PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A new budget that Gov. Lincoln Chafee called an "exercise in compromise" became law and the General Assembly adjourned after a six-month session. Rhode Island's week in review:
The General Assembly adjourned for the year just before the Fourth of July holiday — a day later than planned because of a bitter fight over tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. The legislative session was dominated in the final weeks by debate over whether the state should set aside $2.5 million for a debt payment related to the Economic Development Corp.'s failed investment in Curt Schilling's now-bankrupt video game company, 38 Studios. House leaders hailed as the session's major accomplishments the passage of gay marriage legislation and a package of bills they say will help the economy.
Chafee signed an $8.2 billion state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, calling it "by no means a perfect budget" but "an exercise in compromise, collaboration and cooperation." The Democratic governor had wanted a cut in the corporate income tax rate and more aid to cities and towns but said the spending plan contained "several encouraging priorities and initiatives." He noted that it includes $40 million in additional funds for public schools and higher education.
A week after voting to delay tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge, the General Assembly reversed itself and approved a 10-cent toll starting in August. A toll starting at 75 cents was initially supposed to go into effect this month, but lawmakers voted to delay it until February to study alternatives after residents and businesses complained it would be a financial burden. State transportation officials warned that if no toll was implemented on the new span now, federal rules might prevent one later because new tolls aren't allowed once the structure is deemed complete.
The General Assembly lent its support to a major redevelopment proposal for the long-vacant Dynamo House under which three higher education institutions will share space. Brown University, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island hope to partner with a private developer on the $206 million project, which includes a nursing center operated jointly by URI and RIC, student housing and retail stores.
An affiliation between Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket and the Providence-based Care New England hospital group got its final approval from state regulators. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin gave his OK for the transaction — following Health Department Director Michael Fine's approval — during an expedited 90-day review.