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Metro Roundup: Sept. 10-Sept. 17

State legislature to open for special session Tuesday

The Rhode Island General Assembly will open this Tuesday for a special legislative session, the Associated Press reports. Proposals on the docket include: a bill that would require employers provide paid sick leave to their workers; a potential override of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s veto of a law that would extend expired labor contracts for public employees; and a move to write certain guarantees of the Affordable Care Act into state law.

September sessions such as this are not typical practice at the State House: The state’s General Assembly is part-time, and typically they would not reconvene after the spring until January. But budget talks overtook the legislative agenda toward the end of the session — Tuesday’s session aims to tie up some of the loose ends left when the State House closed in June.

While most Rhode Island news publications describe special legislative sessions as rare, Joanne Giannini, who served as a state representative until 2010, wrote in GoLocal Providence that they actually had occurred a number of times during her 16 years in the State House. These sessions can be fruitful so long as most members of the General Assembly show up, she wrote. But legislators are not required to attend, as the session falls outside of the normal legislative calendar.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has come to Rhode Island

Sinclair Broadcast Group, a national media conglomerate that owns local Channel 10 TV news stations throughout the country, requires the Ocean State’s WJAR-TV to run pro-Trump programming on the air daily, according to the Providence Journal. Required programming includes things like the Terrorism Alert Desk, a program that runs a new story about terrorism every day, and news spots from Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump aide who is now Sinclair’s chief political analyst, the Journal reported.

Sinclair’s practices have sparked controversy in the state: Congressman David Cicilline ’83 told the Journal that local news should be produced in-state, not by out-of-state, national companies. The Journal also quoted a Rhode Island resident who said she had stopped watching WJAR since Sinclair bought the station and programming changed. A media columnist from the Washington Post analogized the role Fox plays for cable news to that of Sinclair for broadcast news. Sinclair Group refutes these criticisms — arguing that pre-programmed national coverage from the parent company frees in-station reporters to double down on quality local news coverage, the Journal reports.

Sinclair Group gained notoriety this year when John Oliver made the group the subject of an entire show.

Unemployment stays low in Rhode Island, but average income worst in New England

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training announced Thursday that the state unemployment rate went unchanged in August. Within Rhode Island, 4.3 percent of the labor force is without work. The number of employed Rhode Islanders actually fell last month, but the number of people looking for jobs also fell. Overall, the number of unemployed people people has fallen this year, while the number of Rhode Island-based jobs has risen. In August in particular, private hiring offset a shrinkage in public jobs in the state.

But unemployment rates do not tell the full story of the Ocean State’s economy. Rhode Island still has the highest poverty rate in New England (25th in the nation), the Providence Business News reported Friday. The median income in the state is $60,596, but this average conceals a disparate reality of income inequality in the state. While White and Asian households make a median income of $63,122 and $83,610, respectively, Black households make a median income of around $42,425 and Hispanic or Latino households make a median income of $36,877.


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