PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — From the lowest unemployment rate in six years to a new policy on detaining immigrants, here are five things to know in Rhode Island:
There's a new policy in Rhode Island related to holding immigrants in custody. The state Department of Corrections will no longer honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — known as detainers — to hold an immigrant unless a warrant has been issued. Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the new policy Thursday. Civil liberties and immigrants' rights advocates had raised constitutional concerns. In February, a federal judge in Rhode Island determined a U.S. citizen's constitutional rights were violated when she was held on such an ICE request. She's suing.
A GOP TUSSLE
The two Republicans seeking the party's nomination for governor jostled in a campaign round table in which they agreed broadly on some issues but got testy, too. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and businessman Ken Block met in a special edition of Rhode Island Public Radio's "Political Roundtable." The mayor portrayed himself as the candidate with experience who has gotten "real results" in his city and would focus as governor on jobs. Block highlighted his plan to identify waste and fraud in state government and said he would use the bully pulpit to bring reform.
A SHRUNKEN MAYOR'S FIELD
Businessman Lorne Adrain dropped out of Providence's mayoral race, a decision that could make the path to victory harder for former mayor and two-time convicted felon Buddy Cianci. Adrain, who like Cianci was running as an independent, called it a tough decision but one that was best for the city given the "risk" of a Cianci victory. A general election field of two independents, the eventual Democratic nominee and the lone Republican running would have meant the victor could win with a small percentage.
Rhode Island's unemployment rate of 7.9 percent is the lowest since July 2008, and officials say the economy had its best six-month start in years. The state Department of Labor and Training reported this week that the rate was down three-tenths of a percentage point from May. The state shed 400 jobs in June, but the number was up 5,900 in the first half of the year. The state is tied with Mississippi for the country's worst unemployment rate.
HEALTH INSURANCE RATES
Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Hittner approved premium rates for 2015 that include single-digit increases for most insurers and a drop for one. The individual rate for Blue Cross & Blue Shield will increase 4.5 percent and drop over 7 percent for Neighborhood Health Plan. UnitedHealthcare is entering the individual market for the first time. Average increases for large groups range from 5 percent to 11 percent. The commissioner says there will be more competition and plan choice next year, in part because of the efforts of the state's insurance marketplace, HealthSource RI.