Steve Conti
Steve Conti
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1540 Updates Archives for 2015-06

State Receiving Grants To Help Unemployed

The state of Rhode Island is receiving two-million-dollars in federal grants to help the state's unemployed residents.  The U.S. Department of Labor grants will help state labor officials to better connect job seekers with employers who need workers.  Some of the money will allow the state Department of Labor and Training to make individualized assessments of unemployed people to help identify their strengths and identify work or training options.

Explosion Destroys Cumberland Garage

A garage is destroyed and a home damaged following an explosion and fire in Cumberland.  Officials believe an electrical fire spread to a car battery, then to gasoline powered tools and machines that exploded.  It took over an hour for fire crews to bring the blaze under control.  No injuries are reported, as the home was not occupied at the time of yesterday's incident.

Man Sentenced For Stealing From Lottery

A Massachusetts man is heading to prison for six months for embezzling from the Rhode Island Lottery.  Paul Mahfouz stole more than five-thousand-dollars from the lottery that was held in trust with him as a retail agent.  Mahfouz was also convicted of stealing 31-thousand-dollars from a man by trying to sell him a motor vehicle inspection machine that was never provided.

High Speed Rail Project Launched

Rhode Island officials are celebrating the beginning of a new high speed rail project.  The work getting underway this summer on the 41-million-dollar track and platform expansion in South Kingstown.  Most of the work is being funded by a federal grant, with Amtrak covering the rest of the cost.  The extra track will allow another train to pass through the South Kingstown station while another is stopped to pick up and discharge passengers.

Park Avenue Bridge Work Underway

Emergency repairs are underway on the Park Avenue Bridge over the Amtrak railroad tracks in Cranston.  The bridge was suddenly closed last week, drawing demands for an investigation by House Speaker Nick Mattiello.  His law office is a short distance from the bridge, and he has been skeptical of Governor Gina Raimondo's one-billion-dollar bridge repair plan.  The 411-thousand-dollar bridge contract requires that the emergency repairs be completed within 30 days.

Newport County homeless shelter to open at new location

A homeless shelter that has been in Newport County for 30 years  is expanding in an effort to support more families.

Middletown lawmakers were at Lucy's Hearth on Monday to celebrate the acquisition of a new facility on Valley Road.

The organization provides 24-hour assistance and serves as a transition shelter for homeless woman and children.

The shelter has been housed in a former convent on West Main Street. The new building is expected to be up and running by next spring.

Marine educators conference kicks off in Newport

The 2015 Educators Association (NMEA) conference kicks off this week in Newport.

The five-day event begins Sunday evening with a reception headlined by Rhode Island Senators and and Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano.

Southeastern New England Marine Educators (SENEME), a regional NMEA chapter, is hosting this year's event. SENEME focuses on promoting marine education in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

This year's conference will include more than 150 multidisciplinary sessions and plenaries.

More than 300 marine education professionals from around the world are expected to attend this year's conference.

NMEA is the only professional organization dedicated to those who educate others on marine and aquatic environments.

NMEA is member-based organization of classroom teachers, informal educators, university professors and scientists.


Effort Launched To Help Independent Shops

An effort is underway to help support Providence's independent shopkeepers.  More than 50 shops in the city are offering customer discounts for a one week period beginning on Wednesday.  The event is modeled after the Small Business Saturday that is used to help convince people to shop at local shops instead of the big national chains.  Shoppers can download a coupon for the event at the Buy Local RI web site.

Cars Burn In Salvage Yard Fire

Around 20 junk cars are now burned following a large fire at an auto salvage yard in Providence.  The fire broke out Saturday night at the A-and-M International Auto Salvage Yard near the Cranston city line.  The fire sent thick black smoke billowing into the air.  The cause of the fire has not been determined and remains under investigation.


Woman Shot In Providence

A woman is recovering after being shot in Providence.  Police say 31-year-old Elizabeth Hernandez arrived at Rhode Island Hospital on her own for treatment of a gunshot wound to the arm.  The woman apparently was struck by a bullet near Orms and Smith streets in Providence.  However, police are having difficulty with the investigation because the woman gave conflicting statements about what happened.


Motorcyclist Killed In Crash

A Massachusetts man is dead following a motorcycle crash in East Providence.  Police say 28-year-old Jonathan Frazier was driving on Wampanoag Trail when his motorcycle crashed.  There were no passengers on the motorcycle, and no other vehicles were involved.  The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

State Economy Growth Slows

A new report indicates that Rhode Island's economy grew at a slower rate than anticipated in the first quarter of the year.  The report says the state's economy grew by one and a half percent in the first quarter of the year.  That's below the two-percent growth that the Rhode Island Current Economic Indicator had predicted.  The report also says that the state economy has grown slower than the regional economy for two straight quarters.

Bluegrass On The Pawtuxet Cancelled

The Bluegrass on the Pawtuxet festival scheduled for July Third and fourth is canceled.  Organizers of the event at Pawtuxet Village on the Cranston-Warwick border say no new date for the festival has been scheduled.  The cancellation was called because one of the main organizers is very sick. 

Firefighters Find Marijuana Grow Operation

Johnston firefighters making a routine inspection of a home discovered a large marijuana growing operation.  The discovery was made last week at the home on Winfield Road.  Officials say dozens of pot plants were found throughout the basement and in a room on the first floor of the home.  Police arrested 22-year-old Mason Douradoon numerous drug charges, and he's being held on ten-thousand-dollars bail.

Stadium Opponents Visit State House

Opponents of a plan to build a minor league baseball stadium on former Interstate-195 land in Providence have delivered their message to state lawmakers.  A rally was held yesterday outside the State House as lawmakers wrapped up their work for the year.  The opponents say the amount of public money sought by the Pawtucket Red Sox for the move is just too much.  The team is seeking 120-million-dollars from the state over 30 years to relocate the team to Providence.

Agreement Reached To Avoid I-195 Tax Vote

An agreement is in place that averts a legislative vote on commercial tax rates of former Interstate-195 land in Providence.  The majority leaders of the House and Senate and Providence officials say they will work together to develop a tax stabilization agreement.  The goal is to reach an agreement that encourages development and protects the interests of state and city taxpayers.


Senate Abruptly Adjourns, Session Ends

The Rhode Island legislative session for the year is over.  The state Senate recessed before ten p.m. yesterday after negotiations on final bills came to an impasse between the two chambers.  Senate President Teresa Pavia-Weed left the door open for a possible special session.  House Speaker Nick Mattiello indicates that a special session will likely take place in September or October to deal with major unresolved issues.

Rhode Islanders Don't Like The Heat

A new survey indicates that Rhode Islanders are not big fans of hot weather.  The Weather Channel survey indicates that state residents have the lowest tolerance for heat in the country.  Residents of Rhode Island feel it's too hot at 85-degrees.  By contrast, Arizona and Nevada residents aren't bothered by heat until the mercury rises over 100 degrees.  Even residents of Minnesota are more tolerant of heat than people in the Ocean State, as 87-degrees is where they feel the heat is too much.

Providence Startup Moving Workers Away

Providence startup company Teespring is moving most of its Rhode Island jobs out of state.  The company that allows customers to design their own t-shirts is moving 70 of their 120 workers to Louisville and San Francisco.  The 70 Providence workers losing their jobs learned the bad news on Tuesday.  The company was founded in 2010 by a pair of Brown University students who set up a web site to sell t-shirts to commemorate the closing of their favorite bar.


Committee Passes Toll Suspension Bill

A state House committee has approved a bill that would suspend the driver's license and registration of people who have over 100 unpaid toll fines.  Officials say there are currently 138 people with over 100 unpaid toll fines, and they are the main target of the measure.  The House Judiciary Committee quickly voted to move the bill to the full House yesterday.  State tolling officials say neighboring states have used similar efforts to convince their biggest scofflaws to pay up.

Mattiello Wants Bridge Closure Probe

House Speaker Nick Mattiello is calling for an investigation into the sudden closure of the Park Avenue Bridge in Cranston.  The speaker is upset because the state DOT knew nine months ago that the bridge needed immediate attention.  However, no action was taken until the situation got so bad that the bridge was closed for immediate repairs this week, as lawmakers debate a huge bridge repair plan.  The bridge is located one block from Mattiello's Cranston law office.

