Early Voting, Domestic Violence, and Equal Pay: This Week At The State House

Saturday, April 18, 2015


The General Assembly saw legislation this week involving campaign finance reform, a hotel a Twin River, an increase in the penalty for harming animals, and more. Here's what's been happening on Smith Hill this week.

Campaign finance reform bills heading to governor

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House Majority Leader John J. DeSimone

The General Assembly has approved legislation aimed at tightening campaign finance reporting laws. House Majority Leader John J. DeSimone’s (D-Providence) bill would require the filing of bank statements with the Board of Elections. Rep. Robert E. Craven’s (D-North Kingstown) bill would require separate campaign accounts. Rep. Joy Hearn’s (D-Barrington, East Providence) bill would require a treasurer. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael J. McCaffrey’s (D-Warwick) bill combines and mirrors the three House bills.
House, Senate send casino hotel bill to Governor

The General Assembly has given final passage to legislation to clear the way for a hotel at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln. The bills now go to the governor for her action. Introduced in the House by Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Lincoln, Pawtucket) and in the Senate by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Providence), the legislation removes a prohibition against a hotel included in the 2005 public laws and ensures that construction will remain subject to Town of Lincoln zoning ordinances. Casino officials envision a 200-room hotel at a cost of between $30 million and $35 million.

Senate passes sex trafficking, pandering bills

The Senate approved legislation, introduced by Sen. Elaine J. Morgan (R-Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), increasing the penalties for those convicted of sex trafficking of minors. The bill raises the potential prison time from the current 40-year maximum to 50 years. A companion House bill, sponsored by Rep. Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown, Exeter), has already passed the House. The Senate passed a second bill introduced by Senator Morgan to expand the definition of those guilty of pandering to or permitting prostitution to include the person in control of the premises where the prostitution occurs. Representative Costa is the sponsor of the House companion 
Senate passes bill toughening penalties for killing of animals

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Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio

The Senate passed legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Providence, North Providence), to increase the penalty — from two years to five years — for anyone found guilty of malicious treatment of or killing of an animal. It also sets an additional assessment of $250 if the offense is committed in the presence of a child. A companion House bill, sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-North Providence), is before the House Committee on Judiciary.
Sen. Goldin bills tighten pay equity law, prohibit familial status discrimination

Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Providence) has submitted legislation that would require employers to justify any salary differentials that exist based on bona fide factors other than sex, as well as a bill that would provide protections against unfair employment practices to individuals based on their “familial status,” meaning a person who is providing care and support to a family member.

Special legislative commission, lieutenant governor announce shared services bill

Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton) and Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Woonsocket, Cumberland), co-chairmen of the Joint Municipal Shared Services Study Commission, have announced legislation that clarifies that cities, towns, fire districts, school districts and other taxing authorities are permitted to enter into agreements to provide shared services. 

Bill puts life term on table in drunken driving deaths

Legislation introduced by Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) would increase the potential penalty for individuals convicted of driving under the influence, death resulting, giving judges the latitude to imprison such offenders for life. The current maximum jail time is 15 years for a first offense and 20 for a second or subsequent conviction.

Paiva Weed, Rep. McNamara call for performance-based funding for colleges

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President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed

Legislation to establish performance-based funding for Rhode Island’s institutions of higher education was heard by the Senate Committee on Education.  Introduced by President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport, Jamestown), the legislation would establish a performance-based funding component to state aid. Chairman of House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare Joseph M. McNamara (D-Warwick, Cranston) submitted, which will be heard by the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare on April 29.
House Judiciary Committee hears bills on weapons, domestic violence

The House Committee on Judiciary heard several bills this week relating to firearms and those convicted of domestic violence crimes. Before a packed committee room on Tuesday, April 14, the committee heard three separate bills that would prevent anyone who has been convicted of a domestic violence crime from being able to purchase or own a firearm.
Sen Goldin, Rep. Regunberg call for early voting, electronic registration

Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Providence) and Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Providence) have introduced mirroring bills that establish in-person early voting and electronic registration of voters, prohibit the casting of emergency mail ballots at the local boards of canvassers and specify methods of delivery to the state board of elections.  Representative Regunberg’s bill  was heard by the House Committee on Judiciary and Senator Goldin’s bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.


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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