Before you read any further, my colleague Steph Machado has an excellent breakdown of House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi’s major plans for 2024 when it comes to housing, police accountability, and education funding.
So what else did we learn from Shekarchi during a wide-ranging interview on Monday? Here are few outtakes.
AG Neronha vs. Judge Procaccini
Shekarchi said he is “absolutely” willing to consider Attorney General Peter Neronha’s proposal to require both the prosecution and the defendant to agree to jury-waived trials, rather than just the defendant. Neronha and Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Procaccini have clashed over the issue in recent weeks, with the judge last week referring Neronha to the state Supreme Court disciplinary board for comments he made on X (Twitter).
Shekarchi, who is an attorney but doesn’t work criminal trials, said he wants to take a look at how other states handle it, which just begs for a long-named special commission that will report back to us in 2043.
A constitutional right to education
Shekarchi continues to cast doubt on the need for the state to approve a constitutional right to education, something Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and lots of education activists support. The speaker said he’s willing to once again hear the arguments (the question would ultimately be decided by voters, and a ballot question would need legislative approval), but he worries about taking educational decisions out of the hands of local elected officials and giving them to the judiciary.
RIPTA’s cash crunch
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is largely federally funded, but advocates are calling for Governor Dan McKee to come up with an extra $110 million to solve some of the agency’s budget problems. Shekarchi said RIPTA needs to “live within their budget like every other department.” When asked about cutting bus lines to close a budget gap, he said those are decisions for leaders at RIPTA to make.
Shekarchi’s political future
The speaker has twice as much money in his political campaign account as anyone else in Rhode Island ($2.1 million as of Sept. 30), which always leads to speculation about whether he’ll seek a different office in the future. How about governor? “I see no scenario where I would run against Governor McKee,” he said. However, he also said that former CVS executive Helena Foulkes told him that she will challenge McKee again in 2026 (she hasn’t made a public announcement yet).
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