XGR-MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
RI Senate OKs minimum wage hike
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island's minimum wage would go up 25 cents to $8 per hour next year under legislation approved in the state Senate.
The Senate voted in favor of the wage hike Wednesday. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
The minimum wage is now $7.75 in Rhode Island. The federal minimum is $7.25 an hour.
Sen. Elizabeth Crowley says many people are forced to work multiple minimum-wage jobs to make enough money to afford rent, food and transportation.
The bill passed the Senate on a 31-6 vote. Opponents including Sen. Dawson Hodgson warned that the increase could be a burden to small businesses and prompt them to hire fewer workers.
Lawmakers voted last year to increase the wage by 35 cents. It was the first increase since 2007.
RI House OKs extra tax for Woonsocket
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Residents in Woonsocket are a step closer to seeing their taxes go up.
The Rhode Island House on Wednesday voted in favor of a $2.5 million supplemental tax for the financially struggling city.
The tax plan comes from the state budget commission now overseeing finances in Woonsocket, which has a $125 million budget. It's part of a 5-year plan to address the city's $17 million deficit.
Mayor Leo Fontaine says that while no one wants to see taxes go up, the increase is needed to boost the city's bottom line.
If the tax is approved, the average resident would pay about $240 in new taxes.
The Senate has approved its own version of the legislation. The House and Senate will now work out the differences between the two bills.
RI education board to mull arming university cops
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island education officials are set to decide whether to allow the University of Rhode Island to arm its campus police officers.
The state's Board of Education is set to vote on the matter Thursday evening at a meeting at the URI campus.
The proposal would leave it to URI officials to decide whether to arm the university's police force. Right now Rhode Island is the only state that prohibits public higher education police officers from carrying firearms.
Calls to change that policy got a boost after URI police responded to reports of a gunman in a university building last month. No gun or shooter was found, but supporters of the legislation say the incident highlighted a critical security weakness.
URI President David Dooley supports arming university police.
SCHILLING'S GAMING COMPANY
Schilling lawyer argues for tossing lawsuit
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A lawyer for Curt Schilling and executives of his bankrupt video game company say they disclosed everything to Rhode Island's economic development agency before being granted a $75 million loan guarantee and a lawsuit against them should be dismissed.
Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein is hearing arguments Wednesday from Schilling's lawyer and others. The former Red Sox pitcher was not in court.
His lawyer said 38 Studios executives repeatedly disclosed everything they could about the company's finances and how much the company needed to complete a game it was developing.
A lawyer for the state Economic Development Corp. described a "fraudulent scheme" in which the defendants withheld information from and provided false information to its board.
38 Studios' bankruptcy left the state on the hook for some $100 million.
Toll system being installed on new Sakonnet bridge
NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) - The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is installing an electronic toll system on the new Sakonnet River Bridge.
Authority Chairman David Darlington tells the Newport Daily News the system will likely be in place by the weekend. Then it will take several weeks to wire and test it.
Darlington says it could be operational by late June or early July. The toll is set at 75 cents per trip for Rhode Islanders with an E-ZPass transponder. Non-residents with an E-ZPass will pay $3.75 per crossing. Those without transponders will have to pay $5.25.
Local opposition to tolls on the bridge continues, with members of the General Assembly from Aquidneck Island pushing to reverse moves that allowed the toll. The town of Portsmouth is suing to prevent a toll.
SOCIAL MEDIA PRIVACY
RI House delays vote on social media privacy bill
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island lawmakers have put off a vote on legislation that would stop employers or higher education officials from demanding access to a person's Facebook or Twitter accounts.
The House was scheduled to vote Wednesday but decided to wait to allow for more work on the legislation.
The measure is sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy says he wants to prevent employers or school coaches from requiring access to a person's social media accounts as a condition of their employment or enrollment.
The bill would prohibit employers and college officials from requiring that an employee or student add them as a social media contact. It would also stop them from demanding a student or employee's login information.
California already has a similar law.
Lifespan lays off dozens, cuts vacant jobs
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Hospital network Lifespan is laying off dozens of workers and trimming empty jobs as part of an effort to cut nearly $150 million in expenses over the next two years.
Rhode Island Public Radio reports that Lifespan says it has cut 107 jobs. About two-thirds were vacant positions.
The company is the state's largest hospital network. Its hospitals include Rhode Island Hospital, its pediatric division Hasbro Children's Hospital and Miriam Hospital in Providence, Bradley Hospital in East Providence and Newport Hospital.
It is also offering early retirement to some employees.
Lifespan tells RIPR that it has been hit by cuts to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, as well as the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
SENIOR VOLUNTEER AWARD
Fox Point Senior Center volunteer honored
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Providence Mayor Angel Taveras (tuh-VEHR'-us) has honored 150 volunteers who work with senior citizens, including one who was named Volunteer of the Year.
Maria Oliveira was honored on Wednesday as the top volunteer at the city's second annual volunteer recognition brunch. The event was attended by volunteers, senior center directors, building managers and others who work with senior citizens.
The mayor's office says Oliveira has volunteered at the Fox Point Senior Center for more than five years. She visits the center every day and participates in all of its programs, serving food, cleaning and helping in various other ways.
Providence has 10 senior centers operated by the Department of Senior Services.
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