John McDaid's blog

Seveney bump stock bill passes Senate

The Senate today approved two bills to prevent gun violence and mass shootings, a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications and “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others.

The bills will now go to the House, which has passed companion bills to each of them.

Senator Goodwin’s bill is known as a “red flag” law because it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and other warning signs that the person might commit violence.

Senator Seveney’s legislation (2018-S 2292A) would ban bump stocks, binary triggers or trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

“While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986,” explained Seveney, “the bump stock and other modifying devices do not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm, even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.” 

In last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

The bill would make it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, or a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold of the trigger.

The legislation would also ban binary triggers, which is a device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

The measure is cosponsored by Sens. Coyne, DiPalma, Pearson and Conley,. It now movesto the House, which has passed similar legislation (2018-H 7075Aaa) introduced by Rep. Robert Craven (D-32).

Both bills have the support of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.

“I applaud the Senate for taking an important step to enhance our gun safety laws public safety by establishing a legal process to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others,” said Kilmartin. “While there is no one answer to ending the epidemic of gun violence in our country, I believe measured approaches such as the red flag law and banning bump stocks will improve public safety while also protecting the rights of legal gun owners.”

Editorial note: Written from a news release,

02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney

Seveney mental health primary care parity bill passes Senate

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation introduced by Sen.  Jim Seveney (D-11) that would require health insurers to include behavioral health counseling as a primary care visit.

Under the provisions of the bill (2018-S 2540Aaa) behavioral health counseling visits and medication maintenance visits would be included as primary care visits for patient cost-sharing requirements under the provisions of a health plan.

“There are certain constraints on the health care system when it comes to mental health,” said Seveney. “This legislation looks to improve mental illness prevention and intervention by ensuring parity of cost sharing as it pertains to behavioral counseling visits.”

The legislation would also require the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner to include in an annual report to the governor and General Assembly recommendations to ensure the health insurance coverage of behavioral health care under the same terms and conditions as other health care, and to integrate behavioral health parity requirements into the insurance oversight and health care transformation efforts.

“By making sure the foundation of mental health care is a solid one, we can build upon it to improve the health care needs of all Rhode Islanders,” said Seveney. “This is an important step in better integrating behavioral health and primary care.”

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2018-H 7806) has been introduced by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-11).

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney

Contemporary Theater offers delightful "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern"

Fifty years ago, Tom Stoppard dug up two minor characters from Hamlet and gave them a full-length spotlight. His play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, is a masterpiece, and the Contemporary Theater Company has mounted a brilliant, agile production that matches the linguistic sparkle of Stoppard — and Shakespeare. Do yourself a favor, and go see it this weekend.

We first see Ros and Guil (as theatre folk sometimes refer to the characters) flipping a coin which always comes up heads. It's a deft introduction of one of the play's core themes, the challenge of living within a determined universe, inscribed either by a numinous playwright or the laws of nature. The action — which pinballs across genres like a mashup of Noises Off and Waiting for Godot — threads moments of Ros and Guil's contemplation of their predicament into and out of the action of Hamlet in what is by turns absurdist, farcical, and deeply introspective. It's a complex, multi-layered script.

The gender-blind cast is up to the challenge. Rebecca Magnotta's Rosencrantz has an endearing naivete that offers a perfect foil for Laura Kennedy's earnest, troubled Guildenstern. The pair's chemistry is deeply human, their presence powerful, and their rapid-fire interactions are a delight. The two carry the full weight of the two-plus-hour show, and they make it look effortless. These are two standout performances.

And the supporting cast provides uniformly wonderful, nuanced moments that wrap around Ros and Guil. Valerie Tarantino's turn as the lead player in the wandering group of actors is a precisely served feast of earthy world-weariness. Tammy Brown is such a good Hamlet that I found myself wanting to see her in that role for real. She has long been one of the stars of the CTC, and she offers a deep, wry Hamlet who crackles in her scenes with the hapless duo.

The stage is a long, linear thrust, which works exceedingly well both thematically and in making use of the CTC's space, lighting is crisp and effective, and the costuming is richly detailed.

