- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - From a new unemployment rate to a state Senate vote to nix the NECAP, here are five things to know in Rhode Island:


The state’s unemployment rate is the highest in the country - again - despite a drop to 8.3 percent in April. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says Rhode Island’s jobless rate is followed by Nevada’s, which is 8 percent, and Illinois’, which is 7.9 percent. The Rhode Island rate was 8.7 percent in March. Gov. Lincoln Chafee called the April employment report “the best we have seen.” He cited not only the drop in the overall jobless rate but also the increase in the number of Rhode Island jobs and employed residents.


A lawyer for ex-House Speaker Gordon Fox told a Rhode Island judge that more than 100 grand jury subpoenas have been issued in the “wide-ranging investigation” by federal and state authorities looking at the failed 38 Studios deal. Albin Moser made the comments in court as he sought to quash a subpoena issued to Fox for a range of documents related to ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s now-bankrupt company. The state economic development agency has sued over the $75 million loan guarantee it gave 38 Studios. The judge is giving Moser until Tuesday to file additional materials to support his case.


Plans are moving ahead for a nursing education facility that is the centerpiece of a major proposed redevelopment project in Providence. The Rhode Island Board of Education endorsed legislation outlining the terms of a lease for a shared University of Rhode Island-Rhode Island College nursing center in the vacant South Street Power Station. The endorsement is an early victory for the project, which needs additional approvals. The legislation authorizes a 15-year lease with an annual cost of $6 million for the first five years.


The state Senate approved legislation that would impose a moratorium on using the New England Common Assessment Program as a graduation requirement, but House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello came out against the bill. The legislation would suspend until 2017 the use of any standardized test as a graduation requirement. This year’s class is the first that must demonstrate at least partial proficiency on the tests to get a diploma. A spokesman for Mattiello said the House leader doesn’t think the bill is necessary because of the “broad range of waivers” that superintendents can give students.


The House Oversight Committee heard more testimony on whether Rhode Island should repay the 38 Studios bonds. URI economist Leonard Lardaro said default would hurt the state’s already negative image and would be like taping a “Kick me” sign on its back. The Institute for Public Leadership’s Gary Sasse called an outside report predicting the state’s ratings would sink to junk bond status a “good starting point” but said lawmakers need more analysis. The state remains responsible for $87 million under the failed deal.

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