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1540 WADK.com Updates



Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is introducing legislation that seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the data broker industry.  The bill targets companies that collect and sell personal information about consumers.  The measure would provide consumers with the right to stop data brokers from using, sharing or selling their personal information.  Whitehouse says selling this information is a violation of consumer privacy and the bill would allow people to take control from the brokers.



Despite efforts to delay the state pension overhaul lawsuit trial by both sides, a judge is ordering it to move forward.  Attorneys for the unions challenging the changes and the state want more time to review millions of documents.  However, the state Supreme Court says the trial should begin as scheduled April 20th.  State employee unions are suing to stop reforms to the state pension system that were passed in 2011.



The main building at Schartner Farms in North Kingstown is destroyed following a fire.  The flames broke out at the landmark main building at the farm early yesterday morning.  The wood structure has been expanded several times over the years, and the flames apparently got trapped inside the walls.  No injuries are reported, and the cause remains under investigation.




Rhode Island House Majority Leader John DeSimone wants to close loopholes in campaign finance reporting.  DeSimone's bill would require candidates and political action committees to file a copy of their next bank statement after submitting their quarterly campaign finance report.  The bill comes after the conviction of former House Speaker Gordon Fox for using campaign finds for personal expenses.  DeSimone says this change would help stop these crimes from happening.



Rhode Island lawmakers are considering legislation that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.  The bills introduced separately in the House and Senate would legalize pot for people over the age of 21 and tax it similar to alcohol.  Cranston Senator Joshua Miller says marijuana prohibition has been a long term failure, and this would allow the drug to be sold safely and responsibly.  He also says legalization would bring tens of millions of dollars into the state's coffers.



The Rhode Island Senate is giving its approval to the return of bake sales at polling places on Election Day.  The practice was banned last year by the election board amid concerns that the sales interfered with the election process.  The election board last year ordered PTO bake sales that had been set up at polling places in Cranston to be removed.  The bill moves to the House.



Rhode Island State Police say they found two kilograms of cocaine during a routine traffic stop in Lincoln.  Police say the driver of the car did not have a license, and they noticed some unusual electrical wiring in the passenger side of the car.  The vehicle was impounded, and police say the cocaine was found in a hidden compartment.  Police arrested Jose Neysito Codero of Mattapan, Massachusetts on narcotics trafficking offenses.



An employee of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families is accused of reckless driving in a state-owned vehicle.  State Police say Richard Davis of Pawtucket began chasing another vehicle in an apparent road rage incident.  Witnesses say Davis caused the other car to be involved in a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate-95 in Warwick.  Davis is a 27-year employee of the state, and is free on one-thousand-dollars bond.



Rhode Island Health Director Michael Fine is lifting the declaration of widespread influenza in the state.  Fine says the combination of Centers for Disease Control guidance and reports from health facilities in the state led to the decision.  The declaration that the flu is no longer widespread means healthcare workers who are not immunized are no longer required to wear a  surgical mask during all patient contact.



Healthsource RI is offering a special enrollment period for eligible individuals and families to get coverage in order to avoid paying a tax penalty this year.

The state's health connector announced Tuesday that those who did not have health coverage last year could enroll from March 15 through April 30 to get covered for the rest of 2015.

The connector says people who sign up during this period will not have to pay a tax penalty when they file their taxes this year. Otherwise, residents who did not have coverage in 2014 must pay a fee of $95 per adult or one percent of their income when they file their taxes.

The connector says customers who pay the first month's premium by March 23 will have coverage effective April 1.



Investigators have nailed down he cause of a weekend fire that damaged several businesses at a Seekonk strip mall.

The state fire marshal determined that a space heater sparked the flames, according to the Seekonk Fire Department.

The three-alarm fire broke out at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the shopping plaza along Route 6. Fire Chief Michael Healey believes it started at the Bead and Wire store.

Some of the businesses sustained smoke damage and will be closed temporarily, while others were significantly damaged by the flames.



