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PawSox brass meet with Worcester city officials


Worcester is stepping up its efforts to lure the Pawtucket Red Sox to the city.

PawSox brass including chairman Larry Lucchino and vice chairman Mike Tamburro - a Worcester native - met with by City Manager Ed Augustus, Mayor Joe Petty and other officials last week to discuss a possible move.

The visit included a tour of the Canal District neighborhood adjacent to a vacant property, the site often mentioned as a possible location for a ballpark.

The Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate's lease at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket runs out in 2020 and the team wants a new ballpark.

Rhode Island officials have said they want to keep the team, but have not been able to reach a financing deal for a new stadium.

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RI budget impasse: Governor wants vote this week


Gov. Gina Raimondo is pushing for a vote this week to end a lengthy impasse between the House and Senate over the state's $9.2 billion budget.

Raimondo told reporters on Tuesday that her top priority is to pass a budget this week. She says Aug. 1 is the day the state is supposed to send increased aid for schools and local communities, and passing a budget will make that possible.

Rhode Island has been operating without a budget since July 1, after a disagreement between the House and Senate over the details of a car tax cut that was House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's top priority.

The 25-day stalemate is causing uncertainty in local governments and school districts as state government operates at last year's spending levels.

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Decades-old suit against juvenile detention center settled


A lawsuit filed 46 years ago by inmates at a juvenile correctional facility in Rhode Island has been settled.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday that issues at the Rhode Island Training School have been resolved.

The lawsuit was filed in 1971 challenging conditions at what was then called the Rhode Island Boys' Training School, and reforms were ordered in 1972.

The ACLU joined the case in 2001 and both sides agreed on new reforms, including the construction of a new facility.

Amy Fettig, deputy director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, says Rhode Island is the first corrections system in the country to comply with standards recommended by the Annie Casey Foundation, which aims to reduce youth incarceration and improve detention conditions.

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Developer's plan for Providence skyscraper approved


A Rhode Island Commission has approved a revised proposal to build a 46-story skyscraper on the Providence waterfront.

The Interstate 195 Redevelopment District Commission cast their vote Tuesday night in favor of New York City developer Jason Fane's proposal. Fane has scaled back his original plan of building three towers in the space previously occupied by the interstate.

His revised Hope Point Tower proposal includes 7 townhouses, 400 rental apartments and about 100 condominiums. The space would feature retail shops on the ground level.

Fane's legal council says they will next petition for a zoning change so his project can be taken up by City Council. If approved, the building would be the tallest in the city.

Fane is seeking $15 million in state tax credits for the project.

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RI home sales boom shows no signs of slowing down


Rhode Island's real estate market is showing no signs of slowing down.

The Rhode Island Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of single-family homes were up more than 10 percent in June when compared to the same month a year ago, while median prices jumped more than 12 percent year over year.

The median price of $275,000 is the highest it's been since September 2007.

Association President Brenda Marchwicki says prices are being driven by high demand and lack of inventory, and are not predicated on a speculative market fueled by subprime mortgages as they were in 2006 and 2007.

There were 3,888 houses for sale in Rhode Island in June, down from 4,662 in June of 2016.

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RI gas prices down a penny


The price of a gallon of gasoline in Rhode Island has risen by a penny in the past week.

AAA Northeast reports Monday that self-serve, regular is now selling for $2.26 per gallon. That's 2 cents per gallon lower than the national average, but a nickel higher than the Rhode Island price one year ago.

AAA found gasoline selling for as low as $2.09 and as high as $2.44 per gallon in the state.

A continuing global glut of crude oil has helped keep gasoline prices in check, but AAA warns that that could change when OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers meet this week to decide whether to extend production cuts.

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Boaters asked to slow down for whales off N.E. coast


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking boaters off the southern New England coast to slow down because of the presence of rare whales.

The federal agency says endangered right whales were spotted in the area July 16. The agency is extending a voluntary speed restriction order, asking mariners to avoid the area south of Nantucket, Massachusetts, or proceed at 10 knots or less until July 30.

North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. The animals are vulnerable to injury and death from vessel strikes.

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ACLU sues Cranston again over panhandling ban


 

An ordinance that bans panhandling on busy roads in Cranston is the subject of another federal lawsuit.

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday sued the city, saying the ordinance passed in February violates the First Amendment.

The conflict is part of a long-running battle in Cranston, which last year acknowledged that a city panhandling ban instituted in 2015 was unconstitutional. The city agreed to settle a different ACLU lawsuit and stop enforcing the ordinance.

The new ordinance was described as a safety measure.

The ACLU says the ordinance is similar and still covers the same kinds of activities. They say it criminalizes poverty.

A spokesman for Mayor Allan Fung calls it narrowly tailored and says it prevents "dangerous circumstances within busy roadways and intersections."

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Officials ID man who died after diving near state park


Rhode Island officials have identified a Massachusetts man who died after diving in the water around a state park.

The state Department of Environmental Management says 35-year-old Jesse Andrade, of Attleboro, Massachusetts, was reported in distress close to Beavertail State Park in Jamestown on Sunday afternoon.

The Coast Guard took him to shore, and first responders administered CPR while taking him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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Speaker, Senate president have 'productive' budget meeting


Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have indicated they may be close to resolving the state budget impasse.

Mattiello said in a statement Tuesday that he and Ruggerio had a "very productive meeting" over coffee. He says they will continue to meet in the near future.

Ruggerio issued a similar statement, saying he hopes the two can reach a conclusion "that benefits all Rhode Islanders in the near future."

