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1540 WADK.com Updates

Giant Greenhouse To Be Built In Newport

A Canadian company is going to build a two-level hydroponic greenhouse in Newport's north end.  Hydroserre will construct and run the facility which will cover five acres.  The company expects to annually grow 750-thousand pounds of fresh head lettuce for distribution to local markets in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York.  The greenhouse is expected to take up to ten months to build once construction begins later this year.


Warwick Parish To Close

Saint William Parish in Warwick is closing.  The Diocese of Providence says the last Mass at the church will be Easter Sunday.  The number of parishioners has dwindled from 850 families in 2013 to around 500 just last year.  Saint William faces over 200-thousand dollars in debt and has 13-thousand dollars in reserve.  The Diocese says the parish could be out of money by the end of the month.


Elorza Looks To Raise Revenue Through Several Legislative Measures

Providence Mayor Elorza is seeking revenue to stabilize the long term financial future of the city.  The mayor is asking that state lawmakers approve a number of bills that include raising the hotel tax and taxing non-essential properties owned by non-profits such as colleges and hospitals.  He's also asking that the city be allowed to take more time to process red-light camera traffic tickets.  Currently state law says they must be processed within 14 days and Elorza wants it extended to 28 days.



Teacher, Coach Charged With Domestic Assault

A teacher and coach is facing domestic assault charges.  Police say 36-year-old Michael Solitro was arrested around 1 a.m. Sunday after officers found a woman at a Leahy Street home holding an ice pack to her face.  Solitro teaches at East Providence High School and is the coach of the girls' basketball team.  Solitro is on paid administrative leave from his teaching and coaching positions pending the results of the police investigation.


17 Arrested In Drug Bust

Pawtucket Police say 17 people are facing charges after a major drug bust.  Authorities say the arrests come after complaints of the use and sale of illegal drugs at 12 Nickerson Street.  Investigators executed four search warrants during Tuesday's arrests.



Closing Arguments Heard Against Judge

The case against a judge accused of misconduct behind the bench and sexual harassment is now under advisement.  Closing arguments were heard yesterday in the public hearing of Rafael Ovalles.  Ovalles stands accused of making sexual remarks to women demeaning attorneys and having his pants off in his chambers.  Ovalles defense lawyers argue that the claims were baseless and made up by those who don't like him.


Old Sakonnet River Bridge Coming Down

The old Sakonnet River Bridge will soon come down.  The demolition slated to begin this month will be done in two phases with the first removing everything above the water line at a cost of more than nine-million dollars.  That should take a year before phase two starts which entails removing everything below the waterline. 


Catholic School In Newport To Close

The Cluny School in Newport is closing its doors at the end of the school year.  The school's principal Cites declining enrollment the Catholic school as the reason.  The school has seen a 25-percent decline in enrollment over the past three years.  School officials say with declining enrollment the 60-year old school can't survive financially.


North Providence Woman Missing

North Providence Police are looking for a woman who has been missing for several days.  Authorities say 24-year-old Jordana Cappiello was last seen late Saturday night in Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence.  Cappiello is five-feet six inches tall, weighs about 120 pounds and has bright red hair. 


Shellfishing Temporarily Halted

Areas of Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay are temporarily being closed to shellfishing.  State officials say shellfishing is being curtailed in those areas because of a harmful algae bloom.  Excluded from the closures are carnivorous snails, such as whelk and moon snails. 


Man Sentenced In Child Porn Case

A 28-year old Warwick man is spending the next nearly six years behind bars for possessing and distributing child pornography.  Sami-Joe Daou pled guilty to the charges in November and was sentenced yesterday.  He's also been ordered to pay more than 18-thousand dollars in restitution to the victims with whom he had contact.


Proposed Bill Calls For Scanning Out-Of-State Plates For Uninsured

A proposed bill calls for a system that would scan license plates and alert the DMV if an out-of-state driver is uninsured.  Representative Robert Jacquard's bill calls for the driver to be issued a fine and the DMV would suspend them from driving in Rhode Island.  But the ACLU is taking issue with the measure citing access to a person's information.  Marcela Betancur says there needs to be safeguards as to how the system can be used and who it can be used on.


Police Say A Woman In Custody After Stabbing Father

Providence Police are investigating a stabbing.  Authorities say a woman stabbed her father at 13 Ceres Street around 7:30 last night.  The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.  The woman was taken into custody several blocks from the home.


Raimondo: Trump gave few details during White House meeting

Gov. Gina Raimondo says she heard a lot of rhetoric but little detail from President Donald Trump on his health care plans during a White House meeting.

The governor was among dozens of governors who gathered with the Republican president Monday after a weekend meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington.

Raimondo says she spent time talking with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and pressed him on the importance of making sure the tens of thousands of Rhode Island residents who are insured because of the Affordable Care Act stay insured.

Trump and GOP leaders have pledged to repeal and replace the 2010 national health care law.

Raimondo says she also met Trump for the first time, but their comments were brief and social.


Gas Prices Down Slightly In RI

There's good news for motorists as gas prices have dropped in the Ocean State.  Triple-A Northeast says the cost per gallon dropped three-cents from last week.  The average price per gallon is now two-dollars and 21-cents, eight cents below the national average.  A year ago motorists were paying one-dollar and 74-cents at the pump.