A Rhode Island state lawmaker is offering a bill that would encourage people to report potholes on state roads.  Lincoln Representative Gregory Costantino's bill would require the state DOT to set up a pothole hotline where drivers could easily report problem areas.  Costantino says potholes damage vehicles, but also create a safety concern when drivers swerve to avoid them.  The bill is being considered by the House Finance Committee.



Three men are facing serious drug charges after State Police say they were found in possession of more than a kilogram of cocaine.  Police say the cocaine was detected in a shipment sent by regular mail to a post office in Providence.  After the package was retrieved police arrested Kley Guerra, Jose Guerra and Cesar Morales on cocaine distribution charges.  All three are being held without bail.



Governor Gina Raimondo is naming Nicole Alexander-Scott to be Rhode Island's next health director.  Alexander is a doctor who also teaches at Brown University, and has served as a Health Department consultant in the past.  She replaces former health director Michael Fine, who submitted his resignation to Raimondo last week.  Alexander-Scott is expected to begin work as director April first.



Brown University says an unidentified laboratory performed an inaccurate test to determine whether a female student was drugged at a fraternity party on campus.

The lab initially reported a urine sample taken from the student tested positive for GHB, a central nervous system depressant referred to as a "date rape" drug.

But university administrators said in an open letter that the laboratory recanted its findings after outside medical experts challenged the results.

The university has dropped its inquiry into drugging allegations by two female students who attended a party by Phi Kappa Psi last Oct. 17. The Rhode Island chapter of Phi Kappa Psi says no members served a spiked drink to either of the young women and challenged the laboratory's test results.



Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is firing back at cyberbullies who posted offensive comments about his daughter on Twitter.

Schilling congratulated his daughter on Twitter last week after she was accepted into Salve Regina University, where she'll play softball next  year.

Multiple people then  posted vulgar and sexually explicit comments about her.

Schilling wrote on his blog Sunday the ignorance and lack of morals and integrity are astounding. He reposted Tweets and has identified some of the people responsible. He says it's never OK for a man to talk about a woman like that and it's time for it to stop.



North Providence is considering easing zoning rules to let some residents raise chickens in their backyards.

The proposed zoning change is largely the work of Timothy Thorp, a Brown University web developer who says he wants to introduce his children to home-grown eggs and other aspects of chicken farming.

He lives on a half-acre plot and his family grows tomatoes, basil, beets, apples and other vegetables and fruits.

Mayor Charles Lombardi does not support the proposal. He says it could create problems because North Providence has few open spaces for chickens.

The law calls for a 10-foot buffer from the property line and at least 25 feet between the chicken area and neighboring homes.

Thorp has assembled a petition with more than 200 signatures.



Gasoline prices are continuing to rise in Rhode Island.  Triple-A Southern New England says the cost of a gallon of self serve regular gas is up eight cents in the last week.  The average cost is two-dollars and 37-cents a gallon in the state, which is six-cents less than the national average.  Triple-A says seasonal maintenance at refineries and volatile crude oil costs are the reason for the recent price spike.



A new report places Rhode Island as the ninth worst state in the nation for business.  The web site 24-Seven Wall Street used dozens of statistics in eight categories as they worked to determine the most and least business friendly states.  Rhode Island received good scores in technology and innovation, but ranked very low in business costs and regulation.  The most business friendly state in the list is Utah, and the least friendly is Louisiana.



Governor Gina Raimondo is urging a newly formed panel to help the state bring its Medicaid costs under control.  One of Raimondo's first acts as governor was to form the 28 member Working Group to Reinvent Medicaid.  The panel met for the first time yesterday, and are expected to present a preliminary report to the governor by April 30th.  The panel will be holding hearings across the state in the coming weeks to solicit input from the public on the issue. WRITE IN: *NFL* MUST CREDIT ESPN Adam Schefter talks about free agency. The Patriots put the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski and will try to sign a long term deal with DB Devin McCourty.



