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.