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  • June 15, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    The National Freedom of Information Coalition and, I'm told, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are joing the chorus of local groups urging Governor Chafee to sign the public records legislation approved by the General Assembly late Tuesday night.

    A letter from Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of NFOIC, notes that the measure does not include all the reforms sought by local open government advocates.

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  • June 14, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    For years, there has been a stand-off on social issues on Smith Hill. The General Assembly's leadership has, for the most part, blocked votes on controversial issues like abortion and gay marriage in an attempt to keep the peace between liberals and conservatives.

    The stalemate has frustrated partisans on both sides. But they know there is a danger in attempting a breakthrough - push hard for a vote on your bill, advocates fear, and leadership is sure to allow a vote on a bill from the other side.

    Read More

  • June 13, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Late last night, the General Assembly approved a strengthening of the state's deplorable public records law. It's progress, no doubt. But the bill that ultimately passed isn't quite what advocates had hoped for. And at one point in the negotiations over the final shape of the legislation, those advocates withdrew their support.

    Read More

  • June 06, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    The tiny House Republican caucus sustained a blow, last week, when Representative John Savage disclosed that he'd left the GOP. Now, it appears, another defection. Here's Representative Dan Gordon's tweet:

    Well gents. May as well say it. I'm leaving the Party. This is the last straw. Press release Monday.

    The tweet came in the midst of an online conversation about the Rhode Island GOP holding a fundraiser in Massachusetts.

    Read More

  • June 05, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Under current law, Rhode Island's payday lenders can charge interest rates as high as 260 percent. That can leave low-income folk on a debt treadmill - taking out loans to pay off the interest on previous loans.

    This year, advocates are pushing hard for a measure that would cap the interest rate payday lenders can charge at 36 percent - the top rate for other lenders in the state.

    Read More

  • June 04, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    The Rhode Island House and Senate are both poised to approve legislation tomorrow that would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

    The long-term prospects of the legislation always seemed good. The House and Senate bills enjoy broad support in their respective chambers. And a January poll commissioned by the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project showed 65 percent of Rhode Island voters backing the measures.

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  • May 31, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    A bill in the General Assembly would crack down on payday lenders in Rhode Island. Here's the script of the new radio ad, paid for by a coalition of unions, minority advocacy groups, religious organizations, and anti-poverty advocates:

    This is Reverend Don Anderson, executive minister for the Rhode Island Council of Churches.

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  • April 25, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse got all kinds of attention for his "Buffett Rule" push, calling on the wealthy to "pay their fair share." Meanwhile, on Smith Hill, the General Assembly seems all but certain to kill legislation that would raise taxes on the rich.

    Indeed, the body just got through lowering them last session.

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  • March 28, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    It was two weeks ago that Governor Chafee unveiled a legislative package, during a press conference at Pawtucket City Hall, that aims to help cities and town cut costs and pull back from the brink of fiscal crisis.

    Some of the most controversial measures would allow "severely distressed" communities to bypass parts of employee contracts, like salary hikes for teachers, and suspend annual cost-of-living hikes for retirees.

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  • March 02, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    Rhode Island medical marijuana advocates are hailing new legislation that would pave the way for state-sanctioned dispensaries or "compassion centers" to finally open their doors, but they have some concerns about the bills as presently written.

    Last year, amid threats of a federal crackdown, Governor Chafee blocked the dispensaries from opening.

    Read More

  • February 07, 2012
    By David Scharfenberg

    A long-awaited piece in the New Republic on Rhode Island's voter ID law has landed. The story, by Simon van Zuylen-Wood, asks why black liberal politicians here supported the bill and suggests anxiety over growing Latino political power - among elected officials black and white - is to blame.

    The story recounts several "tales of corruption" - anecdotal stories of voter fraud cited by the bill's supporters - and concludes:

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  • December 20, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Lincoln Chafee's new choice for chief of staff, George Zainyeh, is a well-regarded figure in Rhode Island political circles. And the selection underscores one of the governor's strengths: a willingness to reach across the aisle, to make peace.

    Chafee, after all, did battle with Zainyeh for the Warwick mayoralty years ago.

    Read More

  • December 12, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The Rhode Island redistricting commission will roll out its final maps tonight. One issue to keep an eye on: prison gerrymandering.

    The census counts prisoners as if they live at the correctional facility. And because Rhode Island is a small state with a single state prison complex - in Cranston - the potential for distortions is particularly great.

    Read More

  • November 10, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    We've got a pretty good sense, now, for what the pension bill will look like when it comes up for a vote. And most observers expect it to pass. So how did the key players fare in Smith Hill's battle royale? An initial look:

    • Gina Raimondo seems a clear winner, here. This bill was her baby. She got loads of local and national press for it.

    Read More

  • September 26, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Word on Smith Hill is that Representative Daniel Gordon, despite his extensive legal problems, is unlikely to be booted from the General Assembly.

    Minority Leader Brian Newberry and Minority Whip Joseph Trillo have suggested the legislature turn its rarely invoked power to expel against Gordon, a fellow Republican.

    Read More

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