Deepwater Wind says they have secured financing for their planned wind farm off the shore of Block Island.  The Providence based company has closed on 290-million-dollars in financing for their 30 megawatt power project.  The company has also secured all of the permits they need to begin construction in the next few weeks.  The wind farm would be the first offshore wind facility in the nation.



Amidst another Sunday snowstorm, a fire started inside a triple-decker house on the East Side of Providence.

Flames shot up from the roof of 690 Hope Street as residents watched helplessly.

Providence firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour.

“It looked like it came up from the back of the building to the third floor wall where it was fully involved,” said Acting Battalion Chief Jeff Gallo.

The acting battalion chief says firefighters did not have any problems with water supply or hydrants. Instead, the bigger challenge came from inside the home.

“There was a lot of debris inside the house that impeded our progress.”

The homeowner is Vivian English who is the widow of Award Winning Photographer Ed English.

English family members said several of his negatives and photographs were inside the home. Many are now destroyed.

Some of the pictures include John F. Kennedy wedding pictures, John Junior’s graduation at Brown University and Babe Ruth when he played in Providence.

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It took all of 20 minutes for Providence police to find two juveniles accused of robbing a gas station on Manton Avenue Sunday night.

Police say three teens robbed Manton Gas at gunpoint shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday, making off with about $400. An eyewitness told officers he saw the boys running down Sheridan Street toward a pedestrian bridge.

By 7:31 p.m., police apprehended a 16-year-old male near Glenbridge Avenue, according to an incident report obtained by WPRI.com. The boy told police he dropped his gun and mask when he saw an officer. A black BB gun was found nearby.

Minutes later, police said they caught one of the other teens trying to jump a fence near Fairfield Avenue. The 15-year-old had a handgun and $36 in his pockets.

The two teens were charged with first-degree robbery. The third boy was not caught Sunday



The record snowfall this winter is not going to stop the Pawtucket St. Patrick's Day Parade.  The event is scheduled to take place next Saturday, and organizers say they will be ready to go.  The most heavily viewed area of the parade is Wolcott Street and on to City Hall, and officials say that area is all cleared of snow.  Organizers point to 1996 when the city experienced similar snow late into the winter, but the parade still was held.



Honeywell International is closing its plant in Cranston.  The company says the factory that makes safety gear will be phased out and closed by the end of next year.  Distribution and manufacturing employees will be laid off, but non-production workers will keep their jobs and be transferred to the company's Smithfield facility.  It's unclear exactly how many people will lose their jobs because of the closure.



More than 31,000 people signed up for coverage on Rhode Island's health insurance exchange during the latest open enrollment period.

HealthSource RI was set up as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Enrollment figures released Thursday show that 31,513 people enrolled for coverage for 2015, including 83 percent of customers who were covered in 2014. About 10,300 people signed up for the first time and 450 small employers enrolled.

Enrollment for 2015 ended Feb. 15. There was a short special enrollment period afterward, due to weather-related closings at the contact center and walk-in locations.

More than 25,000 people signed up for coverage last year.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, United HealthCare and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island are offering plans through the exchange.



Portsmouth officials have rejected a pay-as-you-throw system for trash collection, citing potential costs for users.

The Newport Daily News reports that a town committee urged the council to adopt a pay-as-you-throw program that would have required residents to purchase bags with a Portsmouth logo and color.

Only trash in those bags could be dumped at transfer stations. The cost would be $2 for a 30-gallon bag and $1.25 for a 15-gallon bag. The fee for an annual sticker for the transfer station would be reduced to $40 from the current $135. But one council member said families would still spend more.

The intent is that the cost of the bags would encourage residents to recycle, reducing fees the town pays for disposing of trash at the Central Landfill in Johnston.



Rhode Island is receiving more than five-million-dollars from the federal government to help reduce homelessness.  The HUD grant will be used to expand rental assistance for disabled people.  It's estimated that the funding will help place 150 of the state's most vulnerable people into affordable homes.  Senator Jack Reed says this is a smart investment that will help people with disabilities to live independently with dignity and security.



Dozens of people are facing charges as part of a long investigation into drug activity in Providence.  Police yesterday announced the arrests of 35 men and that 15 firearms have been seized as part of a long running investigation into drugs and guns.  The investigation largely focused on activity at and near the Hartford Park public housing complex.  The investigation was run by the Rhode Island Violent Crime Initiative, which consists of federal, state and local law enforcement officials in the Providence area.



Governor Gina Raimondo is forming a working group to help deal with soaring Medicaid costs the state is incurring.  Raimondo has issued an executive order establishing the working group charged with reinventing Medicaid.  The state expects to spend well over two-billion dollars this fiscal year on Medicaid, which is the state health coverage plan for low income residents.  The state's per person cost of a Medicaid enrollee is the highest in the nation.



A legislative effort is underway to protect victims of domestic violence from people with restraining orders.  A bill under consideration would force anyone who's the subject of a restraining order to surrender all of their firearms immediately.  The bill would also prevent anyone from purchasing a gun legally if they have a restraining order against them.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering the bill, which has multiple co-sponsors in both chambers.



Rhode Island's medical director is resigning after four years on the job.

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday that Michael Fine, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, is stepping down March 27.

She says Fine submitted his resignation Tuesday. She says he is leaving to pursue new opportunities. The governor says Fine drew attention to the state's drug overdose epidemic and was instrumental in increasing immunization rates among adults and children.

Fine was awarded a community partnership award from the Liberian Community Association in December for his efforts to educate residents about Ebola during last year's outbreak, which primarily occurred in parts of West Africa. Rhode Island has a large West African population, and many residents have relatives who were affected by the outbreak.



Environmental officials say areas of Mount Hope Bay and the Kickemuit River are being closed to shellfishing over discharge from a wastewater treatment facility in Massachusetts.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management says the areas will be closed to shellfishing from sunrise Thursday until March 5.

DEM officials say the disinfection system failed at Fall River's Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility Wednesday morning and 600,000 gallons of non-disinfected effluent were discharged.

They say they enacted the emergency closure in response.



Gov. Gina Raimondo and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello have made up after a public dispute over the state's budget procedure.

Raimondo said at a conference on Friday that the General Assembly and lobbyists take the governor's proposed budget and "hack it up every which way."

She said her job is "to shine a light" on the process.

Mattiello called it an "inaccurate depiction" of the budget process.

The governor phoned the speaker Tuesday and the two officials met in Mattiello's office for about two hours Wednesday. Mattiello said he no longer expects "placeholders" for large, undefined cuts in Medicaid or programs in the budget Raimondo will submit next month.

He said he considers the governor a friend and that the two have "always worked very well together."



The board of the Coventry Fire District has voted to terminate the contract of its suspended chief.

The board debated the validity of the contract Wednesday. Chief Paul Labbadia did not attend the meeting.

The board began investigating Labbadia in response to a WPRI-TV story in October. Labbadia was accused of drinking alcohol and playing golf during the work day and using his fire district vehicle for recreation.

Labbadia has denied wrongdoing.

The board's lawyers claim Labbadia's five-year contract was invalid because government employee contracts are limited to three years by the state, and the contract could be terminated without cause.

Labbadia's lawyer, Thomas DeSimone, says the contract is valid and he plans to appeal the firing in court.



The suspect wanted for a drive-by killing last May in Providence is now in police custody.  Chaquiro Blandino turned himself in to police yesterday and quickly faced a judge.  He's accused in a shooting last May in Elmwood that killed Francis Rodriguez and wounded another man.  Blandino is charges with murder, felony assault, drive-by shooting and weapons offenses.



