GA

Edwards bill would extend study time for Sakonnet tolls

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Rep. Jay Edwards.
Photo: RI General Assembly.

Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70) has introduced legislation that would ultimately accommodate a full vetting process for an equitable alternative to Sakonnet River Bridge tolls, according to a state house news release.

The legislation (2014-H 7569) extends the date that the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) may impose a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge – not to exceed 10 cents – from April 1, 2014 to July 1, 2014.

“This bill gives us the time we need for our colleagues in the General Assembly to review our transportation proposal and, if approved, place it in the state budget,” said Edwards, also the primary House sponsor of the transportation bill. “This needs to be a transparent, thorough process so that we do not have to revisit this issue again. Bridge tolls are still a hot-button issue for my district and the East Bay; although I certainly would not limit this conundrum to just East Bay residents. How we go about maintaining our bridges and roadways is a statewide issue, which we have said from the beginning. We have done our homework, and now it’s time to move forward and address this issue head-on.”

Submitted earlier this month, the transportation proposal (2014-H 7432, 2014-S 2335) creates a predictable statewide funding source for roads and bridges without needing a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Under this proposal, the state would establish a new Infrastructure Trust Fund using a number of existing revenue streams to maintain all state-controlled roads and bridges. It also adds funding to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA).

If approved, the legislation would also transfer the Sakonnet River Bridge and the Jamestown-Verrazzano Bridge from RITBA back to the state, while creating a new Rhode Island Bridge Authority as a department within the state Department of Transportation. The new bridge authority would only have the ability to toll the Claiborne Pell Bridge.

“We put the April 1 deadline in place so that we could study the toll issue,” said Sen. Lou DiPalma (D-12), who is the lead sponsor of the transportation bill in the Senate. “If nothing came of that study, that deadline wouldn’t matter right now. But because we were able to come up with a compromise that we believe alleviates a lot of the concerns related to the issue, it is now imperative that we take the next step and give everyone ample time to ask questions. This is not something we want to rush.”

Cosponsors of the House bill pushing back the toll deadline are House Majority Leader Nick Mattiello (D-15), Majority Whip Stephen Ucci (D-42), Deputy Majority Whip Chris Blazejewski (D-2) and Deputy Speaker Donald J. Lally Jr. (D-33). It has been referred to the House Finance Committee. Senator DiPalma plans to submit identical legislation in the Senate.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

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02871, Localblogging, Sakonnet River Bridge, GA

Edwards charter/FTM transparency bill passes House

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Rep. Jay Edwards.
Photo: RI General Assembly.

The RI House passed a measure today that would require political parties and political action committees advocating for a town or city charter-amending question to file a report of all expenditures in excess of $100 with its local board of canvassers.

“I have been working to close this loophole for years,” said Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70), primary sponsor of the bill. “It’s important that the public be able to see contributions to groups and action committees advocating for charter amendments. Expenditures are equally, if not more important to the integrity of the election process. We should not settle for anything less than full transparency because that is what protects the integrity of the election process.”

The House approved the measure in a 68 to 0 vote.

The bill (2013-H 7054) applies to all charter questions considered during an election or financial town meeting. In 2012, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee signed similar legislation that focused on contributions received in excess of $100 as opposed to expenditures.

Cosponsors of the bill – which will now travel to the Senate for consideration – include all Portsmouth Reps (Dennis Canario (D-71), Raymond Gallison Jr. (D-69), Linda Finn (D-72)) and Sen. Paul W. Fogarty (D-23) has sponsored the mirroring legislation (2014-S 2235) in the Senate.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

Rep. Edwards to host open house on tolls, East Bay issues

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Rep. Jay Edwards. Photo: RI General Assembly.

Portsmouth Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70) will be holding an open house for constituents next week at the Common Fence Point Community Hall to discuss updates from the Special Legislative Commission to Study the Funding for East Bay Bridges and other local issues. The forum will take place at the CFP Hall, located at 933 Anthony Road, on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.

“This is a chance for the people in both of the communities I represent to continue fruitful discussions about East Bay infrastructure and the work the commission has done thus far,” said Edwards, who serves as a member of the panel. “This is also an opportunity for my constituents to bring their biggest concerns to me before we enter a new legislative session at the State House in January. The bridge issue alone has made me realize how truly lucky I am to represent constituents who care so deeply about our community and recognize that we must all participate in democracy in order to create the best possible outcomes for everyone. I look forward to seeing everyone next week and I strongly encourage all who are interested to attend.”

The East Bay bridge commission — co-chaired by Rep. Helio Melo (D-64, East Providence) and Sen. Daniel Da Ponte (D-14, East Providence) — was established during the 2013 legislative session to allow lawmakers and officials from affected state departments and agencies an opportunity to investigate various funding plans, potentially eliminating the need for tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Editorial note: Written from a state house press release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

East Bay gets 3 reps on Bridge Commission

General assembly leaders announced their picks for the new Rhode Island bridge funding commission, and the East Bay scored some important representation. According to a state house press release, the 6 legislators were picked by House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed.

The "Special Legislative Commission to Study the Funding for Bridges" will include Senate Finance Chairman Daniel Da Ponte (D-14, East Providence) and Senators Lou DiPalma (D-12) and Chris Ottiano (R-11). House members will include House Finance Chairman Helio Melo (D-64, East Providence), and Reps Jay Edwards (D-70) and Antonio Giarrusso (R-30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

The three remaining members of the special legislative commission will be the Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis, or a designee; Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) Executive Director Buddy Croft, or a designee; and Department of Administration Director Richard Licht, or a designee.

Legislation approved in the closing days of the session called for the creation of the special legislative commission, which will allow lawmakers and officials from the affected state departments and agencies to come together for six months and map out various funding plans, potentially eradicating the need for a Sakonnet Bridge toll. The special legislative panel will not only study ways to fund East Bay bridges, but also seek a funding mechanism for all state bridges. The commission is required to report its findings to the General Assembly on or before Jan. 15, 2014.

According to the press release -- and I'll put this part in explicit quotes: "RITBA will have the authority to implement a 10-cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge in August so it can preserve future tolling options for the bridge while the commission works to find alternatives. The 10-cent toll cap will be in effect until April 1, 2014."

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA, Sakonnet River Bridge

Portsmouth municipal court bill passes legislature

Portsmouth could get the okay to create a municipal court within days, as the bill (H6044/S884) authorizing the change cleared both houses of the state legislature last night and is headed for Gov. Chafee's desk.

Thanks to our local delegation: Sen Chris Ottiano (R-11), Reps. Ray Gallison (D-69), Jay Edwards (D-70), Dennis Canario (D-71), and Linda Finn (D-72) for sponsoring this and getting it across the finish line.

If you'd like to keep taps on things at the State House -- especially during the last few weeks of the session when the stakes are higher and the scores can really change -- try out the new Bill Tracker. You can subscribe to bills and receive e-mail updates on any status changes -- it makes following legislation you're interested in pretty painless.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

Portsmouth Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70) earns top score on think tank list

The "nonpartisan" Center for Freedom and Prosperity released their rankings for state legislators today, and I'm very proud that our Island Park Rep. Jay Edwards scored a -80.6, the lowest of any lawmaker in Rhode Island. Given that the list measures deviance from the anti-tax, public-sector-union-busting, deregulation agenda (technically, "floor votes on select legislation" picked at whim) of this "nonpartisan" think tank, you can read these rankings as their absolute values.

Consider who made the "top" of their list: Reps like Chippendale and Trillo and Senators like Bates and Raptakis. I'm happy to see most of the folks I donated to in the Center's "Bottom 10" lists.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

Portsmouth municipal court bills move through legislature

Legislation that would allow Portsmouth to create a municipal court to adjudicate town ordinances is moving through the general assembly, according to a state house press release this afternoon.

Today, the House passed H 6044, introduced on behalf of the town by Rep. Dennis Canario (D-71). Co-sponsored by Rep. Jay Edwards (D-70), Rep. Ray Gallison (D-69) and Rep. Linda Finn (D-72), the bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Sen. Chris Ottiano (R-11) introduced the companion Senate bill, 2013-S 0884, which passed by the Senate and is currently before the House Committee on Municipal Government.

Rep. Canario said the hope is that a municipal court will more efficiently allow for local enforcement of minor police violations such as trespassing, as well as traffic violations and zoning infractions. It should also, he said, help accelerate the legal process for disposition of these kinds of violations and should help cut town costs, such as those resulting when town officials, including police, travel to courts outside the town to represent the community.

The legislation will empower the Portsmouth Town Council to appoint a judge and clerk, to enact ordinances governing the personnel, operation and procedure of the court and to establish a schedule of fees and costs. The court would be allowed to impose sentences up of to 30 days and fines of up to $500.

Enactment of the legislation will add Portsmouth to a growing list of communities that have established a municipal court to handle local issues, such as Providence, Warwick, Pawtucket, Cranston, Bristol and Barrington, among others.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

RI House Judiciary takes up gun regulation today

This afternoon, the RI House Judiciary committee will take up a series of proposals on gun regulation, including a package of bills that introduced by legislative leadership and the RI Attorney General. The agenda, with links to the bills, is available on the General Assembly web site.

If you would like to comment, but can't make it to the State House today, you can always send an e-mail to the committee clerk, Robert DiMezza, and indicate that it is for the committee.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

RI House passes Gallison mortgage conciliation bill

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Rep. Ray Gallison (photo: GA)

The RI House today passed legislation sponsored by Portsmouth Rep. Ray Gallison (D-69) requiring banks and lenders to make a good-faith attempt to negotiate with homeowners before foreclosing on homes in Rhode Island, according to a release.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to prevent foreclosure,” said Gallison. “Lenders are better off if they can continue receiving steady payments, even if they are a little lower, from the homeowner. Communities and our state obviously are hurt when houses are left empty and unattended. And of course, foreclosure is a huge loss for a family, who is then at risk for homelessness and has lost whatever investment they’ve made in their home. We need to ensure that lenders are doing their best to avoid foreclosing.”

Under the legislation (H 5335 Sub. Aaa), lenders would be required to attempt to engage a mortgager at risk of foreclosure in a conciliation conference to try to come to an agreement to modify the terms of the mortgage. If the effort is successful and an agreement is reached, the lender would not have to fulfill the requirement again if the mortgager fails to comply within the next nine months. The legislation, which would take effect 60 days after enactment, would apply only to owner-occupied residential properties of one to four housing units.

If the mortgager does not respond or cooperate with the effort to hold a conciliation conference with the lender, the lender may proceed with the foreclosure process.

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate of 9.4 percent is well above the national average, and many Rhode Islanders are struggling to avoid foreclosure. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, Rhode Island ranked first in New England and seventh in the nation for new foreclosures in the fourth quarter of 2012, although the number of foreclosures in the state did decline by 23 percent from the previous year.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush is sponsoring similar legislation.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

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02871, Localblogging, GA

RI Gun safety legislation package to debut Tuesday

According to a post on the Moms Demand Action - RI Facebook page, a package of gun safety bills will be introduced at a state house press conference on Tuesday by House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. The presser is reportedly scheduled for 2:30 in Room 313.

According to a document linked from the Facebook post, "opponents of the bills are planning to attend and make a big show to protest everything that is being introduced."

There is nothing posted yet on the General Assembly web site, no further details are available on the content of the proposed legislation.

Editorial note: I fully expect to get a crap ton of hate mail just for posting this. A word of advice to Second Amendment advocates: you're not doing yourselves any favors.

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Localblogging, 02871, GA

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