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Spotlight on the Statehouse: February 19, 2015

An act to improve relations

After its termination in the House of Representatives last year, the “Comprehensive Community – Police Relationship Act of 2014” has been reintroduced to the General Assembly by Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence, in response to the recent murders of several black men by police officers, according to a General Assembly press release. The bill cites a 2014 study from Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice, which found that officers across Rhode Island are more likely to conduct traffic stops on people of color.

To ameliorate what Metts called inappropriate punishment for people of color operating vehicles, a group of law enforcement and community representatives proposed provisions to the bill. The measures include a database for all traffic stops that lists the race or ethnicity of those stopped, notification of the cause of the stop and full audio or visual recording of the stop captured by all police vehicles equipped with the appropriate technology. Looking to foster trust among officers and minors, the bill would also drastically cut the capability of officers to search juveniles without a warrant, according to the press release.

Open for business

In a Wednesday report on Rhode Island’s economy, Gov. Gina Raimondo admitted that the Ocean State is “relatively poor,” noting that it currently ranks 48th in job growth, WPRI reported Wednesday. Raimondo said the solution lies in creating more jobs for middle-class residents and fostering a skilled work force, WPRI reported.

These represent two policy areas that Raimondo dealt with in the executive order she signed Tuesday, Rhode Island Public Radio reported.

The order tackled regulations on business with the intention of drawing new companies to the state, RIPR reported. Any new proposals on economic regulation must go before the Office of Management and Budget, come with a cost-benefit analysis and be written in “plain language,” the order reads.

In the General Assembly, Rep. Michael Marcello, D-Scituate, Cranston, also looked toward promoting business in the state, proposing a bill Tuesday that would gradually eliminate the minimum corporate tax by 2019. This tax currently sits at $500, an amount that Marcello said disadvantages smaller startups.

FBI probes Islamic school vandalism

Due to its potential ethnically charged motivations, vandalism to the Islamic School of Rhode Island in West Warwick last weekend is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a hate crime, RIPR reported.

Following the murder of three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina last week, phrases such as “Now this is a hate crime” were spray painted along the school’s exterior, the Providence Journal reported Sunday. Principal Abdelnassar Hussein said community outreach after the vandalism has been supportive and called for a growing police presence at the school in light of anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States, RIPR reported.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, denounced the vandalism, citing the principle of religious freedom upon which the state was founded.



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