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STATE HOUSE -- The Rhode Island Special House Commission to Study Gaming is taking its hearings on the road, even though it's staying close to home for the first one.

The Resolution creating the gaming study commission and setting its duties calls for a hearing in each of the state's five counties. The first such hearing -- for Providence County -- will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, January 8, in Room 35 of the State House.

Although the meeting place is the same as that used by the commission for its series of hearings to this point, the Providence County hearing will be conducted/chaired by Rep. Joanne M. Giannini (D-Dist. 7) of Providence, a member of the Commission.

Rep. Paul V. Sherlock, Commission Co-Chair, said hearings in the other four counties will be held during the next few months, although a schedule has not yet been finalized. Each hearing will be conducted by a commission member who represents a district in that county.

"We do not want to discourage anyone from attending or speaking at this hearing, but we certainly encourage residents of Providence County to use this opportunity to express their position on gaming in Rhode Island," said Representative Sherlock.

The hearing will be telecast live over cable television (Interconnect C -- Channel 23 on Cox Communications) by Capitol Television, the cable television unit of the Rhode Island General Assembly. For cable viewers of Full Channel TV, Interconnect C is Channel 50.
Al GemmaRep1/2/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE -- The Rhode Island Special House Commission to Study Gaming has scheduled for this week the first of five "county" hearings, as required by the Resolution that created the study panel.

The hearing for Providence County will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, January 8, in Room 35 of the State House. Commission member Rep. Joanne M. Giannini (D-Dist. 7) of Providence will conduct the session intended to hear specifically from residents of communities in Providence County -- Burrillville, Central Falls, Cranston, Cumberland, East Providence, Foster, Glocester, Johnston, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, Providence, Scituate, Smithfield and Woonsocket.

Hearings will be held in Kent, Washington, Bristol and Newport counties during the next few months, although the schedule is not yet finalized.

The hearing will be telecast live over cable television (Interconnect C -- Channel 23 on Cox Communications) by Capitol Television, the cable television unit of the Rhode Island General Assembly. For cable viewers of Full Channel TV, Interconnect C is Channel 50.

Al GemmaRep1/7/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE - If there is a single image that dominates my thoughts about our House of Representatives in 2003, it is that of its size. The people have spoken, and now fewer of us are entrusted with more and greater challenges, it may be argued, than have ever before confronted our state.

Yet I say to you with the utmost confidence – with a certainty originating not within wishful thinking, but rather from sober, critical, dispassionate evaluations of the men and women with whom I serve – that the history of 2003 and beyond is ours for the imagining…ours for the shaping…ours for conjuring the vision to perceive…ours for summoning the courage to affect.

Today we are fewer in number, but greater in compassion for the men, women and children most in need.

Today we are fewer in number, but grander in commitment to the ideals of the American Democracy – fairness as the prerequisite for governance…cultural diversity as the prerequisite for societal strength…personal integrity as the prerequisite for public trust.

How we choose to govern over the next legislative session will form the basis of history’s judgment of our individual and collective worth.

I pledge, on behalf of the majority party I help lead, to hear every voice in the House of Representatives, to accept as our constituency all Rhode Islanders regardless of party affiliation, to seek the best leadership, the brightest ideas, regardless of the political allegiances of the men and women who offer them.

One of the many pressing issues we shall confront during this session is that of separation of powers. Some two hundred and two years ago, Thomas Jefferson addressed the Rhode Island Assembly and spoke of just this concern.

“Our citizens,” he said, “have wisely formed themselves into one nation as to others and several states as among themselves. To the united nation belong our external and mutual relations; to each state…the care of our persons, our property, our reputation and freedom.”

While Jefferson was speaking directly to the conduct of the nation’s politics as a whole, his words surely resonate with us as we devote our energies to reinforcing separation of powers within the structure of government in the state of Rhode Island in the 21st century.

I am committed to the concept and the reality of separation of powers not as an agent of limitation, but as a stimulant for expansion – for the growth of democracy as a participatory exercise…for the enhancement of accessibility and accountability in government…for the enlargement of the public heart and the development of the public mind – indeed, Mr. Jefferson, for the care of our persons, our property, our reputation and freedom.

These and other challenges – great, consuming, imposing challenges – await us in the months and years ahead – and all in a time of profound change in the mechanics of government in our General Assembly, and in the leadership of this chamber.

Yet I prefer to read the word “change” as a synonym for the word “opportunity.” I prefer to accept change as a blessing. I prefer to know change as the only constant in life, as the first and greatest indicator of life.

Of all the changes that must take place in this room, none is more critically important to the success of our Lively Experiment than that of bringing to it the profoundly changing face of Rhode Island in all of its diversity.

Of all the changes that are taking place in this room, none is more significant than that occurring within our leadership. Today it is my honor and privilege to nominate, for the position of Speaker of the House, a man who is both my colleague and my friend.

He is a man of quiet dignity and of moral strength that is belied by the calm and deliberateness of his manner. His voice, I believe, will become the new voice of the people – one that does not confuse thoughtfulness with volume, or the quality or words with their quantity.

Bill Murphy and I are members of the class of 1992, two former rookies who, over a decade, have become veterans together. Throughout that time, we have been witness to historic change. Yet for all that is different about our state, our country and our world, much remains the same.

People still seek security and good health and opportunity – the needs for shelter, food, health care and employment have not diminished.

People still seek government that is ethical and responsive – the needs for elected representatives who are honest, open and effective have not diminished.

Bill Murphy understands these needs, and I know that he is ready, willing, and able to lead us as we strive to meet all of them.

He is a respected criminal defense attorney who has demonstrated, in his life’s work, an unwavering commitment to the Constitution. His skillful representation of clients in our legal system bears witness to his belief in equal protection under the law. And that same tenacity, that same dedication to ideals, that same command of the system to which we all pledge our allegiance, will be applied in this chamber to benefit all the people of Rhode Island.

He accepts our diversity as our greatest strength. He understands our differences to be the engine that drives the ship of the state, and he is committed to enhancing the power of that engine and applying it to propel us on a new, brighter, more noble course.

And so we begin this voyage of a thousand miles with a single step. It is my great honor and privilege to place in nomination for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives, William J. Murphy.
Gordon FoxRep1/7/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
If there is a single image that dominates my thoughts about our House of Representatives in 2003, it is that of its size. The people have spoken, and now fewer of us are entrusted with more and greater challenges, it may be argued, than have ever before confronted our state.
Thank you. Thank you very much.

First, to my House colleagues, as we gather in this chamber to open this historic session of the General Assembly. I am humbled by the great honor that you have bestowed upon me. I appreciate your vote of confidence.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to those members who encouraged me to campaign for the office of Speaker. Without your help, this would not have been possible.

