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1. It was a (very) busy news week in Rhode Island, so today’s edition will be on the brief side. The State House news agenda was dominated by a double feature from Governor Raimondo, with her State of the State on Tuesday and her budget’s release on Thursday. Looking to get up to speed? For a recap of the State of the State, click here. You can also watch the full speech here, and read Kim Kalunian’s profile of the woman whose story book-ended the speech here. For a cheat sheet of 12 things you should know about the $9.4-billion budget proposal, click here. And for early reaction to the budget, click here. The governor finished off the week at WPRI 12’s studios for a taping of Newsmakers, where she answered questions about the budget and other hot topics – you can watch the show here.
2. Something to keep an eye on in the coming months: the debate over giving the governor a line-item veto. Ken Block has been beating the drum on the issue for a long time, and has gotten enough traction that a legislative commission was established last year to study it. Governor Raimondo used the State of the State to make a prime-time plea for legislators to act on the issue – and, notably, her call received a standing ovation from senators even as reps remained seated. Is that a sign Senate President Dominick Ruggerio may pass line-item veto out of the Senate, forcing House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to either do the same or take the heat for killing it? Mattiello suggested that possibility to reporters Tuesday night, and offered a warning. “It’s not a game-changer,” Mattiello told reporters. “It does shift power, though. And that could be good, that could be bad. … You start shifting that power someplace else, and it’s not necessarily to the governor – that may shift it to the Senate. Be careful what your outcomes are.” A contrary view comes from Charlie Baker, who told me at last summer’s NGA conference that the line-item veto is a “powerful and useful” tool for him as Massachusetts governor.
3. It’s starting to sound like House leaders may make some attempt to refashion the PawSox deal (yet again) so it can clear the chamber. “I’m certainly willing to have a conversation with the PawSox,” Speaker Mattiello said Thursday, after a closed-door Democratic caucus ended with him abandoning the idea of a voter referendum on the ballpark. (It may have helped that AFL-CIO President George Nee sent reps an email earlier in the day warning them unions leaders were “adamantly opposed” to a referendum and urging the House to vote.) On Newsmakers, Governor Raimondo expressed some skepticism about how much more room there is to shift risk onto the owners. “What I would say to the House is, just do your job,” she said. “Have hearings. Make it specific. What kind of changes are you talking about?”
4. Our weekly dispatch from WPRI.com’s Dan McGowan: “It’s pretty rare for most of the major news outlets in the state to assign reporters to cover misdemeanor trials, but the case of Violet LeMar is different. LeMar is the elementary school principal in Providence who was charged last May with failing to contact DCYF about sexual abuse allegations made by several of her students against a gym teacher. Now District Court Judge James Caruolo is taking the weekend to think about the four-day trial before issuing his ruling Monday morning. His decision won’t be an easy one. On one hand, LeMar is the only Providence school employee who has been charged with a crime even though no fewer than 10 of them were aware of the students’ claims against James Duffy, the teacher now facing six counts of second-degree child molestation. By all accounts, she is considered a good principal with a clean disciplinary record. And she testified that she didn’t believe the students’ initial abuse accusations were ‘sexual in nature.’ But as prosecutor Ania Zielinski frequently pointed out this week, the other school employees aren’t the ones on trial and LeMar’s talent as a principal isn’t being questioned. As Zielinski explained, LeMar is on trial because multiple students went directly to her with accusations and she never contacted DCYF. Caruolo’s decision may come down to simply reading the law, but he’s going to be under the microscope because only three people have ever been charged under the failure-to-report law and no one has been convicted at this point. And remember, in the event LeMar is convicted, she can immediately request a trial in Superior Court.”
5. Something to keep an eye on: the Rhode Island unemployment rate has been ticking up a bit, from 4.1% in May to 4.4% in December. Sometimes the jobless rate rises for a good reason, because an improving economy is drawing more people into the labor force to start actively looking for a job. But that wasn’t the case in the second half of last year: resident employment fell by about 2,500, and the labor force shrank slightly. Revised employment data for 2017 should be released in the coming weeks and give a clearer picture of the situation.
6. Six candidates pulled papers by Friday’s deadline to run for the Senate District 8 seat in Pawtucket vacated early this month by Democrat Jamie Doyle. They are Democrats Sandra Cano, Matt Fecteau and David Norton; Republicans Richard Karsulavitch and Nathan Luciano; and independent Pamela Braman. The primary is Feb. 27 and the special election is April 3.
7. Dryvit President and CEO Mike Murphy is not happy about a Providence ordinance banning his products from first floors downtown, so much so he says the West Warwick manufacturer and its roughly 150 local employees could leave Rhode Island over it. That aside, Murphy is optimistic about the outlook for not only his company but American businesses more generally. “I think the economy is really good,” he said. “I think it’s gaining a little bit of steam. I think that the changes in the tax code are good – I think they’re good for business. I think that businesses will reinvest – I know that we’re going to be reinvesting a lot of tax savings into capital expenditures.”
8. Secretary Pryor says Rhode Island is still in talks with Amazon.
9. The Rhode Island Manufacturers Association will hold a dinner tonight to present its first-ever Samuel Slater Lifetime Achievement Award to Henry D. Sharpe Jr., former owner of the iconic Rhode Island company Brown & Sharpe. Sharpe, celebrating his 95th birthday this year, is the grandson of Brown & Sharpe co-founder Lucian Sharpe and son of its longtime leader Henry Sharpe Sr. He ran the company from 1951 to 1980, and he and his wife, Peggy, have long been generous donors to Rhode Island charities.
10. The local chapter of the PR Society of America is hosting a panel discussion Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Skyline, “Meet the Women of RI Media,” featuring an all-star panel of Margie O’Brien Reed, Gail Ciampa, Kim Kalunian, Casey Nilsson and Elisabeth Harrison. More info is available here.
11. Lincoln Chafee was back at his high school, Phillips Academy in Andover, the other day to join fellow members of the 1971 championship wrestling team as they honored their coaches. Here’s a photo.
12. FiveThirtyEight argues there is more than one opioid crisis.
13. “Americans work less than ever before but still feel like there’s no free time.” Business Insider says this is the reason why.
14. Last weekend’s widely shared NYT op-ed on Charles Schulz’s 1968 decision to introduce the first African-American “Peanuts” character, Franklin, brought to mind another great piece of writing on Schulz – novelist Jonathan Franzen’s 2004 New Yorker profile of the cartoonist.
15. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Governor Raimondo. This week on Executive Suite – Ed Hammersla, chairman/CEO, Utilidata; Steven Porter, president, Association of R.I. Authors. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). Catch both shows back-to-back on your radio Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. And you can subscribe to both shows as iTunes podcasts – click here for Executive Suite and click here for Newsmakers. See you back here next Saturday morning.Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook