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Raimondo attends fundraiser at home of former Playboy CEO


A former Playboy executive has hosted a political fundraiser attended by Rhode Island's governor.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo traveled to Chicago on a 1-day trip Tuesday to attend the fundraiser.

Raimondo campaign spokeswoman Kate Ramstad on Wednesday confirmed that the event was at the home of Democratic fundraiser and former Playboy CEO Christie Hefner, who is the daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

Raimondo has said she plans to run for re-election as governor in 2018.

It's not the first time Raimondo has gone to Chicago for a fundraiser. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Democratic congressman who was also a White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama, co-hosted a 2013 fundraiser for Raimondo when she was a state treasurer considering a run for governor.

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Mayor keeps fighting after PawSox stadium plans stall


Supporters of a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox say Rhode Island could lose the team if state legislators don't reconsider a stalled proposal to help finance the project.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and other supporters held a Wednesday news conference at the State House.

The team is seeking a $23 million state investment for its $83 million proposal to build a downtown Pawtucket ballpark.

The Democrat says the state will lose revenue and an important cultural institution if the team leaves.

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said Tuesday he won't consider the stadium proposal in this year's session, which ends next month. Ruggerio says he's not worried about the team leaving because the Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate has a lease to play at McCoy Stadium through 2020.

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Ex-RI lawmaker indicted on embezzlement charges


A former Rhode Island state lawmaker has been indicted on embezzlement and campaign fraud charges.

A statewide grand jury on Wednesday indicted former state Rep. Peter Palumbo, a Cranston Democrat who lost his re-election campaign in 2014.

Prosecutors allege the 56-year-old Palumbo embezzled more than $100 from his campaign between January 2010 and December 2014. They say he unlawfully appropriated more than $1,000 from the same account.

Prosecutors say Palumbo unlawfully used campaign funds for personal use.

He's set to be arraigned in June.

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3 men arrested after trying to crash grad parties


Providence Police say three men were arrested after they tried to crash multiple graduation parties near Providence College.

They say a graduate told them three strangers tried to get into his party Saturday night and became angry when he refused to let them in. He told police the men vandalized the home and challenged him to a fight before fleeing.

Police say the men then tried to crash another party.

Thirty-year-old Scott Strom, of Cumberland, 32-year-old Bryant Lagasse, of West Boylston, Massachusetts, and 23-year-old Joshua Stein, of Providence, were arraigned Wednesday on vandalism and disorderly conduct charges. Court records don't list attorneys for the men.

A Massachusetts Department of Corrections spokesman says Stein is a correctional officer at the MCI-Concord men's medium-security prison.

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Theater company that abruptly closed sued for $860K


A Rhode Island theater company that abruptly closed this week is being sued for more than $860,000.

The Ocean State Theatre Company in Warwick announced its closure Tuesday. The company that owns the building where it used to operate is seeking unpaid rent and other costs.

The theater group chairman had described their financial situation as "challenging" when announcing the closure.

The building owner says he was surprised by the theater's decision, believing the company was going to stay through July and then find another location.

The theater company's managing artistic director declined to comment on the suit.

Warwick's mayor says he hopes another theater company will take over the space.

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Data finds few succeed in RI car tax vehicle value appeals


Data analysis finds only 24 out of the 704 people who appealed their cars' state-assessed value in the past three years were able to get a Rhode Island commission to reduce the value of their car.

The Rhode Island Vehicle Value Commission sets the value of the cars to determine a person's car tax bill. The value is based on a guide by the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union say the commission should consider other factors, such as the vehicle's age, to determine a car's value.

Gov. Gina Raimondo is proposing to cut the car tax by 30 percent next year. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says he wants to eliminate the tax completely over the next six years.

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Truck tolls plan questioned by Rhode Island GOP


Republicans and the American Trucking Association are calling on Rhode Island leaders to repeal a law passed last year that allows the state to install highway tolls on big-rig trucks.

House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan held a news conference Tuesday with fellow Republican legislators and trucker advocates calling for repeal of the toll-financed plan to repair the state's bridges.

They say they've studied how the tolls would work and it doesn't add up.

Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell is also questioning whether the funding is actually needed. Maxwell says inspection reports show one pending project, a replacement of Interstate 95's Oxford Street crossing in Providence, is unnecessary because the 1963-built bridge is structurally sound.

The state Department of Transportation didn't immediately return requests for comment about the claims.

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RI House passes bill to deregulate hair braiding


The Rhode Island House of Representatives has passed legislation that would deregulate the business of African-style hair braiding, which practitioners say is a cultural tradition and art form that shouldn't be subject to cosmetology rules.

The House unanimously passed the bill Tuesday. It now moves to the Senate.

It would exempt natural hair braiders from the costly licensing requirements for hairdressers and barbers.

Braiders say training and chemical safety rules for cosmetologists aren't relevant to what they do.

They're backed by a bipartisan group that included the bill's sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Anastasia Williams and conservative and libertarian organizations seeking to cut business regulations.

The national law group Institute for Justice has been fighting for years to deregulate braiding around the country.

Beauty schools have opposed the efforts nationally.

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Judge: Company discriminated against medical marijuana user


A judge has ruled against a Rhode Island textile company accused of discriminating against a woman when she was denied an internship because she uses medical marijuana to treat migraine headaches.

The Superior Court judge's decision released Tuesday found that the Westerly-based Darlington Fabrics Corp. had violated the state's Hawkins-Slater Medical Marijuana Act, which prevents discrimination against card-carrying medical marijuana users.

