Lean Gov’t, Marijuana, and a Twin River Hotel: This Week at the State House

Saturday, March 07, 2015


Bills concerning taxing and regulating marijuana, tightening campaign expence reporting, and a hotel at Twin River were all heard at the State House this week.

Legislation introduced to legalize, regulate, tax marijuana

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Senator Josh Miller

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Cranston, Providence) and House Finance Committee member Rep. Scott A. Slater (Providence) have introduced bills to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and to establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed. The bills could generate millions in tax revenue, a portion of which would be directed toward programs that treat and prevent alcohol and other substance abuse.

House legislation would tighten up campaign expenditure reporting

House Majority Leader John J. DeSimone (D-Providence) has submitted legislation that would require candidates and political action committees to file a copy of the next bank statement from their campaign account that is issued after they file their final ongoing quarterly campaign finance report to the Board of Elections.

Rep. Solomon bill would institute Lean Government Initiative in Rhode Island

Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Warwick) has introduced Lean Government legislation that would streamline how state government work gets done by eliminating or drastically reducing backlog, reducing lead times, simplifying processes, improving the suitability of applicants and consistency of reviews and inspections, freeing up more time for mission-critical work, and improving staff morale and process transparency.

Bills would establish performance-based funding for RI colleges

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Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed

President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport, Jamestown) and House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Warwick, Cranston) have introduced legislation to establish a performance-based funding component to state aid for Rhode Island’s institutions of higher learning. The bills would make all new state higher education funding contingent upon achievement of certain goals, such as on-time graduation rates. 

Sen. Fogarty bill would exempt portion of retirement income from tax

Sen. Paul W. Fogarty (D-Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield) has submitted legislation that would ease the tax burden on retirees by exempting Social Security as well as $25,000 of income received from public and private pensions, interest income, 401K plans and individual retirement accounts.

Rep. O’Grady bill opens door for hotel at Twin River Casino

Legislation has been introduced by Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Lincoln, Pawtucket) to clear the way for construction of a hotel at or near the Twin River Casino in Lincoln, a plan casino and state officials believe will make the gaming facility a thriving destination location. The legislation (2015-H 5798) provides that construction of a hotel will remain subject to Town of Lincoln zoning ordinances.

Senate OKs bill on inmate count for census, redistricting purposes

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Rep Harold Metts

The Senate has approved legislation to require that persons in government custody have their actual residence used for census and redistricting purposes, rather than being counted at their prison address, as is now being done. Sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Providence), the bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where a companion bill has been introduced by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Providence).

Senate OKs bill allowing bake sales at polling places

The Senate has approved legislation allowing bake sales to operate near polling places, clearing the way for what’s become a tradition in some communities, a practice that was barred last year by the election board. Sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Cranston), the bill now goes to the House, where a companion bill was introduced by Rep. Stephen R. Ucci (D-Johnston, Cranston).

General Assembly celebrates International Women’s Day

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Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

To honor the service of Rhode Island women who choose to make the military their career, Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket, North Providence) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Jamestown, Middletown) hosted a celebration in the State Room to recognize International Women’s Day. The official theme for this year’s event was “Women in the Military.”

Legislation provides school choice option for all school children

Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Providence, North Providence) and Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Foster, Glocester, Coventry) have introduced legislation to provide parents of K-12 students an opportunity to enroll their child in an educational program of their choosing, via open enrollment in their own school district or any other public school district, or with designated public money to follow the student to a participating private school.


Related Slideshow: The 10 Most Politically Powerful at RI State House

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#10 - Sen. Da Ponte

The Senate Finance Chairman pushed hard in 2014 for corporate tax reform -- and combined reporting -- and was recently reappointed to his fourth term at the helm of the committee that vets the state's budget. With House Speaker Mattiello's talking about eliminating the state income tax on social security, a budget deficit and the prospect of diminishing gaming revenue, Da Ponte will have his work cut out for him chairing the powerful Senate committee. 

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#9 - Rep. DeSimone

One of the most powerful political players in Providence, the Majority leader wields his influence at the state house as part of Speaker Mattiello's team. Serving in the chamber since 1992, DeSimone rose to his current position with the ouster of former Speaker Gordon Fox in 2014. He will be a pivotal player at the State House for the City of Providence (and new Elorza administration), as the state grapples with a projected $200 million budget deficit, and Providence needs a strong advocate to appeal for what it can.  

