Law­maker sur­prised to dis­cover law on duel­ing is still used

Woonsocket Call - - OBITUARIES / REGION -

PROV­I­DENCE (AP) — A Rhode Is­land law­maker tried to re­peal a 200-year-old law about duel­ing be­cause he fig­ured no one would be pros­e­cuted for that these days. He was sur­prised to learn that a woman was re­cently charged with vi­o­lat­ing a sec­tion of the law for ar­rang­ing a fight. House Ma­jor­ity Whip John Ed­wards in­tro­duced dozens of bills to re­peal old and un­con­sti­tu­tional laws in the leg­isla­tive ses­sion that ended in June. Rhode Is­land still has a law to pro­vide a tax ex­cep­tion for the sale of Bi­bles even though it states in the text of the law that it’s un­con­sti­tu­tional, for ex­am­ple. None of the bills passed both leg­isla­tive cham­bers. Like the duel­ing bill, some stalled be­cause laws Ed­wards tar­geted were still used. But the Demo­cratic rep­re­sen­ta­tive also couldn’t get enough law­mak­ers to sup­port his ef­forts. Demo­cratic Rep. Robert Craven is on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, where many of the bills were held. Craven, a lawyer, said he likes the con­cept of re­peal­ing an­ti­quated laws, par­tic­u­larly ones that are oner­ous for busi­nesses. But, he said, the com­mit­tee was deal­ing with many sub­stan­tive, time-con­sum­ing is­sues, in­clud­ing gun con­trol, and Rhode Is­land has a part­time leg­is­la­ture. “Those types of bills are sponges for the time we have,” he said. Ed­wards has tried for years to cre­ate a Gen­eral As­sem­bly com­mit­tee to re­view laws and rec­om­mend ones to strike. That idea didn’t gain trac­tion in the House. This year he in­tro­duced bills to re­peal old laws in­di­vid­u­ally, an ap­proach fa­vored by the House speaker. “Some­times these things take a ses­sion or two and I’m ex­tremely per­sis­tent,” he said Tues­day. Ed­wards picked some of the sil­li­est laws to start with. The

“Those types of bills are sponges for the time we have.” —House Ma­jor­ity Whip John Ed­wards

House passed his bills to re­peal laws that re­strict the amount of sea­weed Bar­ring­ton res­i­dents can take from the pub­lic beach to use as fer­til­izer and ban test­ing the speed of a horse on pub­lic high­ways. Some of the old laws are amus­ing, but they can be prob­lem­atic too, Ed­wards said. Given the anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric na­tion­ally, the state must re­peal its law about the “Amer­i­can­iza­tion” of schools, he said. It re­quires peo­ple be­tween the ages of 16 and 21 who can’t speak English to take classes or be fined. “Rhode Is­land has al­ways been a haven for im­mi­grants,” he said. “This just flies in the face of that.” The Se­nate didn’t vote on any of the bills. Demo­cratic Se­nate Pres­i­dent Do­minick Rug­ge­rio thinks the best ap­proach is to cre­ate the com­mit­tee to re­view laws. The Se­nate passed a bill to cre­ate a joint com­mit­tee but the House didn’t. Ed­wards said at least he learned this ses­sion which pro­pos­als are un­palat­able. A sec­tion of the duel­ing law pro­hibits ar­rang­ing a fight. A North Prov­i­dence woman pleaded no con­test to aid­ing a fight by ap­point­ment for en­cour­ag­ing her daugh­ter to fight an­other girl in Novem­ber, ac­cord­ing to the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice. Fish­er­men said they still use the grad­ing sys­tem con­tained in a pick­led fish law Ed­wards had pro­posed re­peal­ing, and di­vorce at­tor­neys took is­sue with strik­ing a law on adul­tery that pro­vided for a fine. Ed­wards said he’ll cull those out and rein­tro­duce the ones that stand a good chance of pass­ing next year.

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