Politics

Political news

RIPR FILE

Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee plans to make it official next week: he's running for president.

Chafee's campaign confirmed Friday that he will officially launch his bid for the democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday. The announcement is expected during a speech at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.

After forming an exploratory committee in April, Chafee has visited some early primary states, including New Hampshire. He often criticizes democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her Senate vote in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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A multi-day hearing to assess the fairness of the state’s proposed pension settlement is scheduled to start Wednesday in Superior Court. Most of the public employees involved in the case have already approved the settlement.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter last month set a timeline for moving ahead with the pension deal. About 65 people with concerns about the settlement have asked to speak in front of the judge.

The so-called fairness hearing is expected to last three to five days. The hearing will begin with expert testimony about each side of the pension case.

RIPR FILE

A new poll shows that Rhode Islanders expect stronger political leadership over the next few years, although many still feel the state is going in the wrong direction. The poll was commissioned by the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University.

43 percent of respondents say the state is going in the wrong direction. Yet 54 percent expect elected officials to provide strong leadership moving forward.

For Rhode Island’s top problem, 30 percent of respondents cite job opportunities, 19 percent point to taxes, and 14 percent identify corruption.

Federal Wildlife Service

The House Judiciary Committee is slated to hear Wednesday a series of bills about marijuana.

One bill proposes to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over.  The drug would be regulated and taxed like alcohol, which proponents say would bring in new tax revenue for the state.  But opponents point to the potential negative impact on health and public safety.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is slated to deliver his first budget address Wednesday. The capital city is facing a sizeable deficit.

The budget hole could be as large as $23 million. That’s a lot less than the deficit former Mayor Angel Taveras called a fiscal hurricane, but it’s still a significant gap to fill.

Mayor Jorge Elorza has pledged to cultivate broad-based economic growth, while holding the line against tax increases. Complicating the outlook is the fact that Providence needs to negotiate new contracts for teachers and municipal workers.

John Bender / RIPR

Governor Gina Raimondo marked her 100th day in office Thursday. Raimondo is taking part in several events to mark the occasion.

    

Along with two other appearances, Governor Raimondo is celebrating the 100th anniversary of two northern Rhode Island businesses, Yacht Club Soda and Navigant Credit Union.

Raimondo won election in November as the state’s first female governor. Since taking office, she’s dealt with severe winter weather and touted her proposed budget as a way to revitalize Rhode Island’s economy.

RIPR FILE

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has unveiled legislation aimed at reforming Rhode Island’s voting laws. Gorbea promised to modernize the voting system during her campaign.

The proposed legislation brings online voter registration to Rhode Island. Residents would enter a database that can be updated when people move out of town or out of state. Gorbea said that would reduce redundancies in the voter rolls.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Documents to formalize a settlement of the state pension lawsuit were filed Monday in Superior Court . The settlement faces several hurdles to be completed.

Lawyers announced in court earlier this month that most public employee unions and retirees had agreed to a proposed settlement to the legal challenge over Rhode Island’s 2011 pension overhaul. The attorneys are now following up by filing documents outlining the agreement.

RIPR file photo

Governor Gina Raimondo has signed an executive order meant to foster efficiency and innovation through a so-called lean government initiative. The governor says this will make state government more responsive to the people it serves.

The governor’s office calls lean initiatives a proven tool used by manufacturers to eliminate waste, reduce expenses, and encourage efficiency.

Raimondo says lean practices are meant to promote a workplace culture of continuous improvement. In the governor’s words, Rhode Islanders deserve a government that moves at the speed of business.

RIPR FILE

Two bills meant to discourage the misuse of campaign accounts have cleared an initial hurdle at the General Assembly.  Efforts to restore the state Ethics Commission’s oversight of the legislature continue to languish.

Legislative committees have passed a bill requiring candidates to have a separate bank account for their campaign money. Another bill would make public officeholders file an annual bank statement to back up the information in their campaign spending reports.

Candidates who’ve run for office owe a total of more than $2 million in fines to the state Board of Elections for past-due campaign reports. The board collected about $43,000 in fines last year.

Former South Kingstown State Senator Patrick McDonald owes the most – nearly $214,000 -- in the Board of Election’s newly posted list of outstanding fines. The outlook for collecting that money is considered bleak as McDonald is currently serving prison time for embezzlement.

  The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case involving police reports from a party hosted by the son of former governor Lincoln Chafee. The case is considered an important test of government transparency.

Aaron Read / RIPR

A House committee is slated to vote Tuesday on several bills filed after a Providence lawmaker was accused of misappropriating campaign funds. One of the bills would require officeholders to file an annual bank statement to back up information on campaign reports.

House Judiciary will also vote on bills calling for separate campaign accounts for public officeholders, and in some cases, for finance reports to be filed by someone other than the officeholder.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

A good government group is supporting a bill that would bring more transparency to the process of selecting magistrates. Magistrates perform many of the same functions of judges, but they’re selected behind closed doors.

RIPR FILE

Rhode Island has a religious freedom law that bears some similarity to an Indiana proposal, that is now raising controversy around the country. Rhode Island’s law drew little criticism when it passed more than 20 years ago.

Rhode Island ACLU director Steve Brown said Rhode Island’s religious freedom law was passed with broad support in the early 1990s. Brown said the law was a response to a US Supreme Court decision denying the right of Native Americans to use peyote in religious ceremonies.

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