Christopher Simpson's direction is stellar. He clearly understands the core of this show — no mean feat, given Stoppard's complexities — and has coached performances that illuminate the deep themes of autonomy, helplessness, and the possibilities of individual action in an incomprehensible world. His staging demonstrates a s ure command of theatrical conventions and the possibilities of space. And, most importantly, his precise focus on the lived reality of Ros and Guil keeps this from being just "absurdist," in some narrowly academic sense; we learn to care about this pair, we connect with and mourn them, and in so doing, we learn something about our own human predicament.

Go see it this weekend. Performances May 17-19 at Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main Street, Wakefield, RI. Get tickets: or learn more at the 
CTC web site:

02871, Localblogging, Theater reviews

Portsmouth Water District announces final June 13 ballot

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will hold its annual election of officers on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at the District's main office at 1944 East Main Road. The polls will open at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM.

Of the Board's seven seats, the positions of two (2) Tax Assesors and one (1) Tax Collector are up for election. 

Running for the position of Tax Assessor are Walter H. Coelho of 162 King Philip St., incumbent Theodore T. Czech of 120 Roger Williams Ct., David M. Gleason of 63 Massasoit Ave., and John McDaid of 65 Gormley Ave.

Running for the position of Tax Collector is incumbent Frederick W. Faerber III of 271 Sprague St.

As required by the recent change in State Law, voters will be required to show identification to vote in the District's election.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

Full disclosure: I am one of the candidates running for Tax Assessor. You can find my campaign web site at

02871, Localblogging, Elections, pwfd

John Vitkevich denied ballot placement in PWFD election

John Vitkevich speaks at the PWFD Board meeting

At the meeting of the Portsmouth Water and Fire District Board on the evening of May 15, the group voted, 4-2, to reject the nomination papers of John Vitkevich, denying him a place on the ballot for the June 13 election.

At issue was a mismatch between Vitkevich's "Declaration of Candidacy" (the form indicating intent to seek office) which was made out for the position of "Tax Collector," and the nomination papers (on which candidates gather the signatures of eligible voters who nominate them for a position) which was made out for "Tax Assessor."

Vitkevich had returned 31 valid signatures nominating him for Tax Assessor, although he told the Board his intent had been to run for Tax Collector. This was acknowledged, at the meeting, to have been a clerical error when the nomination papers were issued.

Vitkevich argued that it was the fault of the PWFD. "I was handed those by staff," he said. "I got signatures and told everybody I was running for tax collector."

The Board's attorney, David Fox, advised the Board they had two options: Reject the nomination papers outright, or accept them as an intent to run for the position noted on the form.

There was some discussion of the options, and Vitkevich stated that he "would not run for assessor." Asked if he had read the papers listing the incorrect office, he said, "I did read them."

Fox made the observation that everybody who signed the papers "could presumably read English," to which Vitkevich responded, "Of course they could. They don't speak Spanish."

When general manager Jessica Lynch said that the staff error was not intentional, Vitkevich responded, "Oh yes it was."

One member of the Board asked if it was possible to reschedule the election, to which another candidate in attendance responded, "You will get complaints from the other candidates." Attorney Fox also indicated that the date was set in the Board's by-laws.

After about fifteen minutes of discussion, the Board voted to reject Vitkevich's papers, 4-2.

Chair Phil Driscoll and Treasurer Allen Shers were in the minority, with Tax Assessors Ted Czech and Michael Nott, Moderator Ron Molleur, and Tax Collector Fred Faerber voting to reject. Water Commissioner Andrew Kelly was not in attendance.

Vitkevich promised he would appeal the decision to the Board of Elections and contact news media. "This is not gonna look good on the Portsmouth Water and Fire District," he said. He demanded a copy of the declaration of candidacy, which Lynch provided.

Editorial note: I was certified, at this meeting, to appear on the ballot for Tax Assessor, and I was the candidate who objected to the proposal to move the date of the election. No other news media were in attendance, or I would not have reported on this since I was a participant. Since I was not expecting to report on this, I did not bring my recorder, so quotes are from my handwritten notes; since the meeting was recorded officially, I stand ready to update if I got anything wrong.

02871, Localblogging, Elections, pwfd

Note: Please be aware I'm running for office

Readers should be aware that I am currently a candidate for Tax Assessor on the Portsmouth Water and Fire District Board, in an election to be held Wednesday, June 13. Any posts bearing on that race should be read in that context. For my campaign page, please visit

02871, Localblogging, Elections, pwfd

Senate passes Seveney bill to fund drug prevention efforts

The Rhode Island Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11) that would change the way drug awareness programs are approved and funded.

