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Monday, July 3, 2017

Coming to a farm near you?

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island's Future

Screen shot from Sakonnet Vineyards website.
Sometimes at the State House the script gets flipped and Democrats find themselves supporting freedom from regulations and Republicans find themselves advocating for local zoning restrictions. 

Such was the case in the House of Representatives last night as the Democrat-dominated chamber passed the so-called “Right to Farm” bill by a 46 to 23 vote, with many progressive Democrats voting with the majority and all Republicans voting against it.

The bill would allow farmers to host “festivals and weddings” regardless of municipal land use laws. It’s widely seen as a gift to Alex and Ani owner Carolyn Rafaelian, who also owns Sakonnet Vineyards and has been rankling her Little Compton neighbors with increasingly popular and loud summer concert series. Little Compton limits the number of concerts the farm can host and the bill would circumvent that.

“This smells like some hotshot wants to undermine local authorities by coming to us,” said Republican Rep. Anthony Giarrusso, according to the Providence Journal. While Democrat sponsor of the legislation Greg Constantino told the ProJo, “It’s not her bill.”

In total 12 Democrats voted with 11 Republicans against the bill, including: Edie Ajello, D-Providence; Julie Casimiro, D-North Kingstown; Kathy Fogarty, D-South Kingstown; Joy Hearn, D-Barrington; Carol McEntee, D-Narragansett/South Kingstown; Jared Nunes, D-Coventry; Jay O’Grady, D-Lincoln; Ramon Perez, D-Providence; Deb Ruggerio, D-Jamestown/Middletown; and Teresa Tanzi, D-Narragansett/South Kingstown. Dennis Canario, who represents Little Compton, voted against it, as did Jay Edwards, who represents nearby Tiverton. Constantino, the sponsor, did not vote.

Many liberal-leaning legislators voted for the bill, including  Mia Ackerman, D-Cumberland; Joe Almeida, D-Providence; Greg Amore, D-East Providence; Jean Philippe Barros, D-Pawtucket; David Bennett, D-Warwick; Chris Blazejewski, D-Providence; Susan Donovan, D-Bristol; Art Handy, D-Cranston; Jason Knight, D-Bristol; John Lombardi, D-Providence; Shelby Maldonado, D-Central Falls; Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, D-Providence; Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence; Evan Shanley, D-Warwick; Moira Walsh, D-Providence.
Had 12 of them voted against the bill, it would have failed.

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.