I also extend my thanks to the residents of my hometown of West Warwick and to the voters of District 26, which includes the fine people of Coventry and Warwick, for giving me the opportunity to be here.

To my wife Stacey, for her inspiration, love and understanding, her unwavering belief in me throughout my political career. Thank you and I love you.

To my sons Ryan and Kyle, I feel honored that I will be able to make decisions and shape policy that will have a positive impact on your future and the future of all children of Rhode Island.

To my parents, John and Dorothy, who are not well, but are home watching today,

thank you for everything and for always being there.

To my brother Mike, sister-in-law Nancy, nephew Sean and niece Karlah. To my cousin Marie Uncle Bill and Aunt Toni. And to our Great Aunt Sue.

To my law partner Mark Fay. To our associates, Norman Landroche and

Steven Crawford. To our staff, Donna Rogers, Jennifer Turcotte and Luis Colon, and to my colleagues, Scott Lutes and Michael Zarrella.

Gordon Smith, West Warwick Democratic Town Committee Chairman. To my mentor, Attorney John Tramonti and his wife, Patricia Tramonti.

To Bishop Mulvee and Father Healey. To Father Charles Downing, of St. Joseph Church in West Warwick.

To Mayor Cicilline, one of our former colleagues who will bring fresh ideas and values to Providence city government.

And former State Representative Stephen Hernandez, principal of St. Joseph School.

To Colonel Pare of the Rhode Island State Police, who is also a graduate of West Warwick High School.

To presiding Justice Joseph Rodgers of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Thank you for all of your support.

To our invited guests, welcome and thank you for being here today.

While we move forward into the new legislative session, we must look back to remember and mention a few individuals who contributed to making Rhode Island a better state, but left us much too quickly last year.

Supreme Court Justice John Bourcier.

Supreme Court Justice Victoria Lederberg, a former member of the House.

Superior Court Justice John Sheehan.

Honorable Frank Sgambato, former Senate Majority Leader.

Former Representatives Francis McGreavy and Mary Kilmarx.

John Affleck, who had a noted and distinguished career in public service.

And our beloved brother, the Honorable Robert Sullivan of East Providence.

As we say goodbye to these leaders, it is time to congratulate our future leaders.

I want to especially welcome the nine new House members and ask them to stand as I introduce them.

Representative Richard Aubin of Burrillville and Glocester.

Representative William Enos of Tiverton, Little Compton and Portsmouth (glad you finally chose the upper chamber).

Representative Arthur Handy of Cranston.

Representative Norman Landroche of West Warwick, Warwick and Coventry.

Representative David Laroche of Woonsocket.

Representative Matthew McHugh of South Kingstown, New Shoreham, Charlestown and Westerly.

Representative William McManus of Lincoln.

Representative Victor Moffitt of Coventry.

Representative Peter Petrarca of Smithfield, Johnston and Lincoln.

I also wish to congratulate the new leadership team:

My partner, Majority Leader Gordon Fox of Providence, Whip Rene Menard of Lincoln and also representing Cumberland, Deputy Majority Whip Charlene Lima of Cranston.

I also want to extend a welcome to House Minority Leader Robert Watson of East and West Greenwich and House Minority Whip Joseph Scott of Exeter, Charlestown and Richmond.

Collectively we face many challenges.

As you know, the state's budget, which always originates in the House, has been the most important piece of legislation that we enact. I pledge to you and to all Rhode Islanders that we will work together with the Senate and Governor Carcieri to pass a responsible budget that will address any deficit concerns while maintaining necessary state services. Unlike other states which face disastrous fiscal situations, I assure you that with your help, we will meet the challenges.

We are fortunate to have our new Majority Leader Gordon Fox whose ability and insight into the budgeting process will be invaluable to us.

As Speaker and Chairman of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, I will work with all JCLS members to professionalize all offices within the General Assembly.

Employment at the Rhode Island State House is a privilege, and under my leadership employees will learn that they are valued, but at the same time, they too are accountable to the people of Rhode Island.

The voters of our state have given us a message, and it is loud and clear. That message is that we must change how power in Rhode Island is distributed and exercised. We will address this issue today by sending a resolution to the Rules Committee to establish a standing committee on Separation of Powers. The committee will prepare and submit legislation on Separation of Powers that will be debated and passed by this House so that we can submit it to the voters in 2004.

With help from both sides of the aisle, I have pre-filed legislation to impose term limits on the offices of Speaker and Senate President.

As your Speaker, I will deliver a change in leadership practice and a change in leadership style. My office will be open and accessible to you, the membership of the House of Representatives; your ideas, views, and needs are important to me. I know that by working together we can succeed.

Our problem in recent years was that we failed to communicate with the people of Rhode Island. As a result, many see only the warts of our institution, not the beauty of our great work and numerous achievements.

The office of the Speaker will establish a needed stream of communication with the media. We will be proactive, not reactive.

The office of the Speaker and the House leadership will have a spokesperson. We need to get our message out.

When necessary, I will call for caucuses which are often needed during the legislative session. Debate and compromise are the bedrocks of representative democracy. We need to ensure that the voices of our members are heard.

Members of this House have always prided themselves as state officeholders who are closest to the people. The average Rhode Island citizen who has a problem with state government has two options in solving that problem. He or she can call a bureaucracy and listen to a voice mail message, or he or she can call their state representative and ask for help. We can't solve every problem, but the people in our districts know that we will take their calls and will do something about it.

Doing something means more than just fixing a constituent problem. It means we must share with our constituents a clear and ambitious vision of what this state should be in these early years of the 21st century. It means working with our new governor and with the Senate to develop innovative, economic opportunities that will benefit working families of Rhode Island. It means restoring Rhode Island to the kind of prestige and prosperity that our small state enjoyed at the turn of the last century. That prosperity is forever preserved for every generation of Rhode Islanders in this magnificent building, a building that was constructed and occupied for the first time by the General Assembly in January 1901. It means a prosperity which will provide a growing stream of good jobs, so my children and your children will not have to leave our beautiful Ocean State to make their lives and their careers in another state.

Although we are defined as a part-time legislature, our work often consumes a full-time status.

I want to make sure that people in the State of Rhode Island know just how hard all of you work day in and day out. It may be a part-time position, but it is a full-time commitment.

We are a House of two parties. But, as your Speaker, I will listen to each and every one of you regardless of party affiliation. We are not perfect. No group or person is. But over the past 340 years, from the first meeting of the General Assembly in Newport in 1664, this institution has served the people of Rhode Island well, and we will continue to do so.

The men and women of each of our districts have sent us here to do their business, which is to establish good public policy for Rhode Island over the next two years. We must not disappoint them.

I am confident, as I stand here for the first time as Speaker of the House, that we will make them proud of how well, how openly, and how ethically we will go about doing their business.

