PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The echo of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s gavel on Tuesday night signaled the start of another session for the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
Mattiello said lawmakers “have much more work to do in 2016,” naming two key issues he aims to focus on: improving the state’s infrastructure and investing in education.
Soon after the session began, the office of Gov. Gina Raimondo released a tentative list of where toll gantries would be placed should her RhodeWorks plan be enacted, after repeated requests that she do so from Mattiello and the trucking industry.
The plan aims to fund sweeping road and bridge repairs through the tolling of large commercial vehicles. Mattiello said a formal proposal is only a week or two away.
“We’ll discuss the good aspects of it, the negative aspects of it, and at the end of the day, we’ll move forward as best for our citizens,” he said Tuesday.
The Senate approved a revised version of the proposal in June, but Mattiello remains on the fence towards the issue.
On education, Mattiello said he plans to look at a funding formula to support programs putting students on the track for success.
“You have to respect the environment that we’re sending our kids to if we want our children to respect the value of education,” he stated.
As the speaker was delivering his speech, protesters could be heard chanting “we want driver’s licenses now” in the atrium of the statehouse. Despite their cries, Mattiello failed to mention the issue of whether or not undocumented immigrants in the state should be allowed to get driver’s licenses.
“If a bill is introduced, we’ll have a public discourse,” he said. “We’ll take testimony in committee and we’ll see where the issue goes.”
“I suspect the identification cards, the driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, I suspect that probably won’t go anywhere,” added House Minority Leader Brian Newberry. “Like I said, I want to see the tolls stopped. I do want to see money found in the budget for bridge repairs. We do need that.”
Protesters from the group “Stop Tolls RI” also held a rally at the statehouse Tuesday, showing their support for an alternative pay-as-you-go plan to fund infrastructure repairs through budget cuts.