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15,317
  
STATE HOUSE - Rep.William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is supporting the efforts of the North Providence Historic District Commission to save the E.A. Brayton School from demolition and instead redevelop the former school into a vital part of the community.

“The revitalization of the Centredale section of North Providence is an exciting opportunity for our city and I believe that the redevelopment of the E.A. Brayton School could be a crucial aspect of this effort.  There have been so many success stories in our state of former school buildings transforming from vacant structures to various combinations of public and private use which leads me to fully support the efforts of the North Providence Historic District Commission to not only save this historic building from demolition, but also to think outside of the box to create a community space that will support the neighborhood for generations to come,” said Representative O’Brien.

Representative O’Brien is encouraging all interested parties and developers to submit letters of interest to the North Providence Historic District Commission.  The proposals should be addressed to Ruth Bucci, Chairwoman of the commission, at 50 Intervale Avenue, North Providence, RI 02911.
9/20/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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15,316
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Arthur Corvese has secured a legislative grant to help support the Marieville Neighborhood Partnership.

The $3,500 grant, which Representative Corvese recently delivered to the organization, will help the group carry out its mission of obtaining and maintaining open space and supporting the community.

“The Marieville Neighborhood Partnership is a wonderful example of residents working together to improve the neighborhood and build a stronger community in our town. There’s so much energy and commitment in this new organization, and I’m proud to support them in their very positive efforts to create places in North Providence where residents can work, play or relax together,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence).

North Providence Town Council Members Ken Amoriggi and Stefano Famiglietti, who both helped start the Marieville Neighborhood Partnership, said they are excited about what the new group can do for the neighborhood and all of North Providence.

“It’s been a goal and a dream of ours for some time to bring the community together. This grant will help us grow as an organization. Ultimately, we would like to see the community group grow into a town-wide entity, or inspire others to come together and create their own community groups,” said Councilman Amoriggi, who serves as president of the partnership.

Councilman Famiglietti, who serves on the partnership’s Board of Directors, said, “It’s a very energetic group of people. What I’m hopeful for is, as we spread through Marieville and stretch the boundaries, that other people will be willing to join in the idea and help the community as well.”
9/19/2019RepRep. Arthur Corvese; #11; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Many Rhode Islanders will experience relief from rising insurance rates next year, due in part to legislation sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero.

The Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner recently approved rates for 2020, and thanks to the upcoming establishment of a statewide reinsurance program created through the legislation, the rates represent more than $15.5 million in cuts to the rate increases sought by insurers.

In many cases, those who purchase their health insurance on the individual market will actually see a decrease in their premiums.

The reinsurance program, approved by the General Assembly in 2018 and included in this year’s budget bill, is designed to pay for some of the most expensive insurance claims, resulting in lower premiums for consumers. This year during the rate review process insurers were asked to submit rates with reinsurance, and without. Without the reinsurance program, average individual rates would have increased by up to 7 percent over 2019 rates. With the reinsurance program, many Rhode Islanders on the individual market will be paying less in premiums in 2020 than they did in 2019.

“I’m proud to be a part of developing innovative solutions to address the soaring costs of insurance. Ultimately, this is about saving Rhode Islanders money — particularly small-business owners who are often in the individual market — and doing everything we can do to control the soaring costs of insurance premiums,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).
9/19/2019RepRep. Deborah Ruggiero; #145; Meredyth R. Whitty
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15,314
  
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Arthur Corvese and Rep. William W. O’Brien have secured $10,000 to help assist with the creation of a new K-9 unit for the North Providence Police Department.
The legislative grant will help ensure that the new unit will be fully supported through grants rather than through the town budget.

“North Providence has not had a K-9 unit in years, and bringing it back will be a terrific public service that improves public safety and community relations for the police department. Representative O’Brien and I are very proud to be able to play a part in supporting this very positive development, particularly since it helps ensure that it won’t impact the town’s finances. We are looking forward to a successful partnership that will enhance our community,” said Representative Corvese.

In July, the police department was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation to establish a K-9 unit that will help with patrolling, tracking suspects or missing persons, detecting illegal substances, and controlling suspects if necessary. That grant funded the purchase of the dog, training, kennel construction and other costs like retrofitting a cruiser as a K-9 vehicle. The dog, a 16-month-old Czechoslovakian Malinois named Dusko, arrived in North Providence in late July, and is in training this month with his human partner, Patrolman Jeffrey Galligan, a 20-year veteran of the force and an animal lover who helped advocate for the creation of the K-9 unit.

The legislative grant will help with other costs, such as overtime when the unit is called into service outside of scheduled hours.