We are going to restore public trust in this House - let us get to work. Thanks.
William MurphyRep1/7/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/rep26murphy.jpg
Meredyth R. Whitty
First, to my House colleagues, as we gather in this chamber to open this historic session of the General Assembly. I am humbled by the great honor that you have bestowed upon me. I appreciate your vote of confidence.
STATE HOUSE -- Senator Leonidas P. "Lou" Raptakis (D-Dist. 33) of Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick and Warwick, is asking incoming Gov. Don Carcieri to reconsider a plan pushed by departing Gov. Lincoln Almond to construct a $168-million train station at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick.

As recently as last month, Almond went to court seeking approval for a proposed bond sale without General Assembly approval. In one of his last acts in office, Almond appointed his former chief of staff and legal adviser, Joseph Larisa, who played a central role in advocating for the station project, to serve on the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.

Senator Raptakis questioned the need for such a large-scale project, suggesting instead that Carcieri look at a smaller-scale station, pointing to the ground transportation system in place at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) as a possible model for the state.

"For whatever reason, former Governor Almond has been in a rush to enact this project rather than give the new administration time to consider its feasibility," said Senator Raptakis. "Former Governor Almond's last minute push for Quonset Point isn't convincing anyone and neither is his ill-advised attempt to rush through this project."

Senator Raptakis added: "I believe the Governor and his top economic development people should look at BWI and consider a simplified train station plan that will meet the task of moving people from the airport to Providence and Boston at a third of the cost of what's been proposed."

The Almond administration's plan would have called for a combined Amtrak station and airport rental car garage on Jefferson Boulevard, linked to the air terminal by an automated people mover. Senator Raptakis believes a scaled-back train station, utilizing RIPTA or airport shuttles from the airport to a new train station with Amtrak and MBTA service, could be constructed for less than $50 million.

"The system in place at BWI has been working for years and we should view that as an effective model for improving the ground transportation at T.F. Green and creating new rail links to Providence and Boston," said Senator Raptakis. "There's no need to re-invent the wheel, especially when there's been no compelling argument to support the previous administration's grand scheme."

Senator Raptakis concluded, "it is my hope the Carcieri administration will move quickly to send a strong message that it will look at more sensible options and will not be swayed by the former Governor's attempt to promote this project by making a last-minute appointment to the Airport Corporation. We need to act now to develop a workable solution to the transportation issues at the airport."
Leonidas RaptakisSen1/8/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/sen33.jpg
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE - Sen. Beatrice A. Lanzi (D-Dist. 26) of Cranston has been appointed to three Senate standing committees for the 2003-04 General Assembly session.

The Cranston Senator will serve as Secretary of the Senate Committee on Education, a new committee this year. (In previous years, education measures were considered by the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.)

Senator Lanzi, serving her first term in the Senate after having served five terms in the House, will also be a member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Labor.

Senator Lanzi will also continue to serve on the Governor's Advisory Commission on Veteran Affairs and the Governor's Advisory Commission on Disabilities.
Beatrice LanziSen1/14/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/sen26.jpg
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE -- Rep. Jan Malik (D-Dist. 67) of Warren and Barrington has been named to the board of directors of the Coastal Resources Management Council. The appointment was announced late last year to the 16-member board of the CRMC, the lead state agency in dealing with Rhode Island's coastal resources and ecological systems.

"As a resident and Representative of coastal communities, I am greatly concerned about the proper management, preservation, protection and restoration of our state's coastal areas," said Representative Malik about the board appointment. "I look forward to committing the time and energy necessary to keep the CRMC a viable management agency and an organization that actively preserves and protects our state's coastal environs."

During his legislative service, Representative Malik has authored and co-authored a number of bills dealing with coastal protection and he worked diligently to ensure that the current State Budget includes funding for habitat restoration.

"I know the vital importance of coastal resources in the economic and recreational welfare of our state," said Representative Malik. "CRMC needs to be diligent and hard-working in its efforts to protect our coastal areas and I look forward to joining that effort."

Representative Malik is beginning his fourth term in the House of Representatives and has been a member of the House Committee on Finance.

He is one of two members of the House serving on the CRMC board and replaces former Rep. Thomas A. Palangio of Providence, who did not seek re-election last year.
Jan MalikRep1/9/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE -- It doesn't take an environmental scientist to know that the air around T.F. Green State Airport is far from pristine.

There's not much that can be done about the exhaust from all those jet engines, said Representative Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19) of Warwick and Cranston, but it is possible to cut some of the pollution at and around the airport by promoting alternative fueled vehicles.

Rhode Island's Alternative Fueled Vehicle and Filling Station Tax Credit law has been on the books since 1998, enacted in response to pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce air pollution. The law provides major tax incentives for operators of alternative fueled vehicles and filling stations. The aim is to make the cost of buying and operating alternative fuel vehicles -- as an individual or a corporation running a fleet of vehicles -- about the same as that of buying and running vehicles that use gasoline or diesel fuel.

Representative McNamara believes Rhode Island has a golden opportunity to make the alternative fuel law good not only for those who take advantage of the tax incentive, but good also for a section of the state that sees its share of traffic congestion and air quality problems -- the area around Green State Airport in Warwick.

"Green is growing, in air traffic and consequent commuter traffic," said Representative McNamara. "More planes mean more jet fuel fumes. More air traffic means more vehicles arriving and leaving the airport area."

"With expectations of this section of the city growing into a broad, intermodal area -- trains, hotels, parking garages, rental car companies cropping up to serve Green -- improvements in the alternative fuel law could be a blessing, financially and environmentally," he said.

Representative McNamara has introduced legislation this session that would extend the tax credit act through January 1, 2008 (it was slated to expire on January 1 of this year) and to extend the tax credit to hotels, rental car companies and motor carriers. The bill would also provide that any fees charged by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation to motor carriers and rental car companies include a discount for the purchase or use of alternative fueled vehicles or the capital, labor and equipment cost of the conversion of motor vehicles so they can use alternative fuels.

"Due to the high concentration of rental car companies, motor carriers and hotels at and near T.F. Green, and the burgeoning transportation system located there, it is incumbent on our state, and the Airport Corporation, to pursue progressive methods of promoting environmentally sound and cost efficient transportation policy," said Representative McNamara.

"Twenty years ago, alternative fuel vehicles were barely a dream. Today, they are available and in use. We should be doing all we can to promote the purchase and use of these vehicles, for the good of our environment. Our goals should be to minimize our national and local need and dependence on foreign oil and to improve the health and welfare of the people who daily visit T.F. Green or who live nearby," he said.

The McNamara bill <a href="">(2003 -- H 5040)</a> has been referred to the House Committee on Finance. It is co-sponsored by other members of the Warwick delegation to the House, including Representatives Eileen Naughton (D-Dist. 21), Joseph Trillo (R-Dist. 24), Paul Sherlock (D-Dist. 20) and Robert Flaherty (D-Dist. 23).