The two Democratic leaders have been feuding over who bears responsibility for the two-and-a-half-week-old standoff over the state's $9.2 billion budget. The 18-day stalemate is causing uncertainty in local governments and school districts as state government operates at last year's spending levels.

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Council calls for school probe after abuse allegations


The Providence City Council has moved forward with a resolution calling for an independent investigation of a school that state officials say failed to properly report molestation allegations.

The council's education committee amended the proposed resolution Monday.

The resolution would have the Providence police conduct the investigation into Harry Kizirian Elementary School's handling of the accusations against gym teacher James Duffy.

Duffy is accused of groping three fifth-grade girls. He has been charged with five counts of child molestation and did not enter a plea during his arraignment June 29.

The school board has ordered retraining for all top Providence school administrators in the proper reporting of sex abuse allegations.

City council is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday.

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State police issue $57,000 fine for overweight truck


The Rhode Island State Police has issued a $57,000 fine against the company that owns the flatbed truck that was ruled too heavy for state bridges.

Police announced the fine against Bay Crane Northeast Tuesday.

The company's truck was stuck on the side of Interstate 95 in Warwick for several days in June because its load, a 560,000-pound (254,011-kilogram) generator, was seven times higher than the legal weight limit for loads without a permit. The state's maximum allowable load without a permit is 80,000 pounds (36,287 kilograms).

The truck reached its final destination in Medway, Massachusetts July 14.

The fine issued by the state police Commercial Enforcement Unit is believed to be the largest issued for a motor-vehicle violation in the state.

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Euer wins District 2 primariary handily


Dawn Euer, an attorney and activist who fought for marriage equality in Rhode Island, won Tuesday's Democratic primary for state Senate District 13 by a landslide, getting twice as many votes as her nearest challenger.
Euer now heads to the general election Aug. 22 against Republican Michael Smith, Green Party candidate Gregory Larson and independent Kimberly Ripoli.
The Newport Daily News reports that, according to the uncertified results, Euer defeated Newport City Councilman John Florez, Newport School Committee Chairman David Hanos and David Allard, a state Department of Education employee and a former outreach coordinator for Gov. Gina Raimondo, by a 2 to 1 margin.

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Kin sue to stop inheritance as grandad, mom die mysteriously


The family of a man suspected in the 2013 slaying of his millionaire grandfather has filed a lawsuit in New Hampshire accusing him of killing his grandfather and possibly his mother, who was lost at sea during a mother-son fishing trip.

The family says Vernon, Vermont, resident Nathan Carman wanted to collect a multimillion-dollar inheritance.

Eighty-seven-year-old real estate developer John Chakalos was found fatally shot at his Connecticut home. Carman was a suspect, but no one was arrested.

Carman survived the 2016 fishing trip near Rhode Island after the boat carrying him and his mother sank. Mom Linda Carman is presumed dead.

Her sisters sued on Monday. They've asked a judge to block Nathan Carman from collecting money from his grandfather's estate.

Nathan Carman has denied any involvement in his grandfather's death. He says he didn't sabotage the boat.

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RI DMV set to reopen after closure for new computer system


Offices of the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles are set to reopen for regular business after the agency installed its long-delayed new computer system.

The DMV says it's reopening all its offices today on a walk-in basis, but says people should expect long lines and wait times.

Work to launch the computer system began in May. The work has meant DMV offices had to shut down temporarily, and then required appointments when they reopened.

As of today, people will be allowed to walk in to DMV branches without making an appointment.

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RI senators, congressmen slam GOP health care bill


Rhode Island's senior senator says the Republicans' proposed changes to health care could cause a collapse of the whole system.

Sen. Jack Reed joined with the rest of the state's congressional delegation Monday to denounce the GOP bill. Reed appeared in Providence with fellow Democrats Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin.

Langevin said the bill could affect thousands of Rhode Islanders, while Cicilline said it "undermines our values as Americans."

Whitehouse said, "There is not enough lipstick in the world to cover this pig."

Reed also took the opportunity to wish Republican Sen. John McCain a speedy recovery. Action on the GOP health care proposal was delayed after the 80-year-old Arizona senator underwent surgery to remove a blood clot.

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Gas prices in RI up by 2 cents this week


Gas prices in Rhode Island are up by two cents this week.

AAA Northeast said Monday the price of self-serve, regular is averaging $2.25 per gallon. That's the same as the national average but three cents higher than the average price in the state a year ago at this time.

AAA found the price of self-serve, regular selling for as low as $2.09 to as high as $2.40.

AAA officials say the increase follows a period of "solid demand and some declines in the glut of crude oil" that have kept prices low this summer.

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Flynn returns to hometown, surfing in respite from scandal


Former national security adviser Michael Flynn sits at the center of probes into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. He's seeking sanctuary in the Rhode Island beach town where he grew up surfing and skateboarding.

Flynn grew up the sixth of nine siblings crammed into a 1,200-square foot house in Middletown, a blue-collar neighbor of ritzy Newport.

Friends and family say Flynn has been spending his summer surfing at beaches near the home he built there years ago, and trying to figure out his path forward.

They say he has begun work again as a consultant after shutting down his old firm and is not letting the allegations bother him. Flynn's brothers and longtime friends believe he'll be exonerated.

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Gas prices in RI down 3 cents per gallon


Gas prices in Rhode Island have dropped by three cents this week.

AAA Northeast said Monday that the price of self-serve, regular gasoline is averaging $2.24 per gallon. That's one cent higher than the national average of $2.23.

It was the fifth straight week that the state average has decreased. The state was averaging $2.27 per gallon a year ago at this time.

AAA found self-serve, regular selling for as low as $2.09 and as high as $2.49 per gallon.