Lawmakers May Wrap Session Today

Rhode Island lawmakers may wrap up the legislative session for the year today.  The House and Senate were working hard on bills last night, with the Senate passing a measure to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers.  The House passed a bill equipping schools with the heroin overdose antidote Narcan, and another expanding the medical marijuana program to more conditions.  One bill not expected to see a vote in the House is Governor Gina Raimondo's proposal to raise tolls on trucks to pay for needed bridge repairs.

RI Among Worst For Summer Road Trips

A new report places Rhode Island among the worst states in the nation as a destination for a summer road trip.  The report from takes into account factors that include driving and lodging costs, road conditions and fun, scenic attractions.  Rhode Island ranks next to last in road and lodging costs, and 34th in fun and scenic attractions.  The list's best summer road trip destination in the nation is Oregon, and neighboring Connecticut is  the worst.

Accused Providence Killer Found In NYC

A man wanted for two separate Providence homicides is now in police custody after being found in New York City.  Malcolm Querido is a person of interest in last month's killing of Kareem Barnes in a Camden Avenue apartment building.  He's also a suspect in the stabbing death of Robert Bullard in an Allston Street apartment last September.  Querido has a long record of committing violent crimes, and was on probation when the killings occurred.


Toll Plan Advances In Senate

A plan to repair Rhode Island's bridges with money raised by a new toll on large trucks is moving forward in the state legislature.  The state Senate approved the measure by a 33 to four vote yesterday, sending the bill to the House.  The bill's fate is much less certain in that chamber, as House Speaker Nick Mattiello says he is not sure whether it will be taken up before the session wraps up for the year. 

Former Police Chief Begins Prison Sentence

Former North Providence Police Chief John Whiting is headed to prison for the next six months.  Whiting was convicted of felony larceny for stealing over 700-dollars from a stripper during an incident in 2011.  Whiting is also ordered to undergo a mental health assessment and anger management classes during his stay at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston. 


Budget Receives Final Approval

The Rhode Island Senate is giving final legislative approval to the state budget bill that takes effect July first.  The eight-point-six-billion-dollar budget was approved by the House last week, and now heads to Governor Gina Raimondo for her consideration.  The budget eliminates income taxes on Social Security benefits for most residents, and increases cigarette taxes by 25-cents a pack.  The budget also eliminates a tax on energy bills, and reduces the minimum corporate tax paid by small businesses.

Raimondo Plans New School Formula

Governor Gina Raimondo is planning to develop a new school funding formula.  The governor's deputy chief of staff yesterday said that she will be taking action, regardless of how the legislature moves on the issue.  There are several bills related to education funding currently pending as the legislative session winds down.  One would place a one year moratorium on all new or expanded charter schools, and another would freeze all charter school funding until a new formula is put into place.

Tipped Minimum Wage May Rise Next

House Speaker Nick Mattiello says a bill could be coming in the near future that raises the minimum wage for tipped workers.  Mattiello's comments came before Governor Gina Raimondo signed a bill increasing the state minimum wage for the fourth straight year.  He says the sub-minimum wage paid to workers who earn most of their money from tips should be their next target.  That rate is currently two-dollars and 89-cents an hour, and a proposal on the table would raise it to four-dollars and 50-cents in January.


Trucking Group Wants Toll Study

The Rhode Island Trucking Association wants lawmakers to pause before imposing a huge toll on large trucks crossing state bridges.  Association President Chris Maxwell says the process of imposing the tolls to pay for a billion-dollars in bridge work is moving too fast.  He says the formation of a commission to study the impact of tolls would lead to a more collaborative and transparent process.  A Senate committee could vote on the toll proposal as early as today.


Cranston Council Rejects Cumberland Farms

The Cranston City Council is saying no to a new Cumberland Farms gas station and convenience store in Edgewood.  The council rejected a proposed change in the city plan that would have allowed the development to occur.  Many residents opposed the plan, with some saying the store would have a negative impact on the Edgewood neighborhood.  Mayor Allan Fung had been pushing for the development because the building currently on the site is currently vacant and an eyesore.


Middletown Man Drowns Scuba Diving

A Middletown man who died while scuba diving in Newport Harbor is being identified as 58-year-old Mark Gruchy.  Police say the incident occurred Sunday night as Gruchy went on a dive with a friend.  The body was later spotted floating in the water near the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, and was pulled from the water by the Newport Harbormaster.  An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death.

Battle Over Cumberland Farms Continues

Plans for a new Cumberland Farms store in Cranston are being met with resistance by some city residents.  The gas station and convenience store would be located on Park Avenue near Edgewood, with seven buildings needing to be demolished to make room for the business.  Opponents say the store will be out of character with the area, and its presence would harm area businesses.  The chief supporter of the plan is Mayor Allan Fung, who says the location is blighted and in need of new life.

More IRS Scam Calls Reported

Tax season may be over, but that is not stopping the IRS scammers from targeting Rhode Island residents.  State officials say residents are complaining that callers are threatening them with immediate arrest if their back taxes are not paid immediately.  The caller demands payment by wire transfer, pre-paid debit card or credit card.  Officials say the IRS never threatens taxpayers with arrest over the telephone and does not demand immediate payment.

State Last In Minority Home Ownership

Rhode Island is last in the nation in home ownership by people who are not white.  The U.S. Census says Rhode Island's home ownership rate is 60-percent.  The statistics show that 67-percent of those properties are owned by white people.  At 32-percent, Rhode Island's non-white home ownership places it last out of the 50 states.

Shots Fired In Three Neighborhoods

Police are investigating a series of shots fired incidents that occurred within a few hours of each other in Providence.  The first incident occurred just before midnight Saturday on Union Avenue, when several shots were fired at a home.  A short time later a parked car on Regent Street was struck by a bullet, and around the same time someone fired a gun from a vehicle on Dover Street.  No injuries were reported in any of the incidents. 

I-195 Tax Authority Bill This Week

The Rhode Island legislature is poised to take up a bill that would have the state take over the taxing authority on former Interstate-195 land in Providence.  The bill is offered by Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio.  It would establish 20 year tax treaties for projects on the former highway land with the goal of attracting developers to the land.  Ruggerio had tabled his bill earlier in the session on hopes the city would develop a tax plan, but says now is the time for the state to act.

2 people help rescue diver in Newport, police investigating

Police are investigating a man's diving equipment after he was rescued in Newport.

Two bystanders saw the diver in the water near Fort Adams and Brenton Cove Sunday evening.

They alerted authorities and then helped fire, police and U.S. Coast Guard crews rescue him. The diver had not been seen for nearly an hour before he was rescued.

Officials performed CPR on him before taking him to Newport Hospital.

His condition and identity are unknown.

House Approves Charter School Bill

The Rhode Island House has passed a bill that will make it much more difficult for charter schools to open and expand in the state.  The measure requires that any charter school expansion show that it will not have a negative impact on finances or academics of the local district.  The measure also requires that any charter school be approved by the local town or city council.  The bill would not affect any applications that have already been approved, and now heads to the Senate.

Construction, Truckers Square Off Over Tolls

The construction trades and truckers are squaring off over the proposal to impose tolls on large trucks to provide money for bridge repairs and replacement.  The trucking industry is urging state lawmakers not to rush this plan forward and weigh the impacts it will have on their industry.  Construction groups say the plan should move forward quickly, as the state's crumbling bridges cannot wait any longer for repairs.

Toddler Died From Strep Bacteria

The death of a 13-month-old child Tuesday was apparently caused by an invasive strep bacterial infection.  The state Health Department says this is a rare result for someone with this type of infection.  Officials initially thought the toddler had been suffering from a type of meningitis.  Preventive action had initially been taken for children at the day care where the child attended in Warren, but those have been called off since the cause of death has been determined.


State Jobless Rate Falls Again

Rhode Island's unemployment rate is now under six-percent.  The state Department of Labor and Training says the five-point-nine percent jobless rate for May is the lowest Rhode Island has seen since 2007.  That's a bit higher than the national unemployment rate of five-point-five percent.  The state added 34-hundred jobs during the month, but has not yet recovered all of the nearly 40-thousand jobs lost during the recession.