The complaint said Christine Callaghan, who was a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, negotiated a paid internship with Darlington Fabrics in 2014 but lost it after disclosing she held a medical marijuana card.

The case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.

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RI gas stays at same price this week


The price of gasoline in Rhode Island has remained the same since last week.

AAA Northeast said Monday that self-serve, regular is averaging $2.31 per gallon. That price is five cents below the national average of $2.36.

The average price of gasoline in Rhode Island is two cents higher than it was at this time last year. At that time, gas was averaging $2.29.

AAA found self-serve, regular selling for as low as $2.17 per gallon and as high as $2.44.

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City to consider rule change after indicted leader resigned


The Providence City Council will still consider changing its rules to allow for the removal of the president after the council's indicted leader stepped down last week.

The proposal would allow for a two-thirds council vote to permanently remove a president. Acting President Sabina Matos says the council will send it to a committee rather than vote on the matter Monday.

Former President Luis Aponte resigned from the position on Friday, saying it was in the best interest of his constituents. He remains a member of the council.

Aponte was charged this month with embezzlement and misusing campaign funds. The Democrat pleaded not guilty.

The resignation came after council members called for the special meeting to consider changing its rules to allow for Aponte's removal.

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RI House speaker promises no all-night sessions


The leader of the Rhode Island House of Representatives is promising "no late-night sessions" as the legislature is just weeks away from adjourning for the year.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says he can assure the public there won't be a repeat of what happened last June, when lawmakers adjourned after an all-nighter meeting that lasted into dawn.

Mattiello says he hopes to pass a budget by mid-June. There's a lot still to be decided. Legislators will have to cut nearly $134 million from the spending plan presented earlier this year by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. Updated forecasts show less revenue to work with and higher-than-expected spending by state agencies.

House Democrats held a closed-door meeting last week. Mattiello says their priorities include protecting hospitals and nursing homes from cuts.

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Hasbro to hold first-ever convention for company's brands


From G.I. Joe to My Little Pony, toy maker Hasbro says it's holding the first-ever convention to bring all of its brands together.

The Pawtucket -based company says its HASCON family and fan event will be held in Providence in September. Tickets went on sale this week.

Among those scheduled to participate are 94-year-old Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, YouTube stars Dude Perfect, actors who have voiced Transformers and My Little Pony cartoons and Candace Payne, who became a social media sensation with a Facebook video of herself in a Hasbro-made Chewbacca mask.

The toy company has been venturing more into the entertainment industry in recent years, capitalizing on brands such as Transformers, G.I. Joe., Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering to move into films, TV and video games.

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Hidden vault uncovered at RI capitol


Workers at the Rhode Island State House are taking guesses at what might be hidden behind a recently uncovered vault door.

The door was revealed as contractors removed wall paneling in a basement office at the capitol on Thursday.

For now, it's unclear what's behind the door, as no one knows the combination to the lock. Faded lettering reads "State Returning Board," a now-defunct body that oversaw vote counting.

Frank Montanaro, legislative services director for the General Assembly, says it would be possible to lift the heavy door off its hinges. But that would be expensive enough to require budgetary approval. Otherwise, he's left hoping that some retired government employee knows the code.

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Old state fair building to provide apartments for homeless


A multimillion-dollar renovation of a nearly 200-year-old Rhode Island building, once the state fair centerpiece, has been completed to provide housing for the homeless.

A  ribbon-cutting ceremony was held today at the Fair House in Warwick. The exhibit hall was built around 1820, and has been remodeled to provide 10 apartments for people without homes or people with disabilities.

The $2.5 million project was undertaken by a homelessness prevention group with help from the city, state and federal governments, along with preservationists.

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Kids could spend snow days studying under lawmaker's bill


Snow days at Rhode Island schools might not just be for sledding anymore.

The state Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on a proposal that would allow schools to provide at-home virtual education to students if classes are canceled because of inclement weather or another emergency.

It was introduced by state Sen. Roger Picard, a Woonsocket Democrat who was inspired by a New Hampshire program known as "blizzard bags."

Picard has also said he was motivated by the many lost school days caused by blizzards and other snowstorms in early 2015.

His legislation would allow for the virtual education curriculum to count as a school day. Participation by school districts would be voluntary.

The Senate passed Picard's legislation last year but it stalled in the House.

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DMV temporarily closes Wakefield office for computer launch


The state Division of Motor Vehicles says it's temporarily closing its Wakefield office to launch a long-delayed new computer system.

The DMV office in the Oliver Stedman Government Center in Wakefield will close today. It's expected to reopen July 18.

The DMV says Wakefield staff members will undergo training on the new computer system, which it plans to launch on July 5.

Many DMV transactions can be completed through the mail or online. The agency has waived banking fees for most online transactions during the launch period.

The total cost of the new computer system will be about $19 million.

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Seasonal Coast Guard stations open for summer boating season


The U.S. Coast Guard is opening seasonal stations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for the summer boating season.

The Coast Guard says Station Scituate opens Monday and Station Block Island  opens Friday.

They are scheduled to remain open through Labor Day.

The stations' crews perform missions including search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and recreational boating safety.

The stations are each equipped with 29-foot response boats and crews that are available to respond 24 hours a day.

The stations are overseen by the commanding officers of nearby year-round stations.

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Police find hand grenade inside RI apartment


Police evacuated an apartment complex and several businesses after a hand grenade was found inside a West Warwick apartment.

Detective Sgt. Stephen Vannini says police were at the home Wednesday to deliver a temporary restraining order. Officers were ordering the subject of a restraining order to surrender all weapons when another person told police about the live hand grenade in a closet.

