TGIF: 9 Things to Know About Rhode Island Politics + Media

Jun 21, 2013

The General Assembly heads into the home stretch, with a House budget vote set for Tuesday. On that note, welcome back to my weekly column. Your thoughts and tips are welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (org), and follow me on Twitter. Here we go:

1. There's a ritualized process to the budget that determines state spending: first, months of incremental hearings and more than a few tangential issues. June brings a fresh budget, still warm from the printer, being voted on in committee before reps have had a chance to make sense of it -- even if it's largely a status quo plan. This budget process might leave a lot to be desired. Yet for better or worse, it's probably not too dissimilar from how things happen in the other 49 states -- and it's unlikely to change without a more involved citizenry or a more competitive balance of power on Smith Hill.

2. Woonsocket could be topping toward receivership due to a loss of about $1.4 million in expected help in the $8.2 billion plan.

3. Watch for debate about paying 38 Studios bonds to highlight Tuesday's marathon budget vote in the House. Minority Leader Brian Newberry has attracted some broad attention for his detailed call to not repay the bonds. During a taping of this week Newsmakers at WPRI/WNAC-TV, Newberry said he wasn't fond of the word "cahoots," yet he still pointed to what he calls interesting timing for shots across the bow this week by Moody's and RIPEC. Many reps are probably leery of the future political fallout from voting to repay the bonds (and in that respect, 38 Studios is the gift that will keep taking, since bond repayments are due to climb for almost a decade to $12.5 million per year). Still, the number of lawmakers who will vote against repayment is open to question, in part since the House leadership traditionally builds support for the budget by holding lawmakers' pet bills.

4. Is it a measure of fatigue on 38 Studios that a June 13 House Oversight Committee meeting on the subject received no media attention for more than a week? The meeting focused on third-party monitoring of the deal with the video game company. According to testimony, independent oversight promised to investors in 38 Studios wasn't put in place.

5. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo attracted a high-profile supporter in the form of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Could this foreshadow a move by Raimondo to run as an independent? Bloomberg is a prominent independent, and he backed Chafee when he was an independent. For her part, Raimondo has previously declined to rule out the possibility of a switch from being a Democrat.

6. Never doubt that Buddy Cianci is an ultimate political animal. He pooh-poohs the idea of running again, in a New York Times interview, and then refuses to rule out a comeback.

7. Speaking of City Hall, one other possible candidate, Lorne Adrain, was set to leave for Alaska earlier this week. His plan was to scale Mount Denali, the tallest peak in North America, to promote higher education for needy young people.

8. As he moves closer to an expected GOP run for governor, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has a fundraiser set for Tuesday, June 25, 6-8 pm, at the Cranston Country Club (tickets are $100 to $500).

9. PR man Andy Cutler has reflections on 10 years in Providence. He cites a lengthy list of ventures that have launched over that period in drawing optimism about the city's future.