1. The outlook brightened a bit this week for advocates of same-sex marriage with the announcement of Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed’s picks for the 10-member Senate Judiciary Committee. Paiva Weed didn’t push the panel decisively in either direction, but she did give Ray Sullivan and his allies at Marriage Equality Rhode Island a path to get the bill out of committee and onto the Senate floor. They start with five likely yes votes (including Paul Jabour, whose district will likely pressure him not to kill the bill in committee) and three likely no votes. That leaves two big question-marks: Leo Raptakis and Billy Conley. Raptakis would seem to be a definite no, but his support for a referendum on the issue make him sound squishier than expected. As for Conley, while he may have railed against same-sex marriage in the past, there’s a big difference between making a low-profile speech and casting the decisive vote. And then of course there’s the pressure leadership may put on Judiciary members based on any deals they strike with their House counterparts. Stay tuned.
2. The victorious Obama campaign had quite a few southern Massachusetts natives around and about. The president’s bruiser of a spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, is from Raynham. His research guru David Simas is from Taunton. (Simas says Obama ran “a national presidential campaign the way you’d do a local ward campaign.”) Last but maybe most, White House photographer Pete Souza is from South Dartmouth, as I was recently informed by ace Fall River Herald News scribe Will Richmond.
3. Campaigns & Elections’ list of Rhode Island’s best GOP operatives was a bit surprising. Cara Cromwell and Ian Prior are both talented and savvy, though they couldn’t win the 1st Congressional District for John Loughlin or Brendan Doherty. But where is Patrick Sweeney, who worked under former chairman Ken McKay and then ran Barry Hinckley’s energetic U.S. Senate campaign? Or activist Mike Napolitano, who is influential with grass-roots conservatives? Who ran Anthony Giarrusso’s bid to succeed Bob Watson in House District 30, a very rare Republican success story in 2012? And when was the last time Boston Herald columnist Holly Robichaud worked on a campaign here? (Update: I’m informed Robichaud was a consultant on Michael Riley’s campaign.)
4. Boring but important: U.S. health care spending growth slowed to 3.9% in 2011, the third straight year it went up at that relatively modest pace. A lot is riding on whether that trend continues – including the solvency of many Rhode Island governments that are faced with massive unfunded retiree health liabilities.
5. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is quickly emerging as the Obama administration’s leading Senate proponent of the Chuck Hagel nomination for defense secretary: he’s already been dispatched to defend Hagel to influential Washington columnists David Ignatius and Jerry Seib. Loyal Nesi’s Notes reader A. Kearney reminds me that Obama, Reed and Hagel share a unique bond: the three traveled together on a key 2008 trip to Iraq that helped burnish Obama’s foreign policy credentials. “They reflect, I think, a traditional bipartisan wisdom when it comes to foreign policy,” Obama said at the time. “Neither of them are ideologues but try to get the facts right and make a determination about what’s best for U.S. interests – and they’re good guys.”
6. With so much concern these days about gun violence and layoffs at the nonviolence institute, local leaders and concerned citizens should read a thoroughly thought-provoking 2011 article in Scientific American: “How New York Beat Crime.” Author Franklin Zimring argues – persuasively – that the massive drop in the Big Apple’s crime rate proves “many of modern America’s dominant assumptions concerning crime to be flat wrong,” and that the key is putting more cops on the streets. That’s noteworthy, considering Tim White‘s recent report that Providence has fewer officers per 1,000 residents than like-sized Northeast cities.
7. Check out this fascinating American Prospect article on how Oklahoma is leading the nation in expanding early education. Rhode Island started a pilot pre-kindergarten program in 2009, but it’s not universal. The new school-funding formula is supposed to add pre-K funding over time, and Senate President Paiva Weed says pre-K is one of her priorities for this year’s legislative session.
8. It’s not hyperbole to say the pension lawsuit is a big story nationally. “We have 49 sovereign states and a few territories all looking at what happens in Rhode Island,” Bill Brandt, chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority, told Bond Buyer last month.
9. From the late Washington columnist Drew Pearson’s March 31, 1966 dispatch: “If Gov. John Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, had known how much Sen. Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, worried over the possibility that Chafee would run against him, Chafee would have run.” That’s an intriguing idea, since ’66 was a good year for Republicans and it’s conceivable Chafee could have won; instead Pell had a landslide victory over Lt. Col. Ruth Briggs. Chafee finally did challenge Pell in 1972, and lost, then ran again in 1976 and beat wealthy car salesman Richard Lorber. Chafee and Pell served together for the next 20 years.
10. PSY only made about $110,000 from digital and CD sales of “Gangnam Style” in South Korea.
11. Rhode Island PBS was kind enough to include me on the panel for this week’s episode of “A Lively Experiment,” along with Ian Donnis, Dave Scharfenberg and PBN’s Mark Murphy. Topics include the upcoming legislative session, same-sex marriage, pension reform and economic development. Watch tonight at 7 p.m. on WSBE Learn (Ch. 36.2), Sunday at noon on WSBE-TV (Ch. 36.1) or online at the RI PBS blog.
12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and Moderate Party founder Ken Block on the master lever. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Care Thread CEO Dr. Scott Guelich and AICU Rhode Island President Dan Egan on the Sawyer School. Watch Saturday at 10:30 p.m. or Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or Sunday at 6 a.m. on Fox). See you back here next Saturday morning.