RI House votes to replace EDC with Commerce Corp.

The Rhode Island House voted Tuesday to replace the state's Economic Development Corp. with a new Commerce Corp. led by a secretary of commerce.

The House passed the measure on Tuesday on a 70-4 vote, with more than enough supporters to override a threatened veto by now-Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

"We don't want to look at it so much as a total deorganize. It's more like a reorganize," said state Rep. Helio Melo, chairman of the Finance Committee. "That's the whole point of the reorganization. Let's see what works best for the state of Rhode Island."

Chafee said he thinks replacing the EDC with a new agency would be waste of time. He said 10 consecutive months of declining unemployment prove the state should stay the course.

"We're going in the right direction. Let's get that continuity, that momentum, keep it going. I'm opposed to that bill that's going through the House," Chafee told NBC 10 News before the vote. "It's too diversionary of our energies right now."

The EDC has come under fire following the collapse of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's video game company 38 Studios, which received a $75 million loan guarantee approved by the EDC board.

State lawmakers said they believe a new agency could better coordinate economic development efforts. The Senate is looking at proposals to audit and oversee the EDC, but not kill it.

"It will give us a better grip on what they're doing there, and obviously having light is some of the best antiseptic that we can have," said state Sen. James Sheehan, D-North Kingstown. "Fundamentally, the structure is the same there, but that doesn't include some of the other bills that we have in that change the way we do business in Rhode Island."