Lawmakers resume work on budget, pandemic and police bills

The Rhode Island State House. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers are getting back to work Monday.

The state General Assembly is resuming its legislative session this week with a series of hearings and meetings on the state budget, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and police reform bills, among other issues.

On Monday, the House of Representatives’ Health, Education and Welfare Committee will hear from state Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott about COVID-19.

The Senate’s Judiciary Committee will consider a range of police reform bills, such as a proposal to establish a legislative task force examining the state’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.

State Attorney General Peter Neronha is also expected to testify on his proposal to give his office greater authority over investigations involving police use of force in Rhode Island.

The Assembly’s Democratic leadership is also expected Monday to release a proposed supplemental budget to address a roughly $235 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The House and Senate’s finance committees will then vote Tuesday on the revised spending package, with the full House and Senate likely voting Wednesday and Thursday.

Lawmakers are expected to return at a later date to address the next year’s budget. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has said the state faces a total $800 million deficit in the current and next budget year because of the pandemic-related economic shutdown.

This week’s legislative activity will be live-streamed as the State House remains closed to the public with only lawmakers, staff, media and other authorized visitors permitted.

Plexiglass enclosures have been installed around lawmaker’s desks in the Assembly chambers, but lawmakers are being encouraged to watch the proceedings remotely as much as possible and only come into the chamber to vote or speak.