I hope are enjoying Summer’s first weekend. Billy Herman, who managed the Red Sox during 1964-66, once said “Boston has two seasons, August and winter.” Fortunately, our June is proving him wrong (at least in Providence). This week’s letter discusses the conclusion of this year’s General Assembly session.
On Friday morning at around 1:00, the Senate and House adjourned the current session. The Senate approved the budget enacted by the House described in my June 19 letter. During this final week, both chambers also enacted a flurry of other bills, including three that I introduced having to do with the State takeover of the Providence Public Schools, State aid to Providence and alternative voting systems. A brief description of each follows:
Adding Oversight To The State Takeover Of The Providence Public Schools
Last Tuesday night, the Senate enacted S-2838 sub A, described in my June 12 letter. On Thursday night (the last night of the session), the House of Representatives passed an alternative version, S-2838 Sub B, which changed the School Board’s role from oversight to discretionary consultation, and imposed a July, 2024 “sunset” after which the bill’s modest reforms would cease to have effect. Because of the timing, the House Bill went to the Senate in a “take it or leave it” posture, and I asked my Senate colleagues to pass the House bill despite its obvious limitations. I am hopeful that the bill will allow the School Department to develop a stronger working relationship with the School Board, and that the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Providence School Department will see fit to take advantage of the opportunities that can arise when one is willing to listen to other people’s ideas before making a decision.
Increasing State Reimbursement Of Property Tax Losses Resulting From Tax-Exempt Property
The Senate approved S-2462, which committed to fully funding the State’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, ensuring all cities and towns 27% of the revenue lost due to tax exempt properties. This represents an increase in State aid of approximately $2.7 million beyond the amount in the budget, the majority of which will be allocated to the City of Providence.
Studying Alternative Multi-Candidate Voting Systems
The Senate approved S-2232A, which will establish a Senate commission to study alternative voting systems (open primaries with run-off elections, ranked choice voting and others) to bring a stronger form of majority rule to our multi-candidate elections. As you may remember, I received the Democratic Party nomination last year with 31.2% of the vote among a field of five candidates, meaning that more than two thirds of the primary voters preferred another candidate. This frustrating result was not unique to our prior experience in Rhode Island (or perhaps to our future experience in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial primary), and other states have developed alternative systems that may provide a better way to address the challenges of multi-candidate elections.
As the General Assembly session concludes, my re-election campaign will begin. I expect to file my Declaration of Candidacy at Providence City Hall on Monday for the Democratic Party primary on September 13 and (if I win the primary) the general election on November 8. In the coming weeks, I will make my case to you concerning my work in office this term and my goals for another term if you grant me that opportunity.
In the meantime, let me thank you again for choosing me conclude the term we elected Senator Goldin to serve in 2020. I hope I have been sufficiently productive to justify the trust you placed in me. I can say for sure it has been a supremely rewarding personal experience I will always remember.