Not everyone at the State House is lining up behind the plan to move the Pawtucket Red Sox to Providence.  Narragansett Senator James Sheehan says he feels an allegiance to the team being in Pawtucket.  He would also like to see the former I-195 land in Providence where the ballpark is planned occupied by a building full of good jobs.  Sheehan says the state had planned to support emerging industries like bioscience on the land.



A bill is being introduced in the Rhode Island Legislature today that would allow a hotel on the Twin River Casino property.  The bill will be offered today by Lincoln Representative Jeremiah O'Grady in an effort to compete with casino resorts coming to Massachusetts.  Twin River is seeking to add a four story, 200-room hotel to the casino property.  Current law bans hotels at the casino, which was put into place in an effort to protect Providence hotels.



Brown University researchers say the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have cost Rhode Island more than $70 million to date, and will cost millions more.

Two new papers produced as part of the Watson Institute's Costs of War Project at Brown were released Tuesday. Researchers Brian Smith and Luke Lattanzi-Silveus examined Rhode Island and Texas to highlight the forms of local funding for returning veterans.

They say Rhode Island has spent $73.6 million to $79.8 million so far on housing, employment benefits, counseling and other services for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

They say the costs are likely to increase dramatically as the state begins to maintain a new veterans' home.

Smith says he's hopes the data will enhance the discourse on foreign policy and intervention so the public can make informed choices.



Former Providence Mayor Angel Tavaras has a new job.  Tavaras is joining the Boston based law firm of Greenberg Trauerig LLP as a litigation shareholder.  The firm says Tavaras is an accomplished executive and respected litigator who brings a wealth of experience to the table.  Tavaras ran for governor instead of reelection as mayor last year, losing the Democratic primary to now Governor Gina Raimondo.



The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved the governor's request to extend the deadline to file a disaster declaration for last month's blizzard.

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday that FEMA has extended the deadline to March 27. Raimondo said the state's Emergency Management Agency is working to complete assessments following January's blizzard.

The governor said the extended deadline will give cities and towns additional time to assess damage caused by the blizzard and evaluate costs incurred.

She said she is doing everything she can to make sure the state receives any federal assistance available.

Raimondo declared a state of emergency and imposed a travel ban Jan. 27 when a nasty winter storm brought high winds and dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on parts of the state.



Lawmakers say they're trying to confront changing technology by proposing new protections against identity theft, amending the definition of cyberstalking and making it a crime to access another person's computer to view confidential information.

Sen. Louis DiPalma of Middletown proposed amending the identity theft protection act to require stronger encryption methods for personal information, among other changes, saying the methods have been developed since the act was last updated.

Rep. Kathleen Fogarty proposed considering a single act as cyberstalking rather than just a pattern of conduct.

Rep. Robert Craven says people are accessing computers in ways the computer crime law never anticipated.

The state attorney general's spokeswoman says the laws need to address how technology is being used while the Rhode Island ACLU opposes the cyberstalking and computer crime bills.

 

 



Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island says about 15,000 of its current and former Rhode Island customers have been affected by the data breach at Anthem Inc.

Blue Cross says hackers gained access to personal information from Anthem members, and information from consumers covered by independent Blue Cross & Blue Shield plans working with Anthem.

Hackers recently broke into a database storing information for about 80 million people. Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer, says it's providing credit monitoring, identity theft repair assistance if someone experiences fraud and identity protection designed specifically for children, for two years.

The services are available to all current and former customers who date back to 2004.



House Speaker Nick Mattiello is criticizing Governor Gina Raimondo's recent comments on the state budget.  Raimondo recently said the legislature routinely carves up budget proposals from governors in private, saying that's not good for anyone.  Mattiello says her comments are not an accurate description of the budget process.  He says the House will continue to be a gatekeeper and will reject any of the governor's proposals that are not good for the state.



Republican members of the General Assembly have formed a policy group to identify wasteful spending and they're looking at the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority's finances first.