Man Charged With Molesting Teen

A Providence man is accused of sexually assaulting two teenage girls in Cranston.  Police say 31-year-old Sergio Resto is accused of assaulting the 14 and 16-year-old girls while they lived with him in a Cranston home last year.  Resto is charged with child molestation and first degree sexual assault.  He was arraigned on the charges yesterday and ordered held without bail.

Rhode Island Gets Funds For Medicaid Fraud

Rhode Island is receiving more than a quarter-million-dollars to help prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud.  The funding from the Department of Health and Human Services money will be used to educate recipients on how to defend against Medicare and Medicaid fraud.  In many cases officials say the schemes are presented as free services to seniors, but they come with a steep cost for taxpayers.  It's estimated that this type of fraud costs taxpayers across the country 60-billion-dollars a year.

Raimondo In CT For DGA Event

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is in Connecticut on Democratic Governors Association business.  Raimondo and several other governors are in Greenwich attending the association's northeastern policy conference.  The event got underway with a reception at an exclusive waterfront restaurant last night, and continues today with a full slate of panel discussions.  In addition to the governors of several northeastern states, leaders from major pharmaceutical and construction companies are also invited to participate.

House Passes School Naloxone Bill

The Rhode Island House has approved a bill that would require all state public schools to have the opioid antidote drug naloxone.  The drug can be given as a nasal spray or an injection, and quickly reverses the effects of an overdose of heroin and other drugs.  The bill provides immunity for any school personnel who administer naloxone, and does not require school nurses to be trained in use of the drug.  The measure advances to the Senate, which passed a similar bill earlier this month.


Trucking Group Demands Toll Specifics

The head to the Rhode Island Trucking Association is demanding specifics on the latest plan to place tolls on large commercial trucks.  Christopher Maxwell says their group has been left out of the process from the beginning.  He says now that they are demanding specifics of the latest plan, their responses have been lacking.  Governor Gina Raimondo's plan calls for new tolls on large trucks to fund the repair and replacement of deficient bridges across the state.

Toddler Dies From Apparent Infection

A toddler from Warren is dead and officials suspect that a bacterial infection is the cause.  The state Department of Health says the 13-month-old died on Tuesday.  More than a dozen children at the day care center where the toddler attended are being treated with antibiotics as a precaution.  The child is not being identified by state officials at this time.

Coventry Votes To Dissolve Fire District

Voters in have decided to dissolve the troubled Coventry Fire District.  A referendum was held yesterday in Coventry, where voters refused to appropriate any more money to the financially troubled fire company.  The district had asked the town for 600-thousand-dollars to keep operations going through November.  As the voting was taking place, signatures were being collected for a petition calling on Coventry to form a townwide fire district.

House approves new sales tax on vacation rentals

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to expand the definition of hotel to include small bed-and-breakfasts, private home rentals and other rentals and to levy a new sales tax on these vacation rentals, despite efforts from some lawmakers to delay the tax.

State lawmakers approved a section of the budget expanding the definition and creating the tax with a 58-14 vote.

The proposed new sales tax on vacation rentals is expected to generate $6.9 million in additional revenue in fiscal year 2016, with $5.4 million of that coming from taxes on private vacation home rentals. The tax would go into effect July 1.

However, some lawmakers said they'd received phone calls and emails from constituents who were concerned that the tax would create an administrative nightmare as they're in the midst of renting out their homes for the summer.

Casino security guards want to stay armed

Security guards at a Rhode Island casino say taking their guns away would be a mistake.

The union for the security officers at Twin River Casino says management wants to phase out armed officers through attrition and new hires.

Union leaders tell WJAR-TV  more than half of the casino's 107 security guards are former police officers and carry guns while on the job. They say armed guards deter crime, and that gang members visit the casino knowing the officers have guns. Union leaders added that armed officers are paid substantially more than unarmed guards.

The issue is being discussed in contract negotiations.

A Twin River spokeswoman says the casino would not comment during the contract negotiation.


House Committee Votes To Legalize Hemp

A Rhode Island House committee is giving the go ahead to legalize hemp in the state.  The House Health, Education and Welfare Committee voted yesterday to legalize the product.  Police have expressed concerns about the bill because it legalizes a cannabis based industry.  However, supports say hemp has all kinds of industrial uses, and the bill would create stronger controls than are currently imposed on the state medical marijuana program.

Woman Survives Jamestown Bridge Jump

A Coventry woman is alive after jumping from the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge into Narragansett Bay.  The North Kingstown harbormaster was nearby when the woman jumped from the center span of the bridge Sunday.  The 28-year-old woman was able to swim, and was pulled from the water by the harbormaster, who rushed her to a waiting ambulance at the shore.  She was taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries not considered life threatening.

Police Officer Injured In Crash

A Pawtucket police officer is injured after being involved in a crash with an alleged drunk driver.  Police say Darvin Benitez of Central Falls was driving on Division Street early yesterday when he turned into the path of a police SUV.  The officer was treated and released from the hospital, and he is only expected to miss a few days of work.  Benitez and a female passenger also suffered minor injuries, and Benitez was charged with driving under the influence.


House Quickly Approves Budget

The Rhode Island Senate is expected to vote today on the eight-point-seven-billion-dollar budget bill passed by the House yesterday.  The House voted 75 to zero to approve the budget, which provides some tax cuts and increases education spending.  Lawmakers voted to keep the state health insurance exchange HealthSource RI under state control, and appropriated over two-million-dollars to help the exchange.  In addition, the House approved the proposed pension lawsuit settlement without any debate.

Whitehouse Endorses Clinton For President

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is endorsing Hillary Clinton in her run for president.  Whitehouse says he has known Clinton for years, saying she has always fought for the needs of middle class Americans.  He's urging Democrats to unite behind Clinton as they prepare for a tough battle with Republicans and their big money backers.  Whitehouse says the nation needs a president who will be a champion for everyday people, and he feels nobody will be better for the job than Clinton.

OSHA: RI company lacks effective blood hazard safeguards

 An East Greenwich company that ships clean needles and other medical supplies to clinics nationwide has been cited by federal workplace safety inspectors for not adequately protecting its employees against exposure to contaminated needlesticks and bloodborne pathogen hazards.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Monday it cited Provant Health Solutions LLC for nine serious violations and one other-than-serious violation of OSHA standards and proposed $62,000 in fines.

Provant said in a statement that it's working with OSHA and reserves the right to contest the findings. It also added that it takes the violations seriously and remains committed to the safety of its employees.

Gas prices up again in R.I., to $2.78 per gallon

Gas prices are up again in Rhode Island, to an average $2.78 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey released Monday found gas prices had gone up an average 5 cents per gallon from last week in Rhode Island.

Prices in Rhode Island are still two cents less per gallon than the national average of $2.80.

AAA says last year at this time, gas prices were averaging 33 percent more than today in Rhode Island. Gas cost $3.70 per gallon a year ago, 92 cents more per gallon.


Twin River Ready For Competition

Executives at Twin River Casino say they are ready for competition from casinos in Massachusetts.  A new slots parlor is opening June 24th in Plainville, Massachusetts, which is only 12 miles from Twin River.  Casino executives say all of the amenities of the new slots parlor would fit on the second floor of Twin River.  They believe the table games, entertainment and restaurants at Twin River will keep customers from straying across the border.

GOP Lawmakers Offer New Toll Plan

Republicans in the Rhode Island House are offering their own tolling plan.  The GOP proposes that 60-million-dollars be invested each year on bridge repairs across the state.  The GOP proposal counts on 15-million-dollars in personnel savings that are not detailed, and a sweep of state agency funds.  House Speaker Nick Mattiello says the Republican proposal is not viable or sustainable.

Coach Accused Of Sexual Assault Dies

A longtime Providence youth basketball coach is dead, just days after he was accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.  Tyrone Dale was found dead yesterday in Pawtucket, and police say he took his own life.  Dale coached for years at Juanita Sanchez School and at the West End Recreation Center.  This was not his first arrest for this type of crime, as he was charged in 1992 with molesting boys at a private home for troubled boys in Smithfield.

