Spotlight on the State House: Vol. VII

The state’s lawmakers haven’t made much headway on debating the budget Gov. Lincoln Chafee proposed last Tuesday to rein in the state’s $331 million deficit, but that didn’t stop them from getting down to other business at the State House this week.

The House Judiciary Committee heard a bill this week that would decriminalize the possession of under one ounce of marijuana and instead levy a $150 fine for those caught with pot. But Rep. Edith Ajello, who represents the district that includes Brown, wants to go further. She supports legislation to legalize marijuana for anyone over 21 and points to the tax revenue the state could generate in the process. “It would do wonders to improve our budget situation,” Ajello said in a March 16 Associated Press article.

Sen. Harold Metts wants to use all the revenue Rhode Island earns from new gambling operations to fund the state’s elementary and secondary schools. And it sounds like the schools could use the money. “I think that arts teachers have an incredible ability to do a lot with a little, but the little keeps getting littler,” Caroline Azano, Trinity Rep’s education director, told The Herald.

Sen. John Tassoni has introduced a bill that would create the Ocean State Youth ChalleNGe Academy, a National Guard program that gives unemployed high school dropouts a chance to earn their GED or diploma through a “military-inspired training program.” Nearly 1 in 4 Rhode Island high school students drop out before graduating. But is it a worthwhile program for the state’s youth or an insidious attempt to instill a “warrior ethos?” The ball is in your court, Herald opinions columnists.

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