When the Rhode Island Senate made history by approving same-sex marriage legislation in April, more than a few close observers (including me) saw it as a matter -- in part -- of Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed preserving her leadership. The thinking was that if same-sex marriage was defeated again (in a battle that started in 1997), SSM supporters would aggressively target legislative opponents at the polls next year.
Thanks to a cost of living adjustment mandated by the state Constitution, 111 state lawmakers are entitled to get a $307 boost in their annual pay, bringing the yearly amount to $14,947. The pay hike is doubled for House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who get twice the salary of other lawmakers.
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.
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.
Tuesday was a remarkable day in Rhode Island politics. First, the five-member GOP contingent in the 38-member state Senate -- including the chamber's low-key minority leader, Dennis Algiere -- offered its unified support for same-sex marriage. Then, and much more significantly, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio found himself on the wrong side of a key vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rhode Island is now on the cusp of legalizing same-sex marriage.
With a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on same-sex marriage legislation expected as soon as next week, the group leading the campaign in favor of legalization says it plans to deploy more than 300 people this weekend to knock on doors and make phone calls.
Ray Sullivan, the head of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, says the stepped-up effort is meant to connect constituents in key Senate districts with their legislators "to carry the message and the banner that it's finally time to pass marriage equality."