legal issues

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The state Department of Transportation is negotiating a possible consent decree with the US Justice Department due to environmental damage caused by years of inadequately monitored runoff on highways around the state.

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The Providence firefighters’ union said it plans on Monday to ask a judge to vacate the city’s landmark 2013 pension settlement with public safety unions.

Paul Doughty, president of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 799, said the request is a response to a legal maneuver last week in which the city argued Local 799's current contract is void and unenforceable.

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The City of Providence is arguing that the Providence firefighters' union can't use arbitration to fight the looming implementation of a money-saving shift-change plan 

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Paul J. Thomas, who was fired in 2012 as Providence's director of public works, is suing Mayor Jorge Elorza, his predecessor, Angel Taveras, and City Council President Luis Aponte -- among others -- in a claim alleging he was let go because he refused to hire or promote two unqualified individuals.

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Governor Gina Raimondo on Tuesday said she'll continue to back a settlement to high-stakes pension litigation "on the right terms to the state."

As state treasurer, Raimondo spearheaded the 2011 overhaul of the state pension system that shaved about $4 billion from the state's long-term obligations., The savings were achieved by raising retirement ages, suspending cost of living adjustments and moving workers from a defined benefit plan to a hybrid defined contribution plan.

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse joins Bonus Q+A to discuss partisan politics in Washington; how Rhode Island is being impacted by international trade; the outlook for criminal justice reform; and much more.

Hear more of our conversation with Senator Whitehouse on Political Roundtable.

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The legislative debate over whether Rhode Island needs stiffer penalties to deter protests on the highway began Wednesday night at the Statehouse. The discussion centered on whether new measures will promote public safety or whether they would mark an intensification of what opponents called an overly punitive criminal justice system.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has picked Jeffrey Dana, a lawyer with the Family Law Center of Rhode Island, to be city solicitor. Dana faces confirmation by the City Council.

Dana is a graduate of Tulane University and Tulane Law School. A statement from City Hall says he has focused on consumer advocacy and housing litigation at the Family Law Center and previously worked as a lawyer for the US Bankruptcy Court of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island's multi-billion dollar pension dispute appears headed to a September 15 trial date in Superior Court after a breakdown in attempts to resolve the conflict through mediation.

Each side blamed the other for the impasse following more than a year of talks.

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Governor Lincoln Chafee says he remains hopeful the proposed state pension settlement can be salvaged, possibly by leaving out the police group that was the only one of six in an initial round of voting to reject the deal.

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Update: It looks like a settlement is back on; the federal mediation service plans to hold a news conference at 4:15 pm Friday.

A news conference to unveil a pension settlement Wednesday afternoon was abruptly postponed, although closed-door mediation in the case will continue. Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the dispute has also set a trial for September 15, in the event that a settlement can’t be reached.

State officials and the public-employee unions that sued over a 2011 overhaul of the state pension system have reached a settlement, yet the deal remains shrouded in secrecy in advance of its expected unveiling Wednesday afternoon.

Governor Lincoln Chafee and Treasurer Gina Raimondo briefed House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed on highlights of the agreement during a closed-door Statehouse meeting Monday afternoon. Fox declined to offer any specifics after emerging from the meeting:

Speculation continues about whether a settlement will emerge from closed-door pension mediation as soon as next week.

The head of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, Daniel Beardsley, is worried that a settlement could hike pension costs for communities by more than $100 million. The league outlines its concerns in a new white paper. But as Beardsley says, it remains unclear if the General Assembly will be receptive to approving a settlement.

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Intellectual property rights for 38 Studios, the failed video game that left Rhode Island taxpayers on the hook for $90 million, were slated to hit the auction block Wednesday. Nick Jimenez, executive vice president with Heritage Global Auctions, says via email there will be "more to report after the sales process is completed in the coming days." In the interim, an update on related developments:

Speculation is growing that a deal may have been reached in the pension mediation talks first ordered in December 2012 by Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter.