Sen. Seveney intros drink-driving fine to support substance abuse programs

Portsmouth Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11) has introduced legislation that would impose a substance abuse fine for those who drive under the influence or fail to submit to a breathalyzer test.

The legislation (2019-S 0238) would impose a $300 fine on any conviction of driving under the influence or a violation for refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer that would fund substance abuse programs.

Senator Seveney submitted the legislation after touring the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and discussing the need for increased funding for substance abuse prevention programs with Chief Magistrate Domenic DiSandro III.

“I’d like to thank Chief Magistrate DiSandro and Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey for their assistance in developing this alternative funding stream,” said Seveney. “This legislation will require those who drink and drive to fund important substance abuse programs, which in turn will help to mitigate the incidence of driving under the influence.”

Those funds would be allocated to the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Development Disabilities and Hospitals and used to fund substance abuse programs and student assistance programs for youth.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senators McCaffrey (D-29), Cynthia Coyne (D-32), Lou DiPalma (D-12) and Adam Satchell (D-9), has been referred to the Senate Judiciary mittee. Similar legislation (2019-H 5293) has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dennis Canario (D-71).

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

Sen. Seveney appointed Finance submittee chair

Portsmouth Sen. Jim Seveney (D-11), a member of the RI Senate Finance mittee, has been appointed chair of the  Submittee on Public Safety and Transportation.

William J. Conley, Jr., Chair of Finance, appointed several members of the mittee as submittee chairs. The submittee chairs will take the lead during budget hearings related to their submittee’s purview. Additionally, mittee members with special expertise or interest in a particular subject matter will be asked to take a leading role when the mittee considers those matters. In a process that is new this year, public postings of Finance mittee hearings will reflect the leadership roles of the members.

“Senate President Ruggerio and I discussed ways to draw upon the resident expertise of the outstanding membership of the Senate Finance mittee, and these appointments are a result of those discussions. We are fortunate to have their valuable leadership on the mittee as we delve into the details of the state budget and other matters,” said Chairman Conley (D-18). “I look forward to working closely with the submittee chairs, the members of the mittee, and all of my colleagues in the Senate as we undertake the hard work ahead.”

The following Senators were also appointed as submittee chairs:

  • Submittee on Municipal Finance: Senator Sandra Cano (D-8).
  • Submittee on Health & Human Services and General Government: Senator Lou DiPalma (D-12). Sen. DiPalma is also 1st Vice Chairman of the mittee.
  • Submittee on Veterans’ Affairs: Senator Walter Felag, Jr. (D -10). Sen, Felag is also 2nd Vice Chairman of the mittee.
  • Submittee on Education, merce: Senator Ryan Pearson (D-19). Sen. Pearson is also Secretary of the mittee.
  • Submittee on Agriculture, Environment and Energy: Senator V. Susan Sosnowski (D-37).

Editorial note: Written from a State House news release.

AIPC releases plan for cleaner local waters

Middletown, RI - During periods of heavy rain, excess stormwater carries toxic pollutants through Aquidneck Island’s drinking water and overflows into recreational coastal waters. Aquidneck Island Planning mission (AIPC) has released a set of plans, called the Island Waters project, to collect and treat stormwater runoff, reducing harmful pollutants that enter the water system.

With support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AIPC is anticipated to start breaking ground on a series of projects beginning in Spring 2019. Island Waters intends to promote a healthy water system for the 70,000 residents on Aquidneck Island. According to John Shea, AIPC Executive Director, the goal of the Island Waters project is “to work with the munities and residents of Aquidneck Island to protect and improve the quality of our water system.”

Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) closes recreational beaches when fecal bacterial levels are too high. Over the past five years, beaches on the island have been closed an average of 12 days per year during an approximate 100 day beach season and according to RIDOH, “some beaches in Rhode Island may see 10,000 visitors in a single day.” By improving the health of waters, Island Waters will encourage tourist beach traffic, boosting the economy and public health.

