Rhode Island legislature enters final stretch
By MATT O'BRIEN
Jun. 18, 2017
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island state legislators have left their most important decisions of the year for the last two weeks of June.
The state House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $9.2 billion budget that includes tax relief for car owners, a pilot program for tuition-free community college, cuts to government spending and no broad-based tax hikes.
If approved by the House, it must then be considered and approved by the state Senate before it can move to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. The upcoming fiscal year begins July 1.
Along with the budget, hundreds of other bills are still awaiting a vote in one chamber of the General Assembly or both. Only a handful of bills have been enacted into law since lawmakers convened in January.
Several remain in negotiations, such as legislation to disarm domestic abusers and a proposal to require private employers to guarantee paid sick days.
Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has pledged not to end the session with all-nighter meetings, as happened last year when bleary-eyed lawmakers weren't finished until sometime after the sun rose on the legislative session's last day.
That late-night tradition appeared to be continuing last week, when the House Finance Committee began its final budget deliberations after 10 p.m. Thursday and voted to approve the $9.2 billion plan just before 1 a.m. Friday.
But Mattiello said as the work piles up this week, he plans to cut off nightly deliberations on the House floor at 10 p.m. or earlier if it looks like whatever is on the calendar is going to need more time to debate.