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Nesi’s Notes: Jan. 27

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Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for WPRI.com – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com and follow @tednesi on Twitter.

1. “Dead.” Speaker Mattiello’s headline-grabbing comment to Dan Yorke this week reinforced the uncertainty surrounding the PawSox stadium bill. While Mattiello’s staff said his point was one he’s made before – that the Senate-passed legislation will not pass the House without changes – nailing the upper chamber’s bill in a verbal coffin suggested Mattiello is a long, long way from getting on board with a ballpark plan. The speaker told Yorke he thinks the proposal remains unpopular with voters, not least voters in his conservative-leaning Cranston House district. Looming over the conversation is Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias, who nearly defeated Mattiello in 2016 and is contemplating a rematch this November. The problem for the PawSox: Frias has said he will be motivated to run again if Mattiello allows a ballpark bill to pass, citing his ideological opposition to corporate subsidies. Frias could be bluffing, but for the speaker, green-lighting a stadium deal also could mean green-lighting a formidable fall opponent.

2. So far the biggest story of the General Assembly session isn’t any piece of legislation – it’s the increasingly poisonous relationship between House and Senate leadership. Will it be this way through June?

3. Monday’s vote to end the government shutdown was an interesting X-ray of Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation. Three of its four members voted for the funding bill – Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jim Langevin. Notably, Reed and Whitehouse were the only two Southern New England senators who backed the bill; the four Democrats who represent Massachusetts and Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren among them, voted “no.” (Northern New England’s four Senate Democrats were also split, New Hampshire in favor and Vermont against.) Whitehouse was blunt in explaining his vote, arguing, “This is what progress looks like.” (He also argued that unhappy activists were asking too much of Democrats by wanting them to continue the shutdown over DACA.) The lone Rhode Island holdout, David Cicilline, explained his vote by saying the bill’s backers were “kicking the can down the road again” since it only funds the government through Feb. 8.

4. Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung reports his campaign finished 2017 with $239,000 in the bank after raising $175,000 in the final three months of the year. He was the first candidate to report numbers, calling it a “very strong” showing. The overall fundraising picture should be clearer after Wednesday, the deadline to file campaign-finance reports with the Board of Elections.

5. Independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo is this week’s guest on Newsmakers, and we cover a wide array of topics, from his GOP critics and President Trump to illegal immigration and the Burrillville power plant. “I feel that I’m in it 100% until November,” Trillo said of his candidacy. “People are trying to spread the rumor that I’m going to get out. I have no intention of getting out. If I was going to get out, why would I leave the Republican Party and announce I’m going to run as an independent?”

6. Our weekly dispatch from WPRI.com’s Dan McGowan: “How much will Providence play a role in the race for governor? If this week was any indication, it might be more than you think. Independent candidate Joe Trillo sent two press releases targeting the city, first saying Mayor Elorza’s plan to establish a municipal ID card program is a ‘scam, a waste of money for the city, and obviously intended to circumvent federal laws.’ On Friday he took aim at the city’s police reform ordinance, arguing it is ‘tying the hands of our police and demoralizing them.’ Trillo knows he won’t pick up many votes in the capital city, but he can appeal to folks outside Providence who think the city has too much crime and is managed poorly. It’s unclear if other candidates will criticize the city too, but don’t forget that Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is also no fan of Elorza. Last May, he wrote an op-ed declaring Elorza’s request to monetize the city’s water supply ‘nothing but a funding mechanism for the city of Providence.’ If candidates keep taking swings at the city, Governor Raimondo could find herself answering difficult questions as well. Could she have stepped in to push Mayor Elorza to address the pension system? Could the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education have done more to improve the city’s low-performing schools? For their part, Elorza’s aides are downplaying the criticism for now. But then again, it’s only January.”

7. Steph Machado reports on the ongoing turmoil at DCYF detailed at a House hearing Thursday. Money isn’t always the solution, but Walt Buteau reported last month DCYF’s inflation-adjusted budget has fallen by tens of millions of dollars over the last decade. Governor Raimondo’s new budget plan proposes increasing DCYF funding by less than 0.2%, or about $352,000, from its current level.

8. The battle lines in the fight for Care New England are coming into sharper focus. CNE’s leaders remain committed to a merger with Partners, and this week’s announcement means the two sides will remain in exclusive talks for the foreseeable future. Brown shows no signs of wavering in its opposition, arguing Thursday that the Raimondo administration must “consider whether a local option would better serve the residents of the state” – that option, of course, being Brown’s proposed collaboration with Prospect Medical Holdings. But Prospect’s involvement is poison to UNAP, the nurses’ union, which is saying outright that it welcomes the continued CNE-Partners negotiations because they block Prospect for now. And then there’s top hospital group Lifespan, which has sounded unhappy with both options – and wanted control of Care New England itself. With thousands of jobs, marquee hospitals and future economic development all on the line, this is likely to be a political issue in the coming months – especially in an election year.

9. Former Democratic Lt. Gov. Charlie Fogarty announced Friday he’s retiring as the state’s director of elderly affairs, taking advantage of the retirement bonus being offered by the Raimondo administration. While Fogarty never got Rhode Island’s top job – he lost a squeaker to Republican incumbent Don Carcieri in 2006 – Raimondo communications director Mike Raia argues that Fogarty still looms large in Rhode Island politics thanks to the ranks of those who once worked for him. In the governor’s office alone, Raia himself was a Fogarty intern, as was another former top Raimondo aide, Matt Bucci. Raimondo’s chief of staff, Brett Smiley, moved to Rhode Island in 2006 to manage Fogarty’s campaign. Tom Coderre, the former state senator who just became a senior adviser to the governor, was the Fogarty campaign’s political director. Elsewhere in state government, Sue Pegden, Matt Weldon, Jason Hernandez and Andy Andrade all worked for Fogarty; in the congressional delegation, Sheldon Whitehouse deputy state director Rele Abiade and Jack Reed aide Chris Alpert did, too. And in the lobbying/campaign world, Fogarty alums include Rick McAuliffe, Jeff Taylor, Jeff Guimond, Ray Sullivan, Lenny Lopes and Kevin Olasanoye. “The Fogarty Alumni Network in Rhode Island politics might actually be more expansive than PC’s or URI’s,” Raia said. “He gave me my first opportunity in government and was one of the first people to call me when word got out that I was moving back here six years ago.”

10. The Rhode Island Senate’s new policy director is a familiar face: Kate Bramson, who’s leaving as The Providence Journal’s economic-development reporter to take the job. She starts Feb. 5.

11. Senate Democratic leaders are throwing their support behind Pawtucket City Councilwoman Sandra Cano in the primary for Jamie Doyle’s old seat. Both Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey are on the host committee for a Cano fundraiser at the Pawtucket Country Club on Wednesday. Ethan Shorey reports Cano will have the party endorsement, too. She faces two opponents, Matt Fecteau and David Norton, in the Feb. 27 primary. Two Republicans, Richard Karsulavitch and Nathan Luciano, and independent Pamela Braman have also pulled papers for the April 3 special election.

12. Paul Labbadia, the Coventry Fire District chief who was the subject of a much-discussed 2014 Tim White investigation, pleaded no contest this week to charges of pension fraud.

13. Southeastern Mass. Congressman Joe Kennedy III will deliver the Democrats’ State of the Union response on Tuesday night, live from Diman Regional Voc-Tech in Fall River. Kennedy told my colleague Eric Halperin he found out he’d gotten the nod after Nancy Pelosi sought him out on the House floor. “She brought me back into her office and booted out all of her staff, and that doesn’t happen very often, so I had no idea what was coming next,” he said. WPRI 12 will carry President Trump’s speech and the Kennedy follow-up live.

14. After narrowly surviving a tough Democratic primary in 2016, Providence state Rep. Anastasia Williams already has an opponent this year. Dwayne Keys, a Democrat who heads up the South Providence Neighborhood Association, filed a notice of organization with the R.I. Board of Elections on Friday.

15. The Boston Globe’s Evan Horowitz poses a question that could also be asked in Rhode Island: “Why doesn’t Massachusetts have a budget surplus?”

16. Four reporters look back at the Bill Clinton sex scandal, 20 years later.

17. Why all NFL fans will miss Brady and Belichick when they’re gone.

18. Blast from the past: Bruce Sundlun’s 1990 campaign book is online.

19. A eulogy for the headphone jack.

20. A top sommelier says you’re ordering wine wrong.

21. Set your DVRs: This week on NewsmakersJoe Trillo, independent candidate for governor. This week on Executive Suite – Citizens Bank Rhode Island President Keith Kelly; Heidi Hope Photographers founder Heidi Guerard. 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 (tnesi@wpri.com) 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

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