RI’s 5 things: Oversight chairwoman, pension suit

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - From the naming of a new leader for the legislative committee looking at the 38 Studios debacle to another lawsuit challenging the state’s pension overhaul, here are five things to know in Rhode Island:

A NEW OVERSIGHT CHAIRWOMAN

The House Oversight Committee’s new chairwoman is promising an aggressive look at the state’s involvement in the disastrous 38 Studios loan guarantee. Rep. Karen MacBeth said she wants to subpoena key figures, including former House Speaker Gordon Fox, as the panel reviews what happened with ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s failed video game company. She says the state wants answers but “this isn’t about a witch hunt.” Speaker Nicholas Mattiello tells The Providence Journal he hopes to avoid subpoenas, calling them “an extraordinary function of the House.”

ANOTHER PENSION LAWSUIT

A group of retired state workers and teachers covered under the proposed deal to end the legal wrangling over Rhode Island’s pension overhaul filed a new lawsuit challenging the law and objecting to their inclusion in any class-action settlement. The suit says being lumped into a class with all retirees cannot “fairly and adequately” protect their interests and calls the pension changes in the 2011 law a breach of contract. Representatives for Gov. Lincoln Chafee and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo had no comment on the litigation.

LOWERING THE SALES TAX

Rep. Jan Malik, who last year wanted to repeal the state’s 7 percent sales tax, is preparing to introduce new measures that would lower it instead. The Warren Democrat and others on a 13-member study commission have been looking at possible changes to the sales tax. He has planned a news conference for Tuesday.

BANNING PLASTIC BAGS

A Senate panel heard testimony on a bill that aims to make Rhode Island the first state to ban the use of plastic bags by grocery stores and other retailers. Sen. Frank Lombardo III, the lead sponsor, said plastic bags may be convenient and inexpensive, but they’re littering neighborhoods and harming the environment, including waterways and wildlife. Critics say the ban could impose higher costs on businesses and environmental concerns need to be balanced against business interests.

TOURISM

Raimondo, a Democratic candidate for governor, called Rhode Island’s existing tourism efforts disjointed and underfunded and unveiled a plan to boost the industry and create new jobs. Her initiative, part of her overall jobs plan, calls for a statewide tourism marketing campaign, a branding effort highlighting Rhode Island’s offerings as a “culinary destination” and improved infrastructure, including welcome centers. Raimondo is running in the September primary against Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and political newcomer Clay Pell.

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