- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The Latest on Rhode Island lawmakers debating the state budget (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Rhode Island lawmakers have approved implementing sports betting at two casinos.

The House of Representatives approved the plan Friday night as part of the state’s $9.6 billion budget. House leaders say the state finalized the deal with the casinos and the betting system’s operator Friday before budget deliberations began.

The Senate still must approve the budget.



Under the five-year deal, gaming company IGT will run the sports betting system for the state at two casinos owned by Twin River. The state will collect 51 percent of the revenue, IGT will get 32 percent and Twin River will pull in 17 percent.

Lawmakers estimate sports betting will add $23.5 million to the state’s coffer during the next fiscal year. House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi says Rhode Island’s deal is more favorable than recent ones in New Jersey and Delaware.

The House passed the plan 64-7 with little discussion after Shekarchi summarized it.

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8:00 p.m.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives has passed a measure that would dramatically increase the fee medical pot shops must pay for their licenses.

The House voted Friday to increase the fee from $5,000 to $250,000 as part of the state budget. The Senate must also approve the budget.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has said the dispensaries wouldn’t mind the increase, and the change aligns Rhode Island with other states.

The new fee is dramatically higher than any other state in New England charges, however.

Chris Reilly, a spokesman for the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, the state’s largest dispensary, said its primary concern has always been the state allowing more shops to open.

The budget passed Friday by the House removed a plan from the governor to do that.

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7:30 p.m.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives has approved a settlement reached between the state and 59 nursing homes.

The House voted Friday to give the nursing homes a 2.5 percent increase in Medicaid payments next fiscal year. Lawmakers offered the hike in exchange for the nursing homes dropping a lawsuit against the state.

Lawmakers have estimated the hike will cost $9 million, with about half the money coming from the federal government.

The Superior Court had ruled that the state made unauthorized cuts to the payments in past years. The judgment could have cost the state $24 million.

Before they reached a deal, the budget included an 8.5 percent cut to the payments to make up the money.

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6:30 p.m.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives has passed a measure asking voters to authorize $367.3 million in bonds to mostly rebuild schools.

The Democratic-controlled chamber voted unanimously Friday to pass the measure as part of the state budget, which also requires Senate approval.

About a quarter of the proposed bonds would finance the first phase of a $1-billion school construction plan. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says he expects voters will pass the November ballot question overwhelmingly.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has called for a “once-in-a-generation” investment in the state’s crumbling school system.

The remaining bonds would go toward higher education initiatives, as well as climate and clean water projects.

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5 p.m.

Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says the state has reached a deal to begin sports betting.

The agreement includes Twin River, which owns two casinos in the state, and IGT, the company that will run the sports betting system.

The deal will be included in the budget being considered by lawmakers Friday.

Democratic Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi declined to announce the details of that deal. He said they will be announced later Friday evening. Shekarchi, who led the negotiations, says the state “did very well.”

House leadership expects to begin voting on the budget by 5 p.m. They were originally scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

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1:45 p.m.

Rhode Island lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the state’s $9.55 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill Friday. If it passes, it will go to the Senate next week for approval.

The budget has provisions about initiating a hefty school construction initiative, implementing sports betting at two casinos in Rhode Island and continuing a phase-out of the state’s car tax.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has said it’s a sound budget that maintains services without broad tax increases.

The budget process was derailed last year by a month-long stalemate between the House and Senate regarding the car tax. Legislative leaders have said they don’t expect that to happen again this year.

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