AAA says the Fourth of July holiday will likely increase demand for gasoline but not enough to cause a significant price increase.

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Fire at college dorm being investigated as arson


A fire in a dorm at Rhode Island College is being investigated as arson.

Firefighters were called to Sweet Hall shortly after 4 a.m. Monday and determined there was a fire in a bathroom stall.

Providence Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Jutras said there was smoke and water damage. The dorm was vacant at the time and no injuries were reported.

The state fire marshal and arson investigators are trying to determine what caused the fire.

The public college in Providence enrolls about 8,000 students.

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Sen. Whitehouse visits troops in Afghanistan on July 4th


U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says it was emotional and inspiring to spend July Fourth with troops in Afghanistan.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, led a group of senators to Pakistan and Afghanistan for the holiday weekend. They visited a military base in South Waziristan and met with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad before traveling to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Whitehouse said Tuesday it was emotional because service members in Afghanistan are constantly in harm's way and constantly making the nation proud. He called The Associated Press from Bagram airfield.

McCain has traveled to Afghanistan in past years for July Fourth.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue are on the trip.

They met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.

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Child injured after car crashes into Taco Bell


Police say a child was injured after a car crashed into a Taco Bell.

The car crashed into the Warwick store Tuesday afternoon and became wedged in the entryway.

Police say the child was hurt when he was hit with flying glass. He was treated at the scene.

The car has been since removed, and officials estimate the building requires $20,000 to $30,000 worth of repairs. No other injuries were reported.

The dining room has been closed, but the restaurant's drive-thru is still open. It is unclear what led to the crash.

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DMV launches new system reservations required


The Department of Motor Vehicles is launching a new computer system but it may mean some temporary inconvenience for some Rhode Island residents.

Starting today and through July 17, the DMV will only be accepting customers who made reservations in advance. That's to give staff time to get used to the new $19 million system.

Customers arriving at department offices should either print out a confirmation of their reservation with a bar code, or have it available on their phone.

No one will be allowed into a DMV office without a reservation during this period.

To help ease the transition, the agency is extending July expiration dates for licenses and registrations until September, and also extending temporary license plates from 20 days to 40 days.

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Man arrested after loaded gun found in diaper bag


Rhode Island State Police say a Providence man was arrested after troopers found a loaded handgun in a diaper bag during a traffic stop.

Police say 21-year-old Karon Williams was a passenger in the car stopped by troopers for a traffic violation on Interstate 95 in Richmond on Friday. Police say the gun was found in the bag between Williams' legs.

Williams faces gun possession and child abuse charges. Police say his 6-month-old daughter was in the car at the time. The infant was turned over to the custody of the state Department of Children, Youth & Families.

He was released on $10,000 personal recognizance. It couldn't be determined Sunday if he has an attorney.

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RI GOP event honoring Sean Spicer canceled


A Rhode Island Republican Party fundraiser honoring White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been canceled.

Spicer was set to headline the fundraiser scheduled for Sunday evening. The location was not disclosed.

Spicer grew up in Barrington,.

Chairman Brandon Bell said Sunday the event has been canceled but did not give a reason.

Tickets for the event had cost a minimum $250. Tickets to a private VIP reception before the event cost $1,000.

Bell says Spicer will be honored at a later date.

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Electronic message sign hit, destroyed by vehicle


Police in Warwick are investigating after a vehicle hit and destroyed an electronic message board .

Sgt. John Kelly says the message board trailer owned by the city was alerting motorists to a fireworks show planned for Monday at Oakland Beach. He says a car hit the message board on Sunday, totaling it, then fled the scene.

The message board is used to inform the community of events.

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Providence gets $3.4M in federal funds to reduce lead paint


Providence will receive $3.4 million in federal funding to ensure homes are free of lead-based paint.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza announced the funding.

With help from Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, the city secured funding from a Department of Housing and Urban Development grant program to expand the Lead Safe Providence Program, which coordinates lead hazard reduction activities.

Reed and Elorza say the money will help Providence perform 230 risk assessments for owners to identify lead hazards, make 200 homes lead-safe and reduce environmental health hazards at 140 homes.

They say hundreds of Providence children live in neighborhoods with deteriorating, aging homes.

Elorza, a Democrat, says children deserve safe, healthy housing without the risk of lead exposure and serious health concerns associated with lead paint.

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Health officials wary as wet spring leads to mosquitoes


A wetter-than-normal spring in the Northeast is behind a bumper crop of mosquitoes as Americans begin grilling and enjoying outdoor activities.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University reports it was the fourth-wettest spring on record from West Virginia to Maine.

That's raising concerns about a corresponding spike in mosquito-borne illnesses. But the presence of mosquitoes doesn't necessarily point to a spike in West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis or the Zika virus.

Public health officials are monitoring the situation.

West Nile cases in humans have been reported in seven states. EEE has been detected in mosquitoes in Texas, Mississippi and Florida. There also have been more than 100 Zika cases, all associated with travel outside the U.S.

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Gas prices fall 2 cents in Rhode Island ahead of July 4 week


Gas prices have fallen 2 cents per gallon in Rhode Island ahead of the July 4 holiday week.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey on Monday found the price of regular gas had fallen to an average of $2.27 per gallon. AAA says that's the lowest price for this date since 2005. It attributes the drop to high rates of refinery production, plus high inventory of gas and crude oil.

Last year at this time, the price of gas in Rhode Island was averaging just about the same, at $2.29 per gallon.

AAA says the average price of a gallon of gas in Rhode Island is a penny lower than the national average of $2.28 per gallon.

