Spotlight on the Statehouse: April 21, 2015

Metro Editor
Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bill addresses domestic violence gun control

The Statehouse continues to be a battleground for gun reform, as Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-South Kingstown and Narragansett, testified before the House Judiciary Committee about her proposed bill to prohibit the possession of firearms by those who are convicted of domestic violence or subject to a restraining order due to domestic abuse. The Senate companion bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill reflects a federal statute called the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, and Massachusetts has enacted similar legislation. No other state in New England prohibits the ownership and use of guns by those convicted of domestic violence, though Connecticut and New Hampshire prohibit those who are under protective orders due to domestic violence from buying firearms.

Every child murdered in a reported domestic violence incident in Rhode Island since 1980 was killed by a firearm, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence testified at the committee hearing. 

This type of legislation is supported by over 80 percent of Rhode Islanders, according to poll data released last week by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Rhode Island Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

This comes after over 350 people, including Mayor Jorge Elorza and Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, rallied at the Statehouse to support the many gun reform bills currently before the General Assembly.

The House Judiciary Committee has also heard bills during the last week that would prohibit the use of firearms by minors unless supervised by an adult, close a loophole allowing concealed weapons to be carried into schools and limit magazine capacity to 10 bullets.

PawSox stadium proposal under review

Pawtucket Red Sox owners unveiled their proposal for a new Providence stadium April 16. The $85 million, 10,000-seat ballpark would cost a net $2 million per year for Rhode Island taxpayers, the owners said.

PawSox president James Skeffington said at a news conference that legislation will need to pass in the General Assembly during the current session to ensure construction can begin and the team can move to the downtown stadium by 2017.

The PawSox owners proposed that, once the construction is finished, the state can enter into a 30-year lease with them at $5 million per year and the team would sublease the stadium for $1 million per year. But consultants from Brailsford and Dunlavey said the state would receive an additional $2 million in tax revenue from the stadium, therefore making the net cost $2 million per year, Rhode Island Public Radio reported. The owners also proposed that the City of Providence waive all property taxes during the 30-year lease.

Ed Fitzpatrick, columnist for the Providence Journal, wrote Saturday that the state has been “gun-shy” about large, potentially risky investments ever since the loan to 38 Studios approved by former Gov. Donald Carcieri went sour in 2012.

Sen. James Sheehan, D-North Kingstown and Narragansett, immediately opposed the proposal, saying it “gives new meaning to the term ‘money ball,’” according to a press release. “Publicly supported ballparks provide little to no economic benefits to taxpayers or the community in which they are located. Instead, they typically generate low-paying jobs, for only a portion of the year,” Sheehan said.

Rep. Doreen Costa, R-Exeter and North Kingstown, tweeted, “Find your own investors and not use the taxpayer.” But Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence, told RIPR he thinks most representatives will ultimately support the proposal.

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, told RIPR that the House Finance Committee will review the proposal and hold hearings to deliberate. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport, told RIPR that the entire chamber will review the proposal and analyze it through a “transparent process.”

Pension settlement gets preliminary go

Rhode Island Superior Court Justice Sarah Taft-Carter gave preliminary approval to the Rhode Island state pension settlement Monday, calling it “fair, reasonable and adequate.”  Though the vast majority of unions involved in the settlement have okayed it, the settlement will not be finalized until after Taft-Carter conducts a public fairness hearing May 20.

If Taft-Carter gives her final approval after the hearing, the settlement will need to pass in the General Assembly as an amendment to the pension statute.

All 60,000 public-sector workers and retirees who are part of the unions that agreed to the settlement will be subject to the terms if the settlement passes. Those who are members of any police union or the Cranston fire union will not be subject to the settlement, as those unions previously voted against it. Taft-Carter will hear a trial between the state and those unions June 8.

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