RI Real Estate Sales Show Improvement

The real estate market in Rhode Island is on the upswing.  The state Realtors association says 668 homes were sold in January.  That's a 21-percent increase over the same month a year ago.  However, the median price is off by 15-hundred dollars compared with year ago sales.  Realtors say the current inventory is the lowest it's been in years.


Proposed Bill Elevates Assault Of Delivery Person To Felony

There could be some serious consequences for criminals who assault the pizza delivery person under a proposed bill in the state Senate.  Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio bill calls for sentences up to three years in prison and fines up to three-thousand dollars.  For those convicted of using a weapon in an assault on a delivery person the penalty could be stiffer with up to 20 years behind bars.  The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is expected to discuss Senate Bill 230 at today's meeting.


House Speaker Ryan To Visit Rhode Island

House Speaker Paul Ryan will be visiting Rhode Island this week.  A spokesman for Ryan says the Speaker will meet with supporters and attend several events.  Zack Roday says Ryan "is committed to keeping a strong Republican majority in Congress so we can solve the big problems facing our country."  There's been no word as to when Ryan will arrive or which events he will attend.


Commerce Commission Approves Millions In Incentives

Two companies expecting to add hundreds of new jobs in Rhode Island are getting more than nine-million dollars in incentives.   The Rhode Island Commerce Commission has approved more than three-million dollars in Qualified Jobs tax credits for Providence-based United Natural Foods.  The board approved more than four-million dollars in tax credits for hotel-booking firm Agoda Travel Operations of Singapore which will move into the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island building.  SAT Development will receive incentives for a construction project in Bristol.   


RI Senate to talk about Amtrak bypass proposal

Rhode Island state senators are holding a meeting to talk about the proposed new Amtrak line that would speed up rail travel between Boston and New York City by creating a bypass through parts of southern New England.

The proposal that would straighten the route through coastal eastern Connecticut and southwest Rhode Island has met with opposition from several towns and the state legislators and members of Congress who represent them.

It's part of broader changes being considered for Amtrak's Boston-to-Washington Northeast Corridor over the coming decades.

Doug Gascon, a deputy director of governmental affairs at the Federal Railroad Administration, will present his agency's recommendations to a state Senate finance committee on Tuesday at the Rhode Island State House.

It's a public meeting but senators won't be taking public comments.


State funds new regional groups to prevent substance abuse

The state has awarded grants to create five regional task forces to prevent substance use disorder and reduce opioid overdose deaths.

The Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals awarded $1.4 million in federal grant funding to the new task forces. The money will be used in part to assess community substance use prevention needs and resources.

The state says there were at least 326 drug overdose deaths in 2016, and 57 percent of those were related to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. That's compared with 290 deaths in 2015, of which about 47 percent were fentanyl-related.

Previously, 34 organizations served as prevention task forces for municipalities.

The state plans to fund two more regional groups. They'll oversee activities to prevent substance use and promote health regionally.


Providence seeks to acquire over 300 abandoned properties

The Providence Redevelopment Agency has approved a draft plan that would allow it to buy more than 300 abandoned residential properties as part of an effort to reduce neighborhood blight.

The draft, approved last week, identifies vacant properties that satisfy criteria to be deemed "deteriorated blight." City officials say all have at least one housing code violation. Many are also tax delinquent.

If approved by the City Council, the redevelopment agency would try to acquire the properties, including through purchase, eminent domain or tax takings.

The redevelopment agency says it's exploring a pilot project where private partners could buy the properties in bulk.

The city unveiled the EveryHome initiative two years ago with the goal of removing an estimated 600 abandoned properties.


Judge dismisses pension reform agreement suit against city

A Rhode Island judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 60 public-sector retirees against the city of Providence over its pension reform agreement.

A decision issued Thursday by Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter says the retired police officers and firefighters aren't entitled to lifetime health benefits and an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Taft-Carter's decision says the retirees "failed to meet their burden of demonstrating their claims."

The November 2013 lawsuit was filed in opposition to a settlement between the city, its municipal unions and retirees that froze 3 percent cost-of-living adjustments for 10 years.

The agreement also shifted retirees over the age of 65 to Medicare and eliminated 5 percent and 6 percent cost-of-living adjustments indefinitely. Taft-Carter approved the pension settlement in 2015.


Doctor charged with pushing painkiller, receiving kickbacks

A doctor has been indicted on 19 federal counts that accuse him of receiving kickbacks on prescriptions of a highly addictive painkiller that were written for patients who didn't need the drug.

Jerrold Rosenberg of Jamestown, a clinical assistant professor at Brown University, pleaded not guilty Thursday.

He's the latest person to be caught up in a federal investigation in multiple states surrounding the Arizona-based drug manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics.

Former Insys executives are accused of leading a nationwide conspiracy to bribe doctors to prescribe large amounts of the company's fentanyl spray. They've pleaded not guilty in Massachusetts. Insys couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Prosecutors say Rosenberg refused patients' requests to switch drugs and received $180,000 in speaking fees.

They say his son earned commissions as an Insys sales representative.


Bishop of Providence denounces Trump's executive order

The Bishop of Providence took to social media to speak out against President Donald Trump's executive order to curb immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Bishop Thomas Tobin echoed the sentiments of other religious leaders who denounced the Republican's moves earlier this week.

