06/12/12 – The Whole Mad Jumble of the Last Day

4:16 p.m.
After a bit of wandering, I’m in the Senate chambers, with the bulk of the Senators having arrived. Bell’s a-ringing.

Thus far, the sight to see is Sen. Frank Ciccone wandering around with the upper half of a suit and khaki shorts, unlit cigar in one hand, cookies in the other.

4:38 p.m.
They adjourned yesterday’s session. Why do they do that?

4:40 p.m.
Introductions. Sen. Harold Metts introduces Providence College basketball coaches.

4:43 p.m.
Coach Cooley was on his way out, but Sen. Juan Pichardo had some words of congratulations to offer.

4:48 p.m.
Reading of youth violence resolution, followed by explanation by Sen. Pichardo. Packing a packed couple of days.

4:50 p.m.
Sen. President Teresa Paiva Weed called on Whip Sen. Maryellen Goodwin as “madame clerk.” “I’ve been relegated to a clerk, now.”

4:53 p.m.
The first bill to draw Republican objection: introducing a driving course at CCRI.

4:56 p.m.
Folks make light of Rep. Bob Watson’s tendency to vote against every bill, but sitting in the Senate chambers for a couple of days, I’d suggest that it’s nice to have a regular reminder that the red lights on the scoreboard actually work.

4:58 p.m.
Some confusion based on reshuffled agendas; Paiva Weed is working of a printed hardcopy that is older than those on the computer screens.

5:01 p.m.
Opposing legislation related to background checks and medical marijuana, Sen. Glenford Shibley notes a story in the paper today describing a drug-dealing family with, “Drugs up the kazoo.” Sen. Paul Jabour requested a definition of “kazoo.”

5:05 p.m.
The dog leashing law passed. At least owners will get a warning before being put in jail for not providing their pets sufficient running room, as defined by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

5:09 p.m.
Sen. Lou DiPalma has introduced the East Bay Energy Consortium (EBEC) in terms of “consolidation,” as if a new quasi-public wind farm would be akin to joint purchases of garbage service.

Sen. Nicholas Kettle asked why the bill mentions “notes and obligations” if there’s no bonding authority. DiPalma explained that the EBEC might contract (for example) with National Grid or some other contract constituting an “obligation,” but without leaving liability.

It seems to me that the discussion misses the point. The EBEC is almost certainly going to return to the General Assembly for additional powers in the future. The bonding power, in other words, will be next year’s fight.

EBEC passes by the most slim margin that appears to occur in the Senate: 25 to 12.

5:16 p.m.
In discussing car rental costs and excise taxes, Sen. Frank Maher asked if the cost will be passed on to the consumer. Sen. John Tassoni said, “no,” it’ll be a rental fee. After a moment of everybody staring at each other President Paiva Weed called on Finance Chairman Daniel DaPonte to clarify. His clarification: it will be the renter’s choice whether to pass the increased cost on to customers.

5:25 p.m.
Zipping along. No surprises.

5:29 p.m.
S2841 under discussion, offering some protections for people who call for help in the event of a drug overdose. Sen. Rhoda Perry explains that they’d be exempt for what might be termed normal usage paraphernalia, but not amounts indicative of manufacture or dealing.

They should have called it the Jimi Hendrix Act, inasmuch as he died when his girlfriend hesitated before calling for help. (Or so said a not-quite-sober fan of his with whom I worked once.)

5:33 p.m.
Bills being transmitted to House. Goodwin moves to suspend rules: 3.5, 4.5, 410-1, 410-2, 6.1, 6.2, 6.4-3, 6.5, 7.6, and 9.4. Argument is entirely to finish up today. Party line vote.

5:38 p.m.
No dinner until hearings and voting on casino bill. Going into recess.

5:43 p.m.
Looks like I’m the lone observer for Senate Finance on casinos.

5:46 p.m.
Casino legislation amended again. 18% on table games, down to 16% at Twin River when slot revenue goes down. 1% of table game revenue to local community out of facility’s share.

5:50 p.m.
Non-VLT change for GTECH has been removed.

5:53 p.m.
Now in the room: casino lobbyists, tax office, Tim Duffy (school committee association). Ruggerio.

5:55 p.m.
Love this section: “It is also the intent of the general assembly that this act, being necessary to address an imminent threat to the public welfare, as aforesaid, shall be liberally construed so as to effectuate its purposes, including without limitation, the state’s attempt to minimize certain commercial risks faced by UTGR (as defined herein) and Newport Grand, LLC (as defined herein) by entering into agreements in the Division.”

So long as we know whose interests come first.

6:00 p.m.
The discussion of the bill mainly has to do with technical proofreading. Can’t help but think that, in a healthy polity, there’d be Senators banging fists on the table and such.

6:04 p.m.
Sub A passes with no objection. (It’s always eerie that the chairmen know who is going to make what motion beforehand.)

6:09 p.m.
After relatively little discussion of major casino legislation, they’re asking for minute details on a bill that sounds like it changes a date that something is filed.

Also odd is 2969, which appears to eliminate minimum lottery revenue to the general fund and change Keno’s contribution.