The state police bomb squad was called and traffic in the area was cordoned off while the grenade was safely removed.

No arrests have been made in connection with the incident and police are continuing to investigate.

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Judge denies release of 38 Studios grand jury records


A Rhode Island judge has denied a request to release secret grand jury records from the criminal investigation into the state's $75 million deal with the video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Gibney on Thursday denied Gov. Gina Raimondo's petition for the 38 Studios records.

Gibney says the governor hasn't shown that the "public clamor" for disclosure outweighs the need for secrecy.

The judge sided with arguments made by Democratic Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who has said releasing the records would undermine the grand jury process.

The grand jury concluded its work in 2015 with no criminal charges.

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Interest would bring cost of stadium to $158M over 30 years


Officials say state and local taxpayers would help the Pawtucket Red Sox pay about $158 million over 30 years to build a new downtown ballpark, accounting for interest payments on bonds that would be issued under the proposal.

City officials and team executives said Thursday that both sides would share responsibility for covering the costs of the bonds. The team is expected to pay slightly more than half the cost of the project.

Details of the proposal, including how the bonds would be guaranteed, are still unclear as the proposed legislation has yet to be finalized. A city spokesman says he expects it to be completed soon.

Rhode Island lawmakers are approaching the end of their legislative session and said they must see a bill quickly in order for anything to pass.

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$134M gap endangers new proposals in RI budget


Rhode Island lawmakers are reviewing costly new budget proposals, including a high-profile initiative to provide two years of free college tuition and a repeal of an unpopular car tax, as projections force them to cut nearly $134 million from the governor's spending plan.

The chief fiscal adviser for the state House of Representatives, Sharon Reynolds Ferland, told the Finance Committee on Thursday that updated forecasts show less revenue to work with and higher-than-expected spending by state agencies.

Lawmakers must now close the sizable gap in Gov. Gina Raimondo's $9.3 billion plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Raimondo says legislators should still pass some version of her college tuition plan. Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says he believes there is still support for his car tax repeal.

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RI considers driver's education for teens' parents


Parents of teenagers learning how to drive would have to take their own driver's education class under a proposal being considered in Rhode Island.

The state House of Representatives voted 58-11 to pass the bill Wednesday, moving it to the Senate. It would mandate a free course for parents of drivers under 18 years old. Parents with multiple children wouldn't have to take the class more than once in a 5-year period.

AAA Northeast supports the bill, which was introduced by Democratic House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi. The organization intends to be a course provider.

Massachusetts and Connecticut have required such classes for about a decade. Rhode Island's proposal offers the option of taking it online.

Republicans who opposed it say it's a parental burden. Some suggested a manual instead.

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Vistaprint planning a 125-person RI sales office


A company known for selling business cards and other customized publishing products is planning a 125-person sales office in Rhode Island.

Vistaprint Corporate Solutions President Don LeBlanc made the announcement Wednesday with Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The company is seeking $2.2 million in tax credits awarded to employers that create new jobs in the state.

It would be a Providence-based national sales office for Vistaprint Corporate, a unit of Venlo, Netherlands-based Cimpress N.V. The division emerged from the broader Vistaprint brand in 2015 to focus on supplying medium-sized and large companies.

Vistaprint's U.S. headquarters is in Waltham, Massachusetts.

LeBlanc says the company considered expanding in Waltham but opted for Providence because of its talent pool, lower costs and the state incentives.

The jobs would be in sales and design.

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4 insurers to end pre-approval process for addiction meds


The Rhode Island health insurance commissioner says the state's four major health insurers will end a practice that has been criticized for delaying treatment for patients with opioid dependency disorders.

Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Hittner's office said Wednesday that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan and United Healthcare have signed an agreement with Hittner to end the practice known as prior authorization.

Under prior authorization, a physician must seek approval from a patient's health insurance plan to prescribe certain medications.

The practice is required by some health insurance companies to determine whether they'll cover prescribed medications or procedures.

Hittner says the agreements will improve access to necessary medications- such as Suboxone -for patients with opioid dependence disorders.

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Mayor vows to strip indicted council president of powers


The mayor of Providence says he will try to strip the indicted council president of his powers after he refused to step down.

Mayor Jorge Elorza said Wednesday he is directing the city's lawyers to research ways to sideline Luis Aponte to ensure that he is president "in name only."

Aponte was charged last week with embezzlement and misusing campaign funds. The Democrat is fighting the accusations and says stepping down would be an admission of guilt.

The council passed a vote of no confidence in him on Monday, 12-1, with Aponte himself casting the only vote against it.

Aponte is the second council member to be indicted in a year. Voters in Councilman Kevin Jackson's ward recalled him from office after an embezzlement indictment. Jackson has maintained his innocence.

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RI could ban lingering in leftmost highway lane


Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban highway drivers from lingering in the leftmost lane unless they're passing another vehicle.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to move the bill forward to the full House of Representatives.

It would affect driving on Interstate 95 and other multilane highways.

The bill's sponsor, Portsmouth Democratic Rep. Dennis Canario, has said it would stop slower drivers from "lallygagging in the high-speed lane." The retired police officer says it can be dangerous when people don't give way to passing vehicles because it causes others to drive aggressively.

Canario says that "if you're not passing anybody, there's no reason to be in that left-hand lane."

Other I-95 corridor states that already have similar "keep right" laws are Maine, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

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PawSox owners seek $38 million taxpayer help for new stadium


Owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox are asking taxpayers for $38 million to help finance a new $83 million ballpark project near downtown Pawtucket.

PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien announced the plans Tuesday at the city's historic Slater Mill. The proposal is being called "Ballpark at Slater Mill" because it would be built just across the river.

The Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox says it will invest $45 million to build the stadium. The rest - $23 million sought from the state and $15 million sought from Pawtucket - would come through bond agreements repaid with stadium revenue.

Lucchino says the team learned a lesson after its 2015 request for about $120 million from taxpayers for a new Providence stadium met strenuous public opposition.

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RI considers banning junk food ads at schools


Rhode Island is considering a proposal that would ban unhealthy foods and drinks from being advertised at schools.

The state House of Representatives voted 62-8 to pass the bill Tuesday. It now moves to the Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Joseph McNamara, says it reinforces a 2006 policy stopping schools from selling junk food and soda.

Beverage distributors also voluntarily agreed in 2006 to stop selling sodas to schools, but McNamara's bill would ban advertising by those corporate brands and others that sell products that don't meet minimum federal health standards.

It would prohibit advertising them at schools during the academic day and on anything used for school-related activities, such as athletic fields, scoreboards, uniforms or vending machines.

It would exempt advertising displays that are already a permanent fixture.

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Officials call hospital's nonprofit plan a blow to city


Woonsocket officials say a proposal to convert a hospital to a nonprofit would be a major blow to the city's finances, cutting off more than $1 million a year in property taxes.

Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said the city was blindsided by the plan from Prime Healthcare to make Landmark Medical Center nonprofit, meaning it wouldn't owe the taxes. She told a state panel reviewing the proposal that the city needs the money.

The hospital has paid more than $4 million in property taxes over the past three fiscal years.

State Sen. Roger Picard, a Democrat from Woonsocket, said the taxes were key to approving the purchase of the hospital in 2013.

The company says it will fulfill all agreements made during the sale.

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Vistaprint planning a 125-person Rhode Island sales office


A company known for selling business cards and other customized publishing products is planning a 125-person sales office in Rhode Island.

Vistaprint is expected to make the announcement today with Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The company is expected to seek tax credits awarded to employers that create new jobs in the state.

Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor says the company chose the state for its talent pool, business climate and economic development tools. He hasn't said how much the company could receive in tax credits.

The jobs would be in sales and design.

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Raimondo says she's willing to scale back free tuition plan


Gov. Gina Raimondo said Tuesday she might have to scale back her plan to provide two years of free tuition at public colleges.
A larger-than-expected revenue shortfall disclosed by state fiscal officials last week has complicated final negotiations between the governor and state legislators writing the budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.
Raimondo said she is willing to reduce the costs of her signature proposal, citing a “short-term revenue problem” and broader uncertainty surrounding the policies of Republican President Donald Trump.

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WWII veteran, 91, receives overdue medals in RI


A 91-year-old World War II veteran in Rhode Island has received his overdue medals.

Joseph Aquilante, of North Providence, sought the medals so he could leave them for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He says he wants to pass them on as a keepsake and part of history.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed presented them Monday in Cranston.

Aquilante was drafted in 1944 at age 18. He received the Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal and Army of Occupation Medal, Japan Clasp.

Aquilante reported on new developments in Japan and retrieved Japanese aircraft from airfields for technical knowledge.

He began talking more about his service later in life when he built a model of the bomber he trained on for his grandson.

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Mattiello moves ahead on car tax cut despite lagging revenue


Rhode Island's lagging revenue projections aren't stopping House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello from pursuing his plan to eliminate car taxes.

The Cranston Democrat says that he still wants to gradually phase out municipal car taxes, but given the deficit it might have to be achieved over six years instead of five.

Mattiello's spokesman, Larry Berman, said Monday the plan hasn't been finalized and once it is, the House Finance Committee will hold a public hearing. Berman says the aim is for taxpayers to see immediate relief beginning in July.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed a more modest plan to cut car taxes. Negotiations grew more complicated last week when fiscal officials released the revenue numbers used to write the state budget. They're behind earlier projections.

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RI could study, delay legal marijuana debate


Rhode Island lawmakers who aren't ready to legalize marijuana might try to study it instead.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote today on a bill that would create a legislative commission to study the effects of legalizing pot for recreational use.

The 15-member commission would review how marijuana legalization has affected residents of states such as Colorado and Washington and how it's affected fiscal conditions in those states. The group would report its recommendations back to Rhode Island legislators by March 2018.

Legalization proponents have been opposed to forming a commission, saying it would further delay taking action on legislation that's been debated for 7 years. They're organizing a Tuesday rally at the State House calling on legislative leaders to hold a vote this year on marijuana legalization.

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City council OKs no confidence vote in indicted president


Providence city councilors have approved a vote of no confidence in the council president after he was charged with embezzlement and misusing campaign finance funds.

Twelve councilors approved the vote Monday and are requesting that Luis Aponte resign from his position. Aponte was present. He and another councilor voted against and abstained, respectively.

Aponte pleaded not guilty to felony charges last week after he was indicted by a statewide grand jury.

Aponte said Monday that he is innocent until proven guilty and has no plans to step down from his post.

The Democrat is the second council member to be indicted in a year. Voters in Councilman Kevin Jackson's ward recently recalled him from office after he was indicted on embezzlement charges. Jackson has maintained his innocence.

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RI could ban lingering in leftmost highway lane


Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban highway drivers from lingering in the leftmost lane unless they're passing another vehicle.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote today on whether to move the bill forward to the full House of Representatives.

It would affect driving on Interstate 95 and any other multilane highways accessed by on-ramps and off-ramps.

The bill's sponsor, Portsmouth Democratic Rep. Dennis Canario, says it would stop slower drivers from "lallygagging in the high-speed lane." Canario, a retired police officer, says it can be dangerous when people don't give way to passing vehicles because it causes others to drive aggressively.

