02871

Seveney to host constituent meeting July 16

Jim_campaign_medium.jpgSen. Jim Seveney (D-11) will host a constituent meeting next Sunday, July 16 at Foodworks Restaurant, 2461 East Main Rd. in Portsmouth from 1:30-3pm, according to an e-mail sent this afternoon. Sen. Seveney's district includes all of Portsmouth, southern Bristol, and an area of Tiverton near the bridge.

Seveney says in the e-mail, "Needless to say, some major pieces of legislation, including the FY 2018 state budget, are in limbo and awaiting final completion. Hopefully we'll reconvene soon to finish the work left undone on Friday, June 30th.

"Come anytime between 1:30 - 3:00pm to discuss issues, expectations and the latest status on legislation of interest. I'll also share my experiences and insights gained as a first term state senator. I invite you to stop by and let me know what you're thinking."

Meeting is free and open to the public. Coffee and light snacks will be available.

Editorial note: Written from an e-mail.

Tags: 
02871, localbliogging, GA, Jim Seveney

OpEd: Senate’s budget will protect taxpayers

ruggerio.jpgBy Dominick J. Ruggerio

As President of the Rhode Island State Senate, I have a responsibility to ensure we pass a balanced and sustainable budget for the state of Rhode Island. The budget adopted by the House of Representatives did not protect the state’s rainy day fund from Speaker Mattiello’s car tax phase-out in the event of a future recession or cuts to federal aid.

Like the Speaker, I support eliminating the car tax, but only if we can afford it. This should not be a new revelation for the Speaker. Since the beginning of this legislative session, I have publicly and privately expressed concerns about the sustainability of phasing out the car tax. I understand the Speaker campaigned on eliminating the car tax, but campaign promises alone cannot serve as the basis for policy formulation.

Last Friday, the Senate unanimously approved amending the budget to include a critical safeguard that suspends the car tax phase-out if state revenues can no longer support the plan. Without the safeguard, the state would have to tap into the rainy day fund, which I will not support. The Senate previously discussed this safeguard during budget negotiations and Senate Finance Committee hearings.

This safeguard was the only amendment to the budget. The Speaker’s car tax plan otherwise remains untouched, and not one dollar was changed in the $9.2 billion budget. I have great respect for the Speaker and his passion for reducing the car tax, but no one individual in the General Assembly has the authority to dictate what will or will not be in the budget. The Senate made this corrective action to protect taxpayers. Tapping into the rainy day fund could harm the state’s bond rating and our overall fiscal health.

The Speaker has not identified a revenue stream to support the car tax phase-out going forward. In fact by 2024, the car tax phase out will cost $221 million. The projected structural deficit for that year is over $300 million. Without proper safeguards or a proven reliable revenue stream, the rainy day fund could be obligated to support the Speaker’s car tax phase-out.

No one, not even the Speaker, wants to see this phase-out succeed more than I. The two communities I serve – Providence and North Providence – pay among the highest rates in the state. However, Rhode Island has a long and tortured history in its efforts to phase out the car tax. At one point, the General Assembly repealed a similar plan because of declining state revenues. I will not repeat that mistake. Taxpayers deserve predicable and sustainable tax relief.

After we amended the budget last Friday, the Senate remained in session and passed legislation to improve the quality of life of all Rhode Islanders. When the Speaker abruptly recessed the House, not only did he leave the budget unfinished – which includes his car tax plan with our safeguards – he also walked away from critical pieces of legislation. These include measures to provide paid sick leave to Rhode Island workers, take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and codify important provisions of the Affordable Care Act into state law.

We encourage the Speaker to reconvene the House to take up these matters. In the meantime, the Senate will thoroughly review all legislation that comes before us and pass that which we deem is in the best interest of all Rhode Islanders.

Dominick J. Ruggerio is President of the Rhode Island Senate. He is a Democrat that represents District 4, Providence and North Providence.

Editorial note: OpEd provided by State House news bureau.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, GA

Responding to attack by an elected official

Following the Portsmouth Water and Fire District election last week in which Mr. Phil Driscoll ran unopposed, the newly re-elected Clerk took the time to attack me in letters to the editor of the Newport Daily News and Portsmouth Times.

Calling me an "antagonist," Mr. Driscoll criticized me for supporting a write-in candidate. You can read his letter in the paper or online version, and my response, included below, appeared in yesterday's Daily News, and should be in next week's Portsmouth Times.

To the editor:

When an elected official attacks a private citizen for being involved in civic life, it should not pass unremarked. So when the newly re-elected Portsmouth Water and Fire District Clerk, Phil Driscoll, denounces me in a letter to the editor published on 6/28, I feel compelled to respond.

