2017-09-28 / News

Lawmakers let ‘evergreen bill’ veto stand

Two bills on Town Administrator Andy Nota’s radar going into the state legislature’s rare one-day session last week both landed on the side he hoped.

Nota said he was extremely pleased lawmakers didn’t override Gov. Gina Raimondo’s veto of the so-called evergreen bill, which automatically would have renewed contracts for municipal employees and teachers if an extension were not reached by its expiration date.

“Negotiations at the local level are just that,” Nota said. “It happens with parties sitting across the table from each other. To have the legislature impose itself on that process is inappropriate with a system that works so well.”

The measure passed overwhelmingly in both chambers in July, including support from Jamestown Rep. Deb Ruggiero, but the issue didn’t resurface during the assembly’s Sept. 19 session following Raimondo’s veto.

The second bill was the so-called Right to Farm Act, which never came to a vote during the special session.

“No action was a win for us,” Nota said.

If that bill had passed, local zoning regulations would be bypassed by state law, allowing farmers to host concerts, festivals and weddings on their properties. Ruggiero opposed that bill despite its support from House Democrats.

While the farming measure will have to wait another year, Ruggiero did co-sponsor two bills that were approved during the fall session. The Protect Rhode Island Families Act disarms Rhode Islanders who have been convicted of misdemeanors related to domestic violence. It also requires gun owners to surrender their firearms if they are named in a court-issued restraining order. Federal law already bans guns from felony domestic abusers.

The law applies to domestic abusers found guilty of assault, cyberstalking, cyber harassment and violation of a protective order. Also, defendants convicted of disorderly conduct involving attempted use of force or threats of a dangerous weapon would have to surrender their firearms.

The legislature also approved a Ruggiero-sponsored bill that bans e-cigarettes from school grounds and requires child-proof packaging of the products. The main reason, the sponsors said, is because nicotine companies are targeting children by marketing fruity flavors with bright colors.

— Tim Riel

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