Canario says that "if you're not passing anybody, there's no reason to be in that left-hand lane."

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RI gas prices down 2 cents this week


The price of gasoline in Rhode Island is down two cents this week.

AAA Northeast said Monday that self-serve, regular is averaging $2.31 per gallon. That price is three cents below the national average of $2.34.

The average price of gasoline in Rhode Island is 9 cents higher than it was at this time last year. At that time, gas was averaging $2.22.

AAA found self-serve, regular selling for as low as $2.17 per gallon and as high as $2.49.

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Government benefits delayed, state sent money to wrong bank


The Rhode Island Department of Labor says it sent money to pay temporary disability insurance claims to the wrong bank, delaying payments for about 300 people.

Department spokesman Michael Healey said Friday the payments for last week's disability insurance claims were mistakenly sent to Chase Bank instead of KeyBank.

The department changed vendors for the prepaid cards that some people use to receive their weekly benefits. Healey says Chase Bank stopped handling prepaid cards for government benefits so the department switched to KeyBank on Monday.

Healey says people started calling the office this week to report they couldn't use their prepaid card. He says the cards should be working by Wednesday.

Most people have their benefits deposited directly to their bank account.

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Gov. Raimondo taps city policy officer to lead department


Gov. Gina Raimondo has nominated a Providence human services policy officer to lead the state Department of Human Services.

The governor announced Friday that Courtney Hawkins, a policy director for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, is her choice to lead the agency. Hawkins' tenure is slated to begin June 12.

The department's acting director, Eric Beane, is expected to receive Raimondo's nomination to become the next secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Officials say the director of HealthSource RI, Zach Sherman, will inherit the task of managing the turnaround of the state's new benefits system. The system launched in September and has since been plagued with technical problems that resulted in thousands of delays in benefits to residents.

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3 cities receive grants in economic development contest


Three Rhode Island cities have been awarded $400,000 each to spur workforce development and job creation among low and moderate-income residents.

Rhode Island is participating in the Working Cities Challenge competition coordinated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Providence, Cranston and Newport won the multi-year grants.

The challenge was launched in Massachusetts in 2013 and in Rhode Island in 2015.

Gov. Gina Raimondo says the cities spent months collaborating on their plans to improve their communities and she looks forward to seeing the results of their hard work.

Seven Rhode Island municipalities were awarded $15,000 grants in August to design proposals. Providence, Cranston and Newport were selected for the larger award.

The state of Rhode Island and local and national philanthropic organizations are funding the program.

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Bus lines moving out of Providence's Kennedy Plaza


Bus stops for Peter Pan and Greyhound buses are moving out of Providence's Kennedy Plaza as part of a plan to reduce the number of buses going through the centrally located plaza.

The two companies today will move their downtown Providence stops and ticket windows a few blocks away to Sabin Street at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority says the move will reduce the amount of bus trips through the plaza by up to 45 trips a day on average.

RIPTA also says it plans to announce changes to summer service that will consolidate some bus stops in Kennedy Plaza.

RIPTA CEO Ray Studley says it's part of an effort to create a more community-oriented Kennedy Plaza.

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Office that investigates complaints about lawyers relocates


The state office that investigates complaints of misconduct against Rhode Island lawyers is relocating.

The Rhode Island Judiciary says the Supreme Court Office of Disciplinary Counsel will open at the Noel Judicial Complex in Warwick on Monday.

The office had been located in the John E. Fogarty Judicial Annex in Providence.

The judiciary says the move will make the office more accessible to the public. Free parking is available in the garage next to the courthouse.

The office will now be in the same building where the Supreme Court Disciplinary Board holds hearings. The board oversees the office.

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Man convicted of killing police officer asks for new trial


A man convicted of killing a Rhode Island police officer with his own gun at police headquarters is asking a federal judge for a new trial.

Esteban Carpio is suing the state in federal court, arguing that his rights were violated at his trial for the 2005 killing of Providence police detective James Allen.

Carpio argues that he should have been ruled insane, saying that the judge's instructions to the jury undermined his case and encouraged them to rule in way that satisfied the "community's sense of justice."

Carpio also says his Boston lawyers were unfamiliar with Rhode Island rules and made procedural errors that prevented him from appealing. The state high court ruled in 2012 that the lawyers had strategically avoided pursuing a new trial.

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Fed budget includes $6M in fishermen safety grants


The federal government's 2017 budget bill includes $6 million in grant programs that support safety for fishermen.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the grants will improve access to safety training for fishermen in coastal states such Rhode Island, Massachusettes and Maine.

The budget includes $3 million each for the Fishing Safety Training Grant Program and the Fishing Safety Research Grant Program. Collins says both programs provide safety and survival training.

Collins says the programs will also help fishing boat operators comply with new safety requirements.

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RI considers banning unhealthy food ads at schools


Rhode Island is considering a proposal that would ban unhealthy foods and drinks from being sold or advertised at schools.

The state House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday but has delayed the vote. It's now scheduled for Tuesday.

Foods or beverages that don't meet minimum federal nutrition standards would be affected. It would prohibit advertising them at schools during the academic day, but also advertising on anything used for school-related activities, such as athletic fields, scoreboards, uniforms or vending machines.

It would also ban advertising by any corporate brand if it sells any products not considered healthy by U.S. Department of Agriculture standards. It would exempt advertising displays that are already a permanent fixture.

The bill was introduced by Warwick Democratic state Rep. Joseph McNamara.

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Governor: Lagging revenues mean no easy budget choices


Gov. Gina Raimondo says there are no easy choices now that state tax revenue in Rhode Island is expected to be nearly $100 million less than what was projected in the fall.

The revenue estimates released Wednesday call into question the governor's proposal to provide two years of free college tuition.

Raimondo said Thursday she and legislative leaders will have to "look harder at everything."

Raimondo says there's room to cut, but it's important to not sacrifice the economy's momentum. She wants to continue investing in job creation and training, economic development and schools.

She says Republican President Donald Trump's tax reform proposals are causing uncertainty and lagging revenues.

Wednesday's new projections represent a $60.1 million decrease for the 2017 fiscal year and a $39.5 million decrease for 2018.

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RI revenue numbers could shape leaders' priorities


Rhode Island fiscal analysts have met for hours in hopes of reaching a consensus on the estimated revenues used to write the state's budget.

The Revenue Estimating Conference began Wednesday morning in the State House and continued into the evening.

Lagging revenues this spring have complicated negotiations between state leaders over spending priorities, such as a proposal to cut car taxes and Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo's plan to provide two years of free tuition at public colleges.

The state budget officer and fiscal advisers for the state Senate and House of Representatives hold the public meetings twice each year. Legislators then use the revenue and expense projections to prepare and approve a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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Truck registration cuts cost state an additional $1.1M


The Rhode Island Department of Revenue says a plan to cut registration fees for commercial trucks is costing the state $1.1 million more than expected.

The plan to cut registration fees is supposed to reduce the burden placed on local truckers after lawmakers voted to start collecting tolls on large commercial trucks.

Lawmakers had said the cuts would reduce state revenue by $4.3 million.

Officials say costs are higher because lawmakers did not take into account registration fees for trucks that travel through the state.

The president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association says the difference in expected costs shows the state does not understand how the trucking industry works.

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Providence council president charged with embezzlement


The president of the Providence City Council has been charged with embezzlement and misusing campaign finance funds.

Luis Aponte pleaded not guilty to the felony charges Wednesday after being indicted by a statewide grand jury. His lawyer didn't comment after the arraignment.

The state Board of Elections last year forwarded a report about Aponte to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's office. It said it had reason to believe Aponte and his campaign treasurer violated state campaign finance law.

Kilmartin's office declined comment Wednesday.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has called on Aponte to resign.

Aponte, a Democrat, is the second council member to be indicted in a year. Voters in Councilman Kevin Jackson's ward recalled him from office last week after he was indicted on embezzlement charges. Jackson has maintained his innocence.

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VA aims to end veteran homelessness, says it'll take years


The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama's administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it'll take longer than his predecessor predicted.

VA Secretary David Shulkin says reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an "achievable goal" for President Donald Trump's administration.

Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities.

In January, the outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said that "we should be there" nationwide within a couple of years.

On Friday, Shulkin said, "We're still looking at a multi-year process."

While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin's commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.

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Some citations against panhandling protesters dismissed


A group that panhandled to protest anti-panhandling rules in a Rhode Island city has seen some of their citations dismissed, but not for the ordinance they were protesting.

On Wednesday, a traffic judge dismissed citations issued against nine people for standing in a freeway in Cranston. A lawyer for the city said similar citations could be refiled.

Lawyers on both sides of the case said it was unclear if the road the protesters were standing on was actually a freeway as defined by state law.

The citations came in March as demonstrators protested a rule that bans people from asking for money while standing in certain places, including near busy roads. They face a hearing next month for allegedly violating that rule.

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Groups ask RI leaders to protect immigrants


Thirteen Rhode Island nonprofit organizations are asking state leaders to do more to protect immigrant communities from the policies of Republican President Donald Trump.

A coalition sent letters Tuesday to Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, Democratic Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell.

The groups are asking Raimondo to issue an executive order that would limit the state's collaboration with federal immigration enforcement officials. They're also asking Suttell and Kilmartin to join counterparts in other states calling for a halt to federal immigration arrests in or near state courthouses.

A spokesman for Suttell says he's looking into it but isn't aware of any federal immigration enforcement actions that have happened at Rhode Island courthouses. Kilmartin says he's been working on issues addressed in the letter.

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Pupils wouldn't need doctor's note for sunscreen under bill


Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow students to take sunscreen into schools without a doctor's note.

The state House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass the bill Tuesday. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Concerns about skin cancer have led several states to loosen restrictions on sunscreen use in schools.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration labels sunscreen as a medication. Rhode Island's proposal would exempt sunscreen from rules banning students from using over-the-counter medications at schools without special permission.

Washington's governor signed similar legislation into law last week, following Arizona a week earlier.

A Rhode Island school nurse association is opposed to the bill. It says there's a danger of students taking in sunscreen and sharing it with other students who are allergic to it.

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Man charged with shooting, killing protected bird


Rhode Island environmental officials say a man has been charged with shooting and killing a federally protected bird.

The state Department of Environmental Management's law enforcement division said Tuesday that Brian Briggs, of South Kingstown, was arraigned Tuesday on multiple charges. He was released on $5,000 personal recognizance.

DEM says police requested its assistance regarding a complaint alleging Briggs fired a shotgun and hit a house.

The agency says environmental police discovered seven firearms, three deer heads that had been taken without reporting and a freshly-killed Great Blue Heron- a federally-protected bird -on Briggs' property.

The 56-year-old Briggs faces charges that include killing/possessing a protected bird and unlawful possession of deer. Court records don't list an attorney for him.

