SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE

NEW ENGLAND STATES TEAM UP ON DISTRACTED DRIVING PSA

BOSTON (AP) — The six New England states are joining forces for what is being called the region’s first coordinated public education campaign against distracted driving.  The campaign includes a public service announcement that features police officers for each of the six states. The officers discuss their own experiences responding to crashes blamed on distracted drivers.   New England states do not share all of the same laws when it comes to distracted driving.   Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont all require hands-free cellphone use by motorists, and a similar law takes effect June 1 in Rhode Island. Maine and Massachusetts prohibit drivers from texting while driving, but do not outlaw all use of handheld cellphones.   The Massachusetts Senate has approved such a ban but the bill has yet to be considered by the House.

GUN RANGE OPPONENTS GET SOME GOOD NEWS

Heather Somers

The Bulletin reports Senate Bill 424, which contains an amendment sponsored by Republican State Sen. Heather Somers that would protect forested land in Griswold, was approved Thursday by the state Finance, Review and Bonding Committee.  Griswold resident Pam Patalano, a founding member of Keep Griswold Quiet, said Friday the amendment to SB 424 “is strong, absolutely.”   The bill, introduced March 7, was filed with the Legislative Commissioners’ Office on Friday.   State officials revealed last month they had signed a purchase agreement in August 2017 with property owner Lee Button for 113 acres of land in Griswold for $1.1 million for the purposes of building a new state police firearms training facility.   However, the property must stay off the market during an Environmental Impact Evaluation, which could begin in May.

CONSULTANT: NEW CASINO NUMBERS WON’T ADD UP

Proposed Bridgeport casino

The Day cites a new consultant’s report that weighs the revenue generated by a proposed Bridgeport casino versus the resulting loss in payments from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.   Assuming the third Connecticut casino gets built — and few consider that a slam dunk — a fourth, competitively bid casino would have to generate nearly $1.1 billion in annual gross gaming revenues to offset what the state would lose when the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes stop sharing their casinos’ slot-machine revenues, a new report concludes.   And the probability of a Bridgeport casino pulling in that kind of cash “is almost zero,” says the report’s author, Clyde Barrow, a much-quoted expert on Northeast gaming and a consultant to the tribes.   Titled “Competitive Bid for a 4th Casino? Why Connecticut Would Be the Biggest Loser,” the report will be widely disseminated Monday.

SEPT 11-SAUDI ARABIA LAWSUITS

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Families of Sept. 11 victims will announce the next steps in a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia over claims it had a role in the terror attacks.  They will be joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. The Connecticut Democrat and families are scheduled to disclose the actions Monday outside the Hartford federal courthouse.  The families sued Saudi Arabia in 2003 over its alleged backing of the attackers. Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. The Saudi government has denied involvement.   Federal law at the time shielded foreign government actors from such lawsuits in American courts. Blumenthal helped lead passage of a 2016 law that allows such lawsuits.   A federal judge cited the 2016 law last month in ordering Saudi Arabia and its agents to release information about any involvement in the attacks.

DISAPPEARING CLAMS

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The harvest of soft-shell clams continues to dwindle in New England, where the shellfish are embedded in the culture as much as the tidal muck.  Soft-shell clams are also called “steamers” or “longnecks” and they are one of the northeastern U.S.’s most beloved seafood items. But the nationwide harvest fell to a little less than 2.8 million pounds in 2016, the lowest total since 2000.   Maine produces more of the clams than any other state. State regulators there say clam harvesters collected a little more than 1.4 million pounds of the shellfish last year. That’s the lowest total since 1930, and less than half a typical haul in the early- and mid-1980s.   Challenges to the fishery include aging fishermen, harmful algal blooms and growing populations of predator species.

BILL TO PROHIBIT ANIMAL MISTREATMENT MOVES FORWARD

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A bill to prohibit the mistreatment of animals is advancing in the Rhode Island General Assembly.   The bill prohibits mistreatment by failing to provide adequate water, shelter or veterinary care.   It passed the House Wednesday and now moves to the Senate.   It was introduced by Democratic Rep. Patricia Serpa. Her district includes parts of West Warwick, Coventry and Warwick.   In December, protesters rallied near the Warwick property of a man accused of leaving his dogs out in freezing temperatures.   Authorities determined the dogs were in good condition and their owner didn’t break any laws.   Serpa’s bill would prohibit leaving dogs outside for longer than 15 minutes when a weather advisory or warning has been issued.   She says the legislation would give animals better protections under the law.

MILITARY PENSION-TAX EXEMPTIONS

Robert Lancia

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Local legislators are hoping to keep veterans in Rhode Island by excluding their pensions from state income tax.   Republican Rep. Robert Lancia of Cranston is calling on the state to create a new tax exemption for income derived from military pensions. He hopes this will convince more veterans to remain in the state.   Rhode Island is one of a few states that fully taxes income derived from those specific retirement funds, which Lancia says leaves veterans at a “severe disadvantage.” A bill proposed by Lancia and co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Bobby Nardolillo would fully exempt military pensions from state income tax by 2022 in an effort to impact Rhode Island’s population decline.   There are approximately 65,000 veterans living in Rhode Island, according to state records.

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