1. It looks like Governor Chafee will indeed try for a second term next year. He was close to unequivocal about running during Friday’s taping of Newsmakers – but much less so when Tim White and I asked whether he’ll run as an independent or a Democrat. “I haven’t really crossed that threshold of what political affiliation,” Chafee said. “I’m really just focusing on what we’re talking about – getting the economy going, getting these unemployment numbers down.” The obvious question is, can he win? It’s possible: his approval rating in September was 29%, and last time around it only took 36% to elect him. A repeat performance as an independent would require another four-way race, but that looks increasingly likely with Moderate Party leader Ken Block pledging to field a candidate. Alternatively, if Chafee wants to run as a Democrat, there’s the Obama factor. The president is already easing the transition of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, an ex-Republican, into the Democratic Party; could he do the same for Chafee?
2. After the State of the State I asked Gina Raimondo whether she’s going to run for governor next year. “Ted, I don’t know,” she said. “I’m thinking about it but I don’t know. I really don’t. I really don’t.” A little while later I found Angel Taveras and asked whether he’ll be making the State of the State speech in 2015. Taveras laughed and said, “I’m worried about 2013 right now, and what this budget’s going to say.” I didn’t get a chance to ask Allan Fung whether he’s going to run, but last time I did he made it clear he’s strongly considering it.
3. The economic forecast included in Chafee’s budget could be good news for his re-election prospects – or for his successor – if it turns out to be accurate. Moody’s Economy.com projects Rhode Island’s average unemployment rate will fall from 9.7% in the 2013-14 fiscal year to 7.9% in 2014-15, when the next election will be held. The pace of job growth in the state is projected to speed up, too, from 1.2% to 3%. And whoever wins the election is forecast to preside over four fiscal years of falling jobless rates, with the level down to 5.3% by 2017-18. Of course, sometimes these forecasts are way off – and 5.3% is still higher than the jobless rate in Rhode Island back in 2006-07. But an improving job market would make everything else easier for Rhode Island’s chief executive.
4. One final note on Chafee: when he’s watching the Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship game Sunday night on WPRI 12, he’ll be watching one of his high school classmates, Bill Belichick, calling the plays. The governor and the coach were both members of the Class of 1971 at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and they’re known to keep in touch. Chafee laughed Friday when he recalled looking over during a Latin class with Ernie Adams, Belichick’s football-savant best friend, and seeing Adams’ homework covered in X’s and O’s.
5. Interesting people in Rhode Island, part I: Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter and founder of Square, will give a talk at the RISD Career Center on Friday, Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. It’s called “Square: Making Commerce Easy,” and free tickets are still available.
6. Interesting people in Rhode Island, part II: Don Berwick, President Obama’s influential former Medicare/Medicaid chief, will headline Lifespan’s 6th Annual Patient Safety Symposium on Thursday, April 4 at 5 p.m. Berwick made headlines last week when he said he’s “strongly considering” a run for Massachusetts governor next year.
7. Congratulations to Clay Pell, grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, who’s tying the knot today with Olympian Michelle Kwan at the First Unitarian Church of Providence on Benefit Street. Pell, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant, proposed to Kwan on Block Island over Labor Day weekend. An eagle-eyed reader notes Kwan has suggested she might run for office someday – perhaps she’ll jump into the Providence mayor’s race if Angel Taveras runs for governor? You heard it here first.
8. Charlestown Rep. Donna Walsh has renewed her 13-year battle to close the loophole that lets Rhode Island’s judges and senators appoint court magistrates without the Judicial Nominating Commission vetting them first. Magistrates “really are judges,” Walsh told the Projo’s Katie Mulvaney in 2010. “It’s a political-patronage system.” Among those who’ve received magistrate gigs over the years: former Senate President Joe Montalbano … John Harwood’s wife Patricia … Bill Murphy’s former aide Patrick Burke … Gordon Fox’s former counsel John Flynn … and former Portsmouth Sen. Charles Levesque. Far from seeing this as a problem, most Senate Judiciary Committee members say they think it’s good that magistrate jobs go to so many people with Assembly ties. But attorney Keven McKenna argues one of the main reasons so many magistrates have been named since the Judicial Nominating Commission was put in place is because Democratic lawmakers wanted to hand out judicial jobs even though the party hasn’t controlled the governor’s office since 1994. McKenna thinks magistrates’ decisions are unconstitutional: “Magistrates do exercise judicial power. They’re not stenographers. They’re not sheriffs,” he said last year. “Chief judges and chief justices have no authority to appoint anyone to exercise judicial power. Only the governor can do that.”
9. Brown University alum Kate Cook is Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick’s new chief legal counsel, and the first woman who’s ever held the job.
10. A warm WPRI.com welcome to my newest colleague, Dan McGowan, who joined the site this week as our second enterprise reporter. In his first week Dan published stories on 38 Studios’ unpaid taxes, a suspended Providence bus driver, the new unemployment numbers, a proposed fundraising ban, and city principals getting sacked. And he’s just getting started – follow Dan on Twitter, and catch all his stories on the Nesi’s Notes main page.
11. Every year state lawmakers add a hospital licensing fee to the state budget; this fiscal year it required all of Rhode Island’s community hospitals to pay an amount equal to 5.35% of their 2011 net patient revenue. Well, almost all of them: Governor Chafee’s budget proposal says “the license fee for all hospitals located in Washington County, Rhode Island shall be discounted 37%.” What’s up with that?
12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Governor Lincoln Chafee. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence – and don’t miss the online-only bonus segment. This week on Executive Suite – RIPEC’s John Simmons on the Senate economic study and Dexter Credit Union’s Stephen Angell. The show will air at a special time: Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on WPRI 12, right before the Patriots-Ravens game. You can also 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.
This post has been updated to clarify the process by which magistrates are appointed.