PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In one of her final acts before leaving to join President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet, Gov. Gina Raimondo will make her annual State of the State address to Rhode Island on Feb. 3.
Raimondo is planning to discuss her administration’s work over the past six years, including “investments in job training, economic development, education, health care, environmental progress, and more,” according to her office.
The annual speech is typically an opportunity for the governor to preview some of her top priorities and policy proposals for the upcoming year, including the budget. But this year’s address will be one of Raimondo’s final acts before leaving her term early, assuming the U.S. Senate confirms her to the position of U.S. commerce secretary.
Lt. Gov. Dan McKee — who will ascend to become governor after Raimondo leaves — is slated to craft the state budget for the upcoming year, due to the General Assembly by March 11. (The document is typically due in January, but lawmakers gave the governor an extension because of the pandemic.)
It’s still not entirely clear when McKee will take over for Raimondo. While McKee said he’s planning for a mid-February transition, Raimondo has said she plans to stay in office until the “moment” she is confirmed by the Senate. She has also declined to speak to reporters or answer questions since Biden announced her nomination.
Raimondo is also planning to take a backseat to R.I. Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott in the remaining coronavirus briefings during her term, a significant change from how she has led throughout the crisis. It’s unclear if she’ll make any further public appearances as governor other than the State of State address.
On Tuesday, a group of Rhode Island’s House Republicans called on Raimondo to set a hard date for the transition, suggesting she resign at some point rather than rely on the schedule of the “seldom-functional” U.S. Senate.
“Given the magnitude of the health, economic and social crises Rhode Island grapples with, we must have a defined leadership timetable, so that we may all plan accordingly,” the GOP lawmakers wrote. “The lieutenant governor will ultimately be responsible for these crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, our estimated $500 million deficit in the next fiscal year, and deep tears in our social fabric.”
The eight Republicans also suggested Raimondo should not be attempting to manage a state-level crisis while also “preparing to guide our national and international economic policy.”
Raimondo’s office rebuffed the request Tuesday afternoon.
“The governor will continue leading Rhode Island throughout the confirmation process,” press secretary Audrey Lucas said in an email.
The State of the State address is typically full of pomp and circumstance, with members of the judiciary, the full General Assembly and Raimondo’s cabinet in attendance, in addition to her family, various mayors, invited guests and members of the public in the gallery.
But the event is virtual this year, though Raimondo is still planning to speak from the House chamber at the State House, according to her office. It was not immediately clear who else will be in attendance. But the State House is not currently open to the public, and both the House and Senate have moved out of their chambers in favor of offsite meeting places with better ventilation and more ability to spread out.
The State of the State address is scheduled to be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on Feb 3. WPRI 12 will carry the speech on air and online.