State Report: Revamping EDC, Jason Pleau’s Death Penalty Case & Landmark’s Sale

Saturday, September 29, 2012

This week's State House roundup centers on a newly released study detailing the inadequacies of RI's Economic Development Corporation. Additionally, we delve into the failure of the Landmark Medical Center deal, which may spell financial disaster for Woonsocket. Also on the docket is an update on the ongoing Jason Pleau death penalty case. Not all doom and gloom, this week's roundup also includes a pair of positive stories one of which involves a $10,000 donation to a Central Falls school.


Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council report on EDC

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A new review of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation has determined that the agency lacks focuses and should be brought under the control of the state government. Tuesday’s report by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council recommends restructuring the EDC, the agency that guaranteed a $75 million loan for the defunct 38 Studios.
"Nowhere in the hierarchy of state government is there a clear responsibility for economic development, or for which entity should spearhead coordination of this effort," said the report.
RIPEC’s restructuring plan specifies that the current EDC board would remain in place, but that a new commerce secretary would oversee its efforts. The new commerce secretary would be a member of the governor’s cabinet.
RIPEC Executive Director John Simmons also said the EDC needs to be more responsive to businesses and be less of a hindrance. According to Simmons, just two of the EDC’s 41 employees have been working specifically on business development. Simmons also called on the state to take a more active role in the EDC’s operations. Lastly, Simmons recommended renaming the agency the Rhode Island Commerce Corp.
"We have not changed the economy in Rhode Island in the last 20 years," Simmons said Monday. "We have not had a plan for it. Fundamentally, this is about the state government doing its role."
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who commissioned the report, feels “a sense of urgency” to improve the state’s business environment, but has not made a decision on what changes he will recommend to the General Assembly, according to spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger.
As for the GA, its members offered differing opinions. While Rep. Donna Walsh (D-Charlestown) urged the legislature to "move quickly," other lawmakers such as Rep. Richard Morrison (D-Bristol) advised a more cautious approach. "We need to hear from all points. Change for the sake of change is not the way to go," said Morrison.
38 Studios filed for bankruptcy in June, one month after it laid off its entire staff. The state is currently on the hook for an estimated $100 million.


RI ACLU files brief in Jason Pleau case

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has placed itself firmly behind Gov. Lincoln Chafee in his effort to prevent the execution of murder suspect Jason Pleau. On Wednesday, the RIACLU filed a “friend of the court” brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the governor’s appeal seeking to prevent Pleau from being tried in a federal court.
A strong opponent against capital punishment, Chafee is requesting that Pleau be tried at the state level. Chafee has called the Pleau case a states’ right issue from the beginning. The governor maintains that the death penalty should not apply to Pleau because the incident took place in Rhode Island, where the death penalty is illegal. In fact, the death penalty was abolished in the state in 1852.
Pleau, 34, is accused of killing a 49-year-old gas station manager during a robbery outside of a bank in September 2010. Federal prosecutors announced their desire to seek the death penalty in June 2012.


Kilmartin: Landmark purchase deal is dead 

Earlier this week, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced that a Massachusetts hospital group has backed out of its plan to purchase the financially strapped Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket. According to Kilmartin, the for-profit Steward Health Care system does not plan on fulfilling its acquisition of the Landmark Medical Center, which has been in negotiations for three years.
According to Steward, it backed out backed out because the Rhode Island health care parties involved could not meets its conditions.
"Despite support from many of Rhode Island’s elected officials, regulators, unions and communities, a number of private health care entities are not in support of Steward’s model of integrated community care," the Boston-based hospital said in a statement.
Steward also said that it has loaned the Woonsocket medical center roughly $7 million to maintain payroll, fund operations and pay of its debts.
Despite failure to reach a deal, Landmark and Prime Healthcare Services announced a new deal on Friday.


Representative donates legislative pay raise to Johnnycake Center

In a bit of positive news, Rep. Donald J Lally Jr. has donated his legislative pay raise to the Johnnycake Center. According to Lally, accepting a pay hike would be insensitive given the state’s current economic condition.
"During a time when so many people are struggling, I don’t want this raise. I’d much rather see it go where it can help people in my own community. The Johnnycake Center provides much-needed services to a lot of people in my district, and the demand for those services rises with the cost of living, too. They’ll put it to good use," said Lally (D, Narragansett, North Kingstown, South Kingstown).
Lally recently delivered a check for $255 to the Johnnycake Center, which is located in Peace Dale. Lally arrived at the $255 amount by calculating what the difference in take-home pay would be based on the General Assembly’s 3.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment.
Lally is not the first legislator to decline the boost in pay. Lally joins Representatives Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) and James McLaughlin (D-Cumberland) and Senators Denis Algiere (R-Westerly), Dawson Hodgson (R-North Kingstown), Nicholas Kettle (R-Coventry), Christopher Ottiano (R-Portsmouth), Frank Maher (R-Exeter), and Glen Shibley (R-Coventry), all of whom declined the pay raise.
The Johnnycake Center provides families in need with food, clothing, and essential household items. The organization serves the South Kingston and Narragansett communities.


Shutterfly donates $10,000 to Central Falls school

The Segue Institute for Learning has received a $10,000 donation from Shutterfly, an Internet-based photo customization service. The gift matches Meryl Streep’s $10,000 donation made in February. Aside from the donation, Shutterfly guaranteed to supply students with free yearbooks.
Shutterfly’s donation was made to Oscar nominated actress and Central Falls native Viola David during her appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday. DeGeneres unveiled the check to Davis, which was made out to the school from "Ellen’s friends at Shutterfly."
The Segue Institute and Central Falls High School Drama Club will host a fundraiser at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, which includes a screening of Davis’ new film, “Won’t Back Down.” Davis is expected to appear at the October 7th event. The actress has even donated two of her award dresses for the event’s auction.
Davis previously mentioned the Segue school while receiving her Best Actress Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January.

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