Political Scene: RI legislature reopens Tuesday with votes on spending, veto overrides

Political Scene: RI legislature reopens Tuesday with votes on spending, veto overrides

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island lawmakers return to Smith Hill on Tuesday with the dark cloud of COVID still looming over the state, $1.13 billion in unspent federal relief dollars awaiting their sign-off and a hornet’s nest of election-year clashes already in the making. Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. A power struggle over who gets to award R.I.’s first marijuana licenses. The once-a-decade redrawing of legislative districts. And guns. This year, every year, guns. On Day One, before officially adjourning the 2021 legislative session that ended six months ago, lawmakers plan to: ◘ Confirm the lifetime appointment of five new state judges — including one of the Senate’s own legal advisers, Kevin McHugh , for a $170,545-a-year seat on the Superior Court . ◘ Approve the distribution of the first 10% of R.I.’s $1.13-billion American Rescue Plan windfall, including $32 million for “small businesses impacted by COVID-19,” $29.5 million “to promote affordable housing,” and a swath of “bonuses” for select groups of workers. ◘ Override two of Gov. Dan McKee ‘s three summer vetoes, including one obliging the state’s auto insurers to pay auto-body shop markups and another creating a registry for Airbnb, Vrbo and other short-term rentals deviling communities like Newport. For what it’s worth: the auto-body shop owners handed out at least $99,050 in political donations between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, with the vast majority of those dollars going to state lawmakers. The outcome of all of these opening-day votes is not in doubt. They’re a […]

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