As high unemployment continues to plague Rhode Island, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed says her chamber will focus in the 2013 session on economic development and trying to turn around the state's troubled economy.
Paiva Weed says the Senate hopes to release a report by the end of January that "examines the underlying factors that are considered by national agencies such as CNBC, who have consistently ranked our state near the bottom in terms of economic climate. That is no longer acceptable."
A series of national surveys have given Rhode Island poor marks for its business climate.
Paiva Weed said Senate staffers have been looking at the factors considered in these reviews. She said the Senate is working with the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council "to develop a plan to to address the deficiencies in our state in order that we can improve the state's reputation nationally."
The Senate president has already indicated the Senate Judiciary Committee will take a vote in the new session on same-sex marriage.
Joined by Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio for an interview in her Statehouse officer earlier this week, Paiva Weed outlined some additional economic development concepts (excerpts from our interview were broadcast Thursday morning on RIPR):
-- The Senate and House are working with the Rhode Island Foundation to develop "an enhanced capacity" in state Department of Labor and Training software to match employees with employers.
-- Paiva Weed says the Senate is considered backing a program modeled on Georgia Works to provide four to six weeks of job training for people while they receive unemployment.
-- Ruggerio says he hopes the Senate will modify the state historic tax credit program, with a goal of creating construction jobs and other activity. He says the state has a bit more than $27 million in unused historic tax credits.
-- Paiva Weed says the Senate supports looking at the arts "as a critical part of economic development," and hopes to stage a planning session with stakeholders in hopes of developing that part of the economy. The Senate president also raised the possibility of a statewide tax exemption for the arts.