AIPC’s Island Waters partners include Aquidneck Land Trust, Clean Ocean Access, Eastern RI Conservation District, City of Newport, Towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, RI Departments of Transportation and Environmental Management, and U.S. EPA. The mission of AIPC is to preserve and improve the environment, economy, and quality of life on Aquidneck Island.

For more information, contact Claire Nelson, cnelson@aquidneckplanning.org, 432.553.7348. The full report can be downloaded at http://aquidneckplanning.org/projects/257/

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

RI House Reform Caucus remends rule changes

Providence — The Reform Caucus, made up of conservative, moderate, and progressive Democrats, announced their push for changes in the House Rules for a more open and transparent legislative process. The Reform Caucus is mitted to changing the way business is conducted and after years of careful observation and first-hand experience, we are working to make it happen.
 
“There is a groundswell of interest from constituents for reform at the State House and the public’s advocacy is what will make this happen,” says Rep. Deborah Ruggiero – Jamestown and Middletown, “people are very aware that legislators are rushed into last minute votes on the final days of session without ample time to read legislation. That’s why we are remending bills be posted for 48 hours so the public knows what their government is doing. We are also remending good government bills like creating the Office of the Inspector General and enacting line-item veto.”
 
“My Newport voters want government transparency, public accountability and above all, they want to be part of the Rhode Island public policy conversation, says Rep. Lauren Carson – Newport, “the current condition of the House rules does not provide enough public transparency or participation. I want a clearer process for bringing bills to the floor for a vote and I want to be sure that Newport voters can review all legislative proposals before I am asked to vote on them. I stand firmly behind these efforts to reform the Rules of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.”

“Having served on the school mittees for so many years I am very aware that we were subject to the strictest rules regarding our agendas, says Rep. Terri Cortvriend – Portsmouth /Middletown, “RIGL 42-46-6  requires 48 hours of public notice to make any amendments to a school mittee agenda the same should be applied to state legislation. Our constituents are entitled to know what we are voting on and a minimum amount of time should be provided to allow them to share their opinions with us.”

??Caucus Remendations 
 
1. Suspension of Rules for the final days of session hinders the public and legislators ability to read bills, process changes, and make thoughtful decisions.  Bills need to e to the floor earlier in the legislative session.  Remendation: Rules may be suspended only by 2/3 majority of vote in the House.
 
2. Sub A to any bill made public for 48 hours.  Legislators need to be thoughtful and deliberative and not rushed into last minute votes to end session. The public and advocates deserve the same time to review and understand what their government is doing. As legislators, we have a duty to ensure there are no unintended consequences. Remendation: Proposed Substitute Amendments shall be posted online, and made available to the public for 48 hours prior to any vote in mittee, or on the floor.
 
 
3. Bills submitted will stay alive for the entire two year term. This would provide greater efficiency for the mittee process and not force the public to return each year to testify on perennial bills. This would free up time for mittees to work more in depth on legislation and have substantive hearings to debate Sub A proposals Remendation: Every bill introduced during year one of legislative term shall remain before the body for consideration in the second and final year of term.
 
4. Discharge Petition Whenever a bill has the support of the majority of the representatives (38 or more House Members); the bill clearly has enough support to pass the House and deserves a vote Remendation: Any prime sponsor of a bill would be allowed to circulate a separate discharge petition. If the sponsor gathered 38 or more signatures on the petition, then the bill would be brought up through the regular mittee hearing process. The mittee would vote to either remend that the full house pass or send to the floor without remendation. The mittee would not be able to hold the bill for further study. Then the bill would proceed to the floor for a vote. Importantly, the sponsor of the bill could obtain signatures for the discharge petition in the normal course of business. The petition would not have to “sit on the desk” which is the current rule.   
 
The Reform Caucus also remends passage of ‘Good Government’ bills such as creating an Office of Inspector General, and enacting a Line-Item Veto.
 
The House Rules are adopted in the initial weeks of the legislative session every two years after anelection. Currently, House Rules give broad powers to the Speaker of the House in appointing mittee members, mittee chairs, controlling the flow of bills and the passage of all legislation in the House Chamber.

Editorial note: written from a press release.

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"Little Shop" offers big fun at Contemporary Theater

A crew of iconic characters (Seymour, the ne'er-do-well attendant, Audrey, his put-upon co-worker, her sadistic dentist boyfriend Dr. Scrivello, and store owner Mr. Mushnik) are in for a strange ride as a total eclipse brings a rapidly growing, talking, (and hungry) alien plant to a skid row florist.

It's all for laughs in this Little Shop of Horrors, a classic Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid) musical, based on the 1960 Roger Corman cult film about a carnivorous plant with a taste for humans.

The Contemporary Theater pany has mounted a deliciously dark, toe-tapping production that careens gleefully from parody to pathos with fine acting, brisk staging, and excellent voices that make the show sparkle. And the plant puppets, wow, those plant puppets are spectacular.

Dean Hernandez is spot-on as the hapless Seymour, torn between conscience and his dream of impressing Audrey as his alien plant, dubbed the Audrey II, lures the world to their flower shop. The three skid-row urchins Ronnette (Morayo Akande), Chiffon (Alijah Ileana Dickinson), and Crystal (Jess Ring) who serve as the show's narrators and "Greek chorus" bring captivating presence and beautiful harmonies. And Sophie Pearson shines in her turn as the meek, tragic Audrey with a powerful show-tune-perfect voice ("Somewhere That's Green" is a standout number.) Jeffrey Oulette plays Mushnik with bluster and empathy, and Brad Kirton's over-the-top dentist join a solid ensemble in bringing the show to life.

Chris Simpson's direction, as always, is brisk and inviting, often threading the cast out through the audience in a stylish, effective  use of the Contemporary's space. Musical director Jean Maxon-Carpenter has coaxed excellent vocal performances, and the pit band does a fine job.
 
Special mention needs to go to Rebecca Magnotta, who both designed and runs the Audrey II puppets, from the table-top potted plant to the human-eating critter at the end. The centerpiece of the show, these are intricately beautiful and flawlessly functional. This is no mean feat when (without too many spoilers) several of the characters end up as, well, plant food. Magnotta's energetic puppetry bines with Jason Quinn's charming, chilling, off-stage voice to bring Audrey II to life.
 
Little Shop of Horrors performances Thurs-Sat evenings Nov 3, 8-10, 15-17 at 7pm, Sunday matinees Nov 11, 18 at 2pm. Tickets ($25/$15 student) available on www.contemporarytheaterpany. or by calling the box office at 401-218-0282.

Portsmouth remembers Marines lost in 1983 Beirut bombing

This morning, about 100 family members, civic leaders, veterans, and residents gathered at the Portsmouth Historical Society for the Beirut Memorial ceremony, honoring the nine Marines killed in the barracks bombing 35 years ago. A speaking program was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the stone memorial on the grounds of the Historical Society.

Sen. Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. David Cicilline all spoke, and RI Office of Veterans Affairs Director Kasim Yarn read a proclamation from Gov. Gina Raimondo. State Senators Felag and Seveney, and Reps. Mendonca and Azzinaro were in attendance, as was Town Council member Linda Ujifusa and school mittee members Terri Cortvriend and Andrew Kelly.

The speakers remembered the nine fallen Rhode Island Marines: Sgt. Timothy Giblin (Providence), Cpl. Rick Crudale (West Warwick), Cpl. David Mass (Warren), Cpl. Thomas Shipp (Woonsocket), Cpl. Edward Shares, Jr. (Tiverton), Cpl. James Silvia (Middletown), Cpl. Stephen Spencer (Portsmouth), and Lance Cpl. Thomas Julian (Portsmouth) and the other 232 Marines and s