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Ian Donnis / RIPR

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is praising the budget approved by a legislative committee Tuesday a pro-business spending plan for the state. The budget is considered a political victory for Governor Gina Raimondo since she got most of what she wanted.

The House Finance Committee’s budget eliminates the business sales tax on utilities, reduces the $500 corporate minimum tax by $50, and includes incentives meant to spark jobs. Speaker Mattiello points to how it also cuts taxes on Social Security benefits and increases a tax credit meant to help the poor.

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Former House speaker Gordon Fox is scheduled to be sentenced this Thursday after pleading guilty to charges of bribery, tax fraud and filing a false tax return. Federal prosecutors have recommended a three-year prison sentence for Fox.

US District Court Judge Mary Lisi can accept prosecutors’ recommended sentence for Fox, or impose a different one.

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House lawmakers have voted to pass an $8.7 billion dollar budget that restores some proposed cuts and adds money for education and economic development.

House finance committee members voted to include many of Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposals to streamline Medicaid and spur business and job growth.  But the budget that now heads to the full House for a vote is $37 million dollars richer than her original ask, thanks to a rosier state revenue picture. House fiscal advisor Sharon Reynolds Ferland gave lawmakers the bottom line.

Zakarias Abrous / RIPR

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo met in Providence Tuesday.

According to staffers from Governor Raimondo’s office, the meeting was informal. The governors were expected to discuss college hockey and the first-ever championship for Providence College, which beat out longtime rival Boston University.

The two state leaders were also set to talk about the economy, and what can be done to bolster the region.  Massachusetts has seen declines in unemployment, while Rhode Island has recovered more slowly from the recession.

Voters in Narragansett and South Kingstown will elect a new state representative Tuesday in House District 33. Four candidates are running to succeed former Representative Donald Lally, who left the House earlier this session.

The candidates are Republican Robert Trager; Democrat Carol Hagan McEntee; and independents Elizabeth Candas and Jamie McKnight. Before his departure, Lally was the second-longest serving  rep in the House.

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Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The House Finance Committee is slated to vote Tuesday on the budget for the fiscal year beginning July first. As is usually the case the House makes some changes to the spending plan introduced by the governor.

The House Finance budget is not expected to include truck tolls proposed by Governor Gina Raimondo to help pay for bridge improvements. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says more information is needed about the plan. The budget does include funding for HealthSource RI, the state’s version of Obamacare, as well as economic incentives meant to spark economic growth.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

The Raimondo administration is reducing the number of trucks it wants to toll as part of a new program to pay for infrastructure improvements. However the State Trucking Association remains opposed to the governor’s initiative.

The governor’s office is exempting trucks in class sizes 6 and 7 from its plan to institute electronic tolls on highways around the state. The cost of the tolls has not yet been publicly identified.

Dank Depot / flickr

The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to hear a slate of bills Tuesday about marijuana.  One bill would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Rhode Island.

Lawmakers will once again consider legalizing the use and possession of marijuana for adults over 21. The idea is to regulate and tax the drug like alcohol. Proponents say that would cut down jail time for small-time offenders and increase state revenue.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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