PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Lt. Governor Daniel J. McKee and the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns on Tuesday called on the General Assembly to defeat legislation that would change firefighter overtime law and cost cities and towns millions of dollars at a time when municipalities are seeking to contain unsustainable fire protection costs.
At a press conference at the State House, the Lt. Governor and municipal leaders said the bills, S. 961 and H. 6278, represent a dangerous legislative intervention in municipal affairs that would alter the rights of cities and towns in their negotiations with public safety personnel.
"This legislation would impose an immeasurable cost on all Rhode Island cities and towns and, most assuredly, drive up local property taxes in many of our communities," said Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns President T. Joseph Almond, who is the Town Administrator in Lincoln.
Fifteen municipalities were represented at the press conference, from large cities like Providence and Warwick to smaller towns like Tiverton and Barrington.
Municipal leaders also sought to dispel misinformation that has been circulating on the issue of firefighter compensation.
"Let me be clear: No municipal leader I've spoken with is seeking to ask firefighters to work more hours for little or no additional pay. Municipal leaders stand ready and willing to negotiate fair compensation," said Lt. Governor McKee. "Passing this bill would be costly – and counterproductive – at a time when we're all supposed to be working toward a common and urgent goal: getting the Rhode Island economy moving again."
The Lt. Governor and municipal leaders sent a letter last month to the House and Senate leadership detailing serious concerns with two other bills, H. 5473 and S. 533, that would strip away municipalities' ability to freely manage a platoon structure or shift schedule in their fire departments. The state Supreme Court ruled in January, in a case involving North Kingstown, that such restructuring is a management right of the town.
Lt. Governor McKee, Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and other municipal leaders testified in opposition to S. 961 and H. 6278 in the Senate and House Labor Committees following Tuesday's press conference.
Under an Executive Order signed in February by Gov. Gina Raimondo, the Office of the Lt. Governor is charged with helping cities and towns become more efficient and save taxpayer dollars.
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