PawSox bill passes Finance Committee, heading to full Senate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation for a new PawSox stadium, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on the plan.

A spokesman said the Senate plans to vote on the bill next Tuesday. Ever if it passes there as expected, however, its prospects in the House of Representatives are more uncertain.

In a statement, PawSox officials said they were “pleased” about the vote. “Now we await the next step in this process with the vote on the Senate floor on Tuesday, January 16,” they said.

Tuesday’s committee vote followed a hearing where supporters and opponents of the ballpark both weighed in once again. State Sen. Nicholas Kettle, a Republican, was the only member of the committee to oppose the bill.

Pawtucket Senator and Finance Committee Chairman William Conley was pleased with the outcome.

“It’s an opportunity for the state of Rhode Island to say that we can invest in our future, we know how to build things and we’re going to make that statement and go forward with this project,” Conley said.

The revised Senate bill, released last month, tweaked the deal for the $83-million ballpark at the former Apex site.

Last fall, the committee held almost 30 hours of public hearings on whether the state should help fund a new Pawtucket stadium. The amended legislation asks for additional commitments from the team in exchange for up to $44 million in taxpayer financing.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio supports the proposal, while House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has said he is gauging the public’s stance before supporting the new legislation.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has been urging the General Assembly to get the deal done.

“I don’t know what they’re waiting for,” she said in a recent interview with Eyewitness News. “I think they should take action before it’s too late.”

The urgency has risen after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker voiced support for Worcester’s efforts to lure the team to that city.

A spokesperson for the PawSox released a statement following the vote Tuesday:

“We are pleased with tonight’s action by the Senate Finance Committee. We commend Senate President Ruggerio and Chairman Conley for their leadership roles with respect to this enabling legislation for the Pawtucket ballpark bills. Now we await the next step in this process with the vote on the Senate Floor on Tuesday, Jan. 16.”

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.