Rhode Island’s General Assembly convenes a new session Tuesday. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay explains why this year’s legislature may sound a lot like last year’s.
By now, most of us have cleared our heads of those New Year’s hangovers. That’s not the case for Rhode Island’s 113 lawmakers.
The 2014 Assembly that convenes tomorrow will resemble nothing so much as the …2013 Assembly. The reason for this is all too evident: As has too often been the case, the Smith Hill Crowd decided not to decide some big, prickly issues last session.
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is ramping up efforts to collect the 10-cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Chairman David Darlington said there are 750,000 records of drivers who have crossed the bridge without being charged. Now the authority is ready to collect.
If you have an E-ZPass, it will be charged. If you don’t own an E-ZPass and have crossed the Sakonnet Bridge fewer than 25 times, you will not receive a bill. But after you make that 25th trip, the authority will send out a bill of at least $2.50.
A 10-cent toll will go into effect next Monday on the Sakonnet River Bridge. The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority has not yet established a new policy for collecting the tolls.
The General Assembly set the new 10-cent toll in the closing days of the legislative session earlier this summer. Turnpike and Bridge Authority Chairman David Darlington said the authority needs to gather more information before making a new policy.
The state is slated to begin charging a new 10-cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge next Monday. Yet it’s not exactly clear how the state will collect that money.
The General Assembly added the 10-cent toll, basically as a placeholder, at the end of the legislative session. The legislature took that action because the absence of a toll on the new span could prevent the state from adding one at a later date. State Rep John Edwards of Tiverton says the toll remains unpopular in the East Bay.
Progress continues for an 18-mile bike path on Aquidneck Island, which will extend from the new Sakonnet River Bridge in Portsmouth to the Newport beaches.
Tina Dolen, the Executive Director of the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, says that ideas for a bikeway began in 2004 when the Commission produced the West Side Master Plan. She adds that this project will cost them less time and money than another bike project, the Shoreline Bikeway, also in the works.
Dolen states that this development will be beneficial for everybody.
On a 40-25 vote, the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impose a 10-cent toll on the new Sakonnet River Bridge. The move comes after the House last week delayed plans for tolls on the bridge.
Lawmakers said they reversed course because a federal requirement bans the addition of new tolls once a bridge is substantially complete. One opponent of tolls, Tiverton Representative John Edwards, said he hopes the Sakonnet toll might still be eliminated in the future.
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority says it’s worried that a toll freeze on the Sakonnet River Bridge may violate promises the authority made in previous bond sales.
When the Turnpike and Bridge Authority put bonds up for sale, it made a promise to bond buyers that it would not take on assets that didn’t come with a revenue stream. That way, says Chairman David Darlington, the authority doesn’t get loaded down with bridges it can pay for. He says delaying tolls on the Sakonnet Bridge puts the Turnpike and Bridge Authority in conflict with those promises.
The Rhode Island House of Representations Wednesday passed a budget that includes the first repayment for money owed over the state’s losing investment in video-game maker 38 Studios. Taxpayers remain on the hook for a total of about 90 million dollars.