"The Alternative Fueled Vehicle Tax Credit Act is a breath of fresh air for Rhode Island," said Representative McNamara. "We need to keep it on the books and make it more effective, for the good of all our citizens."
Joseph McNamaraRep1/15/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
It doesn't take an environmental scientist to know that the air around T.F. Green State Airport is far from pristine.
STATE HOUSE -- Despite the currently frigid temperatures, Rep. Carol A. Mumford (R-Dist. 41) of Scituate and Cranston wants the younger residents of her communities to know that summer is not that far off -- especially if they're considering seasonal employment with the Department of Environmental Management.

"DEM is accepting applications now for summer work for those 16 and older, and I would especially like to bring this to the attention of our college students who will be in Rhode Island for the summer," said Representative Mumford. "DEM has a wide range of jobs available at competitive pay."

Positions include Park Ranger levels I, II and III, beach managers, seasonal laborers, lifeguards, lifeguard captains, program interns, recreation area clerks and restroom attendants. Pay ranges from $6.25 to $12.50 per hour, and work on weekends and holidays is required of most summer positions.

In addition, there are paid positions for those 16 and older through the DEM minority internship program, which is designed to encourage minorities to pursue careers in the environmental field.

Information about DEM and the summer positions can be obtained from the DEM Office of Human Resources at 235 Promenade St., Room 350, Providence, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., or by calling the office at 222-2775, ext. 4609. A downloadable application form is available online at DEM's website: www.
Carol MumfordRep1/16/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE -- Juveniles caught committing crimes in Scituate may soon face local authorities instead of a Family Court judge.

Rep. Carol A. Mumford (R-Dist. 41) of Scituate and Cranston has introduced legislation to establish a Juvenile Hearing Board in Scituate. The legislation was submitted at the request of the Scituate Town Council, which voted for creation of such a board last December after learning it was receiving a $25,000 grant from the Rhode Island Justice Commission.

"Although this is new to Scituate, it is not a new concept," said Representative Mumford. Many communities have established juvenile hearing boards and some towns, such as Foster and Glocester, have formed regional boards, she said.

The boards are essentially an extension of the Family Court system and allow municipalities to deal with certain minor offenses committed by town residents under the age of 18, such as vandalism or petty theft. Individuals accused of minor offenses would still have the option of appearing before Family Court. Those willing to admit their guilt could go before the local hearing board for sentencing rather than pursue the matter in Family Court, where hearings and trials can take months. More serious crimes would still be referred to the Family Court.

"Juvenile hearing boards not only help ease the Family Court's overloaded schedule, but such boards can also reach young people before their petty crimes lead to more serious offenses," said Representative Mumford. "Early intervention within the community can often make a big difference in a child's life, helping set him or her back on the right track."

Under the legislation <a href="">(2003 -- H 5016)</a> the board would be composed of five Scituate residents, all electors in the town and all over the age of 18. The board would be allowed to order fines or sanctions other than incarceration. Those sanctions could include fines up to $100, community service, restitution for injuries or damages, imposition of a curfew, or denial or revocation of driving privileges.

"A juvenile hearing board in their own community is a good way to deal with youngsters who are first-time offenders, who are not major criminals," said Representative Mumford. "It is a good way of keeping some kids who may be on the brink, out of the Family Court system where they would get a record that might follow them around for many years of their life."

A planning board has already been formed in Scituate and has met once to begin organizing the operating details of such a board. Town officials are hopeful that, with quick approval of the Mumford legislation by the General Assembly, the Scituate Juvenile Hearing Board could begin hearing cases in the spring.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Corporations. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Bruce J. Long (R-Dist., 74) of Jamestown and Middletown; Rep. Joseph N. Amaral (R-Dist. 70) of Portsmouth and Tiverton; Rep. Victor G. Moffitt (R-Dist. 28) of Coventry, and Rep. Susan A. Story (R-Dist. 66) of Barrington and East Providence.
Carol MumfordRep1/16/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE -- Newly elected House Speaker William J. Murphy kicked off the 2003 legislative session by introducing a pair of reform resolutions aimed at answering the public’s call for accountability in the General Assembly.

The proposals, which would impose eight-year term limits on the Speaker of the House and the Senate President and create a committee on separation of powers, are a response to what the new speaker said was an obvious message from voters in the November election.

“The people of Rhode Island told us loud and clear that they want the General Assembly leaders to be accountable, and that the balance of power is a concept that must be a part of our government,” said Speaker Murphy, a Democrat who represents District 26 in West Warwick, Coventry and Warwick. “These resolutions are our first steps toward making improvements. They are a symbol that we are beginning a new era in the General Assembly. We know that our mission is to listen to voters and make Rhode Island’s government something its people are proud of.”

One of the bills <a href="">(2003-H 5000)</a> is a Joint Resolution that would put a question on the statewide ballot in 2004 asking voters whether they want to amend the state constitution to limit each Speaker of the House and Senate President to four two-year terms. The resolution is cosponsored by the rest of the majority leadership team: Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence), Majority Whip Rene R. Menard (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland and Lincoln) and Deputy Majority Whip Charlene Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston); as well as Minority Leader Robert A. Watson (R-Dist. 30, East Greenwich and West Greenwich.)

Majority Leader Fox said he believes term limits are necessary to keep those in leadership positions from becoming too powerful or controlling.

“Term limits for leadership are a way to ensure that no one ends up having their own dynasty – that we have a government of laws, not of men,” said Majority Leader Fox, a Democrat who represents District 4 in Providence. “By ensuring that new people will be moving into the top positions at least every eight years, we also get fresh ideas and perspectives from our leadership more frequently.”

That bill, which was pre-filed in November, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for review.

The other piece of legislation <a href="">(2003 -- H 5003)</a> is a House Resolution that would create a standing House Committee on Separation of Powers. The committee would be responsible for reviewing the structure of Rhode Island’s government and determining whether it needs improvements in balancing power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

“Seventy-six percent of voters in the November said they believe separation of powers is a necessary component of a government that works,” said Speaker Murphy, referring to a non-binding question on the November ballot that asked voters whether they approved of the concept. “We hear them, and we’re taking their message seriously. It’s time to take a long, hard look at ourselves and the rest of state government and make the changes that need to be made.”

The resolution was co-sponsored by Majority Leader Fox, Minority Leader Watson and Rep. Peter F. Kilmartin (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket), and was referred to the House Rules Committee for review. It is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow at the rise of the House.

The two resolutions were the first bills to be introduced in the 2003 session, which began yesterday.

“It’s my hope that these bills send a message to the people of Rhode Island that this General Assembly is dedicated to honest, open government. We’re going through a lot of changes this year, and I certainly hope Rhode Islanders will see that we’re working for them,” said Speaker Murphy.
William MurphyRep1/8/2003Approved
Meredyth R. Whitty
Newly elected House Speaker William J. Murphy kicked off the 2003 legislative session by introducing a pair of reform resolutions aimed at answering the public’s call for accountability in the General Assembly.
STATE HOUSE – House Speaker William J. Murphy today announced the appointment of Larry Berman as his new spokesperson.

“We’re all very excited to have a professional such as Larry join us,” said Speaker Murphy. “His appointment is tremendously significant – never before has the Speaker’s Office had a full-time spokesperson. Larry will help us usher in a new era of openness and communication between the House leadership and the people of Rhode Island.”

Berman, 47, most recently served as campaign manager during U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy’s successful bid for reelection. Before that, he was Kennedy’s longtime press secretary, seeing the Congressman through four terms in office.

“I am honored to take part in such a noble and historical institution,” said Berman. “Everything the General Assembly does touches the lives of Rhode Islanders, from passing health care initiatives to the state’s budget to separation of powers legislation. I look forward to sharing the news of our government with the people who run it: The citizens of Rhode Island.”

From 1976 to 1994, Berman worked at The Call, a daily newspaper in Woonsocket. He began his career as a staff writer and sports writer, eventually working his way to the paper’s top editorial position of managing editor.

During the fall of 1994, he also served as press secretary for two separate campaigns: Kennedy’s first bid for Congress, and Congressman Ron Machtley’s campaign for Governor of Rhode Island.

“Larry comes to us with a wealth of experience, both in the political and journalistic arenas,” said Speaker Murphy, who represents District 26 in West Warwick, Coventry and Warwick. “Everyone who has dealt with Larry knows what a true professional he is. We look forward to working with him during these exciting times of change in the General Assembly.”

A 1973 graduate of Woonsocket High School and a 1977 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Berman lives in Cumberland with his wife and two daughters.
William MurphyRep1/13/2003Approved
Dana Rae Laverty
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Peter G. Palumbo is taking the trip of a lifetime.

For nine days this month, he’ll swelter under the sun while listening to the cries of a thousand irritable children. He’ll lack running water, be subjected to exotic bugs the size of his palm, and dine on a canned cuisine of Spam and deviled ham sandwiches.

Sound like a tropical getaway gone horribly wrong? Well, it’s a dream vacation for Representative Palumbo, who will spend his 3rd consecutive January traveling to Nicaragua to provide impoverished families with badly needed health care.

“I can’t wait to go back,” said Representative Palumbo (D-Dist. 16) of Cranston. “I really look forward to seeing all the kids. It’s hard work, but it’s so rewarding. If it wasn’t for our visits, most of these families would never even see a doctor during their lifetime.”

From January 17-26th, Representative Palumbo will assist doctors, nurses and other volunteers from the Northeast Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) in setting up a free medical clinic for residents.

The group of volunteers visits the third-world country each year to provide needy children and adults with much-needed (and free) medical care, such as medical and dental exams, eye exams, glasses, eye surgery and pharmaceutical drugs.

During their last medical mission in January 2002, volunteers treated 5,000 patients in a makeshift clinic crafted inside a cluster of brick schoolhouses.

The latest trip is just one of many humanitarian missions Representative Palumbo has embarked on. He has traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina 10 times on relief efforts, and in 1993 established the Medjugorje Appeal, which provides clothing and medical supplies to Croatian, Muslim and Serbian war victims.
Peter PalumboRep1/15/2003Approved
Dana Rae Laverty
STATE HOUSE -- While Gov. Don Carcieri is calling for the state to get a bigger share of the proceeds from the state's two gaming venues, Rep. William San Bento Jr. (D-Dist. 58) of Pawtucket and North Providence has a plan to generate a bigger take right now.

"Allowing the slot machines in use at Lincoln (Greyhound) and Newport (Jai Alai) to pay off in coins instead of vouchers could be a major and immediate financial windfall for the state," said Representative San Bento, who has again this year introduced a bill to allow video lottery machines to dispense coins, cash or tokens.

That alone, he said, will generate more interest and more betting on the machines and will keep gamblers in Rhode Island instead of running to venues across state lines. "People love to hear the clink of coins in the tray when they win."

Although similar legislation was rejected in prior years that he introduced it, Representative San Bento believes enough has changed to give his bill a greater chance of success in 2003.

"With the prospect of a casino in Massachusetts, and with our state's continuing fiscal problems, we need to act now to ensure that Lincoln and Newport remain competitive and continue to generate revenue for the state.

While he acknowledged there is no assurance allowing video lottery machines to dispense coins will bring in extra money, he remains convinced such a simple but quite audible change could result in $25 million to $50 million more clinking into the state's revenue tray. That's due, Representative San Bento believes, to a combination of additional spending on the machines and money recouped from gamblers who would otherwise travel to casinos outside the state.

"This is not a 'gambling' bill," said Representative San Bento. "This is not an 'expansion of gambling' bill. This is a bill about generating more revenue for our state at a time that we need it by making a small change in the way existing gaming establishments are allowed to operate."

"No matter what else may happen in Rhode Island in the future in regard to gaming, this is a means to immediately generate more state revenue. I cannot believe that we would thumb our collective noses at $25 million to $50 million more simply because coins instead of vouchers are being dispensed by these machines," he said.

The possibility of more slot machines at the two parks -- the Lottery Commission has not yet acted on an expansion proposal before it -- merely increases the chance of more state revenue at a time when, at least to Representative San Bento, every penny is important. "This is extra money that could one way or another help every person in our state. I'd like to see us get it," he said.

The bill, <a href="" target="new">(2003 - H5019)</a> is co-sponsored by Rep. Joseph A. Faria (D-Dist. 56) of Central Falls; Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55) of North Providence; Rep. Jan Malik (D-Dist. 67) of Warren and Barrington, and Rep. Kenneth Carter (D-Dist. 31) of Exeter and North Kingstown. It has been referred to the House Committee on Finance.
William San BentoRep1/10/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE -- The Mettatuxet Improvement Association, also known as the Mettatuxet Yacht Club, has received a $2,500 legislative grant, Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36) of North Kingstown and Narragansett announced today.

Senator Sheehan will present the grant check to association president Tom Reilly at a brief ceremony at 3 p.m. Tuesday, January 21, at the club offices, 5 River Road, Narragansett.

The legislative funding will be used to assist the association in the construction of an elevator at the facility that is needed for handicap access.

The organization consists of about 150 local families and has 75 slips. In addition to boating events, the association hosts charitable fundraisers and provides meeting space at no cost to such groups at the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and senior citizen organizations.

"I am very proud of the work that this private organization does to assist others in the community," said Senator Sheehan. "The Mettatuxet Improvement Association is a great example of a group doing what it can to give back to the community and I am happy to present this legislative grant to help support those efforts."

