand for shots, and data reported to the CDC show the number of new vaccinations in the past week was less than half the number of new vaccinations in the first week of April. With demand dropping, the state is undertaking a number of efforts to reach those who have not yet been vaccinated. At UConn’s upcoming graduations, for example, students, as well as their friends and families, can receive shots without an appointment at the Pratt & Whitney runway near Rentschler Field where commencements are being held. The state Department of Public Health is also partnering with historically African American sororities and fraternities to promote COVID-19 vaccination and increase vaccination rates in Black communities. And the Hartford Yard Goats are offering vaccines at their first home games, with four free tickets for those who get a shot.Five things you may have missed
House OKs early voting constitutional amendment: Early in-person voting moved a step closer to reality in Connecticut on Thursday as the state House of Representatives gave bipartisan approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that Connecticut voters could have the final say on in November 2022. More than 40 other states have early voting, but in Connecticut, voters who do not cast absentee ballots must show up at the polls from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on one Tuesday in November. While Republicans have raised concerns about expanding absentee ballot access, they have been more supportive of early voting, which would be conducted in person with the same safeguards as on Election Day. In the complicated process to amend the state constitution, the measure was approved by lawmakers in 2019, and must be approved again this year. If the amendment is approved by voters, the legislature would decide how many days of early voting there would be.
Pandemic-inspired telehealth law extended two years: Lawmakers unanimously approved a two-year extension of expanded telehealth coverage that was adopted last year as many residents opted for virtual doctor’s visits during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through June 30, 2023, insurers must cover telehealth appointments at the same rate as regular trips to the doctor’s office. The bill also expands the types of providers who can offer telehealth to include dentists, athletic trainers, art therapists and midwives, among others. And it allows patients to qualify for state medical marijuana via telehealth consultations and allows providers to offer audio-only telehealth services. The measure drew broad support from numerous health care providers who said telehealth visits exploded in 2020 compared to past years. Insurers had opposed a previous bill that offered an indefinite extension of the telehealth law, instead urging lawmakers to support a study of the matter.
Regulators propose $30M penalty for Eversource over Isaias response: Connecticut regulators are proposing a $30 million penalty against Eversource Energy for its failure to prepare properly for and respond to Tropical Storm Isaias last August. United Illuminating, which serves customers in the New Haven area, faces a potential $2.1 million fine. The penalties are both the maximum allowed under state law. For Eversource, $28.4 million would be returned to ratepayers as credits on their bills and a fine of $1.6 million would be paid to the state. “Eversource failed its customers and put Connecticut families at risk after Tropical Storm Isaias. Eversource must pay for their failures,” Attorney General William Tong said in a statement released by his office. The storm left as many as 1 million customers of both utilities without power for as long as nine days. The utilities have defended their response, saying Isaias was far more destructive than had been anticipated.
Legislative leaders say state can afford pay hikes to avoid nursing home strike: With workers at 33 nursing homes in Connecticut prepared to strike beginning May 14 over concerns about pay and health care, legislative leaders said they believe the state can afford to boost Medicaid reimbursement rates to provide the homes with additional money to pay workers. Workers represented by SEIU District 1199 New England make anywhere from $12 to $15 an hour, according to the union. They are asking for minimum pay of $20 an hour plus increased staffing, as well as improved health insurance. “At the end of the day, the workers that had to go into the fire … are these nursing home workers at the long-term care facilities. We have to help them,” House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said this past week. Connecticut has a record-setting budget reserve fund and billions in federal coronavirus relief funding on the way.