Dusko will also contribute to the department’s community policing efforts.

“Besides the valuable technical assistance a K-9 unit can provide, having a dog on the force is very helpful for connecting with the community. People smile and kids get excited when they see animals assisting officers. It helps people relate with the police department and helps build trust with community members,” said Representative O’Brien.

Said Police Chief Col. David Tikoian, “On behalf of the sworn and civilian members of the North Providence Police Department, I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to Representatives Arthur Corvese and William O’Brian as well as Speaker Nicholas Mattiello for their support of the North Providence Police K-9 Unit. The $10,000 legislative grant secured by these gentlemen will augment the $25,000 Stanton Foundation Grant to help defray the costs of overtime, training, equipment and medical expenses for our reinstituted K-9 Unit. From my perspective, the establishment of a K-9 Unit is a win-win for the department and the town, affording our police officers yet another tool to keep the community safe.  I would also like to acknowledge Mayor/Public Safety Director Charles Lombardi for his support of the reinstitution of this valuable unit.”

IN PHOTO: Representatives William W. O’Brien and Arthur Corvese present a $10,000 legislative grant to the North Providence Police Department to support the new K-9 unit. From left, Lt. Michael Scaramuzzo; Patrolman Jeffrey Galligan and his new K-9 partner, Dusko; Representative O’Brien, Police Chief Col. David Tikoian; Representative Corvese; and Lt. Michael Tavarozzi.

9/18/2019RepRep. Arthur Corvese; Rep. William O'Brien; #11; #193; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE, Providence – The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled its first hearing to review legislation authorizing an extension of the state’s lottery contract with IGT Global Solutions Corporation. The committee will meet Thursday, September 19 at 5 p.m. in Room 313 of the State House.
 
The hearing will include an overview by the Senate staff and the Division of Purchases on state purchasing procedures. The Division of Lottery will present background on the state lottery system, and the Senate staff and members of the Administration will provide a review of the original authorizing legislation and Master Agreement.
 
Public testimony will be taken at a future hearing, and the public is invited to submit testimony through a special website established to help make materials related to the committee’s review readily accessible to the public. The website, www.SenateLotteryContractHearings.com, also will include video of the hearings.
 
The legislation, 2019-S 1031, was introduced in June in advance of the fall hearings to provide ample time for public review. It is sponsored by President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin on behalf of Governor Gina Raimondo.
 
Subsequent hearings are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 1; Tuesday, October 15; Tuesday, October 22; and Thursday, October 24.

9/18/2019SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Sen. William Conley; #85; #202; Greg Pare
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NoYesApproved3705789/18/2019 11:01 AMSystem Account9/18/2019 11:01 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee will be meeting on September 24 and October 3 to hear testimony on the proposed contract extension for IGT.

On September 24 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will receive a House Fiscal overview of the proposed deal and will also hear testimony from the governor’s administration concerning the contract extension.

On October 3 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 35 of the State House, the committee will hear testimony from IGT regarding the proposal.  Public testimony will only be accepted during this meeting.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement (2019-H 6266), IGT will be responsible for a $25 million payment to the State, $150 million in capital investments over the next 20 years, and at least 1,100 permanent jobs in Rhode Island.

9/17/2019RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3705779/17/2019 2:14 PMSystem Account9/17/2019 2:14 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Included in the state budget (2019-H 5151Aaa) passed by the General Assembly is legislation introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) that would create the Rhode Island Small Business Development Fund.

“We’ve seen small businesses leave the state just when they’re on the verge of growth; not because they don’t want to stay, but because they simply cannot acquire the capital they need to stay here,” said Representative Solomon. “This is an effective way to provide these small businesses with capital that will continue to stimulate Rhode Island’s economy and keep our skilled workforce employed in well-paying jobs.”

The fund is designed to encourage the formation of private capital investment in small business by federally licensed investment companies.

“This gives smaller businesses the access to capital that they need to grow,” said Senator Conley, who serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “It provides for the flow of capital investment into small businesses identified as critical to our state’s future and creates jobs. In fact, an impact assessment demonstrates that for every 100 jobs created in the targeted industries, another 113 indirect and individual jobs are created.  Further, every 100 jobs created or retained in the targeted sectors will support nearly $21 million in Gross State Product (GSP).”

