RI lawmakers OK slew of bills on last day; may return this fall

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island lawmakers passed a flurry of measures before wrapping up the regular legislative session on Thursday night, amid widespread expectations that they will return to the State House in the fall to take up unresolved matters such as legalizing marijuana.

The Senate recessed at about 10:15 p.m., shortly after the House had done the same.

“I move the Senate to stand in recess until, perhaps, the fall,” said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence, alluding to her colleagues’ expected return a few months from now.

Among the bills that won final passage on Thursday were the $13.1 billion state budget for the new fiscal year that also began Thursday; a measure banning most individuals from carrying firearms on school grounds; legislation mandating equal pay for women; and an act to curtail use of plastic straws.

Other bills that cleared both chambers would ban the intentional release of balloons; create a state registry of all short-term rental units, such as those on Airbnb; open supervised injection facilities for opioid addicts; allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates; and require schools to teach civics.

All the bills will now go to Democratic Gov. Dan McKee to sign or veto.

House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have both indicated they are likely to bring their members back for a special session this fall. Issues on the agenda for a special session could include marijuana, police discipline, and spending federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Many high-profile measures already passed earlier in the session, including new laws that will raise Rhode Island’s minimum wage to $15, mandate minimum staffing levels in nursing homes, and toughen regulations aimed to counter climate change.

This was the first session as House speaker for Shekarchi, D-Warwick, after his predecessor Nicholas Mattiello was defeated last November. Ruggerio, D-North Providence, has been Senate president since 2017.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

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