TGIF: 11 Things To Know About Rhode Island Politics & Media

Jun 22, 2018

What appears to be the last week of the General Assembly is coming in for landing. So thanks for stopping by for my weekly column. As usual your tips and comments are welcome, and you can follow me through the week on the twitters. Here we go.

1. From my report on Friday's General Assembly action on the PawSox: The General Assembly ended a years-long legislative debate about an envisioned PawSox stadium in Pawtucket by approving Friday what supporters called enabling legislation that will shield taxpayers from risk. But it remains unclear if the top minor league team of the Boston Red Sox will support the concept. “We saw this proposed legislation for the first time only this morning, so it would be premature to comment further without having studied its terms and ramifications," PawSox spokesman Bill Wanless said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the City of Pawtucket to see if this new proposal is feasible, viable, and permissible." Voting at around 11:30 p.m., the Rhode Island Senate approved the PawSox legislation on a 26-6 vote. That was about five hours after the House passed the measure on a 53-13 vote. Gov. Gina Raimondo is expected to sign the legislation. The legislative support for an envisioned $83 million stadium at the Apex site in Pawtucket resolves a major hurdle. Yet it's unclear if the team may find a more attractive offer from Worcester, the second-largest city in Massachusetts, or if other stumbling blocks will emerge during the underwriting process for a Rhode Island stadium. Worcester has not made a public offer for the team, and Rhode Island is generally considered a larger and more lucrative market for the team.

2. Sore feelings are a hardy end of session perennial at the General Assembly. A case in point in the wage equity bill passed on a 66-9 vote in the House Thursday, and then pronounced DOA in the Senate on Friday. "The Senate prioritized pay equity this session," said Senate spokesman Greg Pare. "On April 10, national 'Equal Pay Day,' the Senate passed strong legislation to address wage gaps in the workplace. The legislation the House passed [Thursday] does not reflect the Senate’s commitment to ensuring equal pay for comparable work and meaningful change for women’s economic security. The Senate will not be considering the House bill." The business community, which expressed concern about the impact of the original House version, may be pleased that the bill introduced by Rep. Susan Donovan (D-Bristol) isn't going anywhere. But the net effect of this debate is increased anger among progressives and women activists that will feed into the fall campaign season. During the House debate Thursday, Rep. Teresa Tanzi noted how bills meant to curb harassment haven't made it out of committee. The General Assembly, she said, "may be failing women this year." That criticism is especially noteworthy coming from the woman who is the public face of experiencing harassment at the Statehouse.

3. What is up with the Carpionato Group providing office space to politicians of various parties in Cranston? Meanwhile, as RIPR first reported, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is moving his GOP gubernatorial campaign from the mayor's traditional base at Chapel View to another Carpionato property in Warwick. Spokesman Andrew Augustus says that's unrelated to the rent controversy and ensuing BOE complaints. And RIPR also reported on how the Carpionato Group helped fund a campaign mailer for Fung and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello in 2016.

4. The Carpionato controversy, as we've learned, has implications for Democrats and Republicans. But it began as an issue for Mayor Fung -- and the silence emanating from the Rhode Island Democratic Party was striking. If the shoe was on the other partisan foot, and campaign finance questions were raised about, say, Gov. Gina Raimondo, state GOP Chairman Brandon Bell would be tweeting, firing off news releases, and trying to raise holy hell. But the RI Democats offered crickets, and Raimondo (who typically gets stronger messaging support from the Democratic Governors Association) made her own statement. This void on the Democratic side has been evident for a while -- see #3 from 2015. It's worth wondering what impact this may have in the current race for governor. (Party Executive Director Kevin Olasanoye and spokeswoman Ann Gooding did not respond to a request for comment.)  House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who has a lot of influence over the state party, has said he's supporting Raimondo's re-election. Yet the absence of more robust messaging support for the governor could also spark questions about why the RI Democratic Party isn't doing more to back up the state's first Democratic woman governor.

5. You don't have to be a good-government stalwart to appreciate Speaker Mattiello's self-imposed 10 pm deadline for concluding busines on the House floor during the end of session. Mattiello has made that deadline stick repeatedly in recent years, helping to combat the image of sleep-addled lawmakers debating public business at 3 a.m. There's no good reason for debates running into the wee hours -- a practice that seemed to continue more from inertia than anything else. Mattiello's approach also aligns with his generally pragmatic approach to legislation. But, on the other hand, Mattiello still supports suspending legislative rules at the end of session, allowing legislation to fly from committee meetings to the floor, with a lack of much advance notice. Why is that necessary when a paucity of meaningful activity takes place in the early months of each legislative year? Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman maintains that flexibility is needed to get the job done: “A few of the rules regarding posting requirements are suspended in the final days of the session every year, with the consent granted by both the majority and minority leaders, to enable the General Assembly to complete its sessions," he said. "The Assembly adheres to the 48-hour posting rules for all but the final week, but needs the flexibility in the last few days to move bills out of committees and to the floor, and to each others’ chambers, in a timely manner. All of these bills are posted with as much advance notice as possible. With just a few exceptions, these bills had been previously heard by committees.”

6. Scott MacKay writes about some of the important rarely discussed issues facing Rhode Island.

7. State Rep. Thomas Winfield (D-Smithfield), one of five remaining members elected as part of a big incoming class in 1992, is among eight reps leaving the House. He's backing former Smithfield Town Council president Bernard Hawkins to succeed him. From my story: "Winfield recalled being part of the coalition, including Republicans, that helped elect John Harwood as speaker and George Caruolo as majority leader, in 1993. While that leadership slate campaigned as reformers, 'it's very hard to change the culture' in the General Assembly, Winfield said. At the same time, he said the thing he'll most remember about his tenure on Smith Hill is 'the people I met. There are a lot of good people who work in that building.' "

8. Eric Hyers, after running winning campaigns in Rhode Island for David Cicilline and Gina Raimondo, was on the other side when Chris Giunchigliani lost a hard-fought Democratic gubernatorial primary in Nevada. "I'm immensely proud of the campaign we ran," Hyers told me. "We need more results-oriented progressive women in executive positions. A 5:1 spending disadvantage is difficult to overcome. Chris is fantastic and I'm proud to have worked for her."

9. Rep. Mike Chippendale (R-Foster) guests on this week's RIPR Political Roundtable and Bonus Q&A.

10. Via Gov. Raimondo's release on her signing of the $9.55 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1: "A state budget is more than just a spreadsheet. It's a statement on our values. As Rhode Islanders, we value opportunity, education and community. Because of the choices we've made together, our economy is stronger today than it's been in a generation. We've made a lot of progress in recent years, and we need to keep going to ensure that everyone is included. Together, we're going to fix our kids' school buildings, ensure everyone has a shot to compete for a good job and protect the most vulnerable people in our state, including Rhode Islanders with disabilities, young people in foster care and our seniors. This budget protects the progress we've made and reflects the values we share. I thank the legislature for their hard work."

11. Sav Rebechhi, who ran as an independent against Teresa Paiva Weed in 2016, is trying to boost the number of legislative challengers ahead of the filing deadline next Wednesday, June 27. Amid news that Rhode Island native Jennifer Lee has received a top job at Disney's animation division, Rebechhi was also bursting with pride: "It's not often when your daughter gets a promotion it's all over the news. So proud and grateful she has found her place in the creative world. Who knew a working class kid from Rhode Island would go so far. She'll make Walt proud too. Gush! Gush! Sorry."