STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly approved legislation yesterday that would revise Cumberland’s charter in order to consolidate its four fire districts into one.
General Assembly passes measure to unite Cumberland fire districts
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly approved legislation yesterday that would reviseCumberland’s charter in order to consolidate its four fire districts into one.
In November of 2010, more than 80 percent of voters empowered the Town Council to take on the fire district issue. In May, the council approved a resolution, outlining their request for the General Assembly to issue a new charter for the proposed combined district.
Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) introduced the bill (2013-S 0958Aaa) at the request of the town of Cumberland and added taxpayer protections. He said the final product is the result of compromises from various parties who have a stake in the issue.
“Merging Cumberland’s fire districts not only makes the best fiscal sense, but is also a direct response to the will of the people,” Senator Pearson said. “The taxpayers asked, and we were able to deliver. The new charter provides the voters of Cumberland with the ability to elect the new fire committee directly in a general election so they can be held accountable for their decisions. In addition, it provides the first-ever tax cap to protect the town’s taxpayers. The revised legislation has the support of all four fire districts, the mayor and the Town Council.”
The Senate unanimously passed Senator Pearson’s bill on June 25, 2013. Last night, the House passed Pearson’s bill on a vote of 62 to 3.
The bill includes an element that would require the district to model its budget process in the fire charter after the open process outlined in the Cumberland Town Charter. The new provisions require public hearings and public notice prior to any budget action. Additionally, the legislation includes a clear referendum process that provides for the ability of any registered voter to petition for a town referendum on any issue related to the budget.
“I had two bills in the House this year, one being a companion to Senator Pearson’s bill, that support the notion of one fire district in Cumberland,” said Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls), who sponsored the House companion bill. “There were several amendments brought forth on the House floor tonight by Rep. Karen MacBeth that I felt would enhance this bill, and they failed. But ultimately, I support this legislation and know that it is in the best interest ofCumberland to unite the districts.”
Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), a cosponsor of the House bill (2013-H 6194A), added: “We went through constant revisions and compromise before settling on this plan. One of the more contentious points was the multi-tiered tax rate for businesses, which was in the initial bill. I fought hard to eliminate that provision because I know how much it would negatively impact businesses in Cumberland. I know this is something that voters have wanted for years, and I was glad I could be a part of history.”
Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) cosponsors the Senate legislation. Other cosponsors of the House bill include Representatives Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51,Woonsocket, Cumberland), Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence), David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) and Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick,Cranston).