When newly elected Senate President Dominick Ruggerio was the majority leader, he was the second Senate sponsor of the bill to legalize cannabis. “I believe that removing marijuana from the black market may make our communities safer,” he told the AP last year.
But that doesn’t mean now that Ruggerio is Senate president that the tax and regulate bill he co-signed will get a vote.
“I’m a supporter of the concept,” he told me. But as for the specific bill, he said, “I’m not there yet. I’m not saying I won’t support it. We’re looking at the issue. I think it’s a complicated issue. We’re looking at what’s happening with other states. I’m really concerned with how the rules and regulations will be promulgated. I’m not always comfortable with some of our agencies that promulgate that. I think the rules and regulations should be in the legislation itself.”
Ruggerio, who took over as Senate president today after Teresa Paiva Weed resigned, said he shares the former Senate president’s commitment to passing the Justice Reinvestment Act. “I would be in favor of that,” he said. “Absolutely. We think it’s a great piece of legislation. I am a big proponent of that.”
He also said he supports governor Raimondo’s proposal to make two years of public college free to in-state students, in concept. “I’m supportive of it,” he said. But added, “We have a $100 million deficit coming into the fiscal year.”
He said he supports eliminating the sales tax on clothing, a bill he said wasn’t “marketed very well” in the past.
Ruggerio, who said he has a good relationship with House Speaker Nick Mattiello, said he’s waiting to see Mattiello’s car tax proposal before weighing in on that.
He said committee chairs, include Finance, could see changes. “This has kinda happened so suddenly, we haven’t really sat down. We’re going to be meeting in the near future to decide what we are going to do.”
He admitted policy isn’t his strong suit as a legislator. “Am I policy person? No. I was more or less a facilitator here when I was majority leader. There was no one better on policy than Teresa so I often left that to her. We have great policy people here. I rely on them for guidance.”
I asked him if he identified as a progressive Democrat. “No,” he said flatly. “I might be considered a moderate.”
Ruggerio said the past 24 hours have been both exciting and exausting. “I feel energized and I feel totally beat,” he said.