UCS/UFB Candidate Debate, tonight at 8 p.m.

Want to know where candidates for UCS and UFB election stand on the issues important to you?

Join us for the UCS/UFB Candidate Debate, presented by The Brown Daily Herald and the Elections Board, today from 8-10 p.m. in Metcalf Auditorium. We’ll ask candidates for UCS President, UCS Vice President, UFB Chair and UFB Vice Chair questions submitted by readers and then give audience members the chance to ask questions of their own.

With an incoming president and ongoing debates over the University’s relationship with Providence, financial aid and Brown’s mission, the stakes are high for the future student government leaders who will be the leading voices for students in a key time of change.

If you still have questions for candidates or suggestions for the debate, email ucsdebate@browndailyherald.com or tweet @the_herald. Candidates for UCS President have agreed to answer submitted questions that aren’t addressed tonight, so check browndailyherald.com for their answers in the coming days.

 We will also be live-blogging the event, so tune in at 8 p.m. for some BlogDH commentary on the debates.

Watch Us Occupy Providence

Tonight, three Herald editors will sleep in a tent in Burnside Park, reporting on Occupy Providence. We’ll be talking with Occupiers, visitors, Brown students and maybe the weather gods, if Providence decides to do what it does best.

Check us out, starting at 9 p.m.

R.I. House passes civil unions bill

House Speaker Gordon Fox / The Associated Press

In a vote that follows months of wrangling over legalizing gay marriage, Rhode Island’s House of Representatives approved a bill last night that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The legislation, which passed 62 to 11, now goes to the state Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Peter Petrarca, D-Lincoln, the bill grants same-sex couples all of the rights afforded married couples under state law, meaning easier access to health care insurance and additional legal protections for many gay and lesbian couples if it becomes law. In the state Senate, civil unions enjoy the support of Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Jamestown and Newport. Paiva Weed’s opposition to gay marriage had been viewed as a major obstacle to its legalization.

Gay marriage supporters were dealt a setback late last month when openly gay Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, D-Providence, announced that he believed gay marriage legislation could not be passed during this session of the General Assembly and shifted his support to civil unions. Continue Reading

Spotlight on the State House: Vol. XII

You may be struggling to survive reading period, but at the State House, lawmakers are still livin’ it up.

Today state legislators will celebrate the annual Gaspee Days State Proclamation Ceremony, thereby kicking off a month of festivities to commemorate the burning of HMS Gaspee, the English ship that Rhode Island colonists torched in 1772. The Gaspee affair was the first planned attack on the British and marked the start of the Revolutionary War, according to the British government. One highlight of today’s festivities is the mock indictment of Chuck Easterbrooks, a descendent of Nathaniel Easterbrooks, one of those feisty colonists who attacked the Gaspee. And if you’re here this summer, you can watch a reenacted burning of the Gaspee June 12 in Pawtuxet Park Cove. We hear it leaves WaterFire in the dust.

Speaking of commemorating history, a bill urging Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 to pardon Irish-Catholic immigrant and accused mill owner-murderer John Gordon has cleared a House committee. Gordon was hanged in 1845 for killing wealthy mill owner Amasa Sprague. Lawmakers contend that widespread prejudice against Irish Catholics at the time prevented Gordon from getting a fair trial. Others argue that this may not be the best use of legislators’ time — they should be out celebrating Gaspee Days, of course! Continue Reading

Hold the pot: Chafee halts compassion center openings

Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 announced today that he is putting the brakes on efforts to open three medical marijuana compassion centers in Rhode Island. The move comes after U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, the state’s top federal prosecutor, sent Chafee a letter Friday stating that the law establishing the medical marijuana dispensaries violates federal law and that the Department of Justice could prosecute those associated with the centers if they open. The centers, which would have been able to sell medical marijuana on a larger scale than is possible under the current system, were slated to open this summer.

This isn’t the first setback for compassion centers in Rhode Island. In the first round of applications to open compassion centers last year, the state’s Department of Health denied all of the applicants. On March 15, the department approved the three centers in a second round review of applications.

Spotlight on the State House: Vol. IX

You might have been soaking up the sun on Spring Break last week, but Rhode Island’s part-time legislators weren’t so lucky. Braving the state’s unpredictable winter-spring transition, lawmakers still served up legislation cracking down on animal cruelty and bringing all the excitement of C-SPAN to RI PBS.

This week, the saga continues…

As national politicians struggle to come up with a budget before a deadline they’ve known about for weeks (they’ve clearly never run a newspaper!), state legislators are hashing out the details of the budget Gov. Lincoln Chafee proposed last month. The House Finance Committee will hold hearings this week on budget issues like reducing the state’s corporate tax rate and letting schools transport children in “small vans” instead of buses to save money.

Lawmakers voted Tuesday to set up a state health care exchange, a marketplace for individuals and businesses to purchase coverage, in preparation for when the reform law goes into full effect in 2014. One problem — they unknowingly included language that would prevent women from purchasing a full plan that covers abortion under the exchange, making the bill more restrictive than the federal reform law, which bars using federal funds to pay for abortions. Legislators thought the provision was “simply a restatement of what exists in federal law” when it was introduced at the last minute, Brown’s own state Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, told The Providence Journal. Oops!   Continue Reading