Investments would be designated for targeted growth industries for the state, including clean energy, biomedical innovations, life sciences, information technology, cyber security, defenses maritime, and others would be required to be diversified — no one small business would receive more than $4 million or 20 percent of a fund’s investment authority and the business must have a strategy for reaching out to and investing in minority business enterprises.
6/28/2019RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Joseph J. Solomon; #202; #214; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3704876/28/2019 10:24 AMSystem Account9/17/2019 9:40 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) is planning on introducing legislation during the upcoming 2020 General Assembly session that would ban non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products in order to combat youth usage and emerging health dangers centered around vaping product use.

“It’s undebatable that our country’s youth are using e-cigarettes and vaping devices at crisis levels and that their health is in direct danger from using these products.  It is also not debatable that the allure of many youth to vaping comes from the wide-variety of candy-like and fruit flavors that are being offered with the expressed purpose of hooking a new generation on these dangerous products.  Simply put, these products need to be taken off the shelves for the health and safety of our children,” said Representative Casimiro.

Representative Casimiro’s legislation will be modeled on a recently imposed ban in Michigan, the first state in the country to take such action.

“These devices and products are relatively new in the marketplace and not one expert or doctor knows the potential dangers of using these products, especially in regard to the still-developing bodies of our kids.  Combine this with the deceptive marketing practices that are labeling vaping products as safer than cigarettes, I feel direct legislative action is needed in order to combat this growing public health emergency,” concluded Representative Casimiro.

9/17/2019RepRep. Julie A. Casimiro; #237; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3705769/17/2019 9:32 AMSystem Account9/17/2019 9:32 AMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) was honored by the Rural Jobs Coalition as the organization’s Legislator of the Year during a NCLS conference held in Nashville last month.

The group honored Chairman Abney for his leadership in passing Economic Opportunity Zone legislation in Rhode Island.

“It was an incredible honor to be recognized with this award.  I believe economic opportunity zones have the ability to transform Rhode Island in positive and sustainable ways and I am eager for the communities of our state to take advantage of this program to ensure future success,” said Representative Abney.

The Rural Jobs Coalition’s Legislator of the Year award was born as a way to celebrate legislators who demonstrate tremendous vision for and support of their communities and the local small businesses located in the many areas of the country that are under served by traditional sources of investment capital.

Representative Abney was selected due his strong leadership in helping to grow small businesses and create new jobs in Rhode Island by providing greater economic opportunity and the ability to keep those who want to reside, work and raise a family in Rhode Island within the state. 

The Opportunity Zones program is a new economic development tool for designated Rhode Island communities to attract private equity investment in businesses and real estate. This federal program provides a tax incentive for private investors to direct capital gains into equity investments in qualified projects within designated Opportunity Zones. The incentive is designed to encourage long-term investment - with certain tax benefits kicking in only after maintaining the investment for at least ten years.

Rhode Island Opportunity Zones are located in twenty-five census tracts spread across the following fifteen municipalities: Bristol, Central Falls, Cranston, Cumberland, East Providence, Narragansett, Newport, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, South Kingstown, Warren, West Warwick, Westerly, and Woonsocket. Opportunity Zones in Rhode Island have the potential to attract private investment for business expansion, startup creation, and real estate development; promote synergy with state and local efforts; and support the needs of local communities.
9/13/2019RepRep. Marvin Abney; #199; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3705759/13/2019 2:21 PMSystem Account9/13/2019 2:22 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Joshua Miller was honored today by Department of Health officials for his longtime leadership on public health issues.

“For many years, Senator Miller has devoted his energies to assuring that Rhode Islanders have access to safe, affordable healthcare and to qualified, capable providers. As Chair of the Rhode Island Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, Senator Miller has worked hard to make sure that his colleagues understand the public health implications of legislation before the committee,” said Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. “Senator Miller is the epitome of what an engaged legislative champion of public health should be, and we are extremely proud to have him as a partner and recognize him today.”

Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) has served on the Health and Human Services Committee since he joined the Senate in 2007, and became its chairman in 2013. Senator Miller has been involved in legislative efforts to make health insurance more affordable to ratepayers and employers. He has sponsored far-reaching legislation to control health care costs, increase transparency and improve quality. Senator Miller was a driving force behind enactment of legislation providing parity in coverage of mental health and substance use disorders. He championed a package of legislation addressing the mental health system, aimed at improving preventative services and treatment, as well as a comprehensive package of legislation addressing the opioid overdose crisis. He also has served as a member of the Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. This year he sponsored legislation aimed at giving the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline the power to fine providers who overprescribe, as well as several successful measures sought by the Department of Health.

“I am deeply honored to be recognized by the Department of Health, which has always been an ally in the effort to make public health better, more accessible and more affordable for all Rhode Islanders. I look forward to continuing to work with leaders at the department, because health is always a priority for our state,” said Chairman Miller.

