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Spotlight on the Statehouse: Feb. 17, 2016

Providence ‘resurgence’

“We are ready for our resurgence, and that resurgence begins now,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza at his State of the City address last week. Though Providence currently faces a $13.44 million budget deficit, new sources of revenue appear to be emerging to help revamp the city’s economy.

Of the cumulative budget deficit, $4.77 million is from last year and $8.67 million is from previous years. Among other plans intended to cut costs, the city intends to buy all streetlights from National Grid and then hire a private company to maintain them. Overall, this would save Providence an estimated $2.4 million annually.

Elorza said that his administration hopes to pay off the deficit by 2021.

No jail time for young offenders

Initiated by Chief U.S. District Judge William Smith, a new program will replace jail time for young offenders with a period of high-level supervision by court and probation staff, the Providence Journal reported.

To determine whether or not defendants should be placed in the program, the sitting judge will assess the individuals and consider their criminal histories. The supervision period will last between six months and one year and may include drug and alcohol treatment, counseling and community service.

Defendants must sign a contract stating that they are aware of the program’s requirements. If defendants fail to complete the requirements of the program, they will be sentenced. There are currently four offenders participating in the program.

Push to legalize marijuana

Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana argued there is no evidence that marijuana use increases when it is legalized, the Providence Journal reported.

A proposed law would permit adults over the age of 21 to possess less than one ounce of marijuana. It would also allow licensed businesses to grow and sell marijuana. Proponents argue that if the Ocean State does not legalize marijuana soon, it will lose out on the economic benefits that marijuana sales can bring.

The first two states to legalize recreational marijuana were Colorado and Washington in 2012. Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia then did the same in 2014. Supporters of the Rhode Island bill urge state leaders to follow suit before Massachusetts does.


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