James SheehanSen1/15/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/sen36.jpg
Randall T. Szyba
The Mettatuxet Improvement Association, also known as the Mettatuxet Yacht Club, has received a $2,500 legislative grant, Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36) of North Kingstown and Narragansett announced today.
STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Special House Commission to Study Gaming has announced its meeting schedule for the next month, which will draw one of Las Vegas’s biggest movers and shakers into Little Rhody.

Sheldon G. Adelson, chairman of the board of Las Vegas Sands, Inc., the parent company of the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, will address the commission’s first regular meeting of the new year on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

The hearing will begin at 5 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House.

Adelson, 69, grew up in the Dorchester section of Boston. In 2002, he ranked number 139 on Forbes Magazine’s list of the 400 Richest Americans.

The $1.5 billion Venetian-Resort-Hotel-Casino opened in 1999, after the Sands Hotel was imploded to make way for the new building. The resort features a reproduction of Venice’s Grand Canal, a spa/health club and a 500,000-square-foot indoor retail mall.

The additional meeting dates are as follows, according to Rep. Paul V. Sherlock (D-Dist. 20), who along with Rep. Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4) co-chairs the commission:


<li>January 22 – Speaker: Allan Rachles, an accounting/economic expert with respect to the gaming industry.</li>

<li>January 29 – Speaker: Lance deHaven-Smith, Ph.D., former executive director of the National Public Sector Gaming Study Commission, which evaluated state and federal policy in regards to gambling.</li>

<li>February 12 – Speaker: William R. Eadington, Ph.D., professor of economics and director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, University of Nevada, Reno.</li>


All hearings will be held at 5 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House.

In addition to its regularly scheduled hearings, the commission is also holding public hearings in each of Rhode Island’s five counties.

All meetings will be cablecast live over cable television (Interconnect C -- Channel 23 on Cox Communications) by Capitol Television, the cable television unit of the Rhode Island General Assembly. For cable viewers of Full Channel TV, Interconnect C is Channel 50.

Al GemmaRep1/10/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/gaming, roulette.jpg
Dana Rae Laverty
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Paul V. Sherlock, a Warwick legislator who is now in his 25th year in the General Assembly, has been elected chair of the House Finance Committee.

“I am honored that my colleagues have chosen me to fill such an important position,” said Representative Sherlock, who represents District 20 in Warwick. “I look forward to tackling the many issues that face us in the upcoming year, such as creating a fiscally sound budget and debating legislation that would impact the state’s finances.”

Representative Sherlock previously served as vice chairman of the House Finance Committee, and continues to co-chair the Special House Commission to Study Gaming with Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, Representative Sherlock has consistently sponsored legislation to improve the education system in Rhode Island – particularly that of special education programs. During the 2002 session, he authored a report detailing the state of special education programs in Rhode Island and goals that should be met.

He is professor emeritus of special education at Rhode Island College. He serves is vice chair of the New England Board of Higher Education and vice chair of the Higher Education Assistance Authority.

“The upcoming year will be a very busy one for the Finance Committee, and for the General Assembly as a whole,” said Representative Sherlock. “I look forward to tackling all the tough issues and making the right decisions on behalf of all the citizens of Rhode Island.”

Sherlock, 72, lives in Warwick with his wife Ann.
Al GemmaRep1/17/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/rep20.jpg
Dana Rae Laverty
“I am honored that my colleagues have chosen me to fill such an important position,” said Representative Sherlock, who represents District 20 in Warwick.
STATE HOUSE – Saying the measure is long overdue, House leaders today introduced legislation that would raise the minimum wage in Rhode Island.

The bill would increase the rate to $6.75 an hour. The current minimum wage in Rhode Island is $6.15.

“This measure is long overdue for the hard-working families of Rhode Island,” said the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Paul V. Sherlock (D-Dist. 20), who was recently appointed chair of the House Finance Committee. “It is important that we recognize those that are near the bottom of the economic scale. It is the right thing to do, and now is the time to do it.”

The General Assembly last raised the minimum wage in 2000. The current proposal would hike the minimum wage to $6.75 on July 1, and would call for a cost of living increase every July 1st. Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor would be used in calculating the increases.

A person currently working a 40-hour week and making minimum wage would bring home $246 before taxes. With the increase, that same person would make $270 before taxes.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said House Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4), who cosponsored the bill. “Thousands of families in Rhode Island will benefit from this legislation.”

Once introduced into the House of Representatives, the measure will likely be sent to the House Finance Committee for consideration.

Other sponsors of the bill include Rep. Frank A. Montanaro (D-Dist. 15) of Cranston, Rep. Thomas C. Slater (D-Dist. 10) of Providence and Rep. Paul E. Moura (D-Dist. 2) of Providence and East Providence.
Al GemmaRep1/16/2003Approved
Dana Rae Laverty
STATE HOUSE – In what is sure to be one of the most highly visible committees of the 2003-2004 Rhode Island General Assembly legislative session, Rep. Susan A. Story is pleased to have been appointed to the House Separation of Powers Committee.

“I have been committed to the separation of powers issue from the onset of the debate,” said Representative Story. “I am honored to serve on the House Separation of Powers Committee and I’m confident that we will be successful in our attempts to produce meaningful legislation.”

Representative Story, a Republican from District 66, which covers sections of Barrington and East Providence, also has been appointed to the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. She also serves as the secretary for the Joint Commission on Child Care and is a member of the Civic Education Commission.

“In addition to my new appointment to the House Separation of Powers Committee, I am looking forward to continuing my work with the other committees and commissions that I’m involved in,” said Representative Story. “I expect this session to become even busier in the months ahead, as I plan also to be an advocate for initiatives that Governor Carcieri puts forward to restructure state government and improve services to all Rhode Islanders. I will especially be sensitive to issues that affect the well-being of my constituents in Barrington and East Providence.”
Susan StoryRep1/27/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE – In a consumer-based initiative, Representative Arthur J. Corvese, a Democrat who represents District 55 in North Providence, introduced a bill that would eliminate expiration dates on all types of gift certificates sold in Rhode Island.

Specifically, the bill <a href="" target="new">(2003 - H5065)</a> would make it unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to place an expiration date upon any gift certificates sold in the state. Furthermore, the bill would require that merchants keep an accurate and complete record of each gift certificate sold.

“In recent years, gift certificates have become increasingly popular among consumers, especially around the holidays,” said Representative Corvese. “Unfortunately, Rhode Island does not currently have strict regulations about the use of expiration dates on gift certificates and many times it leads to confusion and very unhappy customers.”

Representative Corvese explained, “This bill will create a level playing field between consumers and businesses.”

The current statute in the Rhode Island General Laws (Section 6-13-12) entitled “Commercial Law-General Revocations Provisions” states that any person, firm or corporation that violates the law shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200.