Planned Parenthood Upset With Budget

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England is unhappy with wording in the Rhode Island state budget.  The group doesn't like language in the budget that would allow any employer to choose health plans on the state health insurance exchange with only minimal abortion coverage.  The budget approved in committee last week requires the exchange to offer plans that go no further than minimum abortion coverage required by federal law.

House To Vote On Budget Today

The Rhode Island House of Representatives is expected to debate and vote on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  Governor Gina Raimondo and legislative leaders started the year with a 200-million-dollar deficit, and say the budget is now balanced.  The eight-billion-dollar budget includes tax cuts, increased education spending and many of the economic development tools sought by Governor Gina Raimondo.  The budget was approved by the House Finance Committee last week.

Debra Messing to receive award from Trinity Rep

 Actress Debra Messing will return to Rhode Island to accept an award from the Trinity Repertory Company.

Messing, who grew up in East Greenwich and graduated from East Greenwich High School, will receive a Pell Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts at a ceremony Monday night at the theater.

Messing's NBC series, "The Mysteries of Laura," where she plays a New York City detective, was recently renewed for a second season.

Traffic Stop Leads To Heroin Bust

Two men are facing charges after a routine traffic stop in North Smithfield led to a large heroin bust.  Police say the men from New York City and Philadelphia were found with 142-grams of heroin.  A later search of an alleged drug stash house revealed heroin worth more than 50-thousand-dollars.  Both of the suspects are being held without bail. 


Grant Funds Providence Cleanup

A federal grant will help clean up a key property in Providence.  The 200-thousand-dollar federal grant will help clean the property known as Parcel 30 at Clifford and Friendship streets.  The former Interstate-195 property is walking distance from downtown Providence, but has contamination that spans back decades. 

Providence Police Seek Shooting Suspect

Providence Police are looking for a suspect in a shooting that leaves a 25-year-old man injured.  Police say a dark skinned Hispanic man shot Marvin Novegil near Roger Williams Park Casino Saturday night.  Police say Novegil was trying to retrieve a dirt bike from the suspect that led to an argument and the shooting.  Novegil is hospitalized in stable condition.

Coventry Firefighters Offer Concessions

Coventry firefighters are offering concessions they hope will help keep their department open.  Firefighters are agreeing to 350-thousand-dollars in concessions over the next six months.  Savings include reducing the number of people required to be on duty for each shift from four to three, and eliminates their clothing allowance.  The firefighter givebacks will go into effect if district residents approve a 600-thousand-dollar supplemental tax increase. 

House To Vote On Budget Tomorrow

The Rhode Island state House is expected to vote on the budget tomorrow.  The budget proposal does not contain a controversial plan to increase bridge tolls on heavy commercial vehicles.  Also left out of the budget is funding for a proposed minor league baseball stadium in Providence.  The eight-billion-dollar budget package was recently unveiled after months of closed door negotiations.


Warwick city, employees agree to pay bump, make concessions

Unions representing Warwick city workers have agreed to new three-year contracts with the city that include pay increases for police and firefighters.

The Providence Journal reports that by the end of the contract, firefighters and police would see more than 9 percent pay increases while municipal workers would receive a 10 percent bump.

Under the agreement, when new members retire their family members would not be covered under city health insurance plans. Additionally, police and firefighters would see higher health insurance copays and municipal workers would have higher pension contributions.

The City Council is scheduled to review the contracts Monday. The contracts are expected to cost $1.4 million next year and $3.9 million over the next three years.


Authorities find more malnourished animals in R.I.

An animal cruelty investigation in Massachusetts has led authorities to a second home in Rhode Island.

Tiverton police tell say they discovered chickens, ducks, goats and a llama without access to water or food outside a burned out and condemned home. Several dead chickens and other animals also were found on the property.

Police say the discovery stems from the same investigation that led to the arrest of a New Bedford Massachusetts couple on Thursday.

Police charged 23-year-old Sabrina Harding and 24-year-old Jake Brousseau with animal cruelty after finding 23 dead animals and another 23 that were sick inside their New Bedford apartment.

Both are being held without bail and it is not clear if they have hired attorneys.


State Lawmakers Question Budget

Some state lawmakers are finding problems buried within the state budget package they are expected to vote on next week.  One clause generating some concern among lawmakers requires that the state health insurance exchange offer at least one plan that does not cover abortions.  Others are upset with a clause that imposes both the state sales tax and local hotel taxes on vacation home rentals.  A legislative briefing was held on the budget yesterday in advance of next week's expected vote.

Elorza Signs Providence Budget

Providence officially has a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  Mayor Jorge Elorza signed the 696-million-dollar budget into law yesterday.  The budget approved by the City Council had few changes from the proposal made by Elorza.  It's the first budget crafted by Elorza, and keeps taxes on homes, vehicles and businesses the same as current levels.  Elorza says the budget is a step towards addressing the city's ongoing fiscal challenges, and does so without new taxes.

Minimum Wage Hike Sent To Governor

A bill increasing the minimum wage in Rhode Island to nine-dollars and 60-cents is heading to Governor Gina Raimondo's desk.  The bill passed the state House and Senate yesterday.  Warwick Senator Erin Lynch says raising the minimum wage helps state residents support themselves and reduces the possibility that they will need public assistance.  Legislative leaders say the hike helps Rhode Island keep pace with neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut, both of which have passed recent increases.

Former Speaker Fox Sentenced To Prison

Former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox will be spending three years in federal prison for his corrupt acts while in office.  Fox admits that he accepted over 50-thousand-dollars in bribes and stole over 100-thousand-dollars in campaign contributions.  Fox pleaded guilty in March to charges of wire fraud, bribery and filing a false tax return.  He must surrender to begin serving his sentence by July seventh.

RI Man Arrested In Terror Probe

A Warwick man is being held on charges related to the terrorist investigation in Boston.  Nicholas Rovinski was taken into custody last night for his role in what investigators say was a plot to behead a blogger and to kill police.  Law enforcement officials shot and killed Usaamah Rahim last week in Boston after he reportedly kept charging at them with a large knife.  Rahim and accused co-conspirator David Wright reportedly traveled to Rhode Island to discuss the terror plot, meeting on a beach near Rovinski's home.

Realtors ask lawmakers to reject new tax on vacation rentals

Real estate agents are asking lawmakers to reject a proposed new tax on vacation rentals.

The Rhode Island Association of Realtors opposes the tax that's included in the budget proposal now headed to the House floor.

Association President Bruce Lane says vacationers would go to neighboring states instead, and some people wouldn't buy second homes in Rhode Island if the houses were harder to rent because of the added tax.

He also complains it would begin at the start of the summer season, and renters budgeted for vacation without expecting to pay hundreds more in taxes.

The budget proposal expands the definition of hotel to small bed and breakfasts, private home rentals and other rentals.

The proposed tax was expected to generate about $700,000 in fiscal 2016.


Sierra Club holds environmental rally at Statehouse

The Sierra Club is trying to call attention to the link between a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Leaders of the organization's state chapter say they're concerned that Rhode Island lawmakers mistakenly view the environment as an issue separate from economic concerns. They hosted a rally, the 'Environment is Everyone's Business,' Wednesday night on the Statehouse lawn. About 75 people attended.

Keynote speaker Michael Dorsey is a director for the club's national organization. Dorsey says he wants to remind everyone that the environment, economy and public health are intertwined.

He says there are no jobs on a dead planet.

Man hospitalized after marijuana dispensary catches fire

Police say a man suffered burns to his face, chest, neck and arms when a fire broke out at a Rhode Island marijuana dispensary.

WJAR-TV reports  the fire broke out Wednesday afternoon in a convection oven used to make edibles at Greenleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth.

The injured employee was transported to Rhode Island Hospital. The workers condition was not released. No one else was hurt.

The fire had already been extinguished when first responders arrived.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Rhode Island Fire Marshal were at the scene.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.


Detective Credited With Saving Residents

A fast thinking Cranston police detective is credited with saving residents of a three family home as the building went up in flames.  The fire broke out at the large home on Florida Avenue yesterday.  Detective Paula Duffy was driving nearby and immediately ran into the building to alert residents.  Duffy helped lead multiple residents and their pets to safety, and everyone inside was able to get out without injury.  The building itself suffered major damage in the fire, which remains under investigation.

