Fox, Paiva Weed Hope to Return as Legislative Leaders in 2015

Dec 30, 2013

House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed each say they intend to seek another term at the top of their respective chambers in 2015, provided they win re-election to their legislative seats next November.

In related news, Fox and Paiva Weed sounded different notes on the issue of repaying investors in failed video-game maker 38 Studios. The tab for taxpayers is set to increase in 2014 to $12.5 million dollars, up from $2.5 million in 2013 -- a factor that may resound in legislative elections in the new year.

The legislative leaders spoke Monday during separate Statehouse interviews. My full-length interviews with Fox, Pavia Weed and Governor Lincoln Chafee will air next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Fox says he's open to a broader discussion on the merits of not paying back investors in 38 Studios, although he was non-committal when asked what would push him in that direction. "Well, I’m not going to say one thing specifically I need to see," Fox says, "but I think a case has to be – because it’s ultimately going to be the men and the women of the House and the Senate that have to vote on this. I think it’s what do each of them in a discussion, they need to be, before we ask them to make that vote."

Paiva Weed says she continues to believe the state must meet its commitment on the moral obligation bonds. (Fox, Paiva Weed, and Chafee supported in 2013 paying back the $2.5 million to 38 Studios' investors, arguing that failing to do so would hurt the state's credit.) Paiva Weed noted the increased payment by taxpayers could possibly be rendered moot, depending on the success of a state lawsuit seeking to recover costs from the failure of 38 Studios.

Both Paiva Weed and Fox sounded a tough line on possible legislative attempts to significantly alter a possible settlement in the lawsuit over the 2011 overhaul of the state pension system.

The two sides in the closed-door talks have been mediating since December 2012. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter is slated to get her next update on the status of the talks January 3 -- four days before the start of the legislative session. (The General Assembly would need to approve any settlement).

Fox says his message on the pension overhaul -- as detailed in an op-ed in the Sunday ProJo -- is that lawmakers need to maintain the substance of it. Paiva Weed says from her perspective, "The focus of the General Assembly is on maintaining employment security for the pensioners and maintaining the cost savings to the state, which are necessary to maintain the fund." She added that her criteria for considering changes to the overhaul is "whether or not it continues to reach the original goals, which is maintaining financial security for our pensioners and achieving fiscal stability for the state in the long term.”

Fox ascended to the speakership mid-session in 2010 and won a full term in 2011 and 2013. Paiva Weed first became Senate president in 2009. Each said they intend to pursue another term in their respective posts, but declined to specify how long they hope to remain in leadership.

Fox, who has considerable influence over the state Democratic Party since state committee members are elected through House districts, says he expects the party to make an endorsement in a 2014 primary featuring Gina Raimondo, Angel Taveras, and possibly Clay Pell. "I would think so," Fox said, adding that he remains uncommitted in the race. "I think parties exist to endorse."

On one other issue -- repealing the state's voter ID law -- the leaders expressed different views. Fox says he favors repeal, while Paiva Weed says she opposes it.

This post has been updated.