Nesi’s Notes: Oct. 14

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Happy Saturday! As regular readers know, Ted got married last Friday, so I’m going to try to not get my Providence cooties all over the column this week. He will be back next Saturday. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to dmcgowan@wpri.com or tnesi@wpri.com, and follow @danmcgowan and @tednesi on Twitter.

1. Is embattled former state Rep. John Carnevale really considering a comeback? His friends and former colleagues at the State House have been whispering for months that he may try to win back the House District 13 seat he held for eight years before he was tossed off the voter roll last year, and Carnevale confirmed he’s not ruling it out. In a text message on Friday, Carnevale said its “premature” to say whether he’ll challenge Democratic Rep. Ramon Perez next year, but suggested he has “stayed active in my neighborhood.” Carnevale was the subject of a Target 12 investigation last year that raised questions about where he actually lived and he is still facing three felony perjury charges stemming from statements he made to the Providence Board of Canvassers during hearings to determine whether he was an eligible voter at a two-family property he owns on Barbara Street in Providence.

2. With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear arguments on New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting in December, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says he’s willing to take a closer look at the issue if the Garden State prevails. A report published by industry consultant Eilers & Krejcik Gaming suggested sports betting could be offered in 32 states within five years if it’s legalized in New Jersey, creating a new market worth billions of dollars, according to the Associated Press. The report said Rhode Island might take a little longer – seven years. “The lottery is the third largest source of state revenue,” Mattiello said. “Should sports betting be legalized, I would be open to doing an assessment and studying the issue carefully.” Patti Doyle, a spokesperson for Twin River, said there are “just so many variables” that it’s “impossible” to say whether the casino would consider pursuing sports betting.

3. So what did Senator Whitehouse think of his big dinner with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump earlier this month? “They live well,” Whitehouse told reporters this week. “Really big house. Very fancy food.” Whitehouse confirmed an Axios report that he joined fellow Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. Mike Lee for a conversation about the prospects of sentencing reform in the Senate. Whitehouse said he offered three pieces of advice to Jared and Ivanka: 1. Solve the problem of opposition from the Justice Department because it “puts everybody who wants this done in a very difficult position.” 2. Have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell commit to setting aside at least a week of floor time to discuss the legislation. 3. There needs to be a signal from House Speaker Paul Ryan that that House would take the bill up. Whitehouse said he’s hopeful there will be some movement. “Clearly the reason for having us there was to try to find a path forward for the bill and a bipartisan path forward,” he said.

4. Senator Whitehouse said he still hasn’t heard any updates on when President Trump will select a new U.S. attorney and federal judge. He said Public Defender Mary S. McElroy remains his first choice for the open judgeship, suggesting it would be a “sign of considerable good faith” to stick with President Obama’s selected-but-not-confirmed nominee. “And to be really blunt, there’s not exactly a flood of qualified people who want to come in and be this president’s nominee,” Whitehouse quipped.

5. Former R.I. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Flanders hasn’t formally announced he will challenge Senator Whitehouse next year, but he has hired a campaign manager. Marissa A. Martinez, a manager with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has agreed to run Flanders’ campaign, according to Republican political operative and Flanders consultant Patrick Sweeney. A Mexican-American graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Johns Hopkins, Martinez was an intern for California Rep. Devin Nunes in 2013, according to her Linkedin profile. Flanders will likely face a Republican primary against state Rep. Robert Nardolillo, who has already announced his candidacy.

6. Governor Raimondo vetoed four pieces of legislation this year – here, here, here and here – but she allowed dozens of bills to become law without her signature. If you take out all of the hyperlocal legislation, solemnization of marriages and business charter reinstatements, the governor allowed 41 substantive bills to become law without signing them this year. The whole list is here, but notable ones include legislation that allows police officers and firefighters to receive an accidental disability pension for illnesses they sustained while on duty; a bill that adds hoarding to the list of animal cruelty offenses; and legislation that gives municipalities – Providence, mainly – the ability to issue tickets from traffic cameras within 28 days of the violation instead of two weeks. Oh, and then there’s the bill that that gave Lieutenant Governor McKee’s previous appointment powers on the Governor’s Council on Behavioral Health, the American and Canadian French Cultural Exchange Commission, the American and Irish Cultural Exchange Commission and the Minority Groups Advisory Commission to Senate President Dominick Ruggiero.

