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Political news

The New Year has begun, and that means it’s time for a new legislative session on Smith Hill. Lawmakers are expected to take up a range of issues, from car taxes to a budget deficit, and perhaps recreational marijuana. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison sat down for a preview of the legislative session with our political analyst Scott MacKay.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Twelve new state reps and four new senators will be sworn in when the General Assembly begins its new session Tuesday. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed are expected to be formally re-elected to their leadership positions.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

After losing a 2014 run for governor, Republican Allan Fung returned to Rhode Island's third-largest city to face a brewing scandal within his police department. His office was roundly criticized in a state police report, which provided fodder for his opponents during his most recent reelection bid. Despite that, Fung easily won with 68 percent of the vote.

Fung said infrastructure repair will be one of his major priorities during his final term.

RIPR FILE

The state Supreme Court is allowing a recall effort to continue against Providence City Councilor Kevin Jackson. Jackson faces charges of embezzlement and misusing campaign contributions.

Councilor Jackson wanted the the state Supreme Court to block the effort to knock him out of office. But the court has declined to review lower court rulings in the case.

The recall effort against Jackson began after he was charged with misappropriating more than $127,000 from a youth track and field group. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

RI Electoral College Casts Votes For Clinton, Kaine

Dec 19, 2016
Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

In Rhode Island, four electors unanimously cast their votes for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine for the presidential ticket, after they were escorted into the House Chamber to cast their ballots Monday afternoon.  

Earlier in the day, protesters demonstrated outside the Statehouse, calling for electors across the country to join forces and halt the election of Republican Donald Trump.

State Electoral College President Clay Pell said Rhode Island's electors heeded the call of the majority of voters in the Ocean State. 

“I voted for Hillary on November 8th and together with Rhode Islanders across the state, we voted overwhelmingly for Hillary," said Pell. "So for me, there was no question of voting for someone other than Hillary, because she had the will of the people.”

Pell said it’s sad Clinton will not take office, but he’s proud to be a part of the Electoral College. He said the system is imperfect, but electors must follow the rules. 

After casting votes, State Rep. Grace Diaz, one of the state's four electors, initiated a call for a bipartisan committee to investigate suspected Russian interference in the election.  Pell said this is an effort to protect the integrity of American elections in the future.

“This is not about changing the outcome," said Pell. "This is about defending the democratic will of the people. President-elect Trump is the president-elect. I believe in the peaceful transfer of power. But I also believe in making sure that he stands with the intelligence community and the American people and not with the Russian government.”

Pell said it’s not too late to investigate how Russians interfered. He said the American people have a right to know more about the government intelligence that concluded Russia swayed the elections by hacking and releasing emails of important members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

 

Protesters Brave The Cold With Message For Electoral College 

With chants of, "Democracy, yes! Donald Trump, no!" a small group of demonstrators ignored sub-freezing temperatures, and little chance of success, to make their views known outside the Rhode Island Statehouse Monday morning.

In a surprising revelation, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he first learned of suspected Russian hacking during the presidential campaign from media reports.

Mayor Elorza Creates Muslim-American Advisory Board

Nov 22, 2016
Ian Donnis / RIPR

The City of Providence is recruiting members for a new Muslim-American advisory board.  The mayor’s office says the initiative is aimed at protecting and serving every resident of the city regardless of race, religion, or other identifiers. 

Kilmartin Tries Again To Stiffen DUI Penalties

Nov 21, 2016
Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin will once again try to make drunk driving penalties more stringent in the Ocean State. 

Kilmartin’s office says he has filed legislation for the past five years to try to stiffen sentencing and intends to do so again this legislative session. He wants drivers who kill someone while under the influence to face a maximum of 30, up from 15, years in prison. And drivers who injure someone while intoxicated would face increased penalties as well. That’s a provision the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has opposed in the past.

John Bender / RIPR

The state Board of Elections Wednesday night declined a request to delay the certification of votes in a high-profile legislative race. 

Courtesy Sheldon Whitehouse office

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, is one of several federal lawmakers voicing concerns over Republican Donald Trump’s early preparations for the White House.

RIPR FILE

Rhode Island’s senior Senator Jack Reed said he’s hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will be able to work across the aisle with Democratic members of Congress. Trump won on a campaign of fiery rhetoric, leading some to wonder how well he would work with others.

Further, both the executive and legislative branches of government are now Republican led, but Reed said Democrats have been able to work within such a system before.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

While Republican Donald Trump’s election as president was considered a surprise, many local races went as expected. Several municipal leaders – from both parties –kept their seats.

Mayors in three of Rhode Island’s largest cities celebrated victories by wide margins on election night. After a failed 2014 bid for Governor and despite several high profile scandals, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung beat his Democratic rival with more than 65 percent of the vote. The Republican has led Cranston since 2008.

James Baumgartner / RIPR

Organizers of an effort to recall Providence City Councilor Kevin Jackson say they’re just two hundred votes shy of the threshold for a special election. Volunteers spent Election Day collecting the signatures.

Some 35 volunteers spread out across voting precincts in Providence’s third Ward, the area Jackson represents, talking with local voters. That includes the Mt. Hope, Summit and Blackstone Neighborhoods.

Jackson was arrested and indicted this summer on five counts of embezzlement from a nonprofit he founded.

RI Latinos React To Trump Victory

Nov 9, 2016
Progreso Latino

Immigrants across the nation are reacting to Donald Trump’s election victory. Rhode Island-based social service agency Progreso Latino serves immigrants around Providence and Pawtucket. Director Mario Bueno says many of his clients are still trying to digest the news of Trump’s win. But he says there’s already fear about Trump's plans to end some immigration amnesty programs.

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