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RI Senate President Paiva Weed resigns to pursue new hospital job

Rhode Island’s Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed became emotional Wednesday as she announced her resignation from her position to pursue a job as President of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. (WJAR)

Rhode Island’s Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed became emotional Wednesday as she announced her resignation from her position to pursue a job as President of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.

Holding back tears, 57-year-old Paiva Weed shared the news with reporters at a press conference just before 5 p.m., ending her career in the Senate.

“This has been a very special time in my life, having had the opportunity to represent the residents of Newport and Jamestown for the past 25 years,” said Paiva Weed. “I am both humbled and grateful for the faith and trust they have placed in me, and it has been my privilege to be their voice in the Rhode Island Senate. With their support, and with the active involvement of my colleagues in the Senate, I am immensely proud of the accomplishments we have achieved together.”

Paiva Weed, who has been a member of the Senate since 1992 and was the first woman to become elected as Senate president in 2009, will start her new position at HARI, a "statewide non-profit organization dedicated to assisting member hospitals to meet the health care needs of Rhode Islanders" effective May 1.

“After much soul searching, I believe it is time to take on new challenges," she said. "Perhaps at no other time in our history has it been so critically important to ensure the vibrancy and affordability of hospitals and our overall health care system. The Hospital Association of Rhode Island is tasked with making sure access and affordability to quality care is available to all, and I’m pleased to assume the responsibility of being an advocate for all Rhode Islanders when it comes to their health care needs.”

Meanwhile, the entire body will be required to elect a new president, and given the predominance of Democrats in the body, 33 compared to 5 republicans, whomever the Democrats select in an expected caucus will almost certainly win the presidency.

Right now, it looks like Dominick Ruggerio, the current majority leader, will be named as Paiva Weed’s successor.

Ruggerio is the longest serving member of the senate. In his 32nd year, he is an official with the Laborer’s Union Management trust.

But in 2012, Ruggerio was arrested on a DUI charge.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions last evening and regret how this may impact my family, my constituents, my colleagues, and the Senate,’’ Ruggerio said in a statement at the time.

Ruggerio was also arrested, but never prosecuted, for allegedly shoplifting condoms from a CVS in 1990.

During an exclusive Connect to the Capitol segment on NBC 10 News with Dan Jaehnig, Raimondo said that despite Ruggerio’s trouble with the law, she thinks he would be an “excellent choice” for Senate president.

“Both of those were many years ago,” the governor said. "I think he has a good record of public service. I've worked well with him and I think we should judge him on his output."

Ruggerio has been a member of the Senate since 1984. He said his work at the State House gets "more exciting" and "more challenging" with each passing year.

"I served four years in the House when I first came here and then in 1984, I came into the Senate. Did I expect to stay here this long? Absolutely not," he said. "And you know what? It gets more exciting every year. It gets more challenging every year."

The Democrats will be holding their caucus Wednesday at 3 p.m. It’s expected they will endorse Ruggerio as president, as well as elect Mike McCaffery as majority leader.

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