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Senate Majority Leader Bill Irons on His Priorities, Taxes, and Abortion (posted November 26, 2000)

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Irons was interviewed on the WJAR-TV show "10 News Conference" broadcast on November 26, 2000. Among the topics covered included his leadership style, top priorities, taxes, the economy, and abortion.

Leadership Style -- His approach will be to "bring everyone into the process" and "make sure everyone is included", including individuals such as Senator Elizabeth Roberts and Tom Izzo, who supported former Majority Leader Paul Kelly. Irons said he spent 80 hours in the weeks before the Democratic Caucus talking to every Senator except one about how to run the Senate. He pledged not to rule in a "dictatorial manner".

Committee Chairs -- Irons indicated there would be changes in committee chairmanships, including the Senate Finance Committee (currently chaired by Mike Lenihan) and the Senate Judiciary Committee (currently led by Teresa Paiva-Weed). Irons already has appointed a female chief of staff and plans to appoint a women as committee chair.

Legislators Serving on Independent Commissions -- He supports legislators serving on independent boards and commissions. Groups opposed to this practice have engaged in a "disingenuous presentation" in claiming that removing legislators would be a way to take back democracy.

Top Priority -- His top priority is to keep growing the economy and to work for more competitive tax rates with neighboring states. He indicated he generally agreed with the RIPEC presentation of Gary Sasse about the need for more competitive rates and said he would not be afraid of the political consequences.

Piggy-back Income Tax -- Irons said it was time to study decoupling of the Rhode Island income tax from the federal income tax, but that such a move would make it more complicated for citizens to file their tax returns.

Inventory and Car Taxes -- He favors an acceleration of the phase-out of inventory taxes, but is "not a big fan" of the car tax elimination because it doesn't build the economy. The car tax phase-out provides a big tax break for luxury car owners, he said.

Biggest Challenge -- His biggest challenge is downsizing the legislature as approved by voters. This will be done by the 2002 election.

Relationship with House Leadership -- He characterized his relationship with House Leaders Harwood and Martineau as "extremely positive". All three are former hockey players, he said, and as a former goalie, he is ready to take the hardest shots from Harwood.

Abortion -- Irons claimed the Senate has become more pro-life as a result of voter decisions to replace pro-choice legislators with those favoring pro-life. In terms of his personal views, Iron said he was pro-choice, but that he supported 24-hour waiting periods for those seeking abortions and parental involvement in the decision.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services