7. Providence pension update: Mayor Elorza tells everyone who asks that his city needs to strike a “grand bargain” with current employees and retirees in order to right the ship when it comes to Providence’s long-term financial challenges, but he remains short on details. The working group he created to study the city’s $985-million unfunded pension liability has only met three times since it was created last year and “there is no meeting scheduled at this time,” according to Elorza spokesperson Victor Morente. In fairness to the city, Melissa Malone, the new chief operating officer, is still learning the ropes in City Hall. But 2018 is an election year and it’s difficult to imagine a heavy favorite like Elorza making pension reform a centerpiece of his campaign. At this point, it seems more likely the capital city’s finances will be more of a debate topic in the governor’s race than it will in the mayoral race.

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8. In his first interview on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers as a candidate for attorney general, former U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said he’d like to see the General Assembly pass a law that allows for grand jury reports to be made public once certain cases are closed. “We have never had that law here and I am convinced it may be time to have such a law,” Nerona said, noting that such a law could lead to the release of documents in the 38 Studios case.

9. Unlike current Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Nerohna isn’t voicing opposition to the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA). The new city ordinance lays out guidelines for how police must handle interactions with the public, requires more paperwork following those exchanges and gives more power to a civilian oversight board. The ordinance doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, but the new president of the Providence police union has already said he would prefer to see it repealed. In a perfect world, Neronha said, the ordinance wouldn’t be necessary, but it’s “one of those things that is reflective of a lack of trust between the community and the police.” Neronha stopped short of endorsing the PCPRA, in part because he has questions about what a violation of the ordinance might mean when it comes prosecuting cases.

10. When Central Falls Mayor James Diossa heads to Hartford next week to be a panelist on two forums discussing the possible consequences of municipal bankruptcy, he’ll likely offer a key piece of advice to the folks in Connecticut’s capital city: make peace with your labor unions. In a state that in recent years has seen Providence go to war with its firefighters and Warwick remain locked in a battle with its teachers’ union, Diossa has successful negotiated five-year contracts with his police officers, firefighters and municipal employees over the last year. (The City Council approved the new police deal this week.) Diossa’s aides maintain all of the contracts are equivalent or better deals for the city than the ones reached during its bankruptcy. Of course, labor issues aren’t the biggest threat to Hartford right now. The mayor there is asking for at least $40 million in additional state aid, but the state legislature approved a budget only giving the city about $7 million more, according to the Hartford Courant. Gov. Dan Malloy vetoed the budget in September.

11. Rhode Island is one of 19 states around the country – including every state in New England – that is expected to see its elementary and secondary school population shrink by 2025, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education. Rhode Island enrollment is expected to drop from 141,000 students during the fall of 2014 to 133,900 by 2025, its lowest total in several decades. New Hampshire (-14.6%) and Connecticut (-14.2%) are projected to see the steepest drops in the country, while Washington, D.C. (39.4%) and North Dakota (29.9%) are expected to experience the largest increases. Overall, the country’s school-age population is expected to grow 2.7%.

12. You probably know Eat Drink RI President David Dadekian as one of Rhode Island’s great culinary ambassadors, but did you know he’s entering the political arena? A filing with the Federal Election Commission shows Dadekian launched the Food Will Help America Grow political action committee on Oct. 3. Dadekian said it’s “too early to say” what he plans to do with the PAC, but “one option is raise money for policy change we’d like to see related to food and drink either through or by donating to candidates.” Asked if he is considering running for office, he said, “I don’t have plans for that right now.”

13. Bizarre Rhode Island story from former President Obama speechwriter David Litt, who appeared on David Axelrod’s podcast this week to plug his new memoir, “Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years.” As part of an effort to pick up a girl in 2008, Litt claims he drove with the woman from Yale University to Providence to knock on doors on the day of the presidential primary. After Obama lost – “He got thumped by Hillary in Rhode Island,” Axelrod recalled – Litt asked the woman if she wanted to drive back to New Haven with him naked. “It seemed like the Barack Obama of propositions,” Litt joked, referring to his chances of getting her to agree. For some reason, she did.

14. Providence has granted $25 million in tax breaks over the last two years under new ordinances that don’t require public vetting of the projects before approval.

15. More than 40% of Rhode Island’s emergency vehicle inspections since 2012 have resulted in “critical deficiency” findings, Susan Campbell reports.

16. Ted and Kim Kalunian’s wedding announcement made The New York Times. Also, the short rib and apple cake at their reception were on point.

17. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Attorney general candidate and former U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha. This week on Executive Suite – Something Fishy CEO Kurt Harrington; Loren Hope designer and co-founder Loren Barham. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). Catch both shows back-to-back on your radio Sundays at 6 p.m. on WPRO-AM 630 and WEAN-FM 99.7. And you can subscribe to both shows as iTunes podcasts – click here for Executive Suite and click here for Newsmakers. See you back here next Saturday morning.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan