TGIF: 10 things to know about RI politics + media

Feb 1, 2013

Welcome back to my Friday column. As always your tips and thoughts are weclome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Let's get to it.

1. Quite the contrast: the House passed a same-sex marriage bill last week, in the first month of the session, and then Senate Judiciary chairman Michael McCaffrey's pledged to bring a vote at some point in the spring. This much is clear: lawmakers shouldn't fear taking what they might perceive as a tough vote on the issue. For starters, legislators who backed the 2011 pension overhaul didn't pay a price for doing that. Meanwhile, organized labor -- which has shown an ability pick off targets in primary elections -- is firmly behind the same-sex marriage issue.

2. Speaking of same-sex marriage, David Scharfenberg has a very smart overview in this week's Phoenix. One of his best lines focuses on Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed:  "[I]n the long run, the Senate president will have to decide whether she wants to be remembered as a principled defender of traditional marriage or a leader who put aside her personal beliefs to allow for the steady march of history."

3. A familiar face at the Statehouse, Advocacy Solutions lobbyist/PR man Chris Hunter, is headed to a new job in Boston, as director of projects and strategy for Mass Insight Global Partnerships. Mass Insight is a consulting firm that develops public-private partnerships in the areas of government, education, and business. The firm has also been involved in school turnaround issues in Providence and Central Falls. TGIF offers congrats to our friend as he pursues his new adventure.

4. House Speaker Gordon Fox is set at 4 pm Saturday, at the RISD Museum, to hold forth on the history of Motown.  He offered this Top Five of his favorite songs: 5) "What's Going On," Marvin Gaye; 4) "Dancing in the Streets," Martha & the Vandellas; 3) "I Want a Love I Can See," The Temptations; 2) "My Girl," The Temptations; 1) "Where Did Our Love Go," The Supremes.

5. Although it's still early in the legislative year, a top exec for Advance America -- the firm that employs former speaker William Murphy as its lobbyist -- is due in town next week. On a related note, Representative Lisa Baldelli-Hunt (D-Woonsocket) says she plans to introduce a bill calling for capping the maximum annual percentage rate on payday loans at 130 percent, half the current maximum. With Speaker Fox calling payday loans "a valid tool," it's fair to wonder whether anything will change.

6. The Central American nation of Panama has changed a lot since the US invasion that ousted one-time US ally Manuel Noriega. As part of a vacation last week, I couldn't help noticing the surging economy that has filled broad swaths of Panama City with skyscrapers and condo towers  (it helps, of course, that the Panama Canal generates more than $1 billion a year in revenue). So is there a lesson here for Rhode Island? The envisioned Ship Street Canal never got much lift-off, but the Ocean State still has a strategic location and other assets. The trick is optimizing them.

7. I love Twitter ... a lot of the time. Less favorable is Matt K. Lewis, who says the social-sharing tool has become confining: "Compounding the problem is that — unlike everyone else — if you work in journalism, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. Being on Twitter is now part of the job, meaning that you can't not be on Twitter. What was once an inspiring place that gave you a competitive advantage became a prison."

8. Congressman Jim Langevin says he hasn't spoken with David Cicilline on the issue of how Rhode Island could lose one of its two congressional seats in time for the 2022 election (during a taping Friday of WPRI-WNAC-TV's Newsmakers, Langevin wouldn't talk long term, but he did say he'll be a candidate for re-election in 2014). Meanwhile, Langevin might get more attention for one of his pet issues -- cyber-security -- since media like The New York Times is now being targeted. The Warwick Democrat says the latest attacks suggest a problem widely overlooked by most Americans.

9. State Senator Donna Nesselbush is a big stylistic contrast from her long-serving predecessor,  John McBurney. But in the small world of Rhode Island, the two became friendly while serving as municipal judges in Pawtucket. Nesselbush talked about that and other issues while joining us this week for RIPR's Political Roundtable and Bonus Q+A.

10. Brewers have a role to play in reviving Rhode Island's economy. Just consider: 44 breweries in Massachusetts are employing 1,300 people (h/t Chas Walker). So kudos to Narragansett, Grey Sail,  Coastal Extreme, Foolproof, and the other brewers out there.