The authority operates the convention center, the Dunkin' Donuts Center, Veterans Memorial Auditorium and two parking garages.

Deputy Minority Leader Patricia Morgan says the state pays $20 million to $25 million annually for the debt issued by the authority nearly 30 years ago to build the facilities. She says the authority should be making enough by now to contribute to the debt service and other expenses.

An authority spokeswoman didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

The authority says in a recent report it continues to feel the effects of the recession, as consumers continue to choose their entertainment options cautiously.

 



The Providence School Board has voted to ask the state to drop one school day from its attendance requirement this year because of days lost during recent snowstorms.

The five-member board said it passed the unanimous motion Monday night.

School Superintendent Susan Lusi said she wouldn't have sought to shorten the school year if six snow days hadn't pushed the school calendar into the July Fourth holiday week. She said that "would pose a host of challenges for families and staff alike."

The request notes that the state was under a state of emergency because of extreme winter weather when the school days were canceled. The state allows districts to ask for some leeway from its 180-day requirement.

The board's request will go to the Rhode Island Board of Education.



Rhode Island gas prices have climbed another 5 cents per gallon in the past week.

A weekly survey by AAA Northeast released Monday finds that the average price of a gallon of regular was up to $2.29.

Rhode Island prices are 19 cents higher per gallon than a month ago and $1.23 lower than on the same date a year ago.

The current price is a penny less than the national average.

AAA says self-serve, regular is selling for as low as $2.12 and as high as $2.43 per gallon.

Earlier this month Rhode Island gas prices jumped 11 cents per gallon, driven by higher crude oil prices.



A new study places Providence as the third most organic city in the country.  The study from the Campbell Soup Company and Sperling Best Places rates cities based on the amount of organic food its residents eat.  The study says that Providence only trails Portland, Oregon and San Francisco as the most organic consuming cities.  Rounding out the top five are Sacramento and Minneapolis.



Police are working to identify a man who robbed a woman after she won money at Twin River Casino.  Police say the robbery occurred February 20th after the woman collected her winning voucher.  The suspect approached and claimed to be with casino security, saying something was wrong with her voucher.  The man took it and walked away, and was seen on surveillance video cashing the voucher and fleeing the casino.



A guard at Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston is injured after being assaulted by an inmate.  The correctional officers union says the unidentified officer was punched in the face by inmate Tychonn Banks on Sunday.  The officer reportedly suffered a broken jaw in the attack.  Banks has a criminal record spanning two decades, and is charged with assaulting a correctional officer.



The Pawtucket Red Sox are moving away from the city they have called home for decades.  The team has been sold for 20-million dollars to a ten-member ownership group that includes Boston Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino.  The PawSox are reportedly headed to a state of the art stadium that will be built in Providence.  The team will remain in Pawtucket for at least the next two years.



The Miss Cranston Diner is back in business.  The diner is back open in a new location on Oaklawn Avenue in Cranston, not far from where the old location burned down ten months ago.  The new location opened last month after ownership was forced to refinance, as insurance did not cover all of the rebuilding costs.  The cause of the kitchen fire that destroyed the old location has not been determined.



No injuries are being reported after part of the roof collapsed at a Lowe's home improvement store in Warwick.  Officials say a 20 foot by 60 foot section of the garden center roof collapsed under the weight of snow and ice early yesterday.  The store was closed at the time of the collapse, and opened as usual yesterday morning. 



The Providence School Board today will consider whether to shorten the school year by a day.  The city has already called six snow days this year, which pushes the school year until June 26th.  Any more missed days could force the city to extend the school year into Independence Day week.  School officials say shortening the school year by a day will give them a little breathing room heading into the final weeks of winter.



A dozen bills have been introduced in the legislature regulating license plates, including offering more specialty plates.

One bill proposes to cut the number of plates for each vehicle from two to one. Another would allow vehicles heavier than 9,000 pounds to order vanity plates.

