2015-07-02 / Opinion

Some Things Just Never End Well

Some things just never seem to end well. Take for example, the Rhode Island General Assembly’s “abrupt” adjournment on the evening of Thursday, June 25. Both the House and Senate called it quits without the usual wee-hoursof the-morning horse trading and the implied threats to hold each other’s bills hostage unless certain measures were voted on and approved by the other chamber.

Of course, this was made easier than usual because the state’s $8.7 billion budget for 2015-2016 had already been unanimously approved and sent to the governor earlier in June.

You’d think that the unusual level of budget harmony might have led to smiles all around and lawmakers tiptoeing through the tulips on their way to adjournment.

Long criticized by the good government folks for their proclivity to wind up sessions with 2 or 3 a.m. votes on pending legislation, this year’s House and Senate leaders chose to quit rather than slug it out after midnight on the 25th (or, for that matter, coming back for one last round of votes the next day). OK, we get the "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" situation here.

However, by adjourning as they did, both the House and Senate left serious legislation undone. Chief among those bills was Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s proposal to set up tolls for large trucks traversing Rhode Island to pay for long-overdue bridge and roadway repairs.

House leaders, who said they needed more time to study the toll legislation, now talk about a special fall session to consider the issue. Meanwhile, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport, said that the Senate has no plans to reconvene before the regular Assembly session in January.

The Senate has already approved the Raimondo toll bill and sent it to the House. If the House were to reconvene during foliage season, they could approve the Senate version and go home without the Senate reconvening. But even a minor change in the bill would necessitate a new Senate vote.

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the Newport School Committee voted on Monday, June 29, to lay off as many as 19 teachers to erase what had been a projected $1.32 million budget deficit as recently as a few weeks ago. These were the most sobering cuts among others that the panel approved.

Initially, the list of possible teacher cuts stood at 29. However, 10 of those were called back to service. Actual enrollment figures won’t be known until school begins in September. Depending on the number of students, more teachers could be recalled.

But it’s unlikely that all will be back. These are human beings with families to support and mortgages to pay. As usual, however, there are not enough taxpayer dollars to go around.

Some things just never seem to end well.

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