Regents pick new president of state colleges, universities: Terrence Cheng, director of UConn’s Stamford campus, was chosen Friday as the new president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system after a six-month search. Cheng, who will begin in his new role July 2, will be responsible for overseeing the state’s four regional universities, dozen community colleges and the online Charter Oak College. Lamont, who met with Cheng before he was offered the job, said he “has the unique combination of skills and expertise necessary to build off CSCU’s successes while undertaking the critically important efforts to improve student success and equity measures.” Chief among Cheng’s responsibilities will be seeing through the Students First initiative to merge the dozen community colleges into one institution that has been met with pushback from faculty. The system is also facing coronavirus-related declines in revenue and enrollment. Cheng will be paid $360,000 a year.Odds and ends
Bobby Valentine, the former Major League Baseball manager who led clubs including the New York Mets and, for a season, the Boston Red Sox, has officially entered the mayor’s race in his hometown of Stamford. Valentine, 70, will run as an unaffiliated candidate. He currently works as athletic director at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. Incumbent Mayor David Martin is facing a Democratic primary challenge from state Rep. Caroline Simmons. … Larry Lazor, an OB/GYN from West Hartford, announced his candidacy Wednesday for Congress in the 1st District. Lazor is pitching himself as a moderate Republican. “With social issues, I’m liberal,” he said. “With fiscal issues, I’m conservative. That’s a message that’s true to my heart and my brain, and that’s what I think Connecticut voters will embrace.” Lazor said Republicans need to move away from the divisiveness of the Trump era. … Travis Brimm has been picked to manage Lamont’s 2022 reelection campaign, according to Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, though the governor has yet to formally declare that he will seek another term. Brimm comes to Connecticut from Mississippi. His experience includes managing New Mexico Democrat Ben Ray Lujan’s U.S. Senate bid in 2020 and as director of Biden’s Democratic primary campaign in North Carolina. For now, Brimm is working with the Connecticut Democratic Party. … Sen. Richard Blumenthal is proposing $500 million in federal aid for minor league baseball teams that were forced to cancel the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Minor league baseball is in peril,” he said during a news conference at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford on Monday. “We did it for restaurants, theater, live music. Baseball deserves as much.” Yard Goats President Tim Restall said 2020 was a “challenging year.” The team’s home opener for 2021 is Tuesday against the Portland Sea Dogs. … Chris Dodd, who represented Connecticut in the U.S. Senate for three decades, is the leading contender to be U.S. ambassador to Ireland, according to Politico. Dodd is close with Biden, whom he served alongside in the Senate for years. In October 2019, he introduced Biden at a campaign fundraiser at Lamont’s Greenwich home where hundreds of thousands of dollars was raised for the former vice president.
Russell Blair can be reached at email@example.com.
The political memoir, as a genre, is in bad shape. There are too many memoirists, for one thing. Unimportant cabinet secretaries, mid-level White House staffers, lawmakers that most of the country has never heard of—they all, these days, feel the need to write detail-heavy 300- or 400-page accounts of their time in the halls of power. Very few of these chroniclers are gifted writers, and even fewer have anything important to relate.
Yet some of them have terrific stories to tell about their early lives. If only they would write about the interesting bits of their biographies and leave out the already familiar career highlights and tiresome score-settling. Consider Hawaii Sen. Mazie K. Hirono’s “Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story” (Viking, 397 pages, $28). Ms. Hirono, in this reviewer’s admittedly biased opinion, is author of some of the most witlessly partisan remarks in recent U.S. legislative history. Yet I found the book’s early chapters very moving.
Ms. Hirono was born in Japan in 1947. Keiko, as she was called, was a small child when her father fell into alcoholism and gambling. His own parents treated Keiko’s mother with shocking cruelty. When her mother’s breasts suddenly ceased to give milk, “her mother-in-law insisted that [her daughter-in-law’s] upper arm be branded with a sizzling iron, to shock her body into making her milk flow once more.” Ms. Hirono recalls “my mother’s glazed look as she told me this story many years later, almost as if she were recalling an event that had happened to someone else.” She bore the scar on her arm for the rest of her life.
Ms. Hirono’s mother had been born in Hawaii and soon began secretly arranging to leave her husband and flee with their children to the American territory, which she did in 1955.
Once Ms. Hirono begins narrating her political career, however, her writing takes on the, if I could put it this way, angular qualities of her public persona. She is never wrong, her opponents never less than despicable. Republicans during the ObamaCare debate, she quotes herself saying at the time, were “literally plotting how to deny millions of people in our country the heath care they deserve.” She, on the other hand, glows with saintliness: “In the conflict-rich arena of politics, I had never sought the spotlight, never even referred to myself as a politician. I was a public servant. My work was to serve those who were vulnerable.” Many politicians think and speak this way, but they ought to be discouraged from turning their memoirs into dreary recitations of their own courageous stands and their enemies’ treachery.
Carl Levin first became a U.S. senator in 1979 and left office in 2015. You may remember him by the reading glasses perpetually perched on his nose, together with his combover. His memoir, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate” (Wayne State, 338 pages, $29.99), brushes quickly past his early life. He’s already out of law school by page 11. The rest of the book is a chronicle of the policy views he took as a public official, first as a Detroit city councilman and then as Michigan’s longest-serving senator.
I try not to fault books for what they aren’t, but I would have liked to read less about Mr. Levin’s policy decisions, which were already a matter of pubic record, and more about his growing up in a politically attuned Jewish home in 1940s Detroit. (Mr. Levin’s older brother, Sander, was a member of the U.S. House, also for 36 years.) Instead we learn what Mr. Levin said and the votes he took on Nafta, the Clinton impeachment, and the Iraq War.
Sen. Tim Scott’s response to President Biden’s recent address to Congress electrified GOP voters and wrong-footed the president’s cheerleaders in the media. The paperback edition of Mr. Scott’s “Opportunity Knocks: How Hard Work, Community, and Business Can Improve Lives and End Poverty” (Center Street, 292 pages, $28) was issued less than a month before the South Carolinian’s rhetorical triumph. The book is equal parts autobiography, self-help and political commentary.