 

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RI House OKs domestic violence gun control bill


The Rhode Island House of Representatives has voted to pass legislation that would take guns away from people on domestic restraining orders.

The House voted 55-12 to pass the bill Monday after a lengthy debate. It now moves to the state Senate, with just days before both legislative chambers are preparing to adjourn for the year.

Most Democrats voted in favor. Republicans were opposed.

Anyone on a domestic protective order issued by a court after July 1 would have to surrender guns and wouldn't be able to get them back while the order is in effect.

The legislation would also impose a 6-year gun ban for anyone convicted of certain misdemeanors including simple assault, cyberstalking and disorderly conduct when it involves force or threatened use of a weapon.

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Raimondo says she supports new PawSox stadium bill


Gov. Gina Raimondo says she supports new legislation by Pawtucket's mayor that outlines how to finance a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium.

The governor said Monday that under Mayor Donald Grebien's revised bill, the state ultimately pays nothing for the new ballpark. She urged the General Assembly to give it a "full debate and vetting."

Grebien had previously pushed a bill that calls for the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency to borrow $71 million to build the ballpark. The plan asked the state to pay off $23 million. The team would pay $33 million and the city would pay $15 million.

Pawtucket officials say the bill is expected to explain that the state will not backstop bonds that will raise money for the city's and team's portions.

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Health profession groups oppose painkiller database bill


Several health profession groups have come out in opposition of a Rhode Island bill that would allow law enforcement access to an electronic database of prescription painkillers.

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on the amended bill removing the requirement that law enforcement officials have to obtain a search warrant to access the statewide database.

The database allows health officials to track prescribing patterns for various opioids, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, stimulants and sedatives.

The Rhode Island Medical Society and other groups say the bill compromises patient confidentiality and the database is "a tool for health care, not law enforcement."

The attorney general's office says the bill would allow law enforcement access to information for criminal investigations into "pill mills and drug diversion."

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RI lawmakers enter busy final week


Proposals to guarantee paid sick leave, disarm domestic abusers and ban the use of hand-held phones while driving are among dozens of bills being considered by the Rhode Island General Assembly as it enters its final week.

The state Senate is scheduled to vote on a $9.2 billion budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Saturday. The state House of Representatives approved the tax-and-spending plan last week after an hourslong debate.

But even after the Senate OKs the budget and sends it to the desk of Gov. Gina Raimondo, both legislative chambers have many more bills to vote on before they adjourn for the year.

The House, which usually meets from Tuesday through Thursday, will start its final marathon week of deliberations today.

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RI bill seeks background checks for church workers


Church employees or volunteers whose work involves routine contact with children could be required to submit to a national criminal background check, if asked, under legislation approved by the General Assembly.

Both legislative chambers approved the legislation and sent it Thursday to the desk of Gov. Gina Raimondo, who could sign or veto it.

It's sponsored by Barrington Democrats, Sen. Cynthia Coyne and Rep. Jason Knight. They say it could help churches and other religious institutions protect children from people with a history of abuse or other dangerous crimes.

It was introduced as a result of the 2015 arrest of a religious educator at Temple Habonim in Barrington in a child pornography sweep.

It would be up to the religious organization to decide whether to ask for a check.

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Town to pay $40,000 settlement over 3rd-grader interrogation


A Rhode Island town has agreed to pay $40,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a third-grader who said police interrogated her for hours over a false report.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island sued the town of Tiverton in 2015 after the 8-year-old was taken off a school bus and questioned without her parents because another girl falsely reported she had chemicals in her backpack.

The ACLU said Tuesday the town also agreed to new protocol requiring schools to notify the parents and for parents to be present when police question elementary-age children.

Lawyer Amato DeLuca says the protocol will provide children and their families protections against unreasonable and unwarranted searches and seizures.

The town's attorney, Marc DeSisto, says there was no admission of liability.

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RI considers banning cellphone use while driving


Rhode Island lawmakers are again considering a proposal that would outlaw the use of cellphones while driving.

The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the proposed ban Tuesday, moving it to a vote in the full House.

The legislation would prohibit drivers from talking on hand-held devices except in emergencies. Violators would be subject to a $100 fine.

Rhode Island already prohibits texting while driving, but doesn't ban holding the phone to talk. Using a hand-held phone while driving is now banned in several states, including Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The Senate passed similar legislation in April and in previous years, but it has repeatedly stalled in the House.

The bill's main proponent, South Kingstown Democratic Sen. Susan Sosnowski, has been introducing it for a decade.

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State GOP requests investigation of tuition waivers of aide


Republican leaders in Rhode Island are asking state education officials to investigate an aide whose family members were given free tuition.

State GOP Chairman Brandon Bell says former state Rep. Frank Montanaro, who now serves as a top aide to House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, benefited from free tuition from Rhode Island College while he was on leave.

Montanaro worked at Rhode Island College for 27 years. However, his family members received free tuition the past three years while he was working full time for the General Assembly.

Bell has requested an Audit Report to determine if the tuition waivers were improperly granted.

Montanaro says he was entitled to free tuition under his union contract.

The acting Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Brenda Dann-Messier says the office is reviewing the case.

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RI debates paid sick days for private workers


A proposal to guarantee paid sick days for Rhode Island's private sector workers is moving forward in the state General Assembly as worker advocates seek a compromise with business groups.

The Senate Labor Committee is scheduled to consider a compromise measure today.

It's not known if the panel will move the bill on to a vote in the full Senate. A companion bill is pending in the state House of Representatives.

Lawmakers have been negotiating over a scaled-back proposal.

The original legislation would have required employers to provide workers up to seven paid sick days to care for their own health or a family member's health. That could be dropped to five days, matching what's offered in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Also being debated is an exemption for small business owners.