The bill (2018-S 2025Aaa) would amend the Rhode Island Student Assistance High School/ Junior High/Middle School Act to regulate and update the administration of the programs.

“Currently, there is little to no state money that’s allocated to substance abuse prevention in Rhode Island outside of the annual federal SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant,” said Seveney. “With passage of this bill, we’ll fix the flaws in the existing law and ensure that the programs are administered effectively.”

The legislation would place approval of drug awareness programs for minors charged with civil marijuana offenses in the discretion of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). It would also redirect funds from certain civil fines imposed to the general revenue fund to be expended by BHDDH to fund substance abuse and student assistance programs for youth.

“There’s supposed to be a fee on every moving violation that the Traffic Tribunal processes to go partly into a restricted receipt account and partly into the general fund to be managed by BHDDH,” said Seveney. “That money could amount to something approaching $1 million. Currently, we do not collect it. With passage of this legislation, we will. It also assesses 50 percent of all misdemeanor marijuana fines that the Traffic Tribunal processes and puts it into the same fund.”

The act would also mandate that BHDDH establish funding criteria for distribution of funds and require that municipalities that receive the funds file annual reports verifying that the funds are being used for substance abuse prevention programs. It would also make high schools eligible for the program; currently the law mentions only junior high and middle schools.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where similar legislation (2018-H 7221) has been introduced by House Majority Whip Jay Edwards (D-70).

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

02871, Localblogging, GA, Jim Seveney

Portsmouth Water District sets 2019 budget

The Administrative Board for the Portsmouth Water and Fire District approved a $4.32 million operating budget for its 2019 fiscal year that began on May 1st. The 2019 fiscal operating budget has increased 3.65% compared to the 2018 fiscal budget. The approved total budget, which includes capital expenditures and principal payments on debt service, is $4.75 million. There is a 4.51% increase in the 2019 fiscal budget compared to the 2018 fiscal budget.

There are no increases in water usage rates or base charges in the approved budget. The quarterly water rates are $7.28 for the first 5,000 gallons and $10.71 for all water use over 5,000 gallons in the quarter. The average residential customer that uses 60,000 gallons of water per year would have an annual cost of $624.04.

The Board set the District’s property tax rate at $0.21 per thousand dollars of assessed value, which is a $0.01 decrease from the approved FY-18 budget. For a District property assessed at a value of $400,000, the tax bill would be $84.00. Property tax revenue accounts for less than 13% of the District’s total revenue. The use of its taxing authority allows the District to issue general obligation bonds, which offer a more favorable interest rate than revenue bonds, when funding capital projects.

Philip Driscoll, Administrative Board chairman, indicated that the Board is working hard to properly maintain and improve the water system, and to improve efficiency through technology, while providing fair and reasonable rates for customers and taxpayers. To help improve the District’s operational efficiency, Mr. Driscoll encourages customers to pay District water and tax bills using the District’s online payment portal. The portal allows customers to pay by checking account, debit card or credit card at no cost to the customer. To pay online, customers should log on to and click on Pay My Bill. Additionally, customers are encouraged to sign up for CodeRED to be notified of emergencies and shutdowns. Go to to learn more and to sign up.

Editorial note: Written from a press reeleast.

02871, Localblogging, pwfd

Nomination papers submitted for Portsmouth Water Board election

Today, our campaign turned in almost 60 signatures on nomination papers, which is the first step to appearing on the ballot for the Portsmouth Water and Fire District Board election on June 13. The minimum number of signatures required  is 25, but candidates always get extras in case some are not validated by the canvasser.

Collecting signatures is a great opportunity to have conversations with voters about their issues, and over the last three days, I heard questions about how water quality information is communicated and the relatively recent change to a quarterly billing cycle, among others.

I want to thank my friends Terri Cortvriend and Linda Ujifusa who helped collect signatures. Also have to say thanks to  the folks who have already contributed to our campaign — because of their generous contributions, I  can now plan additional opportunities to get my message out. Thank you.

For more information, please visit my campaign web site where I'll be sharing any election-related posts.

02871, Localblogging, Elections, pwfd