Nesi’s Notes: June 22

Ted Nesi

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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.

Breaking this morning: Jim Taricani has died at 69. Here is our tribute.

1. Grumpy, beach-deprived state reps will be trooping their way back to the State House this sunny Saturday morning to finish work on the nearly $10 billion state budget, after Speaker Mattiello paused the debate Friday night to avoid it lasting into the wee small hours. Even without a finished product, though, there was still plenty of news made in the debate’s first five hours. Legislative leaders took another step to help Jason Fane’s proposed Providence skyscraper, authorizing Commerce RI to give the project up to $25 million in tax credits. (The cap for a single project is usually $15 million.) Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor scored a few 11th-hour victories, including a modest bump in how much he can give out in Rebuild RI credits. In a victory for the left, House leaders adopted a proposal by Governor Raimondo to let individuals in the Rhode Island Works cash assistance program stay enrolled for four straight years, rather than splitting their eligibility over separate two-year periods. Republicans used their doomed amendments to shine a spotlight on failures at DCYF and the repeal of a statute to lower the sales tax to 6.5%. When the House returns this morning, attention will quickly turn to the budget’s proposed expansion of medical marijuana, which Rep. Anastasia Williams already targeted for criticism earlier in the week. The speaker’s team will also presumably make good on their promise to remove that $1 million for the Cranston chiropractor and put it toward raises for home-care workers.

2. The Reproductive Privacy Act is now the law of the land in Rhode Island (though not without some signing-ceremony drama). It was a historic moment for the pro-choice movement after decades of efforts to codify a woman’s right to an abortion in state law. “This issue to me was one that was unlike anything else that we’ve dealt with,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata said on this week’s Newsmakers, noting the intensity on both sides of the debate. She defended the decision to shift the bill between committees and pushed back at Senate Minority Whip Elaine Morgan’s assertion that the bill would allow terminations until birth. “I just don’t agree with that,” she said. “We have doctors making medical decisions for a reason, and I don’t think lawyers or legislators should substitute their medical judgment for a physician.” The pro-life side is not giving up, waging a continued battle on multiple fronts. In court, a group of advocates filed a motion arguing the General Assembly did not have the legal authority to pass the measure. And on Friday, former Gov. Don Carcieri emerged from retirement to join other abortion foes in renewing the fight, with a focus on health inspections for abortion clinics among other issues.

3. The financial challenges in Warwick continue to grow more alarming: my colleague Eli Sherman scooped Friday that the city has again delayed the filing of its 2017-18 financial audit because it still isn’t complete. So this means the city is set to finish a new fiscal year (2018-19) while still lacking hard numbers on how it finished the previous fiscal year (2017-18). “This is nuts,” Dan McGowan tweeted. “I remember when Providence pushed its audit by a week one year and you’d have thought the sky was falling.”

4. RIPTA ridership has plunged 19% in the past few years.

5. Kim Kalunian reports the number of adult men on probation in Rhode Island is falling as the state continues to reassess how it handles supervision violations. Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey, a leader on the effort, is seeking to pass a bill in the Assembly’s waning days that would formalize a diversion program created by the courts and the attorney general that attempts to keep offenders out of prison.

6. Steph Machado is all over the escalating battle among Providence’s leaders over a revamp of the city tax structure. Here’s her latest.

7. The Johns Hopkins report on the Providence schools is due out next week, and early buzz says it’s not pretty.

8. A big victory for environmentalists in Burrillville.

9. Phil West comes to the defense of Secretary Gorbea on the voter list.

10. The New York Times has a roundup of where House Democrats stand on impeachment, and so far only one of the four who represent this region is on board: David Cicilline. Among the other three, Jim Langevin and Joe Kennedy III both says they are not yet ready to support an impeachment inquiry, while Bill Keating has failed to respond to The Times.

11. The iron law of supply and demand continues to work its will on Rhode Island’s housing market. The median sale price of a single-family home hit $300,500 in May, a new record. Yet there’s no sign the demand is translating into new construction: only 89 building permits for new housing units were authorized in April, still well below the pace before the Great Recession.

12. Don’t worry, Rhody Fresh fans: the blue milk cartons are coming back.

13. Jazz giant Stan Getz died nearly 30 years ago, but this week he’s out with a new album featuring an unreleased 1961 set at the Village Gate. The fact that a treasure like that could sit unheard for decades in a Verve vault makes this NYT exposé on Universal’s 2008 vault fire all the more tragic.

14. One critic’s take on the 25 TV episodes that changed television.

15. Congratulations to one of the greats, former WPRI 12 GM Jay Howell, on his big promotion to head KCBS in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-biggest television market.

16. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – R.I. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Vistaprint Corporate Solutions President Don LeBlanc; “Brown & Sharpe and the Measure of American Industry” author Gerald Carbone. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 8 p.m. on myRITV (also Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on Fox or 7:30 a.m. on The CW). Podcast lovers, you can subscribe to both shows on iTunes — get the Newsmakers podcast here and the Executive Suite podcast here — and radio listeners can catch them back-to-back Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. 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

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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