Tobin wrote on Facebook and the Diocesan website that he believes Trump's recent executive order clashes with the agenda pushed by the Bishops of the United States in promoting "comprehensive and compassionate" immigration reform.

In previous interviews the Bishop has stated that he wasn't convinced Trump was competent enough for office and he didn't approve of his crude and vulgar language.


RI Senate passes criminal justice reform bills

The Rhode Island Senate has approved a package of criminal justice reform bills emphasizing mental health treatment over incarceration.

Supporters say the measures would help decrease the state's high probation rate.

The Senate unanimously passed the seven-bill package of reforms Thursday. One would set up a program for people with mental illness charged with minor crimes to be diverted to counseling instead of jail. Another bill would create a batterer's intervention program.

The bills now move to the state House of Representatives.

Democratic Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed has called the legislation a top priority. She has moved for swift passage because similar legislation died last year after getting stalled in the House.

The legislation emerged from the findings of a 2015 criminal justice reform working group.


Providence police bureau to focus on community relations

A new bureau has been created in the Providence Police Department that aims to improve police relations with the community.

Mayor Jorge Elorza, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare and Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements on Wednesday announced the formation of the Community Relations Bureau.

The bureau will work with community crime watch partners and establish an officer mentoring program for the city's youth. It will also work with the Providence Police Advisory Board on concerns and issues in the community.

Maj. Oscar Perez will oversee the bureau. Officials say Perez will work to "build, enhance and maintain" police relations with residents.


RI lawmakers consider allowing sunscreen at school

Children in Rhode Island public schools would no longer need a doctor's note to bring in sunscreen under a bill moving through the state legislature.

Warwick Democratic Rep. David Bennett says he introduced the bill after hearing about a student who came home from a field trip sunburned because she wasn't allowed to have sunscreen.

The legislation would allow students to possess and use topical sunscreen at school and school-related events. It would stop sunscreen from being considered as an over-the-counter medication requiring a written doctor's order.

Bennett says the current rules are outdated because of what's been learned about the dangers of sun exposure and skin cancer.


38 Studios defendant agrees to $16 million settlement

Rhode Island is settling with the final defendant in its lawsuit over the failure of 38 Studios, the video game company started by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

The state Commerce Corporation says it has agreed to a $16 million settlement with Hilltop Securities Inc., formerly known as the First Southwest Co.

The settlement was filed Wednesday. It's contingent on court approval.

The state provided Schilling's company with $75 million in loan guarantees before it folded in 2012. First Southwest was the state's financial adviser.

A spokeswoman for Hilltop Securities says the settlement isn't an admission of liability or wrongdoing.

The state previously settled its claims against Schilling and others involved with the deal, including Wells Fargo Securities and Barclays Capital, for a combined $61 million.


RI lawmakers push to affirm abortion rights

Dozens of Rhode Island state legislators have signed onto a bill to affirm a woman's right to have an abortion.

Rep. Edith Ajello and Sen. Gayle Goldin, both Providence Democrats, announced the legislation at a State House rally Wednesday.

Similar bills were proposed in previous years but never went to a vote.

Ajello says there's momentum this year with new pro-choice Democrats in the state House of Representatives and amid fears about Republican President Donald Trump. Proponents say it would protect abortion rights even if the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned.

Ajello is also for the first time speaking in deeply personal terms, sharing her own story of finding a Pennsylvania doctor to perform an abortion when she was a college student in 1965.


Retired cop files ethics complaints against Warwick official

A retired Providence police officer has filed two complaints with the state Ethics Commission against a Warwick city councilwoman alleging she and her husband used a nonprofit organization to avoid paying taxes.

The complaints were filed against Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis last month by Warwick resident John Simoneau Sr.

Simoneau alleges in the complaints that Travis "failed to disclose" her own and her husband's involvement in nonprofit organizations on her 2015 financial statement to the commission.

Travis' lawyer says Travis had asked to amend the form, acknowledging she had failed to disclose her involvement.

The case is expected to be on the Ethics Commission's agenda on Tuesday. Members will determine if there's probable cause to conduct a full investigation.


Bus riders make last-minute push to reinstate free passes

Elderly or disabled people on low incomes who have been allowed to ride Rhode Island's public bus system for free aren't happy that they will have to start paying this week.

Dozens of riders gathered in Providence on Tuesday to urge Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo to stop the change that takes effect Wednesday.

Passengers who had qualified for the free rides will have to pay 50 cents per ride on Rhode Island Public Transit Authority buses. The full fare is $2.

The Raimondo administration announced a pilot program Tuesday to give away free 10-trip tickets each month for some people who were previously able to ride for free.

Advocates and riders say it's inadequate in part because it's only for senior citizens and veterans, not the disabled.


Brown seeks return of Syrian doctor blocked by travel ban

A Brown University official says the school is seeking the return of a Syrian student who's stuck overseas because of President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from seven Muslim countries.

Khaled Almilaji is now in Turkey while his pregnant wife is in the United States.

The 35-year-old doctor received a scholarship to earn a master's degree in public health at Brown University so he could learn how to rebuild his country's health system.

Terrie Fox Wetle, dean of Brown's School of Public Health, says the university is contacting humanitarian organizations and trying to figure out the most effective path to help Almilaji return to his studies.

She says he's an excellent student and one of many "good, good people who got caught up in a terrible situation."


RI House approves bill shielding research records

The Rhode Island House of Representatives has approved a bill that would shield climate scientists and other university researchers from public records requests.

The House voted 58-6 to pass the bill Tuesday.

Democratic House Judiciary Chairman Cale Keable says the legislation is meant to help guarantee academic freedom, especially for those whose study of climate change has been impeded by records requests from opponents of the research.

It would exempt researchers at state institutions from having to disclose preliminary drafts, notes and working papers.

Republican Rep. Mike Chippendale, who voted against it, says it's an affront to transparency.

University of Rhode Island professors backed the bill. Open government groups didn't object, arguing it merely adds clarity to an existing exemption in the law.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.


Officer under probe for alleged misuse of computer system

Law enforcement officials in Providence say an internal investigation is underway into allegations a city officer ran a background check on someone for a personal reason.

Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements confirmed to WPRI-TV that the patrolman is under investigation. The officer has not been named.

Clements says it's against departmental policy to use law enforcement systems and records to compile a background check on someone outside of official police business.

He says he expects the department to hand down disciplinary actions soon.


State police respond to 55 crashes during snowfall

Authorities in Rhode Island say state police troopers handled 55 crashes throughout the state in snowy conditions.

Police say they responded to crashes between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday. No serious injuries were reported.

Lt. Col Kevin Barry says that about 25 crashes took place in the Lincoln area. Reports from the state Department of Transportation show that more than a dozen crashes took place on Route 95 over 90 minutes on Tuesday afternoon.

The DOT's online reporting system listed crashes in Warwick, Providence, East Greenwich and other areas.

One incident involved a bus that was hit by a vehicle in Providence around 3:45 p.m. Three children were taken to the hospital for evaluation.


Insurers won't pay boat owner's claim in lost-at-sea case

Insurers say they will not cover the loss of a boat owned by a Vermont man that sank off Rhode Island with his mother aboard.

Nathan Carman and his mother, 54-year-old Linda Carman, of Middletown, Connecticut, left on a fishing trip in September. Nathan Carman was found alone in a life raft eight days later. His mother is presumed dead.

In papers filed last week in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, the National Liability & Fire Insurance Co., and a marine insurer say Nathan Carman made "incomplete, improper, and faulty repairs" to the vessel on the day before it sank, and that he knew the vessel was "unseaworthy."

Carman has previously said he believed his boat was safe.


Hundreds protest RI senator's vote for Trump CIA nominee

Hundreds of people showed up at a community event for Rhode Island Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to protest his vote in favor of President Donald Trump's nominee for CIA director and to push him to vote against other nominees.

A video of Sunday's event posted by the group Resist Hate RI shows people chanting "Just Say No!" and "Obstruct!" and shouting Whitehouse down at times.

Rhode Island voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton by a wide margin in the presidential election.

The overflow crowd at a Providence school could not fit inside the auditorium. Those who could not get in chanted "Take it outside!"

After answering questions inside, Whitehouse went outside and used a bullhorn to address hundreds more people.

He told them he understands many people disagree with his vote.


Gas prices fall slightly in RI

AAA Northeast says the average price for gasoline in Rhode Island has fallen by 3 cents in the past week.

The group's weekly survey finds self-serve regular averaging $2.25 per gallon, putting the state 2 cents below the national average of $2.27 per gallon.

The average price a year ago at this time in Rhode Island was $1.87 per gallon.


RI GOP leader asks Trump to jumpstart pipeline

The top Republican in the Rhode Island House of Representatives is asking President Donald Trump to rekindle a stalled pipeline project that would bring more natural gas to New England from shale fields in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan said Monday she's sent a letter to the president asking him to consider it as part of his infrastructure plans.

Morgan says Rhode Island ratepayers need relief from rising electricity costs as more homes are converted to gas heat.

Environmental groups have opposed the project to expand the capacity of Houston-based Spectra Energy's Algonquin pipeline system, in part because it delivers gas drawn by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It's also been met with opposition in New York's Hudson Valley and other communities that the line runs beneath.


Assumpico formally sworn in to lead state police

The first woman to lead the Rhode Island State Police has been sworn in.

Col. Ann Assumpico is the 13th superintendent of the state police and the first woman to lead any policy agency in Rhode Island.

She was sworn in on Monday by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo at a ceremony at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.

Assumpico also holds the dual role of the state's director of public safety.

She's been leading the state police since Raimondo appointed her in November, but the public safety director position required the state Senate's advice and consent. The Senate unanimously confirmed her earlier this month.


Lawmaker tries again to repeal state's outdated laws

A state lawmaker is making another effort to repeal Rhode Island's outdated laws.

House Majority Whip John Edwards, a Democrat, has tried before to create a joint committee within the General Assembly to review laws and recommend which ones are no longer needed.

He says he has introduced legislation again to create the committee.

In Rhode Island, a law restricting the amount of seaweed Barrington residents can take from the public beach has been on the books for about 200 years.

Another law allows for a fine of up to $5 for every person guilty of profane swearing and cursing.

Edwards says some of the laws aren't just archaic, but they also hinder business.

He says it's time to toss arbitrary statutes that choke the economy and cause confusion.


1st woman to lead RI State Police to be sworn in

The first woman to lead the Rhode Island State Police is being sworn in.

The swearing-in ceremony for Col. Ann Assumpico will be held  today.

Assumpico becomes the 13th superintendent of the state police. She's the first woman to lead any police agency in Rhode Island.

She says she plans to focus on better preparing recruits as she works to diversify the ranks of the department.

The department has been criticized for its lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity, particularly in the upper ranks.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo will swear in Assumpico.

Members of the state police and federal, state and local leaders plan to attend.

The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. The event is open to the public.


Sen. Reed says he'll vote against Trump education nominee

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is planning to vote against President Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary.

Reed said in a statement Friday that Betsy DeVos "flunked her confirmation hearing and is not the right person for the job."

The Rhode Island Democrat also said the education secretary should be a champion for all children and not someone like DeVos who he said helped reduce school oversight and accountability in Michigan and promoted the diversion of taxpayer dollars toward private schools.

Trump has called DeVos "a brilliant and passionate education advocate."

Reed also said that given DeVos's ties to for-profit education companies that will be directly impacted by Department of Education decisions it's hard to see how she could untangle herself from what he described as "a thick web of conflicts."


Naval Station Newport to participate in annual exercise

Naval Station Newport will join installations across the nation in an annual training exercise to better prepare Navy security forces.

Exercise Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield 2017 will be conducted on naval installations beginning Monday.

Naval Station Newport says it's holding training events as part of the larger effort.

Officials say they want the public to know that the events are planned and are not in response to an emergency.

The exercise concludes Feb. 10.

The naval station says there may be times when the exercise causes increased traffic around the installation or delays in base access.

Local residents may also see or hear security activities associated with the exercise.


RI protesters decry Trump immigration order

More than 1,000 demonstrators have gathered at the Rhode Island State House to protest President Donald Trump's order banning travelers from seven Muslim countries.

The protesters chanted, "The Muslim ban has got to go" and "No hate. No fear. Muslims are welcome here."

Speakers criticized decisions made by Trump during his first week in office.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza called Trump's actions "the acts of an insecure bully." He said Providence will continue to be a sanctuary city for immigrants.

Gov. Gina Raimondo said Rhode Islanders will "stand strong against your Muslim ban."


ACLU: Voter ID an issue, though voting mostly went smoothly

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island says there were problems at some polling places during the presidential election, though voting went smoothly in most locations.

The ACLU said Friday that some lawful voters were turned away from the polls in November because Rhode Island requires voters to show photo identification.

The civil liberties organization didn't have a specific number of voters, but says poll monitors reported occurrences in Providence and Warwick.

It says some voters without proper identification either weren't provided a provisional ballot or told to vote at city hall.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says she's convening a task force to improve poll worker training and efficiency at the polls.

The ACLU says polling location changes also caused confusion. It wants the voter identification law repealed.


New hotline available for those plagued by UHIP problems

The Rhode Island ACLU has set up a hotline for UHIP-related complaints on Wednesday.

The hotline has been designed for people who are having trouble with their snap applications being processed by UHIP.

The ACLU says the hotline is to get information for a pending class action lawsuit filed last month by the ACLU and other parties.

UHIP has been plagued with computer problems ever since the new system went online last fall.

The hotline can be reached at 1-877-231-7171.


RI governor opposes Amtrak bypass route

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she's opposed to federal plans for a new Amtrak bypass route for high-speed trains traveling from coastal eastern Connecticut into Rhode Island.              

The Democrat says that after meeting Wednesday with town leaders and local legislators who represent communities in southwest Rhode Island, she shares their concerns about quality of life, environmental threats and historic preservation.              

Federal railroad regulators last month unveiled a plan to upgrade Amtrak's Washington-to-Boston Northeast Corridor over the coming decades.

One recommendation would speed up southern New England travel by creating a straighter 40-mile bypass route for high-speed trains.              

Raimondo says she agrees it's important to increase connectivity and cut down travel times to New York and Boston. But she said she can't support the bypass.


RI elections chief criticizes Trump voter claims

Rhode Island's top elections official is criticizing Republican President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims about a rigged voting system and his pledge to order a "major investigation."

Democratic Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said Wednesday it is "outrageous" for the president to make unsubstantiated claims about alleged widespread voter fraud.

Trump tweeted early Wednesday that he is ordering an investigation looking at those registered to vote in more than one state, those in the country illegally and dead people still on voter rolls.

Secretaries of state across the country have dismissed Trump's voter fraud claims as baseless.

Gorbea says Rhode Island has already taken steps to improve the security of voting systems. She says she regularly works with local elections authorities to make sure voting lists are accurate and updated.


Charges dropped against mom in 1985 abduction of daughters

An abduction charge has been dropped against a woman who disappeared from Rhode Island in 1985 with her two daughters.

The office of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin on Wednesday announced it dismissed the case against Liana Waldberg, who went by the name Elaine Yates before fleeing the state 30 years ago.

Police tracked down the 69-year-old mother and her two adult daughters in Houston last week.

Her lawyer has said Waldberg was a victim of domestic violence and fled at a time when she had no legal protection and no other options. She said her client should never have been charged.

