Spotlight on the State House: Vol. VI

Despite Mayor Angel Taveras’ characterization of Providence’s fiscal situation as a “Category-5 hurricane” this week, the General Assembly has kept on truckin’.

The House Committee on Labor met yesterday to hear testimony on a bill that would push back notification requirements for dismissals, suspensions or layoffs from March 1 to June 1. The March 1 notification requirement was largely responsible for the mayor’s firings of all of Providence’s 1,926 teachers this month.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to meet today to review several same-sex marriage bills. Among the bills are Sen. Rhoda Perry’s proposal that “gender-specific language” be removed from general laws regarding marriage eligibility, as well as Sen. Frank Ciccone III’s proposal to put a question on the ballot asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman but allow recognition of civil unions between two members of the same sex. Given that 50 percent of Rhode Islanders said they support legislation in favor of same sex marriage according to a poll last month — as opposed to 41 percent who said they oppose it — these bills may be a little behind the times.

With convicted child murderer Michael Woodmansee set to be released from prison this summer, Rep. Teresa Tanzi is exploring ways to “protect the public from dangerous ex-convicts.”  Woodmansee was convicted in 1983 after he, then 16 years old, stabbed a five-year-old boy living on his block and hid his bones in his house for seven years. The father of his victim has said he will kill the “monster” who “ate the flesh of my son” if his son’s killer is indeed released. Tanzi’s efforts so far have included “reviewing laws” and “looking at existing legal strategies” — yikes.

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was scheduled to address the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare yesterday, after touring two schools in the morning with Governor Lincoln Chafee to highlight his proposed budget’s support for education. Unfortunately, one Brown student reported, the legislators were so late to arrive for the address that Gist had to leave for an appointment. Perhaps it was for a touch-up on that captivating hairdo of hers?

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