RI Assembly session wraps up on low-key Friday night

Politics
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The General Assembly finished its regular session Friday night, avoiding the sort of all-night voting that has characterized the legislative finale in some previous years.

“It started out a little rocky but it ended with a bang,” House Majority Leader Joe Shekarchi, D-Warwick, said of this year’s session.

The House of Representatives went into recess at 10:08 p.m., shortly after the Senate did the same. The quieter close was attributed in part to House Republican Leader Blake Filippi’s refusal to suspend the rules in his chamber, blocking Democratic leaders from forcing quick votes on last-minute legislation.

John Marion, executive director of good-government group Common Cause Rhode Island, noted on Twitter: “How many times have we been told they have to suspend the rules to finish the year?”

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have both indicated their chambers aren’t done for the year: they will return this fall, potentially in September, to take up a proposed 20-year contract extension with gaming giant IGT that was announced Thursday.

One of the high-profile bills approved Friday was a measure sponsored by Pawtucket Democrats Rep. Carlos Tobon and Sen. Sandra Cano that supporters say could spur redevelopment in the city, though critics suggest it would allow for the use of eminent domain elsewhere.

Another bill that passed after extended negotiations — sponsored by Democrats Rep. Gregg Amore and Sen. Ryan Pearson — would shift to more school-based management in Rhode Island’s K-12 system as part of the Assembly’s larger education reform package. Pearson said it was aimed at “a culture change.”

Other legislation sent to the governor’s desk included a Student Loan Bill of Rights proposed by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter Neronha; an exemption from state licensing for natural hair braiders; a requirement that utility companies repair roads they dig up; a ban on noncompete clauses for low-income workers; and an expansion of oversight for new owners of hospitals.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Steph Machado contributed to this report.

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

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