- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - From records related to Gordon Fox being subpoenaed to a House panel hearing a bill to legalize marijuana, here are five things to know in Rhode Island:


Law enforcement has contacted the state Board of Elections about Gordon Fox and subpoenaed records from the city of Providence pertaining to the former House Speaker. The board’s campaign finance director wouldn’t specify the nature of the contact or say which agency made it. A city spokesman also said federal law enforcement officials subpoenaed records this week but didn’t say what authorities were looking for. Fox resigned as speaker March 22, a day after his Statehouse office and home were raided by federal authorities as part of a criminal probe. Authorities have declined to say what the investigation is about or whether Fox is a target.


The state is taking new steps to deal with what health officials call an overdose crisis. At least 85 people have died of accidental overdoses this year; many cases have involved the painkiller fentanyl. “This is a disease of staggering impact,” Dr. Michael Fine, the state health director, said at a forum on the state’s efforts. Under one of the new initiatives, coaches trained in substance abuse will be available at some hospital emergency rooms. The other initiative will enable doctors to immediately link high-risk patients to assessments and other services.


After a lengthy mediation failed, a Rhode Island judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by public-sector unions and retirees over the state’s 2011 pension overhaul may move ahead. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter denied the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed before the closed-door mediation began more than a year ago. Renewed talks ordered after police union members rejected a proposed settlement in the case broke down recently. The law is designed to save Rhode Island $4 billion over the next 20 years.


A House committee took up, but took no action on, legislation to regulate and tax marijuana in Rhode Island. The lead sponsor, Rep. Edith Ajello, said legalizing the drug would bring it “out of the back alleys.” She said marijuana is often easier for minors to get than alcohol and regulating its sale could help address teen use. She also said the state would benefit from millions of dollars in projected new revenue. But opponents said legalizing the drug would send the wrong message in a state with a high teen usage rate.


The state unemployment rate edged down in March to 8.7 percent, the lowest since September 2008, but the number of jobs also declined by 800. The state Department of Labor and Training said the jobless rate fell three-tenths of 1 percentage point from February. The number of unemployed residents was also down 1,100 in March - the eighth straight month of decline. The state’s unemployment rate is the highest in the country.

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