Kilmartin's office says it reviewed evidence that was not available prior to Waldberg being arrested. It says it dismissed the abduction charge in the interest of justice.


RIDOT gets welcome center location after negotiations

Rhode Island officials have reached an agreement for the location of a new state welcome center.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation decided to build the proposed center in Hopkinton after agreeing to leave out a fueling station from construction plans. Hopkinton officials blocked earlier proposals because of pollution concerns.

The Westerly Sun reports the 6,000-square-foot center will include food, traveler information, and historical information about the Narragansett Native American tribe.

The state will receive $9 million toward construction to offset the total $12 million cost from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. Richmond was considered, but later denied because of time constraints with federal funding.

RIDOT plans to purchase the land and select a developer in the coming months.


Providence to spend at least $1M to clean gun range

Police say Providence plans to remove lead bullets and fragments from a police shooting range near the Scituate (SIH'-choo-iht) Reservoir.

Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements says the maintenance program will cost more than $1 million. He says Providence is talking with the city's Water Supply Board and state environmental regulators.

An engineering firm hired by the city says the cleanup includes upgrading the range, screening the soil to see which areas were affected by shooting range activity and removing used bullets.

The city has owned and operated the gun range for more than half a century. It hasn't been operational for more than a year.

The reservoir provides drinking water to 60 percent of the state's residents. Officials say tests indicate the water supply hasn't been contaminated.


RWU to offer scholarships to Syrians

Roger Williams University is offering four scholarships to students displaced from war-torn Syria.

The  school joins more than 60 U.S. and international colleges that provide scholarships for Syrian students to complete their degrees in North America and Europe.

The consortium, led by the Institute of International Education, has supported hundreds of Syrian students and also includes Brown University.

Roger Williams will offer full-tuition scholarships to two students in the architecture school and two in the law school.

Kate Greene, the university's director of international program development, says this recognizes the unprecedented tragedy of the conflict and the vital role higher education will play in rebuilding Syria.

The fighting between insurgents and President Bashar Assad's forces is estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people since March 2011.


3 plead no contest to unemployment fraud

Rhode Island prosecutors say three people have pleaded no contest to charges of unemployment insurance fraud totaling nearly $60,000.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says 58-year-old Susan Brown, an employee of a health care company in Warren, was sentenced to seven years of probation and ordered to pay restitution after entering a plea in Superior Court on Tuesday to one count of obtaining money under false pretenses. Brown was accused of fraudulently collecting $14,000 in unemployment benefits.

Earlier this week, Kilmartin says 53-year-old Richard Rainville, of Woonsocket, was sentenced to five months of probation for fraudulently collecting $18,000 in benefits, while 56-year-old David Donahue of East Providence was sentenced to 10 months of probation in connection with $26,000 benefits he received.

Kilmartin says he's committed to aggressively prosecuting anyone who steals from the unemployment system.


RI town books protest buses to oppose Amtrak route

The Westerly town government that's opposed to federal plans for a new Amtrak route is paying for buses that will carry protesters to the State House.

This afternoon’s rally has been scheduled to oppose a high-speed rail bypass route that could be built from Old Lyme, Connecticut, into rural southwest Rhode Island.

The Westerly Town Council says it booked buses for the 45-mile ride to Providence so that bypass opponents can urge state leaders to act.

Federal railroad regulators last month unveiled a plan to upgrade Amtrak's Washington-to-Boston Northeast Corridor over the coming decades. One recommendation would speed up southern New England travel by creating a straighter route for high-speed trains.

The Federal Railroad Administration has also scheduled a meeting about the recommendations on Wednesday in Springfield, Massachusetts.


Federal judge: Unlawful detention violated woman's rights

A federal judge has ruled that immigration officials violated a woman's rights by unlawfully detaining her as a "deportable alien" while authorities reviewed whether she was in the country illegally.

Judge John McConnell Jr. ruled Tuesday that Ada Morales' detention "revealed a dysfunction of constitutional proportion" at the state and federal levels.

McConnell also ruled that the state Department of Corrections and its director have limited protection from damage claims.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island sued in 2012, alleging that Morales was wrongfully detained because of her national origin and last name.

State Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says McConnell applied the law properly.

A spokesman says that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can't comment until its legal department reviews the ruling.


Town official: Women's march gets wives 'outta the house'

An elected town official in Rhode Island faces criticism for tweeting that the women's march was a man's idea because it's the "perfect way to get the wives outta the house."

Sean Todd, a Republican, is vice president of the East Greenwich town council. He quickly deleted the tweet about Saturday's nationwide post-inauguration march and apologized.

One of the organizers says Todd's apology is appreciated, but many people want to voice their displeasure over the tweet. She leads the town's Democratic committee.

Todd says the tweet was meant as a joke but was in poor taste.

Several thousand people attended the Providence rally.


Ex-mayor plans to convert building into housing for homeless

A former Providence mayor plans to convert a building that once housed a hospital into a social service center that will provide housing to about 300 homeless people.

Joseph Paolino said Monday he has purchased and will develop the former St. Joseph's Hospital building on the city's south side. He says he's working with city-based KITE Architects on the project and intends to partner with the state's social service agencies.

It's unclear how much Paolino paid for the nine-story building.

Paolino's plans call for about 160 housing units. Architectural renderings include a space for job training, a group kitchen and a police substation.

Paolino says he wants to tackle homelessness in the city.

The Democrat served as the city's mayor from 1984 to 1990.


Sexual harassment case underway against RI judge

.A state commission hearing on sexual harassment and judicial misconduct complaints against a Rhode Island district court judge is now underway.

Opening statements began on Monday before the state Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline in Judge Raphael Ovalles' case.

Dozens of witnesses are expected to testify about allegations that Ovalles degraded women and mistreated court staff, lawyers and the public.

Ovalles has denied the allegations. The Providence Journal reports his lawyer characterized the accusations as a witch hunt spurred by untrustworthy witnesses and distorted facts.

The commission in 2015 said substantial evidence existed that Ovalles violated the standards of judicial conduct.

Ovalles has been relieved from all judicial duties with pay.

The commission will issue a recommendation to the state Supreme Court after the hearing.


Gas prices down 3 cents in RI to $2.28 per gallon

Gas prices are down in Rhode Island, falling 3 cents per gallon to $2.28 for regular.

AAA Northeast reports Monday that the price of a gallon of regular gas is down 3 cents in the past week and down 7 cents over the last two weeks.

The price of gas in Rhode island is 3 cents lower than the national average price of $2.31 per gallon, but 37 cents per gallon higher than the in-state price of $1.91 per gallon a year ago.

AAA found a range of 29 cents, from a low of $2.20 per gallon of regular to a high of $2.49.


3rd ex-RI lawmaker in 11 days charged criminally

A former Rhode Island state lawmaker has agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges, becoming the third ex-House member in 11 days to be charged with criminal conduct.

Democrat Ray Gallison was charged in U.S. District Court on Monday with mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and filing false tax returns.

Gallison is an attorney and has acknowledged taking money from a dead man's estate and other misconduct.

Prosecutors say he stole from clients who trusted him and lied about it.

Gallison's lawyer didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Gallison was chairman of the powerful House finance committee. He resigned in May amid state and federal investigations.

Two other Democratic former House members were criminally charged this month in state court for unrelated conduct.


7 people buried in the wrong graves at veterans' cemetery

Seven people have been buried in the wrong graves at a Rhode Island veterans' cemetery because grave markers in one row were off by a burial plot.

Veterans Affairs Director Kasim Yarn apologized on Monday, saying the state didn't meet its obligations to the veterans or their loved ones.

Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery workers left two spaces instead of one to transfer the remains of a veteran's father in November 2010. The extra space wasn't accounted for when permanent grave markers were added that spring.

Consequently, 21 grave markers were off. Seven interments occurred in that row since.

The dead people and the markers were moved this past weekend. Families are being contacted.

Yarn says there wasn't a formalized process to prevent mistakes like this and he's addressing that.


J & W culinary arts museum to close to the public

Johnson & Wales University is permanently closing its culinary arts museum to the public.

The university has announced that the closure will take effect Feb. 27. It is continuing to digitize the museum's holdings for research and viewing online .

The museum opened in 1989 and is home to more than 200,000 pieces.

A university spokesman says students, faculty and staff need more space to work as teams. They'll use the museum at the Harborside campus in Providence as a place to meet and study.

There's 25,000 square feet of gallery space.

The university's curriculum has changed in recent years and is now more focused on collaborative learning.


RI governor proposes $1.4 billion education budget

Rhode Island's governor has proposed a $1.4 billion education budget.

Gov. Gina Raimondo's budget focuses on English language learners, special education students, and early childhood education. Raimondo plans to allocate a combined $7 million for English language learners and special education. The governor also wants to expand early childhood education by $1.1 million.

The proposed budget calls for an additional $45.8 million in spending for public schools over last year's enacted budget.

Raimondo wants 75 percent of third graders reading at grade level by 2025. The governor's early education efforts also include adding more pre-kindergarten classrooms.

Tim Duffy, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, applauded Raimondo's efforts, but questioned the lack of school funding for low-income districts.


State awards $3.8M for historic preservation and the arts

The state is awarding $3.8 million in capital grants for historic preservation and the arts.

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission announced 33 grant recipients Thursday.

Among the projects, preservation grants will restore the visitors' center at historic Fort Adams in Newport and preserve schoolhouses, museums, a library and other historic structures.

Among the larger cultural grants, the Arctic Playhouse in West Warwick received $300,000 and RiverzEdge Arts in Woonsocket and Dirt Palace public projects in Providence each received about $250,000.

Voters approved bonds in 2014 that made $5 million available for state preservation grants and $6.5 million for cultural facilities grants.

The arts council and the preservation commission administer the programs, which require matching funds from applicants.


URI to celebrate its 125th year

The University of Rhode Island is celebrating its 125th year.

The university has planned a ceremony for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the school to kick off a yearlong celebration.

URI President David Dooley says it's a time to celebrate the accomplishments of alumni, students, faculty, and staff and reflect on the university's history, while also looking toward the future.

He says he's planning for the university to have a greater impact in academics, economic development and civic engagement.

Dooley will ring the bell 12 times at Davis Hall on Wednesday to mark a dozen decades of graduates.

The event includes speeches, music and ice sculpting.

The university was established in 1892 as a land-grant college.