I remain unconvinced that Mr. Scott’s “opportunity zones,” written into the 2017 tax-reform bill at his urging, are the consequential innovation he believes them to be. The idea, much like the “enterprise zones” championed by Mr. Scott’s hero Jack Kemp and others a generation ago, involves using the tax code to get companies to invest in low-income areas. These sorts of policies end up empowering politicians and doing little to achieve their stated purpose.
The important fact about Mr. Scott, though, is that he is the only high-level elected official in America capable of speaking truthfully and cogently on the subject of race. “For more than fifty years, starting with President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society,’ ” he writes, “the federal government has dumped huge amounts of money into an ever-growing web of bureaucracy and red tape. Yet poverty rates remain basically unchanged since the early 1970s, especially in the black community.”
“Opportunity Knocks” is what this column likes to call a résumé book: The author isn’t sure he wants the job (you know which job I mean), but he sends in his résumé all the same—just to see what happens. Not without reason, in this instance. Mr. Scott is a black man who grew up on the edges of poverty in South Carolina; he is relentlessly optimistic about America; and he rejects white liberal orthodoxy on race. In the United States of the 2020s, that is a potent combination.
“America is not a racist country,” Mr. Scott remarked in his response to the president’s address. But he doesn’t deny the existence and virulency of racism in the present—on the right or the left. As a freshman member of the U.S. House, he recalls, he voted against raising the debt ceiling. “My office had to shut the phones down because of an onslaught of racist calls opposed to my vote. ‘I’ll never drive through your N state again,’ they said, and ‘tell that N boss of yours to get his head out of his $%^&.’ Calls like these drove our staff and interns to tears. These weren’t from people in South Carolina, but New Jersey, Illinois, California, and so many other states.”
I doubt this résumé will get tossed in the trash.
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One can read too much into the Conservative party’s astounding victory at the byelection in Hartlepool, a deprived port town seat in north-east England. But it is rare that a government wins such contests, especially when it has been in power for 11 years and when the seat had been the opposition’s for decades. Now the town with the highest unemployment rate in the country has a Tory MP. This makes for a significant moment. The result represents the first fruits of Boris Johnson’s political strategy, which rests on consolidating the 2016 leave vote and using the state to direct cash and jobs to the parts of “rust belt” England that voted overwhelmingly for Brexit.
Labour might argue that “Super Thursday” was about much more than a single constituency. Elsewhere, devolved and local governments were being chosen. Yet in Scotland, Labour is being steamrolled by the nationalists. The party is clinging on in Wales. But to win power it needs to be competitive in England. At the time of writing, English local government elections seem to point to a revival in voting for the Greens and Liberal Democrats, eating into Labour’s support. This spells real trouble for Sir Keir Starmer, who could be caught in a pincer movement, losing votes on the left and the right. There are about 20 or so “safe” Labour seats, including those of Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper, where the combined 2019 Brexit and Tory party vote would easily overtake the sitting MP.© Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images ‘Mr Johnson’s woeful lack of consistency is being resolved slowly by Brexit.’ Boris Johnson with a blimp in Hartlepool on 7 May.
Video: Boris Johnson urges 'era-defining outcome' from Cop26 (PA Media)
Boris Johnson urges 'era-defining outcome' from Cop26
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The answer in the short-term must be for Labour to change course rather than make the captain walk the plank. Sir Keir has only been in his post for a year. But he won’t take responsibility for the terrible performance by sacking a few frontbenchers. It would be a mistake to “double down” on a vacuous strategy that has not worked. Labour requires an economic programme big enough to cut through and offer hope. Sir Keir should jettison policies that appear to judge the voters he courts. He needs a new vocabulary to persuade the traditional working class that Labour stands for their interests and understands their concerns. Without it he cannot hope to build a broad enough electoral coalition to win power.
Benjamin Disraeli, it was said, saw the Conservative voter in the working man just as the sculptor sees “the angel imprisoned in a block of marble”. Disraeli’s strategy took time to pay off, but it did so handsomely when millions of working-class Britons cast their votes for the Tories in 19th-century Britain. Mr Johnson is shaping up to be Disraeli’s political heir. Like the predecessor, Mr Johnson is seen as witty but unprincipled. He could not decide if he is pro-greed or against inequality. He slipped between backing capitalism and telling it where to go.
This woeful lack of consistency is being resolved slowly by Brexit. Mr Johnson has been forced to discover and explain what he stands for. The public are giving him the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Sir Keir has moved from leading the remain faction in the Labour party to voting for Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal. Yet he is still unable to say how he would make Britain’s exit from the EU a success. Until Sir Keir can do so, it is difficult to see how he will form a government anytime soon.