Pawtucket Councilor Targets Massage Parlors

Pawtucket city Councilor Timothy Rudd Jr. is calling for a crackdown on massage parlors and spas that are actually operating as brothels.  There are five massage businesses in the city, and two of them have been busted for illegal prostitution.  However, both are continuing to operate and are advertising on adult oriented web sites.  Two others are also advertising on the adult sites, and Rudd says his ordinance would help police get a handle on sex trafficking that is common in these types of businesses.

Former HealthSource RI Chief Arrested

The former head of Rhode Island's health insurance exchange is facing charges after she allegedly procured alcohol for someone under the age of 21.  Police arrested Christine Ferguson early Sunday at her Jamestown home and charged her with violating the state social host law.  Police had responded to complaints of a loud party at the home and found a drunk underage person in the street and determined that he had been at the Ferguson home.  Governor Gina Raimondo replaced Ferguson as executive director of the exchange in December.

Panel Cuts Fees To Fund Exchange

A legislative committee is proposing a cut in the fees to fund Rhode Island's health insurance exchange.  The House Finance Committee made a slight cut to Governor Gina Raimondo's plan to assess a fee to keep HealthSource RI open for business.  The exchange is operated by the state to provide a marketplace for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  Rhode Island is one of only 14 states that run their own exchange, with the rest using the federal system.


Hillary Clinton Attends RI Fund Raiser

Hillary Clinton has a large chunk of Rhode Island money to help with her presidential campaign.  Clinton attended a fund raiser last night at a private home in East Greenwich.  Supporters paid between one-thousand and ten-thousand-dollars to attend the event, which featured speeches by Clinton and Governor Gina Raimondo.  Clinton stayed at the event for over an hour, speaking to the crowd for around 20 minutes before departing.


Hillary Clinton making fundraising stop in R.I.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is making a stop in Rhode Island to raise money for her Democratic bid for president.

Clinton is scheduled to attend a fundraiser Wednesday afternoon and early evening in East Greenwich at the home of Democratic activist Mark Weiner, who is hosting the event with former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino.

Tickets started at $1,000 apiece.

The former secretary of state and senator is the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination.

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee is also in the Democratic field, along with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.


Twin River to add 28 table games by the early fall

Twin River Casino will add 28 table games, including 16 poker tables, starting later this summer and into the early fall, Twin River Chairman John Taylor announced Tuesday.

The new games are a way to remain competitive, as a new slot parlor is set to open later this month in nearby Plainville, Massachusetts, Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle said.

Twin River is "far more robust" than what is envisioned for the Plainridge Park Casino, Taylor said in a written statement.

The gambling center in Lincoln currently offers 80 table games and more than 4,000 slot machines. The new games will be added to the facility's second-floor, a non-smoking area. Customers have requested table games in this area, Doyle said.

The casino's ownership group isn't yet making revenue projections for the new games, Doyle said. But they are projecting the new games will create about 120 new jobs.

The casino will remove 274 slot machines to accommodate the expanded table games, per the discretion of the lottery division of the Rhode Island Department of Revenue. The DOR approved the addition of the table games.

Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which operates Twin River, is seeking to buy Newport Grand and move to Tiverton, closer to the Massachusetts state line. Taylor has said the sale awaits state regulatory approval.


Drivers Hurt In Head On Crash

The drivers of two cars that crashed head on in Charlestown are recovering from injuries sustained in the mishap.  The crash occurred before noon yesterday on Route-Two, not far from where it reaches .  Police say the investigation shows that a car driven by 19-year-old Katherine James of Hopkinton crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming car.  James was treated and released from the hospital, but 59-year-old Susan Gordon of Charlestown appears to have suffered a broken neck.

Bristol Police Officer Found Dead

The body of a Bristol police officer, who went missing in the waters off Costa Rica, has been recovered.  Officials are confirming that a body found off the coast yesterday is that of Richard Jean-Georges.  He was in Costa Rica to attend a family birthday when he went missing.  His body was found shortly after a team of Bristol officers arrived in the Central American country to help with the search.

Fox Agrees With Proposed Sentence

Former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox agrees that three years in federal prison is the right punishment for his corruption crimes.  Fox pleaded guilty and admits accepting more than 50-thousand-dollars in bribes and stealing more than 100-thousand-dollars from his campaign fund.  Also as part of the plea deal, Fox waives the statute of limitations on the bribery charge.  Fox's sentencing is tomorrow at federal court in Providence.

Judge Approves Pension Settlement

A judge is giving the go ahead to the proposed settlement of the lawsuit over the 2011 state pension reform law.  The judge overseeing the case rejected numerous objections to the proposal from state employees and retirees before sanctioning the agreement.  The state passed the reforms cutting back benefits promised to retirees because of a seven-billion-dollar unfunded liability in the pension system.  Some recipients wanted to take the case to court, saying the law was the state breaching its contract with them.

Details Of State Budget Released

After months of closed door negotiations, the Rhode Island state budget is seeing the light of day.  The eight-billion-dollar budget includes tax cuts, increased education spending and numerous economic development initiatives proposed by Governor Gina Raimondo.  They include a 25-million-dollar fund for development of I-195 land and 60-million-dollars for real estate tax credits over the next five years.  The House Finance Committee approved the budget bill last night.

Providence mayor: I've offered to increase firefighter wages

Days after firefighters urged Providence City Council to oppose Mayor Jorge Elorza's plan to restructure the fire department, Elorza says they should be paid more in return for reduced platoons per shift.

Elorza told reporters Monday he is negotiating to restructure the fire department from four platoons per shift to three to help reduce a projected $13.5 million deficit in 2017.

He said the fire department accounts for $9 million in overtime annually with some firefighters earning more than $100,000 in overtime.

He proposes reducing the number of platoons, adding 33 on-call firefighters and increasing each work week by 14 hours.

Critics of the plan say reducing the number of platoons is unfair and firefighters working longer hours should not be shortchanged in their pay.


R.I. Gas prices up 4 cents per gallon

The cost of a gallon of gas in Rhode Island has increased, but remains lower than the national average.

AAA Northeast reports Monday that self-serve, regular is up to an average of $2.73 per gallon, an increase of 4 cents in the past week.

That price is 9 cents higher than a month ago, but 95 cents less than the same time one year ago. The price is 2 cents less than the national average.

AAA found self-serve, regular gas selling for as low as $2.62 per gallon and as high as $2.89, a difference of 27 cents.


House committee set to vote on $8.6 billion state budget

An $8.6 billion state budget proposal with new funding to create jobs and modernize schools faces a pivotal test in the General Assembly.

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to consider and vote on the budget Tuesday night. The full House can't take up the spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 until the committee endorses it.

Committee Chairman Raymond E. Gallison Jr. said he doesn't expect a drawn-out debate because there's consensus among the members on many of the major issues and they know the state has limited resources.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo submitted a budget proposal in March that sought to eliminate a $190 million deficit while implementing no new broad-based tax changes.

R.I. police officer missing off coast of Costa Rica

A Rhode Island police officer has been reported missing in Costa Rica after relatives say he was pulled out to sea by rip currents while swimming with his brother.

Relatives of Richard Jean-Georges told WJAR-TV  that the Costa Rican National Guard and members of the U.S. embassy in the Central American country are continuing to search for him. Jean-Georges joined the Bristol police force four years ago.

Jean-Georges was reported missing Saturday while swimming with his younger brother off Jaco Beach on Costa Rica's central Pacific coast.

His father, Manny Jean-Georges Sr., told WJAR that both his sons were pulled out to sea by rip currents and his younger son was rescued. He says Richard Jean-Georges was in Costa Rica to celebrate a cousin's birthday.

Warwick Superintendent of Schools Resigns

Warwick Superintendent of Schools Richard D'Agostino is stepping down next month.  D'Agostino has worked in the school district for more than three decades.  His resignation comes months after a district junior high school teacher was arrested on 20 charges related to the sexual assault of a teenage girl.  The arrest came after D'Agostino denied that any teachers at the school were engaged in behavior that would affect the safety of students.  The school board is immediately beginning a search for his replacement.

