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Which bills will live or die in the remaining weeks of R.I.’s legislative session?

Left to right, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi answer questions from Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick and Jim Ludes, host of "Story in the Public Square" on Rhode Island PBS.Matthew Healey for the Boston Globe
Rhode Island PBSRI PBS

PROVIDENCE — On a special edition of the Rhode Island Report podcast, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio offered strong indications about which key pieces of legislation are likely to live or die in the closing weeks of this year’s legislative session.

With the House Finance Committee poised to released its state budget proposal, the state’s two top legislative took part Wednesday in “Rhode Island Report Live,” an event marking the podcast’s 100th episode and highlighting the collaboration with Rhode Island PBS.

The leaders answered questions from the Globe’s Edward Fitzpatrick and Salve Regina University’s Jim Ludes, host of “Story in the Public Square,” before an audience at the Rhode Island PBS studios. Brown University political science Professor Wendy J. Schiller offered instant analysis afterward.


Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, said he does not support legislation to ban “assault-style” weapons in Rhode Island — a proposal that received a high-profile push in May from Governor Daniel J. McKee and the executive director of the national group Moms Demand Action, Angela Ferrell-Zabala.

“I think if you’re going to ban assault weapons, you have to ban it nationally,” Ruggerio said, drawing boos from advocates of that legislation who were in the studio audience.

He said that if Rhode Island banned assault weapons, people would still be able to buy them in other states and bring them here, so he said, “I think you have to do it on a national level.”

But both Ruggerio and Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, expressed confidence that House and Senate can work out differences and pass a bill addressing shore access this year.

“I have a high degree of confidence that General Assembly will pass something,” Shekarchi said. “There’s also a difference in starting point of where you decide where the shoreline access begins. Is it the vegetation line? Is it the wrack line? Is it the high mean high water line? We’re going to get to that.”


Critics have argued that the proposed legislation could represent an unconstitutional “taking” of private property. But Ruggerio said, “I think we can come to an agreement, and I hope we can satisfy the public by doing that and avoid any kind of constitutional challenge.”

Over the course of 45 minutes, Shekarchi and Ruggerio weighed in on a wide range of other legislative issues, including a proposed bottle bill, a call to end smoking inside the state’s casinos, and changes to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.