PROVIDENCE – The House of Representatives whizzed through large piles of bills at a furious rate Friday as they look to close the books on this legislative year on Tuesday.
Among the highlights of Friday’s session was the passage of the measure to designate calamari, a dish made from squid, as the state’s official appetizer.
Warwick Rep. Joseph McNamara, the Democratic sponsor of the squid bill said restaurants in California, which has its own squid industry, call for Point Judith squid when they are entertaining important guests, “because it is distinctively better than any other product that is served throughout the world. We are promoting two of Rhode Island’s best industries.”
“This is really worthwhile legislation,” Rep. Joseph Trillo, a Warwick Republican, said sarcastically. “If we’re going to be ridiculed about anything, I think this is one of the bills we will be ridiculed most about.”
Cumberland Democrat James McLaughlin, said “Rhode Island waters are unique.” There is no other version of the type of squid found here, he added, noting that they reproduce every six months so will maintain a steady supply, “which is phenomenal. I can see this industry expanding.”
As for ridicule, North Smithfield Rep. Brian Newberry, the House Republican leader, called the bill “the centerpiece of the Democrats; economic agenda.”
The measure passed, 62-3.
In other business:
The House passed identical House and Senate bills making permanent the primary seat belt law, which allows police to stop a vehicle if they believe the driver and passengers are not buckled up. The law would hace expired on Monday if action was not taken. Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s office would not confirm that the governor signed the bill into law, but the Department of Transportation Tweeted that he had indeed signed it.
Among the most hotly debated bills was one that would allow home child care providers to organize to negotiate working conditions and other employment related matters, Despite more than 90 minutes of contentious back-and-forth, members voted 56-11 to pass it.
Also passed, 65-2, was a bill by Cumberland Rep. Mia Ackerman that would put Rhode Island on a path to divest its public investments in companies that do business in Iran. House Finance Chairman Helio Melo of East Providence said 22 states have taken similar action. Rep. Spencer Dickinson dissented, saying that while, “the sentiment may be good, this isn’t something the state of Rhode Island should be involved in. Providence Rep. Joseph Almeida said, “we are talking about a human rights situation that is going on in that country. It’s one thing to make money, but it is another thing to make money on the backs of a lot of dead people. Let’s put people ahead of money.”
If a bill by North Providence Rep. Arthur Corvese becomes law, the General Assembly sitting in Grand Committee – the House and Senate together – would vote to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office. Currently, Corvese said, the RI Constitution and the laws of the state are silent on how to fill a vacancy in that office. The Grand Committee is already authorized to fill vacancies in the attorney general’s, general treasurer’s and secretary of state’s offices.
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