Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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June 30, 1999


I am transmitting to the Secretary of State, with my signature, 99-S 0932, Substitute B, As Amended, "An Act Relating to the Rhode Island Traffic Safety and Accountability Act of 1999."

This bill establishes the Rhode Island State Traffic Tribunal and sets forth new provisions relating to the adjudication of traffic offenses. The Act creates a tribunal of seven judges/magistrates under the supervision of the District Court. It establishes appeal procedures to a three judge panel within the Traffic Tribunal and to the District Court. It also sets forth a uniform schedule of traffic offenses and mandates adherence to traffic tribunal procedures by the municipal courts.

This bill does improve certain aspects of the traffic tribunal both structurally and procedurally. Under the Act, the Administrative Adjudication Court is eliminated as an independent entity. In its place, the Traffic Tribunal is created under the supervision of the District Court. As vacancies in the Traffic Tribunal occur, magistrates, instead of lifetime appointed judges, will be appointed to serve limited eight year terms. The Act imposes compliance with uniform procedures in both the municipal courts and the Traffic Tribunal, k removes previous errors in drafting and correctly identifies various infractions as civil violations instead of criminal penalties. By creating a commission to monitor changes made by the legislation, the Act strives to maintain the prompt and efficient administration of justice.

I am disappointed, however, that the General Assembly did not go farther. The consolidation of offenses, or "bundling," should have been included in the bill so that all offenses arising from a single traffic incident could be heard by the court with jurisdiction higher education. The Budget contains aggressive funding for improvements in higher education facilities, including $15 million over three years for the Convocation Center at the University of Rhode Island.

In this Budget, the Assembly also has agreed to strengthen the Department of Environmental Management, with 21 new full-time equivalent employees. Elderly programs also have been enhanced, with significant rate increases for home health workers, and expansions in the elderly prescription drug program and in Meals on Wheels. The Budget also contains necessary funding increases resulting from caseload increases and greater demand in health and human service programs, including Developmental Disabilities, Medicaid and Cash Assistance, and purchased placements by the Department of Children, Youth and Families.

The Budget also continues with our multi-year tax and investment strategies previously enacted. The Act will move an additional penny of the gasoline tax from the general fund to the Department of Transportation and Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, and it contains the third year of reductions in the income tax, continued investment in asset protection, and continued reductions in business taxes.

I am disappointed however that this Budget fails to include funding for full-day kindergarten programs, increases needed for economic development programs, a new Center on Aging, and increased funding for the arts.

With the additional May revenues, this Budget increases spending by $175 million, or 8.6 percent over the FY 1999 enacted Budget. However, $80.5 million of this increase, nearly 50 percent, consists of aid to local communities.

While we have been fortunate with healthy increases in funding over the last two fiscal years, available resources are expected to tighten for FY 2001. In this regard, we will need to reassess tax and spending commitments to produce a balanced budget that continues to meet the needs of the State of Rhode Island. As always, I pledge to work diligently with the General Assembly in order to keep Rhode Island moving forward.


Lincoln Almond