State Report: Strippers, Marijuana Dispensaries & Legislive Payraises
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Since the General Assembly is still in recess, GoLocal continues its weekly news wrap up. This week we are covering the trial of NP Police Chief John Whiting, a story that has dominated the headlines. Additionally, further developments in the 38 Studios drama and the implementation of compassion center will also be examined. Lastly, a pair of fresh stories, one of which pertains to the state’s lawmakers receiving a pay hike. Getting a raise while on vacation? You bet. Keep reading to find out the details.
NP Police Chief found guilty of stealing from stripper
This past week, North Providence Police Chief John Whiting was found guilty of larceny and soliciting a police offer to obtain stolen goods. After a three-week long trial and a thorough review of the evidence, Judge Daniel Procaccini announced his verdict on Tuesday. Whiting, 58, had waived his right for a trial by jury.
Whiting was found guilty of taking $714 from the purse of Justina Cardoso, a former stripper, after a low-speed car chase in August 2011. Whiting, who is currently suspended without pay, claims that he did not steal the money, but rather took it as evidence.
Aside from the larcency count, Whiting was also convicted of soliciting police. According to Pawtucket Police Officer John Brown, he was given the $714 from Whiting and told to take it to Las Vegas. Brown also claims that Whiting admitted to stealing the money.
Whiting has been the Police Chief in North Providence for three years. Prior to assuming the role of chief, Whiting served 29 years as a member of the Pawtucket Police department
Raimondo says state should honor 38 Studios investors
The never-ending 38 Studios saga continued this week with a new development involving Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo. On Tuesday, Raimondo told The Providence Journal that the state should honor its responsibility to pay investors the money due on bonds issued for the videogame company 38 Studios. In 2010, the state sold $75 million in bonds to raise the necessary capital to bring the now defunct company to Rhode Island.
In return, 38 Studios was supposed to pay back bondholders with the money it made through developing and selling video games. Unfortunately, 38 Studios declared bankruptcy last month, leaving taxpayers the responsibility of paying the nearly $100 million in principal and interest due on the bonds. Although some have recommended that the state go back on its word, Raimondo told The Providence Journal, “You don’t want to be the state that walks away from its moral obligations.”
38 Studios released its lone video game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a single player role-playing game, in February 2012. The game received mostly positive reviews upon its arrival and has sold approximately 1.3 million copies thus far. According to experts within the Chafee administration, the game needed to sell 3 million copies to break even.
Three marijuana dispensaries may be headed to Rhode Island
Rhode Island health officials are currently in talks to bring three marijuana dispensaries into the state. The Providence Journal reports that the RI Department of Health has confirmed that the three prospective dispensaries have expressed interest in registering for certification to serve licensed patients. Newly approved state legislation allows for dispensaries, also known as compassion centers, to possess up to 1,500 ounces of marijuana.
Compassion centers were originally approved in the state in 2009, but several loopholes in the original legislation led to Gov. Chafee delaying their implementation. One such ambiguity involved capping the amount of marijuana that dispensaries could possess, which was taken care of in this year’s proposal. Additionally, the recently approved bill also included new safety measures like mandating criminal background checks for compassion center employees.
Although nothing has been finalized, Dara Chadwick, spokeswoman for the Health Department, says that compassion centers in Providence, Warwick and Portsmouth have gone through a pre-approval process.
Aside from compassion centers, the decriminalization of marijuana has also been a hot topic in the state as of late. As you may recall, Rhode Island became the 15th state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana last month.
RI to receive $6.9M in emergency preparedness funds
The Ocean State will soon be getting $6.9 million in federal funds for emergency preparedness, as well as crime-fighting initiatives. The federal money will come from the U.S. Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department, according to the state’s congressional delegation.
The funding includes $3.2 million in emergency management allowance to help the state better prepare itself for all kinds of potential hazards. Another $2.8 million will go to the state’s homeland security program to combat acts of terrorism and recover from emergencies. Lastly, state and local criminal justice agencies will receive $877,000 for training, equipment and technology.
“At a time when the state and localities face difficult budgets, these federal funds will help equip law enforcement officials and first responders and enhance Rhode Island’s emergency preparedness. We need to do everything we can to continue to improve the state’s emergency response capabilities,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in a joint statement.
RI Lawmaker set for pay raise
Although the average Rhode Islander will not benefit from a cost of living adjustment this year, their lawmakers will. Lawmakers in the part-time General Assembly are set for a pay increase, reports The Providence Journal. Beginning this month, the average legislator salary will jump from $14,185 to $14,639. Aside from the pay hike, legislators will still enjoy their state provided healthcare.
Interestingly, six Senators and two House members have told the Joint Committee on Legislative services that they will be turning down the raise. The Senators refusing the boost in pay are Denis Algiere (R-Westerly), Dawson Hodgson (R-North Kingstown), Nicholas Kettle (R-Coventry), Frank Maher (R-Exeter), Christopher Ottiano (R-Portsmouth), and Glen Shibley (R-Coventry). The two Representatives to decline to raise are Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) and James McLaughlin (D-Cumberland).
Sen. Algiere is currently in communication with his fellow Senate Republicans to see if they would be willing to waive the pay increase. So far, no Democrats in the Senate have decided to refuse the pay jump.
Last year, the General Assembly benefited from a 1.6 percent pay increase. Last year’s cost of living adjustment led to a similar reaction, with all eight Republican Senators and one Democrat rejecting it. Rep. Doreen Costa (D) also turned down the proposal.