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RI man gets 15 years for sexually assaulting girl


A Rhode Island man is headed to prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's office says 24-year-old Jamal Rogers, of Woonsocket, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years behind bars. He must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Rogers was convicted in January of five counts of second-degree sexual assault.

Prosecutors say Rogers sexually assaulted the girl after pulling her into a wooded area behind a swing set at a Woonsocket park in February 2012.

The victim later reported the assault to a school counselor, who alerted police.

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RI gas prices down 1 cent per gallon


The price of gasoline in Rhode Island is down one cent this week.

AAA Northeast said Monday that self-serve, regular is averaging $2.33 per gallon. That price is two cents below the national average of $2.35.

The average price of gasoline in Rhode Island is 10 cents higher than it was at this time last year. At that time, gas was averaging $2.23.

AAA found self-serve, regular selling for as low as $2.21 per gallon and as high as $2.59.

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$54 million fight over Superman Building settles in court


A $54 million lawsuit over Rhode Island's tallest building, called the Superman Building, has been settled just before a trial was scheduled to begin in federal court.

The owner of the Providence skyscraper had sued Bank of America, saying the bank allowed it to fall into disrepair. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank countered that it spent millions of dollars on maintenance before it moved out four years ago.

A trial had been set to begin Monday.

The amount of the settlement hasn't been disclosed.

The building is owned by High Rock Westminster Street. It has been vacant for years and has become a symbol of the state's economic decline.

It was the tallest skyscraper in New England when it opened in 1928 as the Industrial National Bank Building and became the most recognizable feature on the Providence skyline.

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Child welfare director testifies on child deaths report


Rhode Island state legislators are holding hearings on how to prevent the deaths of children in state care.

Department of Children, Youth and Families Director Trista Piccola testified Monday at a Senate committee hearing.

Piccola, who is DCYF's new leader, says too many "front-line" staffing vacancies have contributed to the child welfare agency's problems. She says dozens more people are being hired.

Piccola says to "never, never, never, never compromise your front door."

The House Oversight Committee is also set to hold a hearing on Wednesday on recommended changes to DCYF.

A review by the state's child advocate published in March recommended an overhaul of DCYF practices after finding that four children died in the past year despite warnings from family, friends, police and others.

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RI considers limiting domestic abusers' gun access


People under a domestic restraining order would have to surrender their guns under a proposal being considered by Rhode Island lawmakers.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing today on the bill.

It would prohibit gun possession by people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, as well as those who are subject to protective orders and those with cyberstalking convictions. It would only apply to restraining orders issued or renewed after July 1.

A similar bill was debated last year but stalled in the final hours of the legislative session.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Teresa Tanzi, a South Kingstown Democrat, says this year's bill comes out of lengthy talks with domestic violence prevention groups and House leadership. A companion bill is being considered in the state Senate.

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Judge to hear arguments on bid to erase Hernandez conviction


A judge is set to hear arguments in a push by lawyers for former NFL star Aaron Hernandez to erase his conviction in a 2013 murder.

The former New England Patriots tight end hanged himself in his prison cell April 19 while serving a life sentence in the killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. His suicide came just five days after he was acquitted in a double slaying in 2012.

Hernandez's appellate attorneys have made their request under a long-standing legal principle holding that when defendants die before their direct appeal is decided, their convictions are vacated.

Prosecutors have argued that dismissing his murder conviction would reward his decision to take his own life.

The judge who presided at Hernandez's trial in Lloyd's killing has scheduled a hearing for today.

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RI pilot killed in small plane crash in Fla.


Authorities say a Rhode Island man died when his single-engine plane flipped and crashed as it tried to land at a Florida airport.

Clearwater Public Safety spokesman Rob Shaw said 44-year-old James  Fink of Exeter tried to land his 2007 Cirrus fixed-wing aircraft Friday evening at Clearwater Airpark.

According to Shaw, the plane came to rest upside down on the runway after it flipped and crashed. The runway remained closed Saturday morning as airport officials waited for investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Shaw said Fink had flown to Clearwater for a business conference. No one else was in the plane, and no injuries on the ground were reported.

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Sport institute founder to be sentenced for embezzlement


Authorities say a former boxing promoter, ex-college basketball coach and founder of a Rhode Island-based sport institute who was convicted of embezzlement will be sentenced this summer.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's office says Dan Doyle will be sentenced on July 7.

Doyle, of the Institute for International Sport, was convicted in December of 18 counts, including embezzlement, forgery, filing false documents and obtaining money under false pretenses.

Prosecutors say the 67-year-old Doyle, of West Hartford, Connecticut, used the institute as a piggybank, taking more than $1 million to pay for things including college tuition and wedding expenses for his children and for plastic surgery.

Doyle had sought a new trial. A judge denied that motion last month.

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State's reduced beach parking fees continue for residents


Lower rates for parking at Rhode Island's state beaches are continuing for another summer.

The state Department of Environmental Management says reduced parking fees remain in effect at state facilities as beach season kicks off this month.

The department says residents will again pay $6 for weekdays, $7 for weekends and holidays and $30 for the season this year.

The state budget passed by legislators and signed by the governor last June cut beach fees by almost half for the remainder of last year's season. It was the first reduction in recent history.

The department is maintaining the reduced rates for residents. Non-residents pay double.

State beaches in Narragansett and Westerly are scheduled to open on weekends beginning May 13.

All state beaches will be open daily beginning May 27.

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RI lawmakers to hold hearings on child deaths


Rhode Island state legislators will be holding hearings on how to prevent the deaths of children in state care.

Department of Children, Youth and Families Director Trista Piccola is scheduled to testify Monday at a Senate committee hearing.

