Speaker: Referendum unlikely on PawSox stadium proposal

January 19, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s House speaker says it’s unlikely that lawmakers will ask the public to vote on the fate of a proposed new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Democrat Nicholas Mattiello said Thursday that his colleagues were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of a referendum on proposed public subsidies for the project. Mattiello had previously said he was open to it.

Mattiello says the general consensus after a meeting of House Democrats was that it is the legislature’s responsibility to decide the issue.

The state Senate has approved the use of public funds for the stadium, but Mattiello said members of the House want changes to reduce the state’s share of the financial risk.

Under the Senate’s plan, the state would pay for $23 million of the $83 million stadium in Pawtucket for the Boston Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate. The idea of a referendum has not been well-received in the Senate either.

Democratic Senate Finance Chairman William Conley Jr. introduced the bill to help pay for the stadium. He said there were several opportunities for public participation as the Finance Committee held hearings across the state this fall on the proposal. It’s now the responsibility of elected officials to vote on the legislation, said Conley, who represents parts of Pawtucket and East Providence.

“Put simply, it is our job, and the Senate is ready to do it,” he said in a statement.

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio agrees with Conley on this issue, Senate spokesman Greg Pare said Friday.

The Senate’s lawyer sent Ruggerio a letter this week warning that a binding referendum on the bill “would be an unlawful delegation of the General Assembly’s legislative authority,” WPRI-TV reported.

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