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To the editor:
Sen. Pagliarini’s letter about Portsmouth’s tax stabilization bill is more than revisionist history — it’s pure fiction. Here’s what really happened.
In November 2015, the Town Council voted to seek enabling legislation to ensure we could continue our enterprise zone program. When the legislature convened in January, our new senator, Mr. Pagliarini, refused to introduce this bill for the town. In fact he submitted his own bill (S2289) to rescind all local tax incentive programs. Fortunately, Sen. DiPalma from Middletown stepped up and introduced S2268, which was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and scheduled for hearing on Tuesday May 17.
At that hearing Sen. Pagliarini vehemently opposed any enabling authority for Portsmouth. He latched onto PCC leader Larry Fitzmorris’ bogus legal argument that it would violate the R.I. Constitution for the legislature to authorize any tax exemption program without a local referendum. I had to inform Sen. Pagliarini (a lawyer) that the R.I. Supreme Court rejected that very same legal argument 20 years ago (apparently this was news to him).
The committee chairman suggested we model our bill on recent legislation passed for other communities. That was fine with us, since the exact form or language wasn’t the point. The committee held the bill so we could make the changes.
The next day (Wednesday, May 18) our solicitor drafted and emailed Sen. DiPalma a proposed S2268 “SubA” modeled after a 2012 bill passed for West Greenwich. I put this matter on the Monday, May 23 council agenda to approve the SubA. On Friday, May 19, the Senate Finance Committee scheduled S2268 for further hearing on Tuesday, May 24, to consider the SubA. All this happened without involvement from Sen. Pagliarini. He never communicated with the council, as far as we knew he still opposed any enabling legislation.
At the May 23 council meeting, Sen. Pagliarini, not on the agenda, showed up and tried to hijack the legislation. He presented a draft of a “new” bill with his name on it. His new bill essentially mimicked the proposed S2268 SubA —except he added language to exclude farmers and other businesses from participating in the program. The council voted to approve Sen. DiPalma’s SubA, which was on the agenda, with minor language changes.
The next day, the Senate Finance Committee approved S2268 SubA (with minor corrections). On June 1, the Senate passed S2268 SubA, as amended. No bill was ever introduced by Sen. Pagliarini.
It seems Sen. Pagliarini had a last-minute epiphany and reversed his months-long opposition to the enabling legislation. His letter is a “damage control” attempt to rewrite history to look like he’s supporting the town. He doesn’t, and should be honest with us about what really happened.
Vice president, Portsmouth Town Council
72 Macomber Lane