The House Oversight Committee is also set to hold a hearing on Tuesday on recommended changes to the child welfare agency.

Piccola, who is DCYF's new leader, has said inadequate staffing might have played a role in recent child deaths.

A review by the state's child advocate published in March recommended an overhaul of DCYF practices after finding that four children died in the past year despite warnings from family, friends, police and others.

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RI Foundation awards grants to improve health care


The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded about $270,000 in grants to organizations working to improve health care for the state's residents.

The foundation says it's trying to make quality health care accessible and affordable.

Crossroads Rhode Island is receiving $70,000 to address physical and mental health challenges for low-income, homeless adults.

South County Hospital Health Care is receiving nearly $65,000 to work with others to reduce behavioral health-related visits to emergency rooms.

Thundermist Health Center is receiving about $62,000 to provide low-income patients with access to a pharmacist in Woonsocket, West Warwick and South Kingstown to ensure proper medication management.

Clinica Esperanza is receiving $50,000 to improve the health of uninsured, low-income, limited-English speaking patients. The Rhode Island Free Clinic is receiving $25,000 to launch a program for Hispanic women.

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Plan to help save southern New England lobsters up for vote


A plan to try to stem the decline of the southern New England lobster population is coming up for a vote in front of an interstate regulatory board.

The population of lobsters off of Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts has declined as waters have warmed.

Fishing managers have considered tools like trap reductions and seasonal closures to try to preserve the population. They also have talked about the possibility of changing the legal harvesting size for lobsters.

An arm of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to consider new management measures on Monday and Tuesday. The commission held a series of public hearings on the proposal in March.

Most U.S. lobster is brought to shore in Maine, where the harvest has been very strong for several years.

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Downtown Providence smoking ban gets first approval


Rhode Island's biggest city could soon prohibit smoking in the center of its downtown despite a warning from a city official that it would be hard for police to enforce.

The Providence city council gave first passage to a ban on tobacco products on Thursday, voting 10-3 in favor of it. It still needs to be passed a second time and could need a third vote to overcome a promised veto by the mayor, which would require 10 votes.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare told the council the ban would put police in a difficult position and could strain their relationship with the community. Officers could issue one warning to offenders. All further violations would result in a $50 fine.

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RI debates sex offender housing


Legislation to prevent sex offenders from concentrating in one Rhode Island city is angering politicians in another.

The state House voted 59-8 on Thursday to pass a bill that would prevent registered sex offenders from forming more than 10 percent of the population of a state-funded homeless shelter.

The bill's sponsor, Cranston Republican Rep. Robert Lancia, says the Harrington Hall homeless shelter in his city has become a place of last resort for sex offenders from around the state.

But several Providence Democrats railed against the bill during a debate on the House floor Thursday. They say it would effectively dump more offenders into their neighborhoods.

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Probe of police union ongoing after ex-leader's guilty plea


Rhode Island State Police and federal investigators are continuing to look into a local police union even after its former president pleaded guilty to fraud this week.

Newport Police Chief Gary Silva  says another phase of the investigation has not yet begun, although he declined to say specifically what else is being probed.

The former head of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Newport, Christopher Hayes, pleaded guilty on Monday to a federal charge of wire fraud. Prosecutors say he took almost $72,000 from the union and spent it on himself from 2009 to 2014.

The 49-year-old Hayes retired from the force in 2015 amid an audit of union finances.

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Police Look For Suspect


Cranston Police are looking for the suspect in an armed assault at a jewelry store.  Authorities say a black man entered Roman Jewelers at one-thousand Reservoir Avenue around 4:30 p.m. Monday carrying a shopping bag and asked to purchase some items.  When he pulled a handgun the clerk told the suspect to leave and he did. 

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Spa Suddenly Closes Leaving Customers Hanging


A Seekonk, Massachusetts salon and spa is leaving customers hanging after it suddenly closes.  A sign on the door at Tranquil Waters on Fall River Avenue tells customers the business closed "Due to unforeseen circumstances."  The owner was booking appointments last week after learning that the banks were going to close the business.  The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs is handling complaints.

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Truck Tolls On I-95 To Start At Year's End


Trucks traveling Interstate-95 in Rhode Island will start paying tolls at the end of the year.  The first location will be the Wood River Valley Bridge at the Hopkinton-Richmond line.  The 12 other tolls should be completed by next summer.  The tolls when fully operational are expected to generate about 45-million dollars a year to help pay for state transportation projects.

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Two From RI Killed In Auto Auction Crash


Authorities are identifying two of the three people killed in Massachusetts at an indoor auto auction from Rhode Island.  Billerica Police say 48-year-old Brenda Lopez and 49-year-old Pantaleon Santos were pronounced dead at the scene Wednesday morning.  Leezandra Aponte of Lowell, Massachusetts died later at the hospital.  Police say an employee of LynnWay Auto Auction was behind the wheel of a SUV that suddenly accelerated and crashed through the wall of the building.  Eight other people were injured.

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Pawtucket police chief to retire after decades on force


The head of the Pawtucket Police Department is retiring.

Police Chief Paul King will step down after more than three decades working for the city's police force. He joined the department in 1982 and has been chief since 2010.

Mayor Donald Grebien announced the change and commended King for helping to reduce crime.

Grebien says Major Tina Goncalves is being promoted to acting chief. She has worked for the city since 1998 and has a background as an attorney.

Goncalves is the first woman to hold the rank of major in Pawtucket. If selected for the permanent position, she'd be the city's first female chief and only the second woman to lead a Rhode Island police agency.

Pawtucket requires its police chiefs to be selected from within the department.

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