RI lawmakers head back to work Tuesday


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -— The Rhode Island State House will remain quiet despite lawmakers’ return Tuesday for the start of the 2021 session.

Instead, members of the General Assembly will be conducting their business elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House of Representatives will meet at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium at 2 p.m. and the Senate will convene at Sapinsley Hall on the Rhode Island College campus at 4 p.m. Tuesday’s sessions will not be open to the public, but can be viewed on Capitol TV.

Leadership will look different, too, with House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, poised to take the role of House Speaker after Nicholas Mattiello lost his re-election bid in the fall.

“I think things are on the upswing in Rhode Island,” Shekarchi told 12 News in a Zoom interview Monday night, calling himself an, “eternal optimist.”

He said his focus has been on the budget, which he called “a big unknown,” as lawmakers wait to see when the economy will recover and whether Washington has the appetite for another round of stimulus.

“Nobody wants to raise taxes on anybody but…everything is literally on the table,” Shekarchi said.

Lawmakers have given Gov. Gina Raimondo an extra 45 days to submit her budget proposal, bumping the deadline from late January to March 10 to allow for the consideration of any further federal assistance.

Another potential source of revenue: recreational marijuana, which both Shekarchi and Senate President Dominic Ruggerio have said they are now open to considering.

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