PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, sitting at a small table in his State House office, couldn't stress enough the importance of a special legislative session late in 2011 during which lawmakers passed a landmark pension overhaul bill.

"The General Assembly convened a special session on pensions. I can't remember — ever — a special session on one topic," Chafee said in an interview. "Sometimes they come back to confirm judges. But they returned in the fall just to tackle this one issue. Tunnel vision, no trading of votes."

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