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RI lawmakers consider domestic violence guns bill


A proposal to take guns away from domestic abusers and people under domestic restraining orders is moving forward in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing today to vote on whether to pass the legislation on to the full House.

The legislation would require people convicted of a crime of domestic violence, including misdemeanors, and anyone subject to a domestic abuse protective order to surrender any firearms they have and prohibit them from acquiring more.

Domestic violence prevention advocates have said momentum has been building for passage of the bill this month after several years of debate. Tweaks have been made to address lawmakers' concerns.

Guns rights groups have opposed the bill.

A similar measure is pending in the state Senate.

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Providence-to-Newport ferry remains out of service


The company hired by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to run the Providence-to-Newport ferry says it will remain out of service after sustaining damage in a crash.

SeaStreak says all departures have been canceled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The company says it hopes to resume service by Friday.

The ferry was damaged during a trip from Newport to Providence Saturday night. Officials say the ferry hit a buoy while trying to avoid another boat.

A company spokesman says none of the 18 people aboard the ferry at the time were injured.

The ferry has been sent to New York for repairs before returning to Providence.

The ferry had just started its seasonal service last Friday.

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RI lays welcome mat for self-driving cars


Rhode Island is asking self-driving car companies to consider the smallest state as a testing ground.

The state Department of Transportation has put out a request seeking ideas from developers of autonomous and internet-connected vehicles. State officials held an informational meeting Monday.

Transportation officials say they're still in the early stages of scoping out how Rhode Island could adopt cutting-edge transportation systems and prepare its workforce for changes in how people will get around.

The state is encouraging companies and academic researchers to come up with ideas. Officials have proposed several possible locations, including highway shoulder lanes, downtowns, a college campus and the Quonset seaport.

Self-driving car experimentation is already picking up in neighboring Massachusetts, where three companies have permission to test their vehicles in Boston's Seaport District.

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Gas prices down 1 cent per gallon in RI


Gas prices are down again in Rhode Island, dropping by one penny since last week.

AAA Northeast said Monday that gas prices are averaging $2.29 per gallon. That's equal to the national average.

Last year at this time, the average price of a gallon of regular in Rhode Island was at the same price.

AAA found self-serve, regular selling for as low as $2.19 and as high as $2.40 per gallon.

AAA says gas prices dropped in all but four states over the past week. High oil production rates in the U.S. and lower demand could lead to gas prices continuing to fall through the end of June.

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Groom arrested at wedding reception, charged with assault


North Smithfield Police say a groom was arrested at his wedding reception for assaulting restaurant employees.

Court records showed Frank Redding pleaded no contest Monday to charges of simple assault and vandalism. He initially faced an additional charge of disorderly conduct, but that was dismissed.

Police say an argument with Redding's family members escalated to include restaurant staff on Saturday in North Smithfield. Police say Redding was approached by a staff member because he'd been drinking alcohol that wasn't sold by the facility.

Police say Redding chased the staff member back into the restaurant while threatening to kill him. They say he also assaulted other employees.

Under the plea agreement, Redding received a year of probation and a one-year suspended sentence, with six months to serve.

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Mt. Hope Bridge repair work nears completion


Work to repair the driving surface of Rhode Island's Mount Hope Bridge is almost done.

The state Turnpike and Bridge Authority says concrete repair work to the bridge deck began in mid-March and is scheduled to be complete by Friday.

The agency says work on the bridge, which connects Bristol to Aquidneck Island, will be finished in time for Bristol's oldest-in-the-nation Fourth of July celebration.

There will be no more construction-related lane closures on the bridge, starting by June 29 and continuing through Sept. 10.

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RI state senator apologizes for angry exchange


A Rhode Island state senator has apologized for yelling at a man who was testifying at a legislative hearing.

Sen. Stephen Archambault , a Smithfield Democrat, says  he "overreacted" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

The angry exchange happened during testimony by Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement. Gorman was speaking against legislation that would have granted special driver's licenses to immigrants living in the country illegally.

Gorman paused to ask why Archambault and other senators on the committee appeared to be laughing during Gorman's testimony. Archambault retorted that what he was saying to fellow senators was "my business."

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Dead humpback whale washes ashore in Jamestown


Officials say a beached humpback whale was found on the shore and declared dead at a state park in Rhode Island.

The Newport Daily News reports that the whale was discovered at Beavertail State Park in Jamestown on Friday.

Dale Wolbrink, a spokesman for the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, told the newspaper Saturday that rescuers arrived Friday afternoon and the whale was pronounced dead.

Wolbrink says the male whale is 9.7 meters in length.

He says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will determine the best course of action to deal with the whale. The animal will stay in the place where it was discovered.

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RI State House lawn eyed for development


A stretch of lawn outside the Rhode Island State House could be opened to real estate development as part of a plan being considered by state transportation officials.

The state Department of Transportation says it's in the early stages of looking for developers who could build a new bus-train hub near the Providence railroad station.

A spokesman for the agency says a request for qualifications could be sent out later this month. In addition to a transit hub, the public-private project could also include a commercial or residential high-rise building. One of the possible sites is on the eastern edge of the State House grounds.

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Rhode Island legislature enters final stretch


Rhode Island state legislators have left their most important decisions of the year for the last two weeks of June.

The state House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Thursday on a $9.2 billion budget that includes tax relief for car owners, a pilot program for tuition-free community college and cuts to government spending.

If approved by the House, it must then be considered by the state Senate before it can move to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. The upcoming fiscal year begins July 1.

Along with the budget, hundreds of other bills are still awaiting a vote in one chamber or both.

Several remain in negotiations, such as legislation to disarm domestic abusers and a proposal to require private employers to guarantee paid sick days.

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DEM offering $6.4M in grants to help improve water quality


Rhode Island is offering grants to help communities control stormwater and improve water quality.

The state Department of Environmental Management says applicants have until July 28 to apply for the 2017 Bay and Watershed Restoration Grant.

Officials say there's $3 million in matching grants available for projects that would improve stormwater management and abate stormwater pollution. Three million is available for projects that include the restoration of floodplains and stream banks and dam removals, among other things.

DEM says $400,000 is being offered for projects addressing indirect sources of pollution and improve water quality/aquatic habitat.

The funding is made possible through the 2014 Clean Water, Open Space and Healthy Communities Bond, the 2016 Green Economy Bond and the federal Clean Water Act Section 319 program.

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Providence-to-Newport ferry out of service following crash


The company hired by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to run the Providence-to-Newport ferry says it will be out of service for several days after a crash.

SeaStreak says in an announcement on its website that the ferry will be out of service for Monday and Tuesday.

The company says the ferry was damaged during a trip from Narragansett to Providence Saturday night. The ferry hit a buoy while trying to avoid another boat.

A company spokesman says none of the 18 people aboard the ferry at the time were injured.

He says the ferry will head to New York, where it will be repaired before returning to Providence.

Launching last year, the ferry service grew to be so popular that officials extended its service and added trips.

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Truck-toll system costs RI more than 1st reported


A proposed truck-toll project in Rhode Island will cost more than first reported because officials didn't include construction costs.

The state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday it has finalized a $68.9 million contract with Austrian company Kapsch Traffic Com IVHS Inc., to build, operate and maintain the state's planned truck toll network.

The state originally put the toll network at $25 million over the span of 10 years. Officials say that figure includes maintenance costs, but excludes design and construction costs.

Republican House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan says the financial analysis the state presented was misleading because it didn't include construction costs.

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Twin River Casino workers vote to authorize strike


Several hundred workers at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike after their employer switched them to a more costly health care plan.

The union that represents the workers says they voted 327-5 on Wednesday to give the company until early Friday to come up with a deal. If not, the workers will walk out.

After notifying union members about a month earlier, Twin River changed health coverage to a different plan offered by the same company in January without collective bargaining. The workers union says the move violates federal fair labor practices.

Union officials have said members are paying higher deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs.

A spokeswoman says Twin River has been aware of the possible strike action and is prepared.

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RI’s Gaspee revolt becoming virtual reality game


A Rhode Island act of rebellion that was one of the precursors to the American Revolution is being turned into a virtual reality game.

Friday marks the 245th anniversary of the Gaspee Affair, when a group of colonists set fire to a British ship in Narragansett Bay on June 9, 1772.

A group of Brown University students is now working to adapt the history of the burning of the Gaspee into a virtual reality educational experience for students in middle and high schools.

Rhode Island's Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse discussed the project on Tuesday during an annual speech he gives on the Senate floor commemorating the 1772 event.

Rhode Island residents also are scheduled to mark the occasion during this weekend's annual Gaspee Days celebration and parade in Warwick.

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RI senators pass bill demanding all 38 Studios records


A Rhode Island Senate Committee has passed a bill demanding the release of all records related to the investigation of the state's failed $75 million deal with ex-Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's now-bankrupt video game company.

Senators unanimously passed the legislation Wednesday night. It now heads to the senate floor for a full vote.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has argued for the records to be released, saying the public has a right to know what went wrong.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says he is greatly concerned about setting a precedent in releasing sensitive court records.

State police released about 500 pages of internal emails while senators cast their vote. The emails span from 2013 to 2016 and include updates on the case and potential leads.

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Advocates plead not guilty in panhandling ban protest


Advocates for the homeless have pleaded not guilty to citations they received for panhandling in protest of an ordinance in Cranston banning such activity.

They were given a trial date for July in Cranston Municipal Court Tuesday.

The advocates panhandled and distributed fliers at a busy intersection in March.

The city council passed the ordinance earlier this year. Officials described it as a safety measure.

It prohibits people from asking for money while standing in certain places, including on medians near multiple-lane roads or on roads where the speed limit is higher than 25 mph.

Mayor Allan Fung has stood by it.

The American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged Cranston's previous panhandling ban in court and plans to sue over the new ban.

The ACLU and advocates say it's unconstitutional.

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RI Senate passes bill to protect food deliverers


Attacking a pizza deliverer could become a felony in Rhode Island under a proposed state law.

The Rhode Island Senate voted 32-1 Tuesday to pass a bill that would make assaulting a delivery person a crime subject to up to three years in prison and $3,000 in fines.

Those are stiffer penalties than an assault charge carries.

Punishment would be more severe- five to 20 years in prison -if a weapon is used that seriously injures the delivery person.

Sen. Paul Jabour, a Providence Democrat, says he knows a young man who was stabbed while delivering pizza last year. Jabour says the stronger penalties could deter future crimes.

The Providence City Council requested the legislation after a string of robberies. The bill now moves to the House.

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Mayors back RI proposal to cut car taxes


A proposal to cut Rhode Island's car taxes is getting support from city mayors.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza announced his support Tuesday for Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's plan to phase out municipal car taxes by reimbursing cities and towns for the lost revenue.

Elorza and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, both Democrats, testified Tuesday in favor of Mattiello's bill at its first public hearing in the House Finance Committee.

Mattiello's plan would cost the state $26 million in its first year, and $221 million to fully eliminate the taxes by 2023.