Rep. Joseph Solomon, D-Warwick, plans to introduce a bill memorializing what he calls "the Coney Island of Rhode Island." He said it's to honor the nonprofit Rocky Point Foundation Inc., which works to preserve the land where the Warwick amusement park once stood, and provide some financial help.

The plates would cost $40, with $20 going to the state's general fund and the other $20 going to the Rocky Point Foundation.



Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien says Pawtucket's Triple A baseball club has been sold and is leaving the city.

The mayor says that he was briefed by the team Sunday. He did not disclose the new owners or where they will move the team.

Grebien said that until Sunday there was hope the team would remain in Pawtucket. However, he said he was presented with a plan that doesn't include Pawtucket.

He said the move is "devastating."

Grebien said the new owners told him it didn't make sense to spend money on the stadium and they are instead looking at establishing a destination stadium.

The team's principal owner is Madelaine Mondor, widow of longtime owner Ben Mondor who owned the team from 1977 until his death in 2010.



A Republican lawmaker has proposed ending the state's health insurance exchange.

HealthSource RI was set up as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Deputy Minority Leader Patricia Morgan introduced a bill to prohibit the state from funding HealthSource RI and direct the governor to transfer the operation to the federal government beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

Morgan says the estimated annual price of operating the exchange appears to be $14 million to $20 million. She says that's too much, and it threatens the state's fiscal health.

She says current enrollees would retain their coverage through the federal exchange. More than 30,000 people are currently enrolled.

Democratic lawmakers have said they'd like to see the state shift to the federal system.

Morgan's bill was referred to the House Finance Committee.



Less than two months after taking office, Gov. Gina Raimondo is headed to Washington, D.C., to attend a National Governors Association conference, White House meetings and dinner with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Her office said in a statement her participation in the weekend conference sessions is an "important opportunity" to meet with other governors and officials from across the United States to discuss policy prescriptions.

Raimondo also will meet with Obama administration officials about how Rhode Island can tap federal resources to boost economic development.



After auditing the unemployment insurance division, the Department of Labor and Training is asking for a state police investigation.  A manager told higher-ups at the DLT about the possible fraud last week.  Investigators say the fraud involves at least tens of thousands of dollars.  Investigators think at least one person is involved but aren't ruling out the possibility of more.



Fewer homeless people are living on the streets in Rhode Island.  The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless reports about 41-hundred people used a homeless shelter last year, down by nearly 800 since 2012 and about 300 from last year.  The coalition says that although the numbers are going down, they still have waiting lists for some family facilities.



Federal authorities have two men in custody after finding a meth lab in a Cranston apartment.  Forty-eight-year-old Michael Fortes and 33-year-old Nicholas Selser were arrested on Wednesday after authorities raided an apartment reportedly belonging to the pair.  Investigators say they found ingredients and supplies to make methamphetamine inside but didn't find any drugs.  Both men are facing three charges following their arrest.



With rain possible this weekend, emergency officials are asking for your help to clear storm drains.  The wet weather and warmer temperatures expected for at least the second half of the weekend could result in flooding on streets.  With emergency crews already stretched thin, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency officials are asking homeowners to dig the drains clear.  They also advise you to clear snow off your roof because the rain can add a lot of extra weight.



The former chief of the Central Coventry Fire District is dead after apparently suffering cardiac arrest while in Florida.  Andrew Baynes was on vacation in Florida when he passed away on Tuesday.  Baynes worked for more than three decades at the Warwick Fire Department.  He was chief in Central Coventry for more than two years before resigning last year.



The Narragansett Tribe is receiving a federal affordable housing grant of more than a half-million-dollars.  The funds come from a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development program that seeks to help Native American tribes.  The money is distributed to eligible projects that benefit low income families living on reservations.



