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  • March 26, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    With Gina Raimondo's likely run for governor, the role of women in Rhode Island politics will soon come into focus.

    The state has a poor record of electing women to high office. Rhode Island and Maine are the only two New England states yet to see a woman in the governor's office. And the Ocean State is the only one in the region that has failed to elect a woman either governor or US Senator.

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  • March 12, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    This is "Sunshine Week," an annual event meant to focus attention on the importance of transparency in government. In Rhode Island, the sun has not yet peeked out from behind the clouds.

    The week's biggest story, to date, is Governor Chafee's refusal to make public a report on Medicaid waste and fraud. Chafee, who promised transparency during the gubernatorial campaign, argues that going public would jeopardize a state investigation born of the report.

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  • January 30, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    My cover story in this week's Phoenix - on-line later today - will take a deep dive into the looming Senate battle over gay marriage.

    The piece touches, in part, on the whip count I've developed - a senator-by-senator analysis of where everyone stands on the legislation. I'm offering a sneak preview in this space. (Check out the Providence Journal's partial count, which differs a little from mine, here

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  • January 25, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    The Rhode Island House's passage of same-sex marriage legislation by a 51-19 margin - one of the most lopsided pro-gay nuptials votes in an American legislature - has put the smallest state in the headlines for a day. But the Ocean State is not the only site of a same-sex marriage push this year.

    Advocates in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, and Minnesota are also making legislative pushes.

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  • January 24, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    The Rhode Island House of Representatives will pass a same-sex marriage bill today. And the real fight will be in a closely divided state Senate.

    That's the conventional wisdom. And it's just about right. But the significance of today's vote - in its particulars and in its larger impact - should not be underestimated.

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  • January 22, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    Rhode Island's House Judiciary Committee will vote to send same-sex marriage legislation to the floor in the next couple of hours. And the full chamber is expected to approve the bill by a comfortable margin in the coming days, setting the stage for a battle royale in the state Senate.

    There will be many voices vying for attention in the upper chamber: not least of them the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality, a group of ministers supporting the legislation, and a still-potent Catholic Church, opposing it.

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  • January 16, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    The House of Representatives is expected to approve a same-sex marriage bill next Thursday, January 24, setting the stage for an intense battle in the senate.

    The House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the measure, just posted a vote for Tuesday at 3 pm. The panel is all-but-guaranteed to approve the bill, putting it on course for a vote by the full chamber two days later.

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  • January 11, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg
    There is some understandable skepticism, among the chattering classes, about whether the General Assembly will deliver the sort of meaningful reform this session that might jolt the economy. The state legislature has not exactly covered itself in glory since the recession hit. Indeed, the Rhode Island political system's single biggest failing of recent decades may come on the economic development front.

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  • January 08, 2013
    By David Scharfenberg

    With openly gay Speaker of the House Gordon Fox expected to push a same-sex marriage bill through his chamber this month, all eyes have been on the Senate - and, specifically, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed's appointments to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will have jurisdiction over the matter.

    Well today, Paiva Weed - an opponent of gay nuptials - finally named 10 members to the panel

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  • December 28, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    This morning, I taped an appearance on WPRI-TV's "Newsmakers" to discuss my recent cover story calling out the biggest problem in Rhode Island public life circa 2012: amateurism.

    The story, among other things, suggested that the part-time General Assembly is ill-equipped to vet the big - and sometimes bad - ideas foisted upon it.

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  • December 20, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    In today's Phoenix - our year-in-review spectacular - I've got a cover story on the amateurism coursing through Rhode Island politics. We saw it in spades in 2012r: from the epic collapse of the taxpayer-supported 38 Studios video game company to the misguided Congressional campaigns of Democrat Anthony Gemma and Republican Michael Riley.

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  • December 05, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Governor Lincoln Chafee has a habit of going out on a limb. Last year, he pushed for a doomed expansion of the state sales tax. His refusal to turn over murder suspect Jason Pleau to federal authorities, fearing they might seek the death penalty, seemed like a legal longshot from the start. And his stubborn insistence on calling the State House spruce a "holiday tree" - two years running now - remains deeply unpopular.

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  • June 29, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Gordon Fox said, today, in a taping of WPRI-TV's Newsmakers that he will bring gay marriage up for a vote early in the 2013 legislative session.

    Advocates always thought they could win in the House. And while victory was far from assured in the Senate, where Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed has been opposed, partisans argued that House passage was a necessary pre-condition to building the case in the Senate - to forcing that chamber to engage the issue in a real way.

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  • June 27, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Official Rhode Island's approach to the homelessness crisis has been unimaginative at best, heartless at worst.

    Two years ago, I wrote a piece for the Phoenix titled "How Rhode Island Can Eliminate Homelessness." And while the headline might sound fanciful, it really isn't. Most homeless are on the street temporarily - displaced by a fire or an abusive relationship.

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  • June 26, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Governor Chafee signed a bill today improving Rhode Island's shoddy public records law. The chief accomplishment: scrapping a provision in the old law that shielded from inspection any record "identifiable to an individual" - an overly broad exemption that stifled many a citizen and journalist.

    Tim White, investigative reporter for WPRI-TV, used to joke that as soon as the governor signed a bill it wasn't public record since it was "identifiable" to the chief executive.

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