Elorza says it would provide immediate relief for city car owners, especially low-income families.

He says a provision exempting cars that are at least 15 years old would take 34,000 vehicles off Providence's car tax rolls.

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Rise of fentanyl: Seen in half of deadly overdoses in state


A new study finds that drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island due to fentanyl are on the rise.

The Brown University study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy finds that about half of the drug overdose deaths in the state from 2014 to 2016 were attributed to fentanyl.

A handful of other states have reported similar increases in deaths related to fentanyl, the same opioid that killed the musician Prince. It can be 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine.

Researcher Brandon Marshall says health officials would be doing much better in addressing the overdose crisis if it weren't for fentanyl. He says it's alarming to see that the proportion of deaths related to fentanyl rose over 50 percent in 2016.

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RI residents oppose Right to Farm act


Rhode Island lawmakers have introduced a bill limiting the ability of a town to restrict activities such as weddings or concerts on farmlands.

The Right to Farm Act was introduced by Democrat Deputy Majority Leader Gregory Costantino.

A group of Little Compton residents traveled to a House Municipal Government Committee hearing May 10 to protest the legislation.

Jim Tumber, who lives near Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyard, says outdoor events infringe on the community's quality of life and his own ability to enjoy peace and quiet.

Costantino says a substitute compromise bill is in the works, and he hopes to bring it to the House floor.

A spokesman for the speaker and majority leader says they are letting the process play out.

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State officials ask for public to help track wild turkeys


The state is asking for the public's help in tracking the state's wild turkey population.

The state Department of Environmental Management is providing a form on its website , which can be submitted when anyone sees a wild turkey hen or young turkeys, known as poults.

It's evaluating the state's wild turkey population, which is estimated at about 3,000.

DEM says information gathered from the public is helpful in determining the number of poults that survive after common causes of mortality, such as predators, weather and road kill, are taken into account.

It receives hundreds of brood reports annually. Reports can also be made by calling DEM.

A wild turkey restoration project ran from 1980 to 1996.

Birds were released in Exeter, Burrillville, Little Compton, West Greenwich, Foster, Scituate and Tiverton.

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RI considers broadband internet privacy


Rhode Island state legislators are considering protections for broadband privacy.

Legislation pending in the state's General Assembly is designed to protect residents from disclosure of personally identifiable online information by commercial websites or internet service providers.

Rep. Evan Shanley, a Warwick Democrat who sponsored the bill, says it's a response to the repeal earlier this year of Obama administration rules that would have imposed tight restrictions on what broadband companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast could do with their customers' personal data.

Several states have started writing their own legislation to protect broadband privacy after Republicans in Congress voted to repeal regulations that would have required internet providers to obtain their customers' consent about data use.

Shanley's bill was held for further study after its first hearing in April.

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RI bill would speed up real estate development


A proposal to speed up the process for Rhode Island developers to get big building projects approved is moving through the state legislature but raising concerns from some towns.

The state House of Representatives voted last week to pass the legislation, moving it to the Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi, says it'll cut the time it takes for developers to get certifications and decision-making for major land development or subdivisions.

Affordable housing developers and building trade groups support it. Town planners say it wouldn't give them enough time to review big projects.

It would cut from 60 to 25 days the time a municipality can take to certify a preliminary plan; and from 120 to 90 days to approve or deny a completed application.

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RI council to hear 60-acre solar panel proposal


A Rhode Island town council is set to consider a proposal for a 46,000 panel solar farm - the largest solar energy project proposed in the region.

The Hopkinton Town Council is considering a proposal today for the 18-megawatt solar farm on a 60-acre panel in Ashaway.

The applicant, Rhode Island Solar Renewable Energy LLC, is requesting a petition to amend the town's land use map and to change the residential zone of the property to special manufacturing.

Members of the town's Planning Board heard the proposal May 3, but they were unable to reach a consensus on a recommendation to the council.

Planning Board member Amy Williams says she could not recommend a project that would require the clearing of 63 acres of forest.

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RI governor "disappointed" by Trump climate action


Gov. Gina Raimondo is vowing to continue taking steps to address climate change despite President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.

Raimondo said Thursday that she's deeply disappointed with Trump's action. She said the Paris Agreement is about more than just climate change. She said it's also about "opportunity, stewardship and America's standing as a global leader."

Raimondo said that Trump's decision won't deter Rhode Island from pushing forward on steps needed to address climate change.

She said the state has set a goal to secure 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy resources and double the number of renewable energy jobs by 2020. She said she'll continue to work with "partners in other states to protect our environment and advance clean energy alternatives."

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Aerial dancers make RI office tower their stage


Aerial dancers were leaping off the side of a 10-story office building as part of an opening ceremony for the signature culture festival of Rhode Island's capital city.

This year's PVD Fest began Thursday afternoon and continues through Sunday in Providence.

Four dancers from Oakland, California-based Bandaloop were harnessed with ropes hanging from the top of an office tower near Providence City Hall. They return for performances on Friday and Saturday nights.

This marks the third year of Providence's free celebration, which includes music and dance, art installations and food. The festival's downtown portion culminates Saturday with a parade, dance party and nighttime musical performances around Kennedy Plaza. A full schedule is available at www.pvdfest.com .

The festival continues Sunday with an art event in the city's West End.

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High school students cited under drinking enforcement effort


Officials in Westerly say say 20 high school students, all aged 17 or 18, were cited for underage alcohol possession during an ongoing beach drinking enforcement effort.

Westerly Police Capt. Shawn Lacey says many of the students cited were at the beach before prom, which is common for this time of the year.

Lacey says 12 people were cited Tuesday morning at Misquamicut (miss-quahm'-ah-cut) State Beach, and 8 were cited later that afternoon along East Beach.

State law states alcohol possession for those between 18 and 21 carries a minimum penalty of a $200 contribution to charity, 20 hours of community service and a 60-day loss of their license.

Police say beach enforcement is funded through a state grant by the Westerly Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force.

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New England's last big coal plant powering down


New England's largest - and one of its last - coal-fired power plants is shutting down permanently.

The owner of the Brayton Point Power Station says it will cease operating Wednesday.

The plant has generated electricity since the 1960s along Mount Hope Bay in Somerset, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border. It's been cited by federal regulators as one of the region's heaviest polluters.

A decision to close it was made in 2013.

Houston-based plant owner Dynegy says it's worked to help 170 workers find other jobs. A smaller crew is staying on for the decommissioning process.

New England's electric grid operator says the low price of natural gas has led coal plants to retire. Smaller coal plants still operate in New Hampshire and Connecticut. Connecticut's is expected to close by 2021.

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Norwegian Air adding flights at RI airport


Norwegian Air Shuttle has announced new flights out of Rhode Island's main airport.

The low-cost carrier said Wednesday it's adding nonstop flights to Martinique and the Guadeloupe Islands from T.F. Green Airport in Warwick.

Norwegian Air officials say the service will start in October, beginning at $79 one-way.

The carrier said this year it's opening a flight crew base at the airport, located just south of Providence.

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Lawmakers OK bill requiring more transparency on I-195 panel


The Rhode Island Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would require more transparency from the commission that oversees what gets built on land freed up when Interstate 195 was moved.

The bill passed Wednesday was introduced by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. It would require the I-195 Commission to hold more of its meetings in public. Meetings that aren't open would have to be audio-recorded.

Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, sponsored legislation that created the commission in 2011. But he has said he's been disappointed by the secrecy of some of its decision-making. Among his concerns has been the commission's handling of a proposed residential skyscraper complex.

The relocation of a portion of I-195 opened up land for development just south of downtown Providence.

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Twin River Casino workers threaten to go on strike


Several hundred workers at the Twin River Casino and Event Center in Rhode Island are threatening to go on strike after their employer switched them to a more costly health care plan.

Twin River changed health coverage to a different plan offered by the same company in January without collective bargaining. The workers union says the move violates federal fair labor practices.

Jenna Karlin, vice president of the union, says union members are paying higher deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs. The premium for family coverage rose to about $12,000 a year, and union members say some deductibles increased more than a hundred percent.

A Twin River spokeswoman says the casino does not comment publicly on contract negotiations.

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New records related to 38 Studios investigation surface


The Rhode Island Senate has filed a bill to release all records related to the investigation of a failed video game venture after state police discovered a "box of documents."

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio says he believes the new information might be "critical" to the issue.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has long petitioned for records related to the criminal investigation into the state's $75 million deal with 38 Studios, the video game company started by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. Schilling's company moved to the state in 2010 and later went bankrupt.

Raimondo's spokesperson says the governor "is very disappointed" the recently-found documents were not released.

A state police spokesperson says the additional documents will be released as soon as possible.

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Mattiello introduces plan to cut unpopular car taxes


A plan to eliminate Rhode Island's unpopular car taxes has been introduced in the state legislature.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello on Tuesday announced his plan for a six-year phase-out of car taxes, which are levied by cities and towns.

Mattiello says it will cost the state about $221 million to fully eliminate the taxes by 2024.

He says the first $26 million cut would happen in the next fiscal year that begins in July by reducing the percent of a car's retail value that can be taxed from 100 to 95 percent.

Mattiello pledged during a hard-fought re-election last year to eliminate car taxes. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed a more modest cut.

The first public hearing is scheduled for next week.

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RI House votes to ban gay conversion therapy


The Rhode Island House of Representatives has voted to pass a bill that would bar licensed health care providers from using so-called gay conversion therapy to change a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The House voted 69-0 to pass the bill Tuesday, with six legislators not voting. It now moves to the state Senate.

Nevada and Connecticut this month became the latest of eight states to ban the practice.

Rhode Island's proposal would prohibit psychologists, social workers and other licensed health care professionals from using practices that treat homosexuality as an illness and try to cure it in children under 18 years old.

Violations could be subject to disciplinary action or revocation of licenses by the state department of health.

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RI House votes to allow cockatoos on campgrounds


The Rhode Island House of Representatives has voted in favor of allowing parrots, parakeets and similar birds onto state-owned campgrounds.

The House voted 72-1 to pass the bill Tuesday. It now moves to the state Senate.

The legislation is part of a yearslong fight over letting a 23-year-old cockatoo named Tootsie onto Rhode Island campsites.

An earlier proposal was vetoed by then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, in 2012. A second attempt stalled in the legislature in 2015.

Democratic state Rep. Evan Shanley said earlier this year he found a compromise after meeting with the state veterinarian and environmental officials and removing language that would have also allowed gerbils, turtles and goldfish.

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$195K of possible drug money found in woods


Court documents show federal authorities are seeking to seize $195,000 of possible drug money found in two suitcases in the woods in Rhode Island.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent said in court papers seeking forfeiture filed last week that boys playing in the woods in Barrington found the first suitcase in October and told a parent who took it to the police station.

Documents say the boys led police to where they found the first suitcase and officers located the second one.

The agent says there's cause to believe that the money "is the proceeds" of drug sales or was intended to buy drugs.

Documents say federal authorities want the money based on laws that allow the civil forfeiture of money "involved in or used to facilitate drug trafficking.

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