Gordon Fox

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Residents and merchants in the East Bay are sharply opposing tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Local lawmakers have joined them in asserting the tolls will hurt the economy in communities near the bridge.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Robert A. Walsh Jr., executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, joins the Roundtable this week to discuss state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist; conflicting views on economic development; the debate over defaulting on bonds for 38 Studios; and Council 94's hiring of a prominent critic of state Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

By overwhelming margins, the Rhode Island House of Representatives Tuesday passed a half-dozen bills to change the state’s approach to economic development.

One bill would try to create a more streamlined effort through a new Executive Office of Commerce. Another bill replaces the state Economic Development Corporation with a Commerce Corporation headed by a secretary of commerce. 

It is not yet clear precisely how the state will move forward.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives is expected, this Tuesday, to approve a package of bills reshaping the state’s approach to economic development.  House Speaker Gordon Fox and Governor Lincoln Chafee differ on how to move forward.

One of the House bills would replace the state Economic Development Corporation with a Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. It would establish a secretary of commerce, with the idea of making one person responsible for pursuing economic development.

While Lincoln Chafee's move to become a Democrat might be utterly unsurprising to some, the governor's move nonetheless scrambled the landscape for what already looked like a riveting election fight next year. That's why Chafee leads my weekly column. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a line at idonnis (at) ripr (and) org  and to follow me on Twitter. Let's go:

Ian Donnis / RIPR

State Representative J. Patrick O'Neill (D-Pawtucket) joins the Roundtable this week (along with guest panelist Dan McGowan of WPRI-TV, Channel 12) to discuss Governor Lincoln Chafee's move to become a Democrat; the way forward for economic development, and legislative questions.

State Representative J. Patrick O'Neill (D-Pawtucket) joins us on Bonus Q+A to talk about his split with House Speaker Gordon Fox's leadership team and other legislative issues.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Margaux Morisseau became a leader in the fight against payday lending after seeing its impact in the Constitution Hill neighborhood of Woonsocket. She works there as a community advocate for a nonprofit agency. This blue-collar neighborhood was once full of boarded up homes, and it has seen a comeback in recent years. But a payday lending shop moved in about three years ago and Morisseau says things have taken a turn for the worse.

RIPR

Governor Lincoln Chafee’s choice to lead the state Economic Development Corporation faces approval by the full state Senate committee Tuesday.  The votes comes amid debate over the EDC’s future.

Chafee’s choice, Marcel Valois, was unanimously approved by a Senate committee last week. Valois led the EDC in the 1990s during Lincoln Almond’s tenure as governor. He says Rhode Island needs to do a better job of helping business when it can and getting out of the way when it can’t.

May rolls in with history being made in Rhode Island. Welcome back to my weekly column. As always, your thoughts and tips are welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Let's head in:

Ian Donnis / RIPR

To the delight of a crowd of hundreds of people in front of the Statehouse, Governor Lincoln Chafee on Thursday evening signed into law legislation making Rhode Island the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Two companion bills forming the basis for the law sped through the General Assembly in recent weeks, in sharp contrast to how the issue of same-sex marriage languished for the preceding 16 years.

We're 18 months out from the November 2014 election, but that's not stopping Mark Binder from announcing on Thursday another legislative challenge to House Speaker Gordon Fox.

Via news release:

Ian Donnis / RIPR

After helping to shepherd same-sex marriage legislation on what once seemed an improbable path to victory, House Speaker Gordon Fox was a bit surprised Tuesday to be asked about his own wedding plans.

"I'm just trying to plan to get through this session," Fox said, laughing, when asked if he has plans to marry later this year. "That's a curve ball. I hadn't though about that one. Maybe you should ask my partner that."

As the hours dwindle to tomorrow’s Senate Judiciary Committee consideration of same-sex marriage, it appears advocates of gay unions have an advantage, say State House sources. What is still unknown is what will happen when the issue hits the Senate floor, which could come as early as Wednesday, or more likely, Thursday.

What is clear this time around is that the marriage equality campaign has done a better job this time around than two years ago, when the General Assembly approved civil unions in a compromise that pleased neither side.

Legislative language that would allow Rhode Islanders who own guns defined as assault weapons to keep them after the July 1 effective date is missing from the relevant bill.

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