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Rhode Island House passes 2 bills for firefighter overtime

April 10, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelming passed two bills mandating overtime for firefighters, despite protests from municipal leaders.

The bills now head to the Senate after the House approved them Tuesday night. Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello told WPRO-AM on Wednesday that it’s a “matter of fairness” and a quality of life issue for firefighters, who shouldn’t be forced to work long hours away from their families.

“Mayors have a duty to run our cities and towns efficiently, but they have to do it fairly,” he said.

One measure would strike from state law an exemption that shields municipalities from having to pay firefighters overtime after 42 hours. Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio is a co-sponsor of his chamber’s version of the bill.

The other bill would mandate overtime pay after 42 hours in Tiverton, Central Coventry and North Kingstown. These communities haven’t already adopted a lower overtime threshold than the federal standard of 53 hours.

Retired firefighter Michael Morin, a Woonsocket Democrat, led the floor fight for the overtime, arguing municipalities don’t negotiate with firefighters fairly, according to The Providence Journal.

The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns says the bills would allow the state to interfere in local governance decisions and limit the management rights of cities and towns. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo is currently speaking with municipal leaders and impacted unions, her spokesman told WPRI-TV.