South Kingstown Fire Pit Victim Identified

The woman who died after apparently falling into a fire pit in West Kingston is being identified as 63-year-old Carol Reed.  Investigators believe that Reed was burning leaves in the back yard of her home on Glen Rock Road when she fell into the fire.  Police believe she may have suffered some kind of medical issue that caused her to fall into the fire.  The cause of death has not been determined and remains under investigation.

BankRI Official Charged With Insider Trading

Federal regulators are charging a former Bancorp Rhode Island board member with insider trading.  The Securities and Exchange Commission says Anthony Andrade tipped people off that the company was being sold to Brookline Bancorp in 2011.  The three people Andrade is accused of tipping off are also charged in the case.  Two of those three men have agreed to return all of their profits, and they will pay penalties and interest as well.

Gist Leaves For New Oklahoma Job

The tenure of Rhode  Island commissioner of elementary and secondary education Deborah Gist is officially over.  Gist's last day of work in Rhode Island was Friday.  She now begins her new job as superintendent of schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Gist says her administration's efforts to transform state education improved the lives of thousands of Rhode  Island residents. 

Providence City Council Backs Budget

The Providence City Council is giving preliminary approval to a 696-million-dollar budget package for the upcoming fiscal year.  The proposal does not include any tax increases on city residents.  However, it does contains a controversial plan to cut taxes for some residential properties that are not owner occupied.  Another vote on the budget is expected to take place tomorrow.

Survey Finds Support For Tiverton Casino

A survey commissioned by Twin River Management Group says 60-percent of Tiverton residents support plans for a casino there.  Earlier this year Twin River announced it wants to build a casino in Tiverton.  It plans to buy and close the Newport Grand Slots Parlor, and transfer the existing license to the new casino.  "The Providence Journal" also reports the chairman of Twin River Management says he's committed to developing the proposal with advice and guidance from the community. 

RI coastal management agency awarded $1.35M federal grant

Rhode Island's Coastal Resources Management Council has been awarded $1.35 million to support jobs and improve coastal water quality.

The federal funding is provided through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Coastal Zone Management Program. The program is a federal-state partnership that protects, restores and develops the nation's coastal communities and resources.

The federal funds will be matched by $1,263,880 in state funds.

Sen. Jack Reed says the funds will bolster the state's efforts to improve coastal water quality and address issues like flooding, storm surges and shoreline erosion.

Reed is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which oversees NOAA funding. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, also supported obtaining the federal funding.


Woman Found Dead In Fire Pit

A woman is dead after she apparently fell into a fire pit in South Kingstown.  Emergency crews were called to a home on Glen Rock Road yesterday afternoon and found that the woman's body had already been pulled from the lit fire pit.  However, she was pronounced dead at the scene.  The woman has not been identified, and police are investigating to determine how she ended up in the fire.

Portsmouth Man Busted For Child Porn

A Portsmouth man is being held on five-thousand-dollars bail after being accused of possessing child pornography.  State Police say 59-year-old James Murray's home Internet connection was identified as being involved in child pornography.  A search warrant was executed at Murray's home Friday and he was taken into custody.  If he is bailed out, Murray cannot access the Internet or have contact with children while his case is pending.

Barge Overturns Off Block Island

A crane is being brought in today to remove a boat carrying an excavator that capsized off Block Island.  The incident occurred on Saturday afternoon near the site where the backhoe was working on the Old Harbor breakwater.  Initial efforts to remove the boat were not successful yesterday, so the crane will be needed.  Booms were brought in to make sure any contaminants in the backhoe are contained.

Providence Man Indicted For Sex Trafficking

A Providence man is under federal indictment on charges that he transported a 14-year-old girl from Rhode Island to New Jersey for sex.  Prosecutors say Paul Monteiro also recorded videos of himself sexually assaulting the teen.  Monteiro and the girl were found in a New Jersey motel room in April, and he's now facing charges that could bring a life sentence.  He allegedly used the web site to advertise sexual activity with the girl, and he's accused of using a cell phone to take the pictures used in the ad.

Coventry Fire District Faces Uncertain Future

This is an important week for the future of the Coventry Fire District.  The district board is holding a briefing on Wednesday for the public about the current financial crisis.  The hearing will help residents decide whether they should vote to accept a large supplemental tax increase to balance the district books or dissolve the embattled fire company.  The referendum where the question will be answered is being held June 17th.

Scientists find rare ladybug in Warwick during survey

Scientists found a rare ladybug at Rocky Point in Warwick during the Rhode Island Natural History Survey's "BioBlitz."

Survey officials announced Thursday that the nine-spotted ladybug was "rediscovered" last year during the "BioBlitz," which is a challenge to volunteers, scientists and naturalists to find as many species as they can in a 24-hour period at a particular location.

It was the first sighting of the bug in Rhode Island in at least 30 years.

Cornell University researchers identified the insect through photos from the Lost Ladybug Project at the school.

The nine-spotted ladybug, or Coccinella novemnotata, was once common in the eastern United States but has almost disappeared.

Natural History Survey Executive Director David Gregg says Warwick isn't a place he would have expected to make such a find.


House speaker: Toll proposal won't be in the budget

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says a proposed toll on large commercial vehicles won't be included in the state budget.

The toll proposal is part of Gov. Gina Raimondo's $4.8 billion infrastructure plan called RhodeWorks. Officials say the tolls would pay for a $700 million revenue bond to repair the state's deteriorating bridges. Trucks would be electronically tolled at each bridge along the state's five highways.

Mattiello said Thursday after a Democratic caucus about the budget that he has questions about the proposal and he's concerned about the effect on businesses. He says the House isn't ready to take any action regarding tolls.

The House Finance Committee is expected to vote on the budget Tuesday.

The Rhode Island Trucking Association has said the trucking industry is being unfairly targeted.


Man killed when motorcycle hits wall in Warwick

One man was killed and another injured when the motorcycle they were riding went off a road in Warwick and struck a tree and a stone wall.

Police say the motorcycle went out of control near the entrance to Goddard State Park on Ives Road just after 1 a.m. It crossed the double yellow line before striking the tree.

The 26-year-old driver from Webster was pronounced dead at Kent Hospital.

The 21-year-old passenger, who police say was wearing a helmet, suffered only minor injuries.

Their names have not been released.

Police say alcohol and speed may have played a role in the crash

ACLU: Students With Disabilities Suspended At High Rate

A new reports says students with disabilities are suspended at higher rates than other students in Rhode Island.  The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says those rates begin in the early grades and are often for behavior that could be addressed in other ways.  The report says that during the 2013-2014 school year, every district in the state and all but two charter schools over-suspended students with disabilities.

Providence To Expand Student Bus Passes

High school students in Providence who live at least two miles from school will be eligible for free bus passes.  WPRI-TV reports the City Council's Finance Committee is expected to announce a plan to spend about 680-thousand-dollars for the additional monthly bus passes.  A spokesman for Mayor Jorge Elorza confirms the administration and the council reached agreement on the plan.  Elementary and middle school students ride on yellow school buses.

Teacher Of The Year Works In North Smithfield

Reading specialist and literacy coach Tracy Lafreniere is Rhode Island's 2016 Teacher of the Year.  She's spent her entire 17-year teaching career at North Smithfield Elementary School.  The Providence resident is now a candidate for the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. 

Five Busted In Prostitution Sting

Five men are facing charges after being nabbed in a reverse prostitution sting in Central Falls.  A female police officer posing as a hooker took to the streets Wednesday.  The sting led to the arrests of three Massachusetts men and two from Providence.  Four are charged with soliciting from a motor vehicle for indecent purposes, while one is charged with procurement of sexual conduct for a fee.

Senate Approves Narcan In Schools Bill

The Rhode Island Senate is endorsing a plan to make the overdose antidote drug Narcan available in all state schools.  The bill would require all public middle schools, junior highs and high schools to have the drug on hand.  Narcan is a medication that reverses the effects of overdoses of heroin and commonly used painkillers that include oxycodone and Vicodin.  The bill now advances to the House.

Accused Child Molester Back In RI

An accused child molester who fled Rhode Island after being charged more than a decade ago is back in the state to face charges.  James Bell was arraigned in a Cranston hospital yesterday as a bail violator, where he is being treated for an undisclosed medical condition.  Bell was working at the Middletown YMCA when he allegedly molested three girls, then vanished in 2004.  The FBI received a tip in April that Bell was living in Washington state, and he was taken into custody a short time later. 