A fugitive wanted for a Massachusetts home invasion is in custody in Warwick.  Police say they obtained information that Tramaine McNeill might be staying at a house on Vanderbilt Road in Warwick.  Police went to the house yesterday, and after about a half-hour he emerged and peacefully surrendered.  McNeill was arraigned as a fugitive from justice and waived extradition back to Massachusetts.



Workers at Rhode Island Hospital are authorizing a ten day strike notice against facility owner Lifespan Corporation.  Teamsters Local 251 represents more than two-thousand workers at the hospital, including nurses, maintenance and food service employees.  The union is seeking better pay, health insurance, retirement benefits and layoff protection for the workers.  The hospital says the union's demands are not sustainable, but they remain optimistic that a deal can be reached to avert a strike.



Leaders from multiple religions are united in condemning anti-Islamic vandalism at the Islamic School of Rhode Island.  More than 20 religious leaders visited the school yesterday to show solidarity over the spray painted graffiti on the door and wall of the school this past weekend.  The school is currently closed for February vacation, and officials say the graffiti will be removed before students return for classes.



Governor Gina Raimondo is issuing an executive order seeking to streamline  Rhode Island's business regulations.  The executive order is designed as a way to test proposed state regulations that affect businesses.  Proposed business rules will be scrutinized by her executive team under the order, with proposals being subject to a cost benefit analysis and other reviews.  The governor says Rhode Island has long been considered unfriendly to business, something she is seeking to change. 



Governor Gina Raimondo is announcing major changes at the state Department of Transportation.  Raimondo says DOT Director Michael Lewis is resigning at the end of the month after six years of service.  Raimondo says she intends to appoint Peter Alviti Jr. to the position as DOT director.  He has previously served as Cranston public works director and most recently was director of programs for the Laborers International Union of North America. 



Unionized  Rhode  Island Hospital workers are planning to vote today to issue a ten day strike notice.  The Teamsters Local 251 are seeking better wages, benefits, job security and working conditions for their 22-hundred workers at the hospital.  The union says the vote is being taken because they have not been able to reach an agreement with Lifespan, the company that owns the hospital.  The union says Lifespan's latest proposal eliminates a no layoff clause and freezes wages for a 21 month period.



A Providence man has pleaded not guilty to a charge that he murdered a Cranston woman by selling her a fatal dose of a drug laced with the painkiller fentanyl.

Aaron Andrade appeared in Superior Court Monday on counts of murder, possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver and delivery of a controlled substance.

A Providence County grand jury indicted the 23-year-old Andrade last week in connection with the overdose last year of a 29-year-old Kristen Coutu.

Andrade is accused of selling an illicit drug containing "nearly pure fentanyl" to Coutu, who was found unresponsive in her mother's car on Feb. 17, 2014. The cause of death was ruled to be fentanyl intoxication.

The state Department of Health says 83 deaths involved fentanyl



U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is hosting a community dinner tonight for constituents in Coventry.  Whitehouse frequently hosts these free events to hear concerns of residents first hand and to take questions.  The event is being held at the Coventry High School cafeteria beginning at six p.m.  While the event is free and open to anyone, it is first come, first served.



Gas prices are up again in Rhode Island.  Triple-A Southern New England says gas prices rose five-cents in the last week, and currently stand at two-dollars and 24-cents for a gallon of self serve regular.  The good news is that gasoline is still substantially lower today than it was a year ago, when drivers were paying an average of three-dollars and 48-cents a gallon.



Providence school bus drivers are threatening to go on strike.  The city's bus drivers say they have reached an impasse with operator First Student, and plan to walk out when classes resume Monday.  The drivers are currently guaranteed two and a half hours each shift, and are fighting for three-hours a shift.  Around 20-thousand Providence students would be impacted by a school bus strike.



The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is urging people to remove snow from the roof of their home or business.  More than 50 inches of snow have been recorded at TF Green Airport since the beginning of the year.  Officials say that with more snow on the way, roofs may be experiencing stress that can lead to collapse.  Long handled snow rakes are being recommended for use in removing snow from the roof.


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