Nesi’s Notes

Ahead of Easter, RI governor hopefuls discuss their faiths

April 18th, 2014 at 12:01 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It’s Holy Week and Passover for Christians and Jews around the world, and among those commemorating the solemn religious periods will be the five major candidates for Rhode Island governor, all but one of whom say they’re Christians.

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Rhode Island jobless rate falls to 8.7% in March

April 17th, 2014 at 2:13 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.7% in March, new data released Thursday shows.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 8.7% from 9% the prior month and is now at the lowest level since September 2008, the R.I. Department of Labor and Training said in a statement. By comparison, last month’s unemployment rate was 6.7% nationwide and 6.3% in Massachusetts.

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Target 12: City records subpoenaed on Gordon Fox

April 17th, 2014 at 11:09 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Add the city of Providence to the list of those contacted by law enforcement officials regarding former House Speaker Gordon Fox.

A spokesperson for the city told Target 12 federal investigators on Wednesday “subpoenaed city documents related to Gordon Fox,” but declined to say what records were requested. He said the city is “fully cooperating” with law enforcement officials.

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Judge Taft-Carter: RI pension lawsuit can move forward

April 16th, 2014 at 12:26 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s public-sector unions and retirees have won another court victory in the battle over the 2011 pension law.

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Investigators contacted elections board about Gordon Fox

April 16th, 2014 at 10:37 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The director of campaign finance at the R.I. Board of Elections said Wednesday his office has been contacted by investigators seeking information about former House Speaker Gordon Fox, whose home and State House office were raided by state and federal law enforcement officials last month.

“I can confirm that the board has been contacted by law enforcement officials regarding Rep. Fox,” Richard Thornton wrote in an email to “However, the board does not disclose the nature or substance of any communications with law enforcement officials concerning any ongoing investigation being conducted by either the board or law enforcement agencies.”

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Gordon Fox’s campaign finance records sought in probe

April 15th, 2014 at 5:59 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White and Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Investigators visited former House Speaker Gordon Fox’s longtime executive assistant at her home in search of campaign finance records just before last month’s stunning raids on the Providence Democrat’s home and office, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

The new revelations about investigators’ contact with Ruth Desmarais and their interest in campaign finance offer the first clues after nearly a month of speculation about why Fox was in their crosshairs March 21.

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Taveras agenda backs pension, weapons bills

April 15th, 2014 at 5:09 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Criminals serving life sentences would be ineligible for pensions, cops would have an easier time seizing weapons and litterers would face stiffer penalties under a variety of state legislation backed by Providence mayor and gubernatorial candidate Angel Taveras.

Taveras is scheduled to testify Tuesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of ten bills that comprise the city’s legislative agenda for 2014, according to Meaghan McCabe, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

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RI income tax revenue 26% below forecast in March

April 15th, 2014 at 2:53 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island officials warned Tuesday that state tax revenue for the current budget year may come in below forecasts after income tax revenue came in far below expectations for March.

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Cost of soaring Medicaid enrollment in RI is still a mystery

April 15th, 2014 at 1:28 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Obamacare will likely cost Rhode Island more money than state leaders expected. But nobody knows exactly how much yet.

Figures obtained from the Chafee administration by show 34% of the 64,590 Rhode Islanders who signed up for Medicaid from October through March using the state’s new Obamacare marketplace, HealthSource RI, were eligible before the new law expanded the rules for who could sign up.

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Blogger Hull hired for top City Hall post

April 14th, 2014 at 3:22 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Brian Hull, a former owner and editor of the left-leaning Rhode Island’s Future blog, has landed a job in Providence City Hall.

Hull will serve as Mayor Angel Taveras’ director of municipal and intergovernmental affairs, a position that has been vacant since Will Farrell left the administration earlier this year to start a lobbying firm.

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Watch Executive Suite: Ayars, Dadekian on RI food, farms

April 14th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Watch Newsmakers: Cranston Mayor Allan Fung

April 13th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RI

April 12th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, The Saturday Morning Post

By Dan McGowan

Even Batman takes vacations, so I’m fillingdan in for Ted while he’s living large in Washington, D.C. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to and For quick hits all week long, follow @danmcgowan and @tednesi.

1. Friday afternoon’s announcement that mediation has failed and the Rhode Island pension law will go to trial Sept. 15 all but guarantees the process will continue when a new governor takes office in January, but how long could it go? Former R.I. Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders believes it could be more than a year before the dust finally settles. Flanders told Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter could render a decision before the end of this year, but that the case will ultimately head to the state’s highest court. “That court can move relatively quickly when it wants,” Flanders said. As it currently stands, the trial will begin a week after the Sept. 9 Democratic gubernatorial primary that includes Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell. While Raimondo will probably take the brunt of the criticism from union members, a trial will also likely force Taveras and Pell to take a position on the 2011 pension law once and for all. Flanders said he believes the state will ultimately prevail. “My view all along has been the state has the better case here,” he said.

2. Even when Batman is on vacation, he knows how to help out in a pinch. Here’s the first of two Nesi dispatches for the week: “Brown University is once again making jaw-dropping predictions about this year’s primary for governor. In a repeat of the methodology I noted last October, Brown’s new poll says 395 of the 600 Rhode Island voters in its general-electorate sample are likely to vote in the Democratic primary, implying a voter turnout level of roughly 66% in the upcoming Sept. 9 Democratic primary. As I said before, this would be a massive increase over the 18% of registered voters who turned out for the hard-fought 2002 Democratic primary between Myrth York, Sheldon Whitehouse and Tony Pires. Additionally, Democratic primary electorates are different from general electorates – the voters are typically more concentrated geographically in the urban core around Providence, especially in a year like this one where the capital city will also have an open mayoral race on the same ballot. So while Brown’s top-line finding – a tight race between Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras, with Clay Pell far behind – isn’t so absurd as to be dismissed out of hand, it should be treated with extreme caution for now. (As for the tiny 86-voter Republican primary survey – any result that carries a margin of error above 10% should be taken with a full can of Morton Salt.)”


RI pension mediation ends; trial set for Sept

April 11th, 2014 at 2:44 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s landmark pension law is heading to trial.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo said Friday the state and its major labor unions have ended court-ordered mediation talks after eligible police officers voted to reject a proposed pension settlement. The two sides are now set to head to trial Sept. 15.

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‘Superman’ owners appeal city tax bill

April 10th, 2014 at 5:42 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The owners of 111 Westminster Street is asking the city to adjust the value of the vacant skyscraper known as the Superman building – a request that would reduce the amount of taxes owed on the property.

David Sweetser, whose real estate investment firm High Rock Development owns the Superman building, has filed a property tax appeal with the Providence tax assessor’s office that would lower the taxes on the building that has been empty since last April, according to spokesman Bill Fischer.

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Brown poll: Raimondo has slight lead over Taveras

April 10th, 2014 at 10:53 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State treasurer and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo is clinging to a slight lead over Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, but more than a third of primary voters are still undecided, according to a Brown University poll released Thursday.

The new survey of 600 registered Rhode Island voters – including 395 Democratic primary voters – put Raimondo in the lead with 29.4%, with Taveras close behind at 25.8%. Clay Pell finished a distant third at 9.6%. More than 35% of those polled said they were still undecided.

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‘Superman’ building owners seek $39M from taxpayers

April 9th, 2014 at 12:08 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The owner of Providence’s tallest building is again seeking $39 million in state support to help turn the vacant skyscraper into a mixed-use facility that would include office space and rental apartments, a project he says will create more than 1,000 jobs in Rhode Island’s capital city.

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Layoffs hit storied Providence law firm Edwards Wildman

April 8th, 2014 at 1:59 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Edwards Wildman is cutting 52 jobs in 10 of its 16 offices worldwide, spokesman John Tuerck confirmed Tuesday. The targeted employees are 42 administrative staff members and 10 lawyers. Tuerck declined to disclose whether the Providence office is among the 10 affected.

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Chafee: RI may continue pension deal without police

April 8th, 2014 at 1:44 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – R.I. Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Tuesday the state may consider moving forward with its pension settlement without the eligible police officers who voted to reject the deal.

“There are various options and that might be one,” Chafee said following a news conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office Tuesday morning.

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Rhode Island to improve jobs for mentally disabled

April 8th, 2014 at 11:44 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Developmentally disabled Rhode Island residents who for years performed manual labor for little money will have the opportunity to secure “real jobs with real wages” under a settlement announced Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Rhode Island said the ten-year agreement will require the state to provide employment and daytime services that will give approximately 3,250 developmentally disabled residents the opportunity to work in a traditional work setting rather than so-called sheltered workshops that segregate employees.

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Police vote no on RI pension settlement; mediation restarts

April 7th, 2014 at 12:06 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The high-profile Rhode Island pension settlement was in jeopardy Monday after preliminary results showed 61% of eligible police officers had rejected it; Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter immediately ordered the two sides back into closed-door talks.

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Chart: Blue Cross has 98% RI market share under Obamacare

April 7th, 2014 at 10:24 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Here’s something Obamacare has hardly changed: the way one insurer dominates Rhode Island.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s share of the individual health insurance market dipped from 100% in 2013 to 98% in 2014, as the launch of HealthSource RI more than doubled total enrollment of those who purchase plans directly for themselves rather than get them through an employer or the government, according to preliminary figures released last week by Blue Cross and HealthSource RI.

Take a look:

RI individual health insurance 2014

Blue Cross was the only insurer selling plans to individuals last year, but finally got a little bit of competition in 2014 when Neighborhood – which was created in 1993 to take advantage of local Medicaid changes – began offering commercial plans to individuals who make up to 250% of the federal poverty level.


Watch Executive Suite: CBRE’s Alden Anderson

April 7th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Watch Newsmakers: Speaker Mattiello, Leader DeSimone

April 6th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RI

April 5th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post

Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to For quick hits all week long, follow @tednesi.

1. Who is Nick Mattiello? Just before he was elected speaker, I suggested the Cranston Democrat was a moderate who might be a Republican if he was in another state. Others – particularly unhappy progressives – have suggested Mattiello isn’t really a Democrat at all. But the speaker himself rejected that suggestion on Friday. “I’m a Democrat. I’m a proud Democrat,” Mattiello said on this week’s Newsmakers. “I don’t believe that Democrats all have to be on the furthest-left outpost. There’s some people that believe that, but that is not the majority of the Democrats in Rhode Island. I believe I represent a typical Democrat.” Noting his support for “an appropriate safety net,” Mattiello said: “Middle-class values are in the middle, and I tend to politically be situated in the middle.” Asked why he appointed Republican Rep. Doreen Costa as vice-chair of House Judiciary, Mattiello said: “There’s too much raucous debate between the parties. I think that we have to respect each other more. … It doesn’t mean I’m less of a Democrat.” One reason Mattiello’s views are interesting – the speaker will play a key role in determining whether Angel Taveras, Gina Raimondo or Clay Pell gets the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s gubernatorial endorsement. His No. 2, John DeSimone, has already endorsed Taveras.

2. Mattiello repeated his policy mantra – “jobs and the economy” – roughly 500 times on Newsmakers. But no politician campaigns against jobs and the economy, so what does the new speaker think would help? Two items to watch: Rhode Island’s corporate and estate taxes. On the corporate tax, Mattiello told us he wants to get the rate down to 7% from its current level of 9%. On the estate tax, Mattiello noted that Rhode Island currently has one of the lowest exemptions in the nation – $921,655 in 2014 – and that it has a “cliff,” where an estate valued at $1 more than the exemption triggers a tax on the entire estate (not just the amount above the exemption). “We’re looking to eliminate the cliff and possibly increase that threshold a little bit so that we can keep high wage-earners and people that have accumulated wealth in Rhode Island, rather than have them leave as soon as they retire,” Mattiello said. All that will be music to the ears of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, which has long made the case that those changes would improve Rhode Island’s business-climate ranking and cost less than, say, lowering the sales tax. But they’ll still reduce revenue in a difficult budget climate, and they’ll face serious pushback from the left.


Rep. Gordon Fox still receiving salary, health benefits

April 4th, 2014 at 6:51 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Newly minted Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said Friday he spoke with Gordon Fox two days after the dramatic law enforcement raids that shook up the state’s political power structure, but said he remains in the dark about what the investigation is about.

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RI elections board reviewing $10K cap after high court ruling

April 3rd, 2014 at 3:34 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Rhode Island’s cap on combined campaign donations may be on the way out.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that federal-level aggregate limits on how much money a donor can contribute across all politicians, parties and PACs (as opposed to the limits on how much can be contributed to each one) are unconstitutional. Rhode Island is one of eight states that also has its own aggregate limit on state-level contributions, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his decision.

Rhode Island law currently caps the amount that can be donated to candidates, party committees and PACs to $10,000 a year. While Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling did not itself throw out Rhode Island’s state-level limit, the R.I. Board of Elections says it may not defend them in court if they get challenged.


Education activist Regunberg to run for Fox’s House seat

April 3rd, 2014 at 12:02 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Young liberals have found the candidate they want to replace former Speaker Gordon Fox in the R.I. House of Representatives.

Aaron Regunberg, a 24-year-old community organizer known best for launching the Providence Student Union activist group, said Thursday he plans to run for the House District 4 seat left open by Fox, who resigned as speaker and announced his plans to retire after law enforcement officials raided his Gorton Street home and State House office two weeks ago.

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Obamacare swells RI individual insurance rolls to nearly 40,000

April 2nd, 2014 at 5:52 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Rhode Island’s individual health insurance market has gotten considerably larger due to Obamacare.

Nearly 40,000 Rhode Islanders signed up for individual policies during the 2014 open enrollment period that ended Monday night, up from roughly 17,000 who did so in 2013, according to preliminary figures from the state’s new HealthSource RI marketplace and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

That total breaks down as 27,968 individuals who used HealthSource RI to sign up for plans from Blue Cross or Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, along with 11,271 who bypassed HealthSource and bought Obamacare-compliant policies directly from Blue Cross, the two organizations told

Those 11,271 direct-purchasers are important to Blue Cross because they will be combined with those who bought through HealthSource RI to make up the insurer’s 2014 risk pool for individual insurance. The size and shape of the risk pool is crucial to determining how much premiums will cost.

Gary Claxton, an expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The New York Times that “these lives count every bit as much as the ones that came in through the exchange” for insurers because of the risk pool issue.


Center for Freedom suggests $225M to cut from RI budget

April 2nd, 2014 at 12:01 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A new report from the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity suggests $225 million that should be cut from Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s proposed budget for next year, starting with the elimination of a $50-million increase in the historic-preservation tax-credit program.

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• Related: Gov. Chafee, quoting Taylor Swift, proposes $8.5B state budget (Jan. 15)