Referendum Sought On Stadium Funds

A state lawmaker wants Rhode Island residents to have the final say on whether tax dollars are used for a new minor league baseball stadium.  State Representative Patricia Morgan's bill would require a referendum on any financial agreement reached between the state and a professional sports franchise.  Morgan points to the 38 Studios deal in highlighting what can happen when state investments are made without a referendum. 

Council Receives Tax Break Proposal

The Providence City Council's Finance Committee will be the first to review a proposal creating a tax break system for the former I-195 land.  The proposal seeks to set firm guidelines for tax breaks that depend on the size of the project.  Those costing ten-million-dollars or less would be eligible for three years of no property taxes, with ten-percent hikes each year for a decade.  Larger projects would be eligible for a 20 year tax treaty, with the City Council setting the terms.

RISD announces that it will divest from fossil fuels

The Rhode Island School of Design has announced that it will divest from fossil fuels.

A RISD spokeswoman said Wednesday that the school's board of trustees unanimously voted last week to divest the endowment's direct investments in fossil-fuel extraction company stocks and bonds. She says the decision followed a two-year study.

The prestigious art school plans to divest over the next two years.

The spokeswoman says RISD's direct investments in fossil-fuel extraction companies are $5.92 million, which is 1.8% of the school's endowment.

RISD Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Spalter says the board decided to divest because it's an important issue to the school and its community.

Two other Rhode Island universities, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, have chosen not to divest from fossil fuels.


Lucchino says PawSox stadium proposal will take more time

Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino has acknowledged that creating a new stadium proposal for the Pawtucket Red Sox will require more time.

Lucchino, a PawSox co-owner, sent a letter Tuesday to state lawmakers saying a proposal would not be ready before the end of the legislative session. He says the extra time will allow the ownership group to better inform the public on a proposal.

Lucchino says the recent death of PawSox President Jim Skeffington has affected the time it would take to create a proposal.

House speaker spokesman Larry Berman said Tuesday that the proposal might require a special session in the fall.

The team's owners and lawmakers have been working on a deal after the team's original proposal, asking for $120 million in state subsidies, was rejected.


Convention Center Authority responds to critical report

The Rhode Island Convention Center Authority's executive director says a recent report about the authority's finances makes incorrect assumptions about its operations.

Republican lawmakers say the authority's facilities are too often empty, aren't attracting enough new business, and managers need to do more to control costs.

James McCarvill says the report contains factual errors and the authority isn't meant to be profitable.

He says the facilities' purpose is to stimulate economic activity and create jobs.

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

McCarvill says the convention center is occupied more often than other regional centers.

McCarvill says the authority is cutting costs and improving services, but won't report progress to the group as requested.


State senator fails to tie minimum wage increases to the CPI

A state senator has failed in a bid to tie increases in Rhode Island's minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index before the Senate approved another raise.

Sen. Leonidas Raptakis said he wanted to avoid the annual debate and prevent the raises from becoming a "runaway train."

The Coventry Democrat introduced a bill amendment Wednesday before the Senate considered raising the $9 hourly minimum to $9.60 on Jan. 1. The amendment failed.

The amendment would have raised the hourly rate to $10 in 2017 and indexed it in 2018.

Senators expressed concern about the effect on small businesses and the unpredictability of the CPI, and questioned whether other elected leaders would support it.

The Senate then overwhelming approved raising the hourly minimum to $9.60 on Jan. 1.

The House approved the raise Tuesday.


Police Probe Hot Oil Attack

Police in Providence are investigating an incident where hot oil was thrown onto a victim.  Police say the incident occurred last night on Branch Avenue in Providence.  Police say they have a suspect in the case, and are continuing to investigate.  The victim and suspect have not yet been identified.

Westerly Man Busted For Child Porn

A Westerly man is facing charges accusing him of possessing child pornography.  State Police say 40-year-old Normand Asselin was identified as someone trading child porn on the Internet.  He was discovered by a task force targeting Internet crimes against children.  Asselin is free on five-thousand-dollars bond, and there's no evidence that he had direct inappropriate contact with minor children.

Man Sentenced For Beating Student

A Massachusetts man is heading to prison for more than a decade for his role in the brutal beating and robbery of a Providence College student.  Travis Lesperance of Attleboro and two other men robbed the victim in May of 2013 as he left campus after studying for final exams.  The victim suffered significant head and face injuries.  Lesperance pleaded guilty in April on charges that include felony assault and first-degree robbery.

Many State Children Live In Poverty

A new report indicates that more than a quarter of Rhode Island's children under the age of five lived in poverty in 2013.  The report from Rhode Island Kids Count also shows that more than 13-hundred children experienced neglect or abuse during the year.  Kids Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant says adverse experiences during early mental and physical development can have lasting, negative effects on kids.  Burke Bryant says investing in healthy development early in life will pay dividends in the state for years to come.

Lincoln Chafee Running For President

Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee is officially seeking the Democratic nomination for President.  Chafee made the announcement yesterday at George Mason University in Virginia.  Chafee says the nation must remove itself from all foreign wars, making investments in transportation and education.  Chafee served as Rhode Island governor until January, deciding not to seek re-election last year.

98 percent of responses to governor on PawSox oppose stadium

Of the more than 500 emails and phone calls the governor's office has received about a proposed Pawtucket Red Sox stadium in Providence, 98 percent of them opposed the plan.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has received 553 emails and phone calls since February — when the owners of the Triple-A Boston Red Sox affiliate announced they wanted to move the team to Providence — and 540 of them have expressed opposition to the proposal, a Raimondo spokeswoman said.

Nine of them were in favor of the plan, while four were neutral, the spokeswoman said.

Other elected officials have received phone calls from constituents, most of them — if not all — opposed to the proposal.

Access to sand trail restricted to protect piping plovers

Access to the East Beach/Ninigret Conservation Area Sand Trail in Charlestown has been restricted to pedestrian traffic only in an effort to protect piping plover nesting areas.

The Department of Environmental Management announced the closure Tuesday. The trail will be closed until a tentative date of June 25.

DEM says the piping plover, which is a small shorebird, is listed as threatened on both federal and state endangered species lists.

The agency says the piping plover chicks have been feeding and taking refuge along the sand trail. It says the trail will be reopened once the chicks are able to fly.

DEM says it will work this summer and fall to restore vegetation between the beach and the trail to reduce the likelihood of plovers using the trail in the future.


Three Beaches Closed To Swimmers

The Rhode Island Department of Health is closing three state beaches to swimmers because of elevated levels of bacteria.  The affected areas are the Atlantic Beach Club in Middletown, Goddard Memorial State Park Beach in Warwick and at Warren Town Beach.  Officials say they'll continue to monitor the water quality and the beaches will be reopened to swimming when the bacteria subsides.

Panel Hears Testimony On Pot Reforms

The Rhode Island Senate's Judiciary Committee is holding a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for further study.  The panel heard hours of testimony on the measure during a hearing yesterday, including from an attorney who helped write Colorado's pot law.  The one being offered in Rhode Island would allow people over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and create a regulated system of retail stores.  A poll taken in April showed 57 percent of people in the state support legal pot.

House Approves Minimum Wage Hike

The Rhode Island Senate is expected to vote on a bill that would increase the state minimum wage to nine-dollars and 60-cents in January.  An identical bill was approved by the state House yesterday in a 58 to 13 vote.  If approved, this will be the fourth-straight year that the legislature has approved an increase in the minimum wage.  Supporters say the increase will keep Rhode Island in line with neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, which have similar increases taking effect next year.

Raimondo Backs Down On Truck Toll Plan

Governor Gina Raimondo is softening her stance on a plan to impose a toll on large commercial vehicles to fund transportation infrastructure work.  Raimondo's revised plan exempts smaller trucks from the new toll at the state's bridges.  This change will exempt trucks making local deliveries to homes, garbage trucks and vehicles with less than 18 wheels.  The new plan also calls for trucks to only be changed once per day in each direction, no matter how many times they pass through the toll.

