Political news

Photo by Jason White via Flickr Creative Commons.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Rhode Island lawmaker has introduced a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill from Rep. John Edwards, a Tiverton Democrat, would make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a $150 fine. Marijuana possession is now a crime that carries up to a year in prison.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff in remembrance of the six people killed during an assassination attempt on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Chafee on Monday ordered flags lowered until sunset on Friday to honor the dead and the 14 injured outside a supermarket in Tucson on Saturday.

Chafee calls it an unthinkable tragedy that has brought him and all Rhode Islanders great personal sadness.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – "Shocked and devastated." That was Congressman Jim Langevin's reaction to the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. But Langevin says he will do nothing special to enhance his personal security.

They sat together on the Armed Services Committee and Congressman Jim Langevin calls Gabrielle Giffords a good friend. He was horrified to hear she was shot while meeting with constituents at a Tucson grocery store.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A state lawmaker from Cranston is renewing his push to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island.

Democratic state Representative Arthur Handy says he will introduce legislation today to make legal same sex marriage in the Ocean State. This is the ninth year Handy has introduced the measure, but he says he's more optimistic given the swearing in of independent Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is pictured at his inauguration party. Photo by Megan Hall.

Providence, RI – Last night more than a thousand people gathered at the Rhode Island Convention Center to celebrate the inauguration of Providence's new Mayor Angel Taveras.

Supporters danced, cheered, and drank at the free event, which featured bilingual speeches and music for the city's first Latino mayor.

Taveras' sister, Dinora Dominguez, switched effortlessly between English and Spanish as she introduced her brother.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The swearing in for statewide office holders is still a day away but officials in several Rhode Island cities will be taking the oath of office today.

In Providence, Angel Taveras will become the city's first Latino mayor during a swearing in ceremony on the steps of City Hall this afternoon.

In Pawtucket, Donald Grebien will be sworn in as mayor this morning at City Hall. He'll replace the city's longest serving mayor, James Doyle.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Angel Taveras will take the reins today as the new mayor of Providence.

After an inter-faith breakfast, Taveras will be inaugurated at 1:30 on the steps of City Hall. A reception will be held from 3 to 4 on the second floor of City Hall. Both events are free and open to the public.

An inaugural celebration will take place at 7 this evening at the Rhode Island Convention Center. It's free, but tickets must be obtained at transitionprovidence.org

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – An official portrait of Governor Carcieri is due to be unveiled at 5 pm today. It includes some subtle motifs from his time in office.

Carcieri is leaving office next week after the maximum two terms as governor. State law requires departing governors to remain at the State House - in the form of an official portrait. Artist Harley Bartlett of Hope says a small statue, of a knight on a horse, on the governor's desk refers to the scholastic mascot of his native East Greenwich High School.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Two incoming Republican lawmakers say the state should hold runoff elections if a winning candidate gets less than 50 percent of the vote.

Representatives-elect Michael Chippendale and Patricia Morgan say they'll push for a constitutional amendment to require the run-off elections. They say they're motivated by 12 races this year in which the winner got less than 50 percent of the vote. Chippendale says those include the campaigns for governor, attorney general, and three each for the House and Senate.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The state Ethics Commission will consider Tuesday whether to allow a departing state legislator to join the administration of Governor-elect Chafee.

House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Providence this year instead of seeking reelection as a state rep.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Incoming Gov. Lincoln Chafee is planning what his office says is a frugal inauguration on Jan. 4, featuring Rhode Island's favorite free public arts event, Waterfire.

Chafee's office says Wednesday it recognizes the difficult economic climate and to cut costs, there won't be an inaugural ball. Instead, the five general officers will hold five evening receptions in Providence in restaurants overlooking Waterfire.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A major change is coming to the Republican Party of Rhode Island. State chair Giovanni Cicione says he does not want to run for re-election and is seeking someone to replace him.

"As a volunteer, father and business owner, I've got a lot of things pulling on me," he says. "I think four years has been a good run and I'd love to find someone willing to put in the same level of effort and keep the ball rolling because we've got a good thing going on."

The U.S. Supreme Court is pictured here. Photo by Kyle Rush via Flickr Creative Commons.

WASHINGTON – In a new case about climate change, the Supreme Court will hear an appeal from electric utilities that are trying to short-circuit an effort by Rhode Island and other states to force cuts in power plant emissions.

The court agreed today to consider ending a federal lawsuit by eight states, New York City and others that accuse the power companies of being among the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. The suit asks a federal judge to order reductions in the emissions in plants in 20 states.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – House Speaker Gordon Fox is shaking up his staff prior to the start of the legislative session.

Fox is firing about 10 State House staffers as part of what his office calls a routine change in administration.

Fox spokesman Larry Berman says Fox didn't have a good chance to make the changes before because he was elected as Speaker last February, in mid-session.

Berman calls the changes part of an ongoing reorganization involving a variety of positions.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee says closing an almost 300 million dollar deficit for the next fiscal year will require significant cuts to state government.

Rhode Island faces a deep deficit for the fiscal year starting next July first due to the loss of federal stimulus money. Chafee says closing that gap will require reductions in spending by many state departments.