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State Report: School Safety, Climate Change + Firearm Legislation

Saturday, February 22, 2014


This week’s State report centers on firearm safety in Rhode Island. Not only will look at a gun safety bill that was recently introduced in the House, we’ll also preview the next meeting of the Firearms Safety Task Force in which they are scheduled to review and consider its final report. Aside from gun safety, we’ll also look at climate change concerns in the Ocean State and take a look at how the leadership in the General Assembly has responded to the recent pension settlement.

Addressing Gun Safety in Rhode Island

Rep. Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) has introduced legislation that he hopes increase gun safety in Rhode Island by keeping firearms out of the hands of convicted criminals. 

The legislation would apply to individuals convicted of all domestic violence-related misdemeanors, which includes simple assault, vandalism, disorderly conduct, trespassing, violation of protective orders, stalking, refusal to relinquish or to obstruct a telephone and cyberharassment. It would also subject violators to three to 15 years of imprisonment.

“The truth of the matter is that access to firearms can make for a deadly ending after even the slightest escalation of violence,” Amore said. “This is a problem that can be fixed, and that’s why I’m introducing a bill to prevent those convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault from purchasing a firearm. This is a common sense bill that I introduced last year as part of the firearms safety legislative package. I’m submitting it again this year because I believe it strikes the right balance between public safety and preserving Second Amendment rights. I’m not asking for a way to take away guns from hard-working, responsible people. I’m asking for us to consider not putting guns in the hands of men and women with a definitive history of violence and disturbing behavior related to domestic assault.”

House cosponsors include Representatives Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter) and Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth). It has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Click here to read the bill in its entirety.

Firearm Safety Task Force

In other gun safety news, the Joint Behavioral Health and Firearms Safety Task Force is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Feb. 25 to review and consider its final report.

Created by legislation (2013-H 5992A, 2013-S 862B) sponsored by its co-chairwomen, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) and Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Exeter, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), the task force was a key element of the package of legislation introduced last year in the General Assembly to address gun safety following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The 20-member task force is charged with weighing the rights of those with behavioral health problems to own guns alongside the risks. The panel was asked to conduct a review of current law and make recommendations on legislation to improve public safety by developing a more comprehensive approach addressing the nexus between behavioral health and firearms safety.


To view more news from the past week, check out the slideshow below.


Related Slideshow: RI State Report: More News of the Week - 2/22/14

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RI Executive Climate Change Council

On Friday, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, joined by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, other government leaders and environmental advocates at the West Warwick Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, signed an Executive Order, which created the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council (ECCC). The ECCC will advise the Governor, the General Assembly, and the public on best practices to ensure that the state continues to be a national leader in developing and implementing strategies that address challenges created by climate change.

"I am establishing the Council because for too long there has been strong evidence and scientific consensus that manmade greenhouse gases will have profound effects on global climate, weather patterns and ocean conditions; effects that the state cannot afford to ignore," Governor Chafee said. "Rhode Island must act boldly to position the state as a national leader in climate adaptation with a comprehensive approach that will benefit our communities and businesses."

The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Janet Coit, will chair the ECCC, and it will include the leaders of the following State agencies: Coastal Resources Management Council; Department of Administration; Department of Transportation; Department of Health; Emergency Management Agency; Office of Energy Resources; Division of Planning; and Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.

Among its initiatives to develop long-term strategies to prepare for the impacts of climate change, the Council is tasked with working with the cities and towns to help prepare communities, as well as identify and leverage federal, state, and private funding opportunities for emission reduction. Rhode Island's collaboration and partnership will continue with other New England governors and the Eastern Canadian premiers to explore areas of mutual interest to achieve common environment goals.

The executive order calls for the Governor to receive a formal report with findings, recommendations, and a status update on achieving the objectives by May 1, 2014, with subsequent reports due yearly on May 1.

Click here to read the Executive Order.

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Bill introduced addressing violent threats against schools

Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. has introduced legislation to punish those who use a computer or other electronic device to threaten violence at any school in Rhode Island.

Gallison’s bill would create a new misdemeanor, punishable with up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000, for anyone who uses a computer, phone, smart phone, tablet, or any similar device to “make any false statements or threats concerning the endangerment of students at any school.” The bill would apply to schools at all levels, including colleges.

Gallison said the legislation is aimed at punishing those who make false threats solely for purpose of disrupting schools.

"For obvious reasons, every threat of violence made at a school has to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, especially in this day and age when so many people have the Internet at their fingertips at all times, that means it’s very easy for someone to cause a serious disturbance that cancels classes, sends students, parents and faculty into a panic, and results in a very expensive waste of public resources. It’s a form of terrorism, and those who make such threats should be held accountable for their reckless behavior and the damage it causes,” said Gallison (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth).

Click here to read the bill in its entirety.

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Speaker, President statement on pension settlement

The following is a statement released jointly by Speaker of the House of Representatives Gordon D. Fox and President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed on the proposed state employee pension settlement.
“We are still carefully reviewing the proposed pension settlement. We are going to give it the careful consideration that it deserves and we will be speaking with our respective House and Senate members to gauge their views as well. There is a long road ahead of us and the release of the details of the settlement, which we were not party to, is just a first step. We will await the votes to be taken by both union and non-union members before we weigh in further.”

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Food system grants

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced Thursday that the Department of Environmental Management is accepting applications for Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) grants, which will assist small or beginning farmers promote and market their agricultural products grown in Rhode Island, as well as local seafood businesses.

This new program is made possible by $100,000 in state funding that Governor Chafee and the General Assembly included in the DEM budget, and includes an additional $110,000 in matching funds from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and the Rhode Island Foundation. DEM is coordinating with the Rhode Island Food Policy Council to administer the program. This unique and unprecedented public-private partnership will provide grants intended to directly benefit and strengthen R.I.'s local food system.

"The program addresses the promotion and marketing of two fast growing sectors of our economy. Both have managed to do well during the economic downturn," Governor Chafee said. "These funds will ensure that the sale of locally grown agricultural products and seafood will continue to thrive, and that these businesses become even more of a key employer in our state."

Grants will be capped at $20,000 but can be potentially matched by Foundation funds.

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Climate change information session

House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Arthur Handy will host a briefing on climate change issues for legislators on Tuesday.

The event, titled “Toward a Resilient Rhode Island: Responding to Climate Change with Leadership, Innovation and Economic Development,” will be held Tuesday, Feb.25, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., in the House Lounge on the second floor of the State House.

Scheduled presentations include:

  • Climate Change Impacts in Rhode Island: Real and Present – Tricia Jedele, vice president and director of the Conservation Law Foundation Rhode Island 
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gases Through Energy Efficiency – and Saving Money – Christopher Powell, sustainable energy and environmental initiatives director, Brown University 
  • Protecting Investments by Preparing for Natural Disasters – Louis Gritzo, PhD, vice president of research, FM Global
  • Using Climate Adaptation and Resilience as an Economic Development Strategy – Paul Carroll, director of civic investment, City of Newport


Chairman Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) will conclude by moderating a question-and-answer session.


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