Terror Task Force Searches RI Home

Officials are not talking about the search of a home in a Warwick neighborhood by investigators with an FBI terrorism task force.  State Police assisted in the action yesterday on Aspinet Drive, and say there's no danger to the public in Rhode Island.  The FBI is confirming the activity.  However, the Bureau is not saying whether it was related to the shooting of a man under surveillance by the task force yesterday in Boston.

Providence school board names Maher interim superintendent

The Providence School Board has named an education consultant who has worked closely with the district as interim school superintendent.

The board announced Monday night that Christopher Ndeki Maher, president of Mass Insight Education, will be taking on the post when Susan Lusi leaves at the end of the school year.

His company has worked with the Providence district to increase student achievement, and recently completed an audit that called for a transformation of the central administration.

Mayor Jorge Elorza called Maher "a proven leader who shares my vision" for academic achievement and community engagement.

School Board President Keith Oliveira said the board and the mayor feel Maher's familiarity with the district and key personnel will make a seamless transition.


Gateway Closing Group Homes

Dozens of people with mental and substance abuse issues in Rhode  Island are soon going to have to find other facilities for treatment.  Gateway Healthcare announced today it is shuttering six group homes for patients with such issues within the next three months.  The closures are being blamed on budget cuts.  The group homes affected include facilities in Central Falls, North Kingstown, Wakefield, West Greenwich, and Woonsocket.

Mattiello: Final RI Budget Coming Next Week

Rhode  Island lawmakers are busy trying to hammer out the new state budget.  House Speaker Nicholas Mattielo says the legislature's revised version of Governor Gina Raimondo's eight-point-six-billion dollar budget will be unveiled next week.  Lawmakers are taking a closer look at several portions of the governor's budget plan, including a new sweeping Rhode Works infrastructure proposal that among other things would begin charging tolls for large commercial truck drivers.  There is also a pension agreement that plans to end a four-year battle between the state and several unions over pension overhauls for state employees.

PawSox Rename Charity For Skeffington

The Pawtucket Red Sox are renaming their charitable foundation for late principal owner James Skeffington.  The team president died suddenly last month from a heart attack at the age of 73.  Team chairman Larry Lucchino says naming the charity after Skeffington is a fitting tribute.  Skeffington worked both privately and publicly to support many charitable groups across Rhode  Island.

Man Charged In Burrillville Killing

A man accused of killing another man and burying him under concrete in Burrillville is being held without bail.  Steven Pietrowicz  allegedly killed a Worcester man and buried him under the newly built deck of a Burrillville home.  Police say the body of Domingo Ortiz was located Friday in a freshly dug hole that was covered with fresh concrete.  Michelle Morin is also charged with murder for her alleged role in the Ortiz killing.

Providence Launches Inclusive Health Plan

The city of Providence is extending transition related health care coverage to employees and retirees who identify themselves as transgender.  Mayor Jorge Elorza says the plan will cover transition related medical services.  These include gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy and reconstructive surgeries.  Elorza says removing these barriers will make a tangible difference in the lives of transgender Providence residents.

Providence Names Interim Superintendent

The city of Providence is hiring the head of an education consulting company as interim superintendent of schools.  Christopher Ndeki Maher will take over at the end of the current school year and serve for one full year.  This will allow the city plenty of time to find a permanent successor to departing Superintendent Susan Lusi.  Maher is president of Mass Insight Education, the company that recently recommended that the city make major changes to its central administration.

A bitter battle for control of oldest synagogue in the US

A bitter struggle for control over the nation's oldest synagogue goes to trial today.
Congregation Jeshuat Israel worships at the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport and says its very existence is at stake.
The congregation that owns the synagogue is Shearith Israel in New York. It accuses the Newport congregation of lawlessness for agreeing to sell a pair of ceremonial bells valued at more than $7 million.
Lawyers say they may use more than 1,000 exhibits, some going back as far as 1733.            
Shearith Israel says it owns the bells and accuses the Newport congregation of trying to steal the bells and then sell them secretly.

1 injured and multiple displaced in Tiverton house fire

A house fire in Tiverton leaves one man injured, four adults and several children without a home Saturday night. 
Fire officials say they received the call at 9:30 p.m. about a fire on 19 Garden Avenue.
An off duty Fire Captain who lives a few houses down smelled smoke and also called the fire in.
Upon arrival Fire crews discovered heavy smoke and fire pushing out of the doors. They say the fire began in the kitchen and spread to the bedrooms and attic. 
The male victim suffered a respiratory injury and was taken to the hospital for treatment

Fall River, Swansea, Middletown and Portsmouth Fire departments all assisted in putting the fire out. 
The American Red Cross is assisting the family. 

State awards more than $200,000 to agricultural groups

The Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council have awarded more than $200,000 to organizations that support local agriculture and seafood.

Fifteen organizations will be awarded a total of $210,000 through the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act Grants Program.

DEM and the RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative will put $20,000 of that amount toward a statewide, local seafood promotion campaign.

Other grant recipients include the Rhode Island Shellfishermen's Association, which received $10,700, the South County Food Co-op in South Kingstown, which received $20,000 and the Tilted Barn Brewery in Exeter, which also received $20,000.

The LASA Grants Program is funded through a public-private partnership, with $100,000 from the state and $110,000 from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and the Rhode Island Foundation.


Roger Williams to offer bachelor's degree in EMS

A private university in southeastern Rhode Island is launching the state's first bachelor's degree program in emergency medical services.

Rhode Island Public Radio reports Roger Williams University hopes to prepare students to become emergency medical technicians and paramedics as well as health care administrators.

Roger Williams will begin offering the new degree starting this fall. It will allow students to specialize in public health and emergency preparedness or become a more advanced paramedic.

The program is not meant for pre-med students.

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians says about two dozen colleges and universities across the country offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in emergency medical services.


Stain on RI church wall seen as a sign by faithful

A small red stain underneath a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus is drawing attention to an Episcopal church in Newport.

Parishioners at St. John the Evangelist Church tell the Providence Journal  the now 6-inch mark has been growing under the painting for years.

Some say it looks as though blood from Jesus' feet is dripping onto the wall.

Rev. Nathan J.A. Humphrey says it's possible that tin from the art work's frame is leaching, but the stain has never been tested, and he does not intend to have that done.

He preached a sermon Sunday saying the mark, no matter its source, was a sign of Jesus' presence in the church.

He says Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely has advised the church to let the matter "unfold."


Pawtucket Man Busted For Child Porn

A Pawtucket man is being held on charges accusing him of molesting a child and producing child pornography.  State Police say Robert Barrie was arrested last month on child pornography charges.  The forensic examination of evidence seized in a raid on Barrie's home led to the new charges.  Barrie is accused of molesting a juvenile victim and recorded the acts on video, without the victim's knowledge.

Grant To Help Protect Prudence Island

Rhode Island is receiving over 400-thousand-dollars to help protect the environment on Prudence Island.  The money will be used to help fund the purchase of more than 100 acres and protect it from future development.  The land will become part of the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  Once the purchase is complete, the land will be made available for public recreational use.

More Parking Meters Coming To Providence

The number of free parking spaces in Providence is about to get smaller.  Mayor Jorge Elorza's budget includes the addition of 700 new meters, which will be able to accept credit or debit cards.  In addition, the city is planning to retrofit the other 14-hundred existing coin meters to accept cards.  Elorza is projecting that the meters will raise over four-million-dollars this year, which is a 42-percent increase over current levels.

Hundreds Visit Free Dental Clinic

A free dental clinic held over the weekend in Lincoln is being hailed as a huge success.  Around 800 Rhode Island residents received free dental treatment Saturday and Sunday at the Mission of Mercy event.  Around 400 dentists and support staff  volunteered their time for the event, performing extractions, root canals, fillings and other treatments.  The total savings to patients is estimated to be around 50-thousand-dollars.

Hearing Today On Pension Suit Settlement

The Rhode Island Senate Committee on Finance is holding a hearing today on the proposed pension lawsuit settlement.  The bill would enact the recent settlement agreement over the 2011 pension changes into law.  State employee unions and retirees sued over the reforms, which were enacted to close a four-billion-dollar pension account shortfall.  A judge is currently weighing whether the settlement should be accepted.


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