Portsmouth school board objects to contract continuation bill

Resolution asks lawmakers not to override governor’s veto

EastBayRI.com ·

PORTSMOUTH — The School Committee has a strong message for state legislators: Don’t try to override Gov. Gina Raimondo’s veto of the “contract continuation” legislation that was passed in the waning days of the General Assembly’s last session in June.

The committee Tuesday night voted unanimously to send a resolution telling House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio not to revive the two bills (S-0285 and H-5593).

“If these bills were to become law, the Portsmouth School Committee would no longer have an opportunity to negotiate contracts that are both fair to its employees and in the best interests of students and taxpayers,” stated the resolution, which is modeled on one approved by the Cumberland School Committee.

Committee members said the legislation’s statutory language is so broad it could incentivize unions to withdraw from bargaining future contracts altogether unless the newer pact was more advantageous to labor than the current one, particularly when the economy takes a downturn.

“Such an outcome would put cities and towns at increased financial risk during the very periods when they require the most flexibility to weather economic storms,” the resolution stated.

Assembly reconvenes next month

Although the bills are dead for now, the General Assembly could try to override the governor’s veto when it reconvenes in September. 

Larry Fitzmorris of the taxpayer watchdog group Portsmouth Concerned Citizens said he believes the legislature has the necessary two-thirds majority to override the governor’s veto. 

“I strongly recommend that you pass a resolution clearly stating you are opposed to this legislation,” he said. “This is a role delegated to the School Committee by the people of the Town of Portsmouth.”

If a contract continuation bill became law, Mr. Fitzmorris said, it would “eat whatever options you had in terms of budget and planning.”

School Committee Chairwoman Terri Cortvriend noted that local lawmakers Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71) and Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70) were among the legislators who voted for the legislation.

“I do think we have a number of our representatives who are not really listening to what the school committees (support) as the preferred legislation,” she said.

Another local lawmaker, Rep. Kenneth J. Mendonça (R-Dist. 72) voted against the bill, Ms. Cortvriend said. Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11) was not present during the vote, so he was counted as a “no” vote, she said.

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