Mr. Driscoll calls me an “antagonist” and alleges that a “surreptitious write-in campaign” was mounted against him. What did I do to merit his ire? I ran into someone outside the polling place who said they were doing a write in campaign and I posted that on Facebook. (And on harddeadlines.com — thanks, Mr. Driscoll, for mentioning the name of my news blog!)

In my opinion, the public is always best served by contested elections. Especially for a quasi-municipal entity with taxing authority. Apparently, Mr. Driscoll disagrees.

As to Mr. Driscoll’s assertion that I question his environmental credentials, I’ll quote the self-description from his letter: “I am a committed advocate of the environment but that does not mean that I wallow in the DEM, DOH and EPA trough of fallacy, fable and fantasy.”

Personally, I respect the validity of peer-reviewed science. You should draw your own conclusions about whether Mr. Driscoll does based on his words.

John G. McDaid
Portsmouth

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd, Elections

Canario marijuana commission bill goes to governor

Rep. Dennis Canario (D-71, Portsmouth) and Sen. Cynthia Coyne’s (D-32, Barrington) legislation (H 5551Aaa) that would create a 19-member special legislative commission to study the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana in Rhode Island passed the General Assembly last night, according to a state house news release.

“The potential effects of legalizing recreational marijuana in Rhode Island would have drastic impacts to the fabric of our state and this commission is necessary to determine if those effects would come with positive or negative outcomes,” said Canario. “There is too much at stake from both a financial and a public health standpoint to rush into legalization because Massachusetts has elected to do so. This commission will take a thoughtful and data-driven approach to determine if legalizing marijuana is the right move for Rhode Island.”

“Based on my experience as a retired State Police lieutenant and a mom of four children, I understand that legalization of marijuana for recreational use could have serious public safety, public health and societal ramifications. It is imperative that we thoughtfully consider the unintended consequences and take notice from lessons learned in Colorado and Washington. We should take full advantage of other states’ experiences and learn about whether we should follow in their footsteps or perhaps take a different approach to avoid any problems they may have encountered,” said Coyne.

The commission would consist of three members of the House of Representatives, three members of the Senate, one member from Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the President of the Substance Use Mental Health Council of RI or a designee, a member from a pro-legalization organization, the Executive Director of the RI Medical Society or a designee, a member of a local chamber of commerce, the Director of the Department of Health or a designee, the President of the RI Police Chief’s Association or a designee, a designee of the RI Attorney General, a member representing the medical marijuana patients of Rhode Island, an educator in Rhode Island, a mental health professional, a criminal defense attorney, and the President of the RI AFL-CIO.

The purpose of the commission would be to conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations regarding marijuana and the effects of its use on the residents of Colorado and Washington to the extent available, and to study the fiscal impact to those states; and thereafter the potential impact on Rhode Island of legalized recreational marijuana.

Local cosponsors of the legislation included Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11, Portsmouth), and Sen. Lou DiPalma (D-12, Middletown).

The bill now heads to the governor for consideration.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, marijuana, GA

Prudence Island Water District election results

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 10.47.48 AM.pngBoth incumbent candidates on the ballot, Phil Brooks and Ann Marie Lockwood, were re-elected to the Prudence Island Water District board at last Saturday's election -- Phil Brooks with 19 votes and Ann Marie Lockwood, 14 votes. In the race for Clerk, with no declared candidate and incumbent Martha Fuller deciding not to stand for reelection, Chris Brown carried the vote with 13 write-ins.

Official numbers from the hand count were:

Board Member (elect 2)
Phil Brooks 19
Ann Marie Lockwood 14
Write ins:
Rick Brooks, Sr. 5

Clerk (no declared candidates)
Write-ins:
Chris Brown 13
Chris Blount 1
Frank Jurnak 1

Total ballots cast: 22, out of 716 eligible voters, for a turnout of 3.07%

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Prudence Island

Portsmouth Water election results: Driscoll, Kelly win

Both candidates on the ballot in the Portsmouth Water and Fire District election today held on to win, with incumbent Clerk Phil Driscoll racking up 102 votes and newcomer Andrew Kelly picking up 105 to become Water Commissioner. Latecomer write-in candidate Daniela Abbott put up a double-digit total in an effort that fell short.

Unofficial numbers from the machine and hand count at the PWFD office:

Clerk
Phil Driscoll 102
Write ins
Daniela Abbott 42
Gary Gump 2
Not Phil 1

Water Commissioner
Andrew Kelly 105
Write ins
Water Commissioner
Daniela Abbott 5
Phil Driscoll 2
Mickey Mouse 2
Bob Kittredge 1
David Gleason 1
Judy Staven 1

Total ballots cast: 156, out of 13,345 eligible voters, for a turnout of 1.17%

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd

VOTE TODAY! Portsmouth Water board election [IUpdated]

13may24_vote.jpgThe Portsmouth Water and Fire District election is today, June 14, at the District office at 1944 East Main Road. Polls are open until 8:00pm.