6:23 p.m.
The pages are eating pizza in the southeast hallway on the second floor. Meanwhile most of the Senate has disappeared.

By the way, 2969 was held for further study. Sen. Lou DiPalma tells me it “wasn’t ready for primetime” and had probably gone away for this year. Although, he notes, anything can happen tonight.

6:39 p.m.
I hear Senate Judiciary just finished and we’ll be back in action soon.

6:42 p.m.
Bell rings.

6:55 p.m.
Casino bill is on the floor.

6:56 p.m.
Sen. Maryellen Goodwin is going to give the legislation a thorough explanation.

6:58 p.m.
Goodwin: “In light of increasingly competitive market,” this bill is designed to preserve state revenue, prop up RI gambling facilities, and preserve jobs.

7:03 p.m.
Sen. Dennis Algiere asks how RI’s share ranks nationally. Goodwin says the 60% is the highest in the country.

Algiere specifies table games, at 18%. Goodwin says it’s “roughly industry standard.”

MA has 25% for table games, but 25% for video slots.

7:05 p.m.
Sen. Beth Moura wants us to be competitive with MA in other areas, such as business friendliness and other things that “drive so much business over the border.”

7:08 p.m.
Both Senate and House bills passed unanimous. Paiva Weed had to lead Goodwin to introduce the House version. Recess for dinner.

7:17 p.m.
No surprises in Senate Labor part 2.

8:09 p.m.
It sure is interesting to see whole committee meetings appear on the General Assembly’s Web site with each refresh of the page. I’m currently sitting in a 7:00 Senate Judiciary hearing on body shop repairs.

8:16 p.m.
Rep. Peter Petrarca’s sister is arguing heatedly in favor of the legislation, presenting autobody shops as on the consumers’ side.

8:22 p.m.
Interesting to watch the chamber interplay, because it often feels like there’s an invisible wall somewhere across the middle of the building. Rep. Joseph McNamara just came into the room and motioned to Sen. Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey with the “gabby hands” sign. McCaffrey descended from the dais, and the two went out into the hall for a bit.

Just a moment ago, Whip Goodwin and Pres. Paiva Weed just slipped into the room, with Paiva Weed’s chief of staff Tom Coderre slipping up to whisper in McCaffrey’s ear.

If I were trying to characterize the game, just now, I’d say it seems like Sen. Paul Jabour is offering questions and comments to keep Petrarca on her roll.

8:33 p.m.
Senate Judiciary is still going, but the bell is going off, so I’ve returned to the floor.

8:43 p.m.
Driving in to Providence, tonight, I wondered how many Rhode Islanders even know that we’re into the final night of the legislative session. (I wonder how many know that there’s such a thing as a final night of the legislative session.

8:45 p.m.
Goodwin went over the order of approach for bills on the calendar and noted that there will be an as-yet-unavailable item #74.

8:51 p.m.
Access to public records passes Senate.

8:53 p.m.
The new legislation on the calendar looks pretty benign: S2147, strangulation, and 3067, taxes in North Providence.

8:55 p.m.
We’re back to the litany of unanimity. The layman has to wonder: how is it conceivable that a political body could be in so much agreement?

8:59 p.m.
Up now is Common Cause’s political-campaign finance disclosure. Sen. Shibley says Board of Elections Director Kando says the bill contains contradictory information.

9:01 p.m.
It passes anyway, 30 to 6.

9:02 p.m.
And zip, another 7 bills appear on the calendar.

9:07 p.m.
Sen. Donna Nesselbush, in introducing legislation on “wage theft,” twice used the term “unscrupulous” with reference to employers.

9:15 p.m.
On legislation related to a study commission to research eviction protection for tenants and homeowners post foreclosure, Jabour: “The banks have gotten enough.”

Passed unanimously.

9:18 p.m.
While the House calendar holds at 110 items, the Senate’s keeps growing, now up to 83, with the latest about trusts and trustees.

The Senators are in recess while Paiva Weed confers with Ruggerio, having just said they were checking with the House to see where they are over there.

9:21 p.m.
Out of nowhere, a joint resolution to ask the Lotteries Division to “work with” GTECH on lottery machines. Passed.

Now back to the consent calendar.

9:25 p.m.
It’s good that this is all scripted beforehand, because it seems very unlikely that the legislators could follow along with this bouncing calendar were it not so.

9:31 p.m.
In one massive swoop, the Senate passes a bunch of locally concerned House bills in utter unanimity.

9:33 p.m.
Item 81 had been held off on while an answer was found for Sen. Marc Cote. It was a bit peculiar that, when the answer arrived, Sen. Walter Felag stood to say that Sen. Cote had received an answer, but he did not explain what the answer was.

9:35 p.m.
Wow. Passage. 22-16. Even Senators were talking about how the board hadn’t been “that red” all session.

9:40 p.m.
Now back to Sen. Judiciary, where the autobody crowd is still in attendance.

9:42 p.m.
As we wait, Sen. Jabour walked through and stopped to chat with somebody in the audience who has apparently been here frequently. Upon hearing his last name, Jabour mentioned a neighborhood and conversation moved to basketball where there used to be a park. Retail Rhode Island politics.

10:14 p.m.
While lobbyists continue to plea for their clients in Senate Judiciary, I took a stroll around the third floor. One State House regular suggested that the legislators will just continue adding bills all night. I don’t know; the House’s total has stood at 110 for over an hour, now.

The Senate did just add 2624 back in the mix, changing some definitions pertaining to the cigarette tax.

In general, though, I don’t think anybody’s expecting a massive shock-people-in-the-morning surprise.

10:23 p.m.
Senate’s up to 90 items on the calendar, now. Fox better start adding, or Paiva Weed will catch up.

10:50 p.m.
The Senate bell is ringing. The calendar still stands at 90.

10:57 p.m.
I perked up a bit because Pres. Paiva Weed threw some papers down on the desk then declared to the parliamentarian: “My jacket’s in my office; now I can’t wear my jacket.”

11:04 p.m.
Woop. 13 more bills hit the calendar.

11:05 p.m.
Goodwin says, “this is our final push to adjournment.” The “final list.”

11:08 p.m.
While letting clerks catch up, they’re doing farewell resolutions. First one is for Sen. John Tassoni.

11:15 p.m.
Tassoni: “When I came here in 2000, I was like a skunk at a lawn party.” He had hair, no glasses, and no hearing aides.

“I’ll be back in 2014; most of you know what my plans are.”

11:24 P.M.
Sen. Beatrice Lanzi’s turn.

Sen. Goodwin: Lanzi has spent just about her entire adult life in this building.

11:25 p.m.
Sen. Harold Metts, talking about how long he and Lanzi have been here, “I had jerry curls and look what they did to me. You still look good.”

11:31 p.m.
Last retirement notice, Frank DeVall.

11:34 p.m.
The bills keep coming. Senate’s up to 106.

11:38 p.m.
Speeches for retiring legislators bring to mind one phrase: term limits.

11:48 p.m.
Senate’s up to 110, but they seem to have the end in sight.

11:50 p.m.
We’re back into the sea of unanimity.

11:54 p.m.
Senate version of Homeless Bill of Rights passes, with Moura and Shibley opposed.

11:56 p.m.
Goodwin introduces some House bills, saying, “I realize that we’ll be skipping some and returning to them at a later date.” Perhaps the air of hopefulness alerted her to make a correction: “I mean a later time.”

12:03 a.m.
I note that the East Bay Energy Consortium has still not appeared on the House calendar.

12:05 a.m.
With joke about Moura’s heated opposition, Goodwin moves visitors center legislation. All but Moura vote yes.

12:06 a.m.
Senate passes House version of minimum wage bill, 24-11. (Folks making minimum wage should be advised to work extra hard so they survive any resulting job eliminations.)

12:12 a.m.
A relatively close 22-14 on H7082, “relating to real property – transfer fees.”

12:22 a.m.
Burned through the calendar. Standing at recess. Committees on Environment and Judiciary are meeting… and Labor.

12:26 a.m.
The Judiciary meeting is listed on the calendar, but the Labor and Environment are not. Guess I’ll sit in on Labor. Apparently, they’re waiting for a bill to be printed.

12:32 a.m.
It’s H7039. Adds a potential fine and jail term for violations of some sort of municipal bidding process.

12:35 a.m.
Sen. Hodgson appears to be the insistent voice on committee wanting to know what the act will do. House Sponsor Arthur Corvese says it has something to do with North Providence, to “give teeth” to the section of the law on the “award of municipal contracts.”

12:39 a.m.
Sounds like a very specifically targeted motion that now applies a legal penalty to “a person” for a broad set of municipal activity.

12:55 a.m.
Senates still waiting. From over in the House, news that Rep. Bob Watson is retiring.

1:21 a.m.
Sen. Paiva Weed came over to assure me that they’re almost done, with no surprises expected, except perhaps the veto override.

1:27 a.m.
Back to order. Members of the House are being kicked out. Paiva Weed: “We enjoyed the visit.”

1:28 a.m.
Introduced Gov. Chafee’s veto letter (2086, something having to do with Warwick sewers). reading of the veto waived; move to override. Hey, guess what: Overridden unanimously.

1:36 a.m.
Just zipping through legislation, now, unanimous and near unanimous.

1:40 a.m.
House version of Homeless Bill of Rights passes Senate.

1:42 a.m.
The excitement: Lynch amends the House version of a Senate bill having to do with payment of wages.

1:44 a.m.
Procedural wires are getting crossed (suggestions to transmit to House before the Senate has passed). Now they’re at ease, for some reason. Senators are very near deliriously laughling; not sure why.

1:48 a.m.
I’ll be honest: Very confusing stuff going on. Goodwin just moved a Senate bill as a duplicate to another Senate bill that she says they already passed.

Almost transmitted an amended bill to the House that they didn’t pass… but they did pass it, so they can transmit it. Going to at-ease again.

1:51 a.m.
At this point, I think I’ve got to call it a night, having to get up early and watching the finish line get farther and farther away.

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