The Scoop - Fmr. State Rep is Representing Cheaters Strip Club

Thursday, September 19, 2013

 

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Welcome to The Scoop, the 4 p.m. report on everything politics in Rhode Island – the inside daily report exclusively on GoLocalProv.com.

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Former Rep. Peter Petrarca is Representing Cheaters Strip Club

GoLocal has confirmed that Peter Petrarca, a former Democratic member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, is representing the Providence strip club Cheaters in their current Board of Licensing case.

Petrarca appeared on behalf of Cheaters at Wednesday’s Board of Licensing hearing, which will determine whether the club can reopen, according to Chairman Andrew Annaldo.

The fate of the club has been up in the air since July, when Providence Police found a missing 15-year-old girl from Boston dancing there.

Petrarca joined the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 2003 and served in that position until 2012 when Gregory Costantino defeated him in the Democratic primary.

The former lawmaker began working as an attorney in 1999 after receiving his law degree from Boston College. He currently works for Petrarca and Petrarca.

Petrarca is also the co-owner of Club Karma, a Providence night club. The club was temporarily shut down by the Board of Licenses in 2011 after a shooting, but later reopened. 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Club Karma had been permanently shut down in 2011 and that Petrarca was a former owner. Petrarca is currently part owner of Club Karma, which is now is operation.

Lawmakers Appoint Gun Safety Task Force

The General Assembly has announced their appointments to the Gun Safety Task Force—a panel that was created earlier this year to address ways for Rhode Island to balance firearms safety and behavioral health.

The task force will be co-chaired by the bill’s sponsors Rep. Deborah Ruggiero and Sen. Cool Rumsey. Aside from lawmakers, the panel also includes mental health professionals, law enforcement officers and gun rights advocates.

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

“Balancing public safety with individual rights, especially with respect to those with a history of behavioral health issues, is a very delicate issue that deserves thoughtful examination. While a behavioral health history is by no means an indication that a person is going to do something violent if they have a gun, we need to carefully consider whether our laws should have some means of preventing gun violence by those who do show signs of violent tendencies,” said Rep. Ruggiero.

The task force was set to report its findings by Jan. 1, but a deadline extension is expected. They are expected to begin meeting sometime in the coming weeks.

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RI Lawmakers to Address Pollution from Brayton Point Power Station

The coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station may be located in Somerset, Mass., but Rhode Island lawmakers have grave concerns about its impact on the Ocean State.

Local lawmakers will hold a news conference tomorrow at a the Mount Hope Boat Ramp in Bristol with a broad view across Mount Hope Bay of the power station.

Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), whose district and home share that view, will participate in the news conference as an advocate of reducing the impact of the plant on the environment.

Brayton Point may be across state lines, but Gallison argues that state lawmakers have brought about changes that have made the plant clean up its act in the past

“Pollution doesn’t recognize the state line,” said Gallison. “Brayton Point discharges emissions that pollute our environment as well as the environment in Massachusetts, and lead to the warming of our whole planet. We’ve influenced federal policy before to make the plant reduce its harmful impacts, and with the help of our allies in the environmental advocacy community and the EPA, I am certain Brayton Point will be made to clean up its air emissions.”

Aside Gallison, the events will also feature Senator Sheldon Whitehouse; Channing Jones of Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center; Roger Williams University School of Law professor Michael Burger; Jamie Rhodes of Clean Water Action of Rhode Island and Drew Grande of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

Notably, the news conference will unveil a new report, “America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,” which will illustrate the scale of carbon pollution from power plants in Rhode Island, New England, and around the country.

Brayton Point is the largest fossil-fuel-powered plant in New England, and has been the frequent target of criticism and protests over emissions, both in the air and in the water of Mount Hope Bay.

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Sen. Lombardi Calls for Review of DMV Computer Project

Sen. Frank S. Lombardi is asking for the Auditor General to review the Department of Motor Vehicles computer system project, which is years overdue and millions of dollars over budget.

“It is comforting to know that, due to some recent action by the administration, the project should be done and the new system up and running next year,” said Lombardi.

“That doesn’t negate the fact that this project was reportedly a mess from the beginning and poorly overseen once a contract was signed. It doesn’t negate the nearly $7 million it has gone over budget.”

“The public is paying for this project and they need to know exactly what’s going on and how we got to this point,” he added. “I’m not interested in pointing fingers. I’m interested in learning from this so we can stop wasting taxpayer dollars.”

If completed by the new projected deadline of 2014, the project will be four years past the original contract deadline, at final cost of $15.5 million, which is $6.7 million more than the original contract price.

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Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Improve Mental Health Care

US Congressman Sheldon Whitehouse has introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act, a new bill that would enable behavioral health providers to receive incentive payments for the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records.

The legislation is a response to the limitations of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Although the ARRA provided almost $20 billion in incentive funds for health information technology, several groups were excluded—including behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities. Whitehouse’s new proposal aims to rectify this.

“In the wake of this week’s tragic mass shooting in Washington, we are once again confronting questions about the treatment of mental illness in America,” said Whitehouse. “Many questions remain about the shooting, but one thing is crystal clear: mental health is just as important as physical health. This legislation will extend to mental and behavioral health professionals the same assistance given to other health providers, which will help them invest in vital health information technology.”

Specifically, the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act would:

  • Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare incentives for the use of electronic health records to include licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and psychiatric hospitals;
  • Expand eligibility for Medicaid meaningful use incentive payments to include community mental health centers, mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, licensed psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers; and
  • Allows electronic health record incentive payments to eligible professionals and hospitals under Medicare Advantage plans.

 

Whitehouse previously introduced a version of this bill in the Senate in 2010.

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RI District 1 Candidate Maciel Talks Taxes

Independent Candidate for US Congress Jonathan Maciel isn’t ready to eliminate Rhode Island’s sales tax, but he is proposing that the state seriously rethinks its entire tax structure in order to boost the economy.

“First, we need to reevaluate our tax policy,” Maciel told GoLocal. “Several years ago, the state dropped the top rate from 9.99% to 5.99% and state funding took the hit as a result. I propose we increase the top rates while significantly cutting the bottom rates.

“Second, reduce the business tax rate from 9% to 6% and reduce the sales tax from 7% to 5%. Lastly, increase the state minimum wage from $7.75 to $9.50/hour set to increase yearly every January 1st by the percent increase of the Consumer Price Index. Keep the exemption laws for state minimum wage that are currently in place. The decrease in business tax rates will offset the impact of the increase in minimum wage (which is where it would be today had it kept up with inflation). The increased minimum wage with the sales tax cut will provide a much needed boost of spending that our economy needs.”

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