General Assembly, Raimondo Receive Average Grades

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

School is just beginning across Rhode Island but report cards are already in for the General Assembly and Gov. Gina Raimondo.

A biannual assessment from the Environment Council of Rhode Island (ECRI), a coalition of 60 environmental organizations, gave the Senate a C and the House a C+. Raimondo didn’t receive a grade but was criticized for endorsing the proposed Burrillville fossil-fuel power plant, and applauded for supporting renewable-energy incentives and other environmental legislation. The grades trended along party lines, with all 12 House Republicans earning an F. All of the A’s went to Democrats.

Grades were awarded based on votes on nine key bills during the 2015 and 2016 legislative session. Points were also earned for sponsoring environmental bills.

Significant environmental bills that became law included the phase-out of cesspools and the extension and expansion of several renewable-energy incentives. ECRI criticized House speaker Nicholas Mattiello (B-), D-Cranston, for abruptly stripping those incentives from the 2017 budget due to campaign contribution flap.

“Speaker Mattiello’s unwise action shows a lack of regard for the importance of renewable energy to the state’s environment and economy," according to the recently released report.

ECRI praised Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (A+), D-Jamestown, and Rep. Aaron Regunberg (A), D-Providence, for salvaging most of those incentives with a bill introduced near the end of the 2016 session. Sen. William Conley (A-), D-East Providence, was recognized for sponsoring the Senate version of the bill.

Rep. Teresa Tanzi (A+), D-Narragansett, was applauded for sponsoring the cesspool bill and for advancing the $35 million Green Economy bond referendum that will be on the November ballot.

Commissions studying pollinator habitats and sea-level rise were noted successes, as was a bill requiring the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to include a frequent rider and a disabled person on its board of directors.

A big failure was the passage of the “dry lands” bill, which allows wetland buffers to be included in buildable lot calculations. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Joseph Sekarchi (B-), D-Warwick, Sen. Michael McCaffrey (D), D-Warwick, and Sen. Frank Lombardi (F), D-Cranston. Raimondo signed the bill into law.

Rep. Stephen Ucci (C), D-Johnston, was censured for introducing a 2015 bill that lifts the state ban on trash incineration. The legislation died in committee.

Missed opportunities included bills that banned plastic bags, reduced marine debris, enhanced protection of conservation land and taxed carbon fuels. ECRI calls for a greater adherence to greenhouse-gas reduction goals in policymaking.

Here are the top and bottom grade earners:

A or A+
Sen. Paul Fogarty, D-Burrillville
Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence
Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston
Sen. Susan Sosnowski, D-New Shoreham
Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed, Senate President, D-Newport
Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence
Rep. Lauren Carson, D-Newport
Rep. Kathleen Fogarty, D-South Kingston
Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston
Rep. Cale Keable, D-Burrillville
Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, D-South Kingstown
Rep. Joseph McNamara, D-Warwick
Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence
Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown
Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-Narragansett

Sen. Marc Cote, D-Woonsocket
Sen. Mark Gee, R-East Greenwich
Sen. Frank Lombardi, D-Cranston
Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Charlestown
Sen. John Pagliarini Jr. R-Portsmouth
Sen. Leonidas Raptakis, D-Coventry
Rep. Michael Chippendale, R-Foster
Rep. Doreen Marie Costa, R-North Kingstown
Rep. Antonio Giarrusso, R-East Greenwich
Rep. Robert Lancia, R-Cranston
Rep. Karen MacBeth, R-Cumberland
Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-Coventry
Rep. Robert Nardolillo, R-Coventry
Rep. Brian Newberry, R-Burrillville
Rep. Justin Price, R-Hopkinton
Rep. Daniel Reilly, R-Middletown
Rep. Sherry Roberts, R-Coventry
Rep. Joseph Trillo, R-Warwick