House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed cruised to re-election in their leadership positions Tuesday while pledging increased legislative attention to trying to boost Rhode Island’s underperforming economy.
Fox, who has served as speaker since 2010, won another term on a 66-6 vote, with the six-member House Republican faction voting for GOP minority leader Brian Newberry. Abstaining from the vote were Representatives Spencer Dickinson (who had backed Fox’s rep opponent, Mark Binder); Patrick O’Neill (who split from Fox’s leadership team) and John Lombardi (who didn’t attend a House leadership caucus).
Paiva Weed was re-elected with the support of every senator except Republican Dawson Hodgson. She has signaled plans for a bigger focus on jobs and the economy in the new session.
Fox did likewise in comments following his re-election as speaker. Without naming his opponent, he referenced his re-election challenge by Mark Binder and how a constituent questioned whether he deserved a kick in the pants because of the state’s disastrous investment in 38 Studios. Fox said it remains incumbent on elected officials to do better and move beyond past mistakes:
“It didn’t work, apologize, but don’t stop from keep pushing, from keep trying. It means you try a little harder, you do a little different.”
The speaker outlined these efforts to try to bolster the economy:
– a January 17 economic conference at Rhode Island College meant to spark “specific policy changes that we address this session.”
– An attempt to better coordinate job skills training programs.
– ”I am committed to looking closely and then taking legislative action to restructure the EDC [state Economic Development Corporation].
– Fox says he backs the RI Public Expenditure Council’s call for “a coordinated effort involving education, job skills training, transportation and infrastructure, regulatory reform and tax policies. I also embrace RIPEC’s concept of the Council of Economic Advisers to develop a consistent plan for long-term economic success.”
Fox was joined at the rostrum for his swearing-in by his domestic partner, Marcus LaFond — a scene that once would have been hard to imagine in the House.
Fox says he expects a same-sex marriage bill to be introduced in the House as soon as this week. In an interview, he called on the Senate to pass it, although he says he’s received no assurances from Paiva Weed about the bill’s chances of success in the other chamber.