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New England Governors Talk Vaping, Health Care, Transit And More

Courtesy: Governor's Office
Governor Ned Lamont, center left, talks with Governors Charlie Baker and Gina Raimondo on the grounds of Providence College, October 24, 2019.

Cross-state cooperation on marijuana and on vaping issues headlined the latest meeting between the governors of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Ned Lamont, Gina Raimondo and Charlie Baker met in Providence Thursday. It’s just three months since their last summit in Connecticut.

Lamont stressed the practical nature of their partnership, saying they’re already working on several joint projects.

“Especially for a relatively small state like Connecticut, when I can team with Massachusetts and Rhode Island we have much more economies of scale,” he said, “not just in terms of regulation, but purchasing, and actually thinking more long-term about our environmental and energy futures.”

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo echoed that, saying she hopes the three administrations may be able to save money by making joint purchases.

“We’re all purchasing, say a Microsoft license. If you’re all purchasing the same thing, you combine that, and you’re able to save money,” she said.”It’s really money savings for the taxpayers of all of our states and that’s a concrete thing we’ve done.”

On marijuana, both Raimondo and Lamont said they hope to learn from the experience of Massachusetts, the only one of the three so far to legalize the drug for recreational use.

Governor Charlie Baker too said he believes there’s learning to be done.

“I wish we’d dealt with some of the issues around drugged driving and the rules of the game around that as the law was passed, so it just could have been baked into the bill,” he said. “There’s currently legislation pending on that.”

Baker said he also touched on the health care reform that he’s working on currently. He sees it as an opportunity to look at cross-state licensing or reciprocity between the three states for health care workers.

For Raimondo that opportunity could be broadened to many other industries.

“To have a lot more reciprocal agreements as it relates to licensing across industries -- welders, plumbers, pipefitters, electricians. It’s something that’s frustrating. It slows down commerce, and a concrete thing that we can all work on to make our region more economically competitive.”

Governors Raimondo and Baker are strategizing as their administrations face separate legal challenges to executive orders banning the sale of vaping products. Connecticut has not yet taken the approach of a ban in the wake of a major health scare over respiratory disease.

“These isolated regulations one state to another when, our states are all pretty close together,” said Lamont, contemplating “what we could do together in terms of regulating this in a very thoughtful way.”

Another idea the governors say they’re working on: improving public transit, including adding high-speed rail between the states.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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