Nearly 15,000 undergraduate students and 3,000 graduate students are currently enrolled.


RI governor looks to pioneer free tuition for all

A college-for-all idea that sparked enthusiasm during the presidential race could now face one of its biggest tests in Rhode Island.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has proposed giving in-state residents two years of free tuition at the state's public colleges.

Her administration spent months studying tuition-free college programs in states such as Georgia and Tennessee. Rhode Island's would be more expansive.

By providing free tuition for students in their junior and senior years at the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, it aims to expand enrollment and create an incentive for students to graduate on time. It also covers students obtaining a 2-year education at the Community College of Rhode Island.

The $30 million-a-year proposal differs from a recently announced New York plan by not having an income cap.


Senators confirm first woman to lead RI State Police

The first woman nominated to lead the Rhode Island State Police has been confirmed by state senators.

The state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Col. Ann Assumpico (ah-SUHM'-pih-koh) to be the state's director of public safety. She also holds the dual role of state police superintendent.

 Gov. Gina Raimondo named Assumpico as superintendent in November. The public safety director position required the Senate's advice and consent.

Raimondo eventually wants to split the roles, as other states do. The governor's annual budget plan unveiled Thursday proposes creating a civilian public safety commissioner. The plan would also consolidate the state Emergency Management Agency into the public safety department.

Assumpico is the first woman to lead any law enforcement agency in Rhode Island. She replaces Col. Steven O'Donnell, who retired last year.


Unemployment rate drops in RI to 5 percent

Rhode Island's unemployment rate dropped in December to 5 percent.

The state Department of Labor and Training said Thursday the jobless rate is down from the November rate of 5.3 percent.

In December 2015, the state's unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.

The department says the state lost 1,000 jobs since November, ending two previous months of robust job gains. Half of the jobs lost were in health care and social assistance.

The local economy generated 3,600 jobs in the past year.

The number of residents who were unemployed decreased by 1,500 from the November figure, to 27,800 people.

Nationally, the U.S. unemployment rate in December was 4.7 percent, an increase of one-tenth of a percentage point from November.


RI National Guard sends 150 members as inauguration support

The Rhode Island National Guard says it has sent about 150 soldiers and airmen to provide support services for President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington.

The National Guard says that about 7,500 members from 40 states are helping with Friday's event.

The members from Rhode Island will help manage the movement of crowds through the city and provide communications support.

A mobile kitchen team will provide meals for other members who are part of the teams supporting the massive event.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to head to the nation's capital for the Republican's inauguration and a major demonstration, Saturday women's march.

Another 80 Rhode Island soldiers are training in the area. The Guard says they could assist in the event of an emergency.


Bill would force White House hopefuls to release tax returns

A lawmaker in Rhode Island wants to prevent presidential candidates from appearing on the state's ballot unless they release their tax returns.

State Sen. Gayle Goldin, a Providence Democrat, says she'll submit a bill this week to require presidential candidates to release five years of federal tax returns to qualify for the ballot.

Similar proposals are circulating in Massachusetts, California, New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.

Lawmakers are responding to President-elect Donald Trump's decision to not release his tax returns during the campaign. The Republican's decision broke with decades of precedent.

Goldin says voters deserve transparency so they can evaluate a candidate's integrity, potential conflicts of interests and respect for the nation's laws.

The Board of Elections would make the tax returns public.


Raimondo releases $9.25 billion budget

Gov. Gina Raimondo has released a $9.25 billion budget plan that relies on new sales tax revenue from online retailers such as Amazon and cuts to Medicaid programs.

The Democrat submitted the plan to state lawmakers Thursday. It would close an expected $66.2 million shortfall in the 2018 fiscal year.

A projected revenue boost from online sales taxes is helping to reduce the state's structural deficit. Seattle-based giant Amazon recently announced it will begin collecting the state's 7 percent sales tax for the first time on Feb. 1.

New spending in the budget plan includes cutting municipal car taxes by 30 percent by reimbursing cities and towns $58 million for the lost revenue. It also proposes $10 million for the first year of a new free college tuition program.


RI state lawmakers oppose high-speed rail bypass

A bipartisan group of Rhode Island state lawmakers is opposing a plan to build a new Amtrak line that would speed up rail travel between Boston and New York.

Seventeen legislators sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration this week expressing concern about the proposed bypass that would extend from Old Lyme, Connecticut into southwestern Rhode Island.

The group represents Rhode Island's southernmost county. The plan to straighten the route to eliminate speed-restricting curves on Amtrak's busy Northeast Corridor has received vociferous opposition along the eastern Connecticut shoreline for more than a year but has received less attention in Rhode Island.

Federal railroad officials plan to discuss the proposal in Charlestown next week.


Pawsox talking about new site for stadium

The Pawtucket Red Sox have held what owners characterize as initial talks about building a new stadium on Main Street.

The Valley Breeze newspaper first reported Wednesday that team officials were discussing the possibility with the Apex Development Company of putting a stadium on the site of the former Apex department store, just off Interstate 95.

The company issued a statement saying it is in conversations about the site with "a number of interested parties including the Pawtucket Red Sox."

The Pawsox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, say the team's efforts remain focused on a study, due out as early as next week, on the feasibility of keeping the club in its current home at McCoy Stadium.


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