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  • December 07, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Linc Chafee, it appears, is not the only(Gin)grinch. From Politico:

    Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich waged a quiet war on Christmas — or at least the Capitol Christmas Tree — shortly after becoming speaker of the House in 1995.

    In a time of heightened political correctness, Gingrich preferred “Holiday Tree” over “Christmas Tree,” according to sources familiar with the annual tree-lighting ceremony at the foot of the Capitol.

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  • November 30, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire announced today that they have filed a petition with the Drug Enforcement Agency asking for reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug - on par with dangerous substances like heroin - to a Schedule 2 drug. The idea is that doctors could then prescribe marijuana for medical use.

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  • 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.

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  • October 03, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Last week, I sat down with Governor Chafee for an interview on several topics. I've written, in this space, about his comments on medical marijuana. But there were other quotes of note, too.

    Last month in a story on organized labor I reported that reamortizing the state's pension obligation - refinancing and kicking some of the problem down the road - was still part of the behind-the-scenes conversation on pension reform, even if the idea had largely disappeared from the public discourse.

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  • September 30, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Lincoln Chafee's announcement yesterday that he would refuse to license three medical marijuana dispensaries hit pot activists hard. But it was not unexpected.

    Some quick background, here. The General Assembly approved a dispensary law in 2009 and the state selected three would-be operators. But then US Attorney Peter Neronha, like several US Attorneys around the country, penned a letter warning that the feds would crack down on largescale distributors authorized by state government.

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  • September 23, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Interesting tableau in Washington, today, with Governor Lincoln Chafee and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who have clashed in the past, playing witness - together - to President Obama's announcement of changes to the No Child Left Behind regime.

    The president is offering states waivers from from NCLB's 2014 deadline for meeting testing targets in exchange for a commitment to tougher teacher evaluation systems and overhauls of low-performing schools - central planks of the Obama education agenda.

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  • September 15, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    In this week's Phoenix, I've got a piece suggesting that the looming fight over pension reform will provide a window on one of the most pressing questions in Rhode Island politics: just how much clout does organized labor have, circa 2011?

    When I began reporting the piece last week, the union campaign to blunt the impacts of the reform wasn't a high-profile affair.

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  • September 14, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The public debate over pension reform has not focused, lately, on reamortization: refinancing the state's pension obligation and pushing some of the pain down the road.

    Then-candidate Lincoln Chafee suggested the move during the gubernatorial campaign. But the idea seemed to have faded. Well, in a recent interview with the Phoenix, Chafee's director of administration Richard Licht says reamortization is still alive.

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  • September 14, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Bob Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association-Rhode Island, called for a "thoughtful pause" on pension reform in the wake of a judge's decision yesterday that cast some doubt on the state's ability to curb retirement benefits for existing employees.

    His call, predictably, went unheeded. Treasurer Gina Raimondo and other state leaders declared that the state must move forward with pension reform while the case winds its way throught the courts.

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  • September 01, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The state's Board of Regents shot down a proposed Cranston charter school today, by a 7-1 vote, after a heated debate that pitted Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and the state's school reform movement against the Cranston school committee and teachers unions.

    Fung and the reformers said the proposed school, a so-called "mayoral academy," was a vital step toward improving education for the most at-risk students.

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  • August 29, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The Chafee Administration has ticked off some folks in southwestern Rhode Island, especially State Representative Brian Patrick Kennedy, with his push to erect a toll at the Connecticut. But apparently, he's got some folks in the Nutmeg State quite cheesed off as well. This editorial ran in the Hartford Courant today:

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  • July 19, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, was among a handful of governors nationwide who backed off their states' medical marijuana programs for a time in the face of tough-on-pot rhetoric out of the Obama Administration this spring. But today, he announced that he will get to work on implementing the program right away.

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  • July 13, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    I'll have a piece in tomorrow's Phoenix about the state of Rhode Island's "compassion center" program.

    The Obama Administration has warned officials here and across the country about a possible crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries. US Attorneys have sent sharply worded letters to governors and state legislators to that effect.

    Read More

  • July 07, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    Your trusted blogger is back after a two-week hiatus - thanks to Dan McGowan for filling in while I was away - and while plenty of newsworthy stuff happened while I was gone, one story in particular stands out: the approval of voter identification legislation that requires citizens, starting next year, to present ID before voting.

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  • June 14, 2011
    By David Scharfenberg

    The death of Governor Chafee's two-tiered sales tax proposal and the gay marriage bill he advocated have prompted more than a few declarations of irrelevance.

    But with Smith Hill Democrats set to caucus today, and a formal budget proposal expected in the coming days, it may be time to re-evaluate.

    That budget, by most accounts, will include some sort of sales tax expansion.

    Read More

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