The bill was referred to the House Corporations Committee for further review. Co-sponsors of the bill include Representative Jan Malik (D-Dist. 67), Representative Todd R. Brien (D-Dist. 50), Representative Gregory J. Schadone (D-Dist. 54), and Representative Henry C. Rose (D-Dist. 63).
Arthur CorveseRep1/16/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE -- Rep. Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14) of Cranston, the Deputy Majority Whip of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, is a guest on the upcoming edition of "State of the State," a cable TV show sponsored by Operation Clean Government (OCG) of Rhode Island.

Newly-elected to the Deputy Whip post this year, Representative Lima discusses the new House leadership team and the plans and goals for the 2003 session that have been set forth by Speaker William J. Murphy, Majority Leader Gordon Fox and Majority Whip Rene R. Menard. Among the other topics discussed are separation of powers, the State Budget and gaming in Rhode Island.

Representative Lima's interview with show host Andy Galli runs for half of the one-hour program.

The show will air three times each week for three weeks, beginning Sunday, February 2. Air times are Sundays (Feb. 2, 9, 16) at 8 a.m.; Thursdays (Feb. 6, 13, 20) at 9 p.m. and Fridays (Feb. 7, 14, 21) at 3 p.m.

Cox Communications subscribers can see the Sunday shows on Statewide Interconnect A (Channel 13). The Thursday and Friday shows are aired on Channel 18 for Providence and Kent County viewers.
Charlene LimaRep1/24/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Todd R. Brien of Woonsocket and has filed legislation to provide protection to those who pre-pay for funeral arrangements.

The pair of bills Representative Brien has filed is an effort to avoid situations like the one that occurred in Woonsocket a year and a half ago, when the Menoche Funeral Home went out of business. Funeral home owner Paul A. Menoche is currently serving four years for embezzling $437,971 from 118 families who paid for pre-arranged funerals.

“People pre-arrange funerals to provide themselves and the their families some peace of mind in knowing that when the time comes, everything will be taken care of properly. What happened with Menoche showed us that there needs to be a system in place to guarantee them that security,” said Representative Brien, a Democrat who represents District 50.

The first of the bills <a href="" target="new">(2003 - H5117)</a> establishes a funeral services trust account that would be funded by a $10 fee on every funeral, burial or disposition performed by funeral homes in Rhode Island. The account would be used to protect customers if a funeral home defaults on its prepaid contracts, also called “preneed” contracts. The account would be capped when it reaches $300,000, and the state would then stop collecting the fees unless it dipped back below that amount.

Though state law requires funeral homes to put money for any prepaid contract in an escrow account, investigators have been unable to locate any such accounts for Menoche, who was also found to be operating without an embalmer’s license for several months.

Representative Brien filed a similar bill last year, with a clause that made the coverage retroactive so it would serve the victims of Menoche. That clause, however, led to the defeat of the bill, so it has been removed from this year’s version. Menoche has been ordered to pay restitution to his victims and is participating in a work-release program to help do that. Funeral director Francis E. Cartier, who bought Menoche’s funeral parlor at auction, has also been honoring Menoche’s pre-paid arrangements for those who have died while the matter is being resolved.

“It’s important that we get this fund up and running before anyone else becomes a victim to this kind of fraud,” said Representative Brien.

Representative Brien introduced the bill yesterday, Jan. 21, and it was referred to the House Corporations Committee. The bill was cosponsored by Rep. David E. Laroche (D-Dist. 49) of Woonsocket, Majority Whip Rene R. Menard (D-Dist. 45) of Lincoln and Cumberland, Rep. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 51) of Woonsocket and Rep. Donald O. Reilly Jr. (D-Dist. 52) of Cumberland.

The other bill <a href="" target="new">(2003 - H5152)</a>, which was introduced today and sent to the House Corporations Committee, would change the statute establishing the duties of the state funeral home inspector so they would include reviewing records of prepaid funeral arrangements. Rhode Island has not had a funeral home inspector since the last one retired five years ago. While pursuing the change in the law, Representative Brien intends to push to get the position filled.

“If someone had been doing this job, and had looked into Menoche’s books, his customers wouldn’t be in the situation that they’re in,” said Representative Brien.

The bill was cosponsored by Representative Laroche, Representative Menard, Representative Picard and Representative Robert B. Lowe (D-Dist. 48) of North Smithfield and Burrillville.
Todd BrienRep1/22/2003Approved
Meredyth R. Whitty
Rep. Todd R. Brien of Woonsocket and has filed legislation to provide protection to those who pre-pay for funeral arrangements.
STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Permanent Commission on Civic Education will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, January 14th at the rise of the House in room 205 of the State House. Senator Hanna M. Gallo, co-chairperson of the commission, has invited a representative from the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities to give a brief presentation.

“I am pleased to welcome M. Drake Patten, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities, to the next Civic Education Commission meeting,” said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27). “I am sure that Ms. Patten’s experience and unique perspective will add to the scope of the commission.”

The Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities (RICH) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the presence of the humanities in the state’s cultural and intellectual life. The committee is an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Since 1973, RICH has funded programs at museums, libraries, universities, historical societies, and other educational and cultural organizations.

“One of the goals of the commission is to hear from a variety of sources so that we can develop a comprehensive plan to improve civic education in our state,” said Senator Gallo, a democrat from Cranston.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the commission also will discuss other projects including drafting a survey on Rhode Island history, composing a mission statement, developing a Web site among other issues.

If you would like to attend or wish to receive additional information about the commission, please contact commission secretary Sara T. Martino at 401.222.2457.
Hanna GalloSen1/13/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE – First term Sen. Juan M. Pichardo, a democrat from Providence, has been named Senate Deputy Majority Leader on Minority Issues for the 2003-2004 General Assembly session.

In addition to Senator Pichardo’s new title, he also has been appointed to three Senate standing committees including the Senate Finance Committee, Senate Financial Services, Technology and Regulatory Issues Committee, and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“I am pleased and honored to be named Deputy Majority Leader on Minority Issues. I am looking forward to working with the Senate leadership and increasing awareness about important minority issues,” said Senator Pichardo (D-Dist. 2). “In addition, I believe my experience and enthusiasm will be of use in my new Senate committee assignments and I am eager to get to work on behalf of my constituents in Providence.”
Juan PichardoSen1/15/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Special House Commission to Study Gaming will meet tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House.

Allan Rachles, an accounting/economic expert in respect to the gaming industry, will address members of the commission.

Rachles works for Crowe Chizek, one of the country’s top-10 largest accounting and consulting firms. He has conducted significant economic impact work in Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi and Florida.

The meeting will be cablecast live over cable television (Interconnect C -- Channel 23 on Cox Communications) by Capitol Television, the cable television unit of the Rhode Island General Assembly. For cable viewers of Full Channel TV, Interconnect C is Channel 50.
Al GemmaRep1/22/2003Approved
Dana Rae Laverty
STATE HOUSE – In what he refers to as a “golden opportunity for Coventry,” Rep. Victor G. Moffitt has been appointed to the House Finance Committee for the 2003-2004 General Assembly session.

