Political news

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A former North Providence town councilman accused of soliciting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes is scheduled to return to court today for a change-of-plea hearing to federal conspiracy, bribery and extortion charges.

John Zambarano is also expected to plead guilty to his role in an unrelated insurance fraud scheme.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Senators from Rhode Island, Florida, New York, and West Virginia say Florida's governor should enact a program to better track the growing trade of abused prescription drugs to other states, a route called the "flamingo express."

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Advocates are renewing an effort for undocumented immigrants to be able to attend state colleges for the same in-state tuition as U.S. citizens.

Senator Juan Pichardo, a cosponsor of the bill, addressed supporters yesterday during a State House rally.

"This is a moral imperative," Pichardo said. "It does not make any sense to deny any young student the opportunity they have created to excel and reach their full potential in higher education. We all benefit at the end."

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor Lincoln Chafee has scheduled his first major address to the General Assembly. It will be a combined budget address and state of the state speech.

It's scheduled for March 8th, probably in the evening.

Rhode Island faces a nearly $300 million deficit in the budget year beginning July 1. During his campaign for governor he proposed a one percent tax on items currently exempt from the state's seven percent sales tax.

Same-sex marriage supporters, with some opponents, demonstrate in the State House rotunda. Photo by Ian Donnis.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Supporters call legalizing same-sex marriage the right thing to do. During a House Judiciary hearing yesterday on related legislation, they also say it would stimulate an economic windfall for Rhode Island.

Providence real estate agent Jim DeRentis says almost all of Rhode Island's 40 largest companies offer benefits to same-sex couples or ban discrimination based on orientation.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – House lawmakers will take up a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the bill Wednesday after delaying a Feb. 2 hearing because of bad weather.

The legislation has been introduced several times over the years, but failed when it faced opposition from previous Republican Gov. Don Carcieri and former legislative leaders.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Providence City Council is slated to take a preliminary vote this evening on a new $638 million budget.

Mayor Angel Taveras says the city is poised to end an unprecedented situation in which it has operated for months without a budget. Two votes are necessary to approve the spending plan, and the second is expected later this month.

A recently completed audit found that the city's liabilities for the fiscal year ending last June 13 exceeded its assets by $20 million.

Former Providence Mayor, now Congressman David Cicilline. Photo by Catherine Welch

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Former Providence Mayor David Cicilline is defending the near depletion of the city's reserve fund, saying he had to make tough choices.

A new audit finds during the last fiscal year, the reserve fund went from $17.3 million to $3.4 million.

Last October the city auditor warned about a draining fund. At the time Cicilline's office claimed the warning was political. Cicilline now says he tapped into the rainy day fund because it was raining.

Central Falls City Hall

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – I was born in Central Falls - at a time when Broad and Dexter streets were booming with small businesses, churches on Sundays were over-crowded and neighborhood social clubs were choice venues for weddings, celebrations and community events. It was a thriving, spirited and engaged community.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The House Judiciary Committee will consider a bill this afternoon inspired in part by the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

A bill sponsored by Representative Roberto DaSilva would remove the possibility of parole for someone convicted of the first-degree murder of a state or local official.

Photo by Jason White via Flickr Creative Commons.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Rhode Island lawmaker has introduced a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill from Rep. John Edwards, a Tiverton Democrat, would make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a $150 fine. Marijuana possession is now a crime that carries up to a year in prison.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff in remembrance of the six people killed during an assassination attempt on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Chafee on Monday ordered flags lowered until sunset on Friday to honor the dead and the 14 injured outside a supermarket in Tucson on Saturday.

Chafee calls it an unthinkable tragedy that has brought him and all Rhode Islanders great personal sadness.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – "Shocked and devastated." That was Congressman Jim Langevin's reaction to the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. But Langevin says he will do nothing special to enhance his personal security.

They sat together on the Armed Services Committee and Congressman Jim Langevin calls Gabrielle Giffords a good friend. He was horrified to hear she was shot while meeting with constituents at a Tucson grocery store.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A state lawmaker from Cranston is renewing his push to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island.

Democratic state Representative Arthur Handy says he will introduce legislation today to make legal same sex marriage in the Ocean State. This is the ninth year Handy has introduced the measure, but he says he's more optimistic given the swearing in of independent Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is pictured at his inauguration party. Photo by Megan Hall.

Providence, RI – Last night more than a thousand people gathered at the Rhode Island Convention Center to celebrate the inauguration of Providence's new Mayor Angel Taveras.

Supporters danced, cheered, and drank at the free event, which featured bilingual speeches and music for the city's first Latino mayor.

Taveras' sister, Dinora Dominguez, switched effortlessly between English and Spanish as she introduced her brother.