UPDATE: Daniela Abbott told a reporter today that she is encouraging write-in votes for the position of Clerk. This reporter voted for her.

The positions of Clerk and Water Commissioner are up for election.

Running for the position of Clerk is incumbent Philip T. Driscoll of 169 Immokolee Drive.

Running for the position of Water Commissioner is Andrew V. Kelly of 33 Pine St.

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

Commentary
Just because you only see one candidate for each position, please don't assume that these races will be uncontested -- with turnout sometimes in the mid-double-digits, a write-in can surprise everyone in this race.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, pwfd

Testimony on guns in schools at Senate Judiciary

17jun06_senate_judiciary.jpgThanks to all the folks at the Senate hearing last night who testified with such passion, intelligence, and empathy on all the gun safety bills. I'm glad to have been able to contribute a few words.

Thank you Madam Chair, members of the committee. I’m John McDaid from Portsmouth, urging the Committee to support S0187 as a parent and a member of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, an organization representing more than 90 groups and 120,000 Rhode Islanders. That number is significant.

RI General Law 11-47-60 already bans concealed weapons on school grounds. All this bill does is clarify that law’s scope.

Concealed weapons present a constant unavoidable risk. According to the CDC, in 2013 there were 16,864 reported unintentional gunshot injuries. That’s 46 firearm accidents every day.

Arguments that permit holders would protect students and staff are deeply suspect. Applicants in Rhode Island only need to put 30 rounds in a 14-inch target at 25 yards every four years. There is no requirement for training in real-world tactical scenarios — or even drawing from concealment — nothing that would prepare them for the complex, high-stress situation of an active shooter.

Even in the hands of trained professionals, friendly fire and collateral damage are significant risks. According to a RAND corporation study, trained police officers only hit their targets roughly 30% of the time; in an active firefight, that number dropped to 18%. Adding more guns in the hands of the untrained in crowded school rooms and hallways is not a move in a safer direction.

Finally, the General Assembly has the power to address this. Even the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which is extremely favorable to Second Amendment rights, specifically says, “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools.” Article XII of the Rhode Island Constitution gives the General Assembly authority over education, saying “it shall be the duty of the general assembly…to adopt all means…necessary and proper.”

As the “school committee” for the state, the General Assembly as a whole has a duty to consider this bill. I may not know much about how things work at the State House, but back home in Portsmouth, if a group of concerned citizens representing 10 percent of the town asked to have something put on the agenda for the whole Council to consider, it would get a vote. I ask that this committee do the same. Thank you.

References
CDC data
Rand study via Time Magazine
DC v. Heller see p. 54

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, RICAGV

Portsmouth Community Theater auditions next week

Auditions will be held for the Portsmouth Community Theater season on June 5th and 6th at 4PM at the Aquidneck Island Christian Academy. PCT hopes to cast for "You Can't Take It With You" for production in August as well as for events at the Portsmouth Historical Society, a new historical drama now being researched and written and, pending rights approval, a production of "Love, Loss and What I Wore" in the Spring.

PCT1.jpg

(click to embiggen)

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, PCT

Protect Portsmouth kids at Town Council Monday night [Update]

stopsign.jpgMonday night, May 22, the Portsmouth Town Council will hear two agenda items that bear on the safety of children in town: speeding in Island Park and concealed weapons in our schools.

A group of Island Park residents have raised concerns about speeding on Cottage Avenue in Island Park, and have circulated a petition with 30 signatures (including Portsmouth Police Chief Thomas Lee) requesting the Council implement traffic slowing measures and increased enforcement.

"We have 16 children that live on our street," says an e-mail to the Council from organizer Jennifer Weiffenbach, "The posted speed limit is 15 miles per hour. Yet we regularly see divers going both directions from 25 to 45 mph and higher." The petition asks the Council to consider speed bumps or stop signs at the (currently uncontrolled) cross streets.

Also on the agenda is a request for a resolution in support of the bills currently before the General Assembly that would close the concealed-carry loophole on school grounds. (H5345/S0187)

This legislation — which was supported by the Portsmouth School Committee in March — clarifies a conflict in state law. Although there is currently a "no guns in schools" law on the books (RIGL 11-47-60) there is language in the state's concealed carry provision which appears to contradict this exclusion (RIGL 11-47-11).

Monday night would be a good time to show up at the Council for our kids.

Update: Both measures were approved by the Council. Councilors heard a presentation from three Island Park kids, questioned the PD and DPW, and decided on stop signs at Walnut and Chestnut streets. The resolution supporting the NGIS bills was passed after a statement from School Committee chair Terri Cortvriend and a few words from this reporter.

Tags: 
02871, Localblogging, Town Council, gun safety

Pages