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#8 - Bob Goldberg

The former Minority Leader continues his position as one of the state's top lobbyists, representing a wide range of clients that last year included Lifespan, GTech, Johnson and Wales, and CVS Health, to name a few. Year in, year out, Goldberg -- who is married to RI Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg -- parlays his State House knowledge and connections for his well-funded clients, who in the past have included Twin River when it successfully pushed for table games on the ballot in 2012.

(Goldberg pictured at right.)

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#7 - Bill Murphy

The former Speaker of the House continues to wield unparalleled influence as a lobbyist and behind-the-scenes king maker.  While he last served as the state's most powerful elected official until 2010, Murphy's ability to exert control at the State House was evidenced by backing now-Speaker Mattiello when the battle to replace Gordon Fox took place.  Murphy's lobbying clients range from the corrections officers to payday lending to Twin River.

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#6 - Sen. Paiva Weed

The Senate President, who has been at the chamber's de facto top post since 2008, faced a strong challenge this past election season from Newport's Mike Smith, who had been an outspoken opponent against a table games expansion at Newport Grand -- a decision which Paiva-Weed ultimately came to following the rejection of a host agreement by the Newport City Council.  Paiva Weed in her opening address of this year's General Assembly session promised to make jobs and the economy her top priorities, followed closely by education.  With the school construction moratorium schedule to expire in May, watch to see how Paiva-Weed works with the House and Raimondo administration to address the burgeoning infrastructure needs.

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#5 - Sen. Ruggerio

The Senate Majority leader was first elected to the chamber in 1984, after four years in the House, and was Senate majority whip from 2003 to 2010. An administrator for the New England Laborers Labor Management Co-op Trust, Ruggerio's labor ties have helped cement his position of power in the Senate. Despite two arrests, Ruggerio has emerged relatively unscathed, advancing the legislation establishing the I-195 Redevelopment Commission, and pushing for increased parking in downtown Providence by the Garrahy judicial complex

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#4 - David Cruise

Governor Raimondo's newly chosen Legislative Director should prove to be much more than that.  While Raimondo tapped former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley staffer Stephen Neuman to be her Chief of Staff, the out-of-towner might bring in a fresh perspective, but Cruise knows the lay of the land. Having a Rhode Island political resume that includes serving as a State Senator, Governor Sundlun's Chief of Staff, and top roles at the RI Resource Recovery Corporation and as a traffic court magistrate, Cruise's policy role, while his official one, will be just one in his advisory capacity for the newly elected Governor.  

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#3 - Leo Skenyon

The Speaker of the Houses's Chief of Staff is the gatekeeper -- and like his predecessor before him, Frank Anzeveno (under former Speaker Gordon Fox), Skenyon is the key to access the Speaker. Skenyon, a former top aide to Governor Bruce Sundlun and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, had most recently been the Traffic Tribunal Clerk.  The former Chief of Staff to Senate-Majority leader Jack Revens in the 1980s, Skenyon has been at the helm before in orchestrating the chamber's top office.  Skenyon enters his first full session at the post along with Mattiello as the agent behind the state's biggest power broker.  

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#2 - Gov. Raimondo

The state's 75th governor -- and first woman at the helm -- marks the first return of a Democratic head-of-state since Governor Bruce Sundlun entered the office in the winter of 1991.  Raimondo however won with just 40.7% of the vote, which gave her the plurality, but not a mandate.   Bringing in a number of outsiders for key positions, and shaking up multiple Department directors, the Raimondo administration looks markedly unlike any in recent years.  How successful Raimondo is in pushing through her agenda in the first six months will go a long way to determining how powerful she will be in the next four years. 

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#1 - Speaker Mattiello

The Speaker of the House has always wielded the most power in Rhode Island, and Speaker Mattiello is now the de facto head of state for the second -- and first full -- year.  Mattiello emerged from the 2014 session earning plaudits from a wide range of supporters for pushing through a cut in the corporate income tax and changes to the estate tax.  Now, as a new General Assembly has just gotten underway, Mattiello is eying eliminating the state income tax on social security, before the Governor has submitted her budget proposal.  Look to see what the Speaker can -- and will -- accomplish in 2015.  


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