“As a freshman legislator, it is very exciting to be appointed to the powerful House Finance Committee,” said Representative Moffitt, who is a newly elected Republican legislator from District 28 in Coventry. “I believe my professional background in the finance industry will be an asset to the committee.”

Rep. Moffitt explained, “The position means that I will be involved with many aspects of the state budget planning. This is very important to the town of Coventry because I will be a strong advocate for the community in terms of securing the necessary funding for education, elderly housing and other programs.”
Victor MoffittRep1/16/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE – Not wasting any time, freshman legislator Rep.Victor G. Moffitt, a Republican from Coventry, today introduced legislation that would require a certain percentage of funds from video lottery terminal receipts to be deposited into a permanent school fund.

“Since its inception, the Lottery Commission was designed to funnel money directly into the state’s education account,” said Representative Moffitt (R-Dist. 28). “However, no permanent funding source was established by the Rhode Island General Assembly. Instead, the money was deposited into the general fund and not specifically earmarked for education.”

Co-sponsored by Rep. Carol A. Mumford (R-Dist. 41), Rep. Joseph N. Amaral (R-Dist. 70), Rep. Bruce J. Long (R-Dist. 74), and Rep. Steven F. Smith (D-Dist. 13), the bill <a href="" target="new">(2003 - H5098)</a> has been referred to the House Finance Committee for further review.

Representative Moffitt said, “Rhode Island’s State Constitution (Article VII, Section 2) clearly states that there must be a permanent school fund. What I propose is a gradual increase in the percentage of revenue created from video lottery terminals that would be used solely for the purpose establishing the permanent education fund.”

The bill states that a percentage of video lottery terminal receipts shall be paid to the permanent school fund as indicated in the following schedule:

Fiscal Year Percentage

2004 2.5%

2005 5.0%

2006 7.5%

2007 and thereafter 10.0%

“Last year, the video lottery terminals produced approximately $240 million dollars in profits. Based on that figure, if we start taking 2.5% in 2004 the state school fund would receive $6 million dollars,” explained Representative Moffitt, who is a tax accountant and newly appointed member of the House Finance Committee.

“Our students, teachers and faculty deserve all of the financial resources that were promised to them when the Lottery Commission began,” said Representative Moffitt. “Let us plan for the ever-increasing cost of education now, so that we can insure all Rhode Island youth will be afforded adequate educational opportunities.”
Victor MoffittRep1/16/2003Approved
Randall T. Szyba
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Daniel DaPonte, a democrat representing sections of East Providence and Providence, has been named Senate Deputy Majority Whip for the 2003-2004 General Assembly session.

In addition to Senator DaPontes’s new title, he also has been appointed Vice Chairperson of the standing Senate Financial Services, Technology and Regulatory Issues Committee and is a member of the Senate Rules Committee.

Sen. DaPonte was elected to the Rhode Island State Senate in 1999, is a member of the State Investment Commission and Coastal Resources Management Board, and has served on the Senate Corporations and Labor Committee.

“To be named Senate Deputy Majority Whip is a true honor,” said Sen. DaPonte. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and to expect that we will meet the challenges of this legislative session with a united front.”
Daniel Da PonteSen1/15/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/sen14daponte.jpg
Randall T. Szyba
Sen. Daniel DaPonte, a democrat representing sections of East Providence and Providence, has been named Senate Deputy Majority Whip for the 2003-2004 General Assembly session.
STATE HOUSE - House Speaker William J. Murphy and House Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox are conducting a full review of all personnel practices and procedures to accomplish their goal of making the General Assembly more open, efficient and professional.

“Our review of the problems we inherited is already well under way, and we have to admit that they run deeper than first anticipated,” said Murphy. “It is going to take time during this period of transition into office to establish the type of changes which are long overdue. You can’t address decades of past practices in ten days or ten weeks. We are confident that the public and the media will provide us with the appropriate time to conduct a comprehensive review and implement new policies and procedures with a goal towards making this legislature a model of efficiency that the people of the State of Rhode Island expect and deserve.”

Marisa White, the former director of administration in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, is conducting the review as part of her many duties as Murphy’s executive administrator.

“We are fortunate that Ms. White has the education and experience to take on this daunting task,” said Murphy. “In the past four years as director of administration for the Attorney General, she had full oversight of the administration of that department. There she gained an excellent reputation for overseeing a fiscally controlled agency that performed efficiently due to its formal policies and procedures.”

Ms. White is a member of Murphy’s transition team and had numerous discussions with him regarding the need for the implementation and oversight of formal policies and procedures in both the employment practices and operations of the Legislature. These discussions took place long before recent published reports about the Legislature’s past spending practices.

Murphy and Fox said they have already taken several measures, which include:

Terminating all summer interns, with the exception of one who has been working part-time on the staff of the Commission on Gaming, who continued to work after the summer months and remained on the payroll as of this week.

Having learned this week as part of their internal review, Murphy and Fox have terminated existing contracts with temporary employees who were hired through an outside employment agency.

Murphy and Fox have ordered that all cell phones issued to House staff members be turned in immediately while they are reviewing whether there is a need for any staff member to have a cell phone.
William MurphyRep1/17/2003Approved
Larry Berman
State House -- The House Judiciary Committee today gave unanimous passage to a Joint Resolution which would amend the Rhode Island Constitution to provide for eight-year term limits for the positions of Speaker of the House and Senate President.

Speaker William J. Murphy testified before the committee on behalf of the resolution <a href="" target="new">(2003 - H5000)</a> , which he introduced along with Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox, Majority Whip Rene R. Menard, Deputy Whip Charlene M. Lima and Minority Leader Robert A. Watson.

“Eight years is more than sufficient time for a House Speaker and Senate President to implement an agenda for the state,” Murphy told committee members. “This will allow the Membership to have new leadership every eight years for certain, which is healthy for our democracy. It will foster new ideas to be brought before each chamber, and will ensure more accountability from each Leader’s chamber.”

Murphy said the legislation is consistent with the eight-year term limits, established by the voters, for the state’s general officers.

“The House Speaker and Senate President should not serve any longer than a governor is allowed,” Murphy told the committee.

He pointed out that the amendment would only apply to these two positions and not to the membership as a whole. Murphy said he does not support term limits for members.

Passage of this legislation was one of first priorities established by the new House leadership team. The bill will be on the House calendar on Wednesday, January 29.
William MurphyRep1/23/2003Approved/pressrelease/Pictures/rep26.jpg
Larry Berman
“The House Speaker and Senate President should not serve any longer than a governor is allowed,” Murphy told the committee.
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