- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - From the election of a new House speaker to his laydown of a legislative agenda, here are five things to know in Rhode Island:


Rhode Island’s House majority leader was elevated to the position of speaker after the stunning political fall of Gordon Fox, who abruptly resigned after criminal investigators raided his Statehouse office and home. Nicholas Mattiello won the vote 61-6, with six abstentions. Oversight Committee Chairman Michael Marcello had challenged Mattiello for the top House spot but conceded before the vote.


Mattiello said his priority for what’s left of the legislative session will be the state’s ailing economy. “I’m a pro-business, pro-economy speaker,” he said. He said he plans to review the tax system and roll back what he calls overbearing regulations and see how the General Assembly “can help reduce the tax burden on every class.” Significant tax changes would likely pose a challenge for lawmakers, who would have to find corresponding cuts in an already tight budget.


Mattiello wasted no time in installing new chairmen for several committees and in a show of bipartisanship appointed a Republican as vice chair of one of the panels. The powerful Finance Committee will be headed by Rep. Raymond Gallison Jr. while Rep. Cale Keable will serve as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In an unusual move, Mattiello appointed a Republican, Rep. Doreen Costa, as the vice chair. She supported him for speaker but said no deal was cut for her support.


The House’s new deputy majority whip, Joseph Almeida, has a campaign finance case pending before the attorney general, but an aide to Mattiello said the issues are being addressed. Spokesman Larry Berman said Mattiello asked Almeida to take action when he learned of the issue and Almeida will be filing corrected campaign reports. The elections board said he didn’t report about $8,200 in donations and $9,700 in expenses or explain $3,900 in cash withdrawals or checks payable to cash or himself. Berman said Almeida has taken “full responsibility.”


Police found a car belonging to Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan that was reported stolen in February after her husband, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Clay Pell, left the keys inside. North Providence police located the Toyota Prius after responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle with a broken window. Pell told police he had dropped the keys between the seats and couldn’t easily reach them. He and Kwan were headed to an event so he left the car parked outside their Providence home. It was missing the next day.

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