IN PHOTO: Sen. Joshua Miller, center, with Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, left, and Deputy Director Ana Novais.
 
9/11/2019SenSen. Joshua Miller; #118; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3705749/11/2019 4:24 PMSystem Account9/11/2019 4:25 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) is planning to introduce legislation during the upcoming General Assembly session in January to require public schools to conduct a moment of silence for students and staff every September 11th.

“After the New York law was brought to my attention, I thought this policy would also be useful in Rhode Island’s classrooms.  September 11th was one of the most seminal events in our country’s history and as each anniversary of the event goes by, it’s important that we impress the significance of the attack on our students to not only memorialize all that were lost and sacrificed during the attacks, but also to help engage in conversations with students about the impact and history of that terrible day,” said Senator Raptakis.

Senator Raptakis will be basing his proposed legislation on a bill that was recently signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The proposed bill would require a brief moment of silence at the beginning of the school day on every September 11th to inspire dialogue and remembrance of the devastating attacks in 2001.  By passing the law during the next legislative session, the law would be in effect for the twentieth anniversary of the attack in 2021.

9/11/2019SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3705739/11/2019 1:15 PMSystem Account9/11/2019 1:15 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — In recognition of his efforts to champion public health legislation, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) was given a legislative leadership award by Department of Health officials.

Representative McNamara has been a longtime supporter of public health initiatives. In 2016, he sponsored the Rhode Island Family Home Visiting Act, establishing the family home visiting program. The same year he also introduced legislation that was part of a comprehensive substance use disorder package which allowed better sharing of data, giving providers the information they need to monitor prescribing practices.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition of my efforts to make Rhode Island a safer and healthier place to live,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “I look forward to building upon those efforts in the next session to ensure that the public health is always a top priority of the General Assembly.”

This year, he championed the department’s Adult Immunization Registration legislation, which has been signed into law.

“Chairman McNamara is an exemplary leader and has been a longtime supporter of public health initiatives,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Department of Health. “He is one of our most valued partners in ensuring the Department of Health achieves our strategic priorities of addressing the socioeconomic and environmental determinants of health, eliminating health disparities and promoting heath equity, and ensuring access to quality health services for all Rhode Islanders. We are proud to recognize him today as a public health champion.”
9/11/2019RepRep. Joseph McNamara; #41; Daniel Trafford
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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/DOH-award-web_jpg.jpgNoApproved
NoYesApproved3705729/11/2019 11:19 AMSystem Account9/11/2019 11:19 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) is praising the successful launch of mobile sports betting in Rhode Island.  Mobile sports betting was authorized earlier this year after passing the General Assembly and the governor signing the legislation into law in March.

“The successful launch of mobile sports betting represents an exciting time for Rhode Islanders and those who travel from out of state to place legal sports bets in our casinos.  This product will generate much-needed revenue and I am looking forward to seeing the successful results for all of Rhode Island,” said Representative O’Brien.

The legislation (2019-S 0037A, 2019-H 5241), sponsored by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), enabled the creation of an app consumers could use to access the sports gaming offerings at Twin River from anyplace within the parameters of the state of Rhode Island. Consumers must initially set up their accounts in person at Twin River, and thereafter can place a wager from anywhere in the state. They must be physically in the state of Rhode Island in order to wager. The system will utilize technology to determine the location of any person placing a wager, and will not accept wagers from outside of the state’s boundaries.

Similar to other states, such as New Jersey, wagering is received upon a server-based gaming system located on the premises of the casinos, and therefore deemed to be placed and accepted at the casino. The State of Rhode Island will continue to receive 51 percent of all winnings from sports wagering, among the highest rates in the country.

9/9/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3705719/9/2019 11:39 AMSystem Account9/9/2019 11:40 AMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) are inviting the public to attend a memorial service at Oakland Beach in Warwick to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The distance of 18 years has not diminished the sting we still feel from the events of 9/11,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson. “Events such as these serve to bring us closer together as we honor those who fell; and it reminds us of the work we still need to do to combat terrorism around the globe.”

The event will begin at 10:15 a.m. by military veterans.  There will be a call for a moment of silence at 10:28, when the first tower fell. The Rev. Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church in Warwick, has agreed to offer the invocation and benediction. After remarks by Warwick Mayor Joseph J. Solomon Sr., there will be a reading of the names, placement of flags; recitation of the 9-11 tribute poem and Taps at the sea wall where the Warwick 9-11 monument is located.

A candlelight vigil will take place on the same day at the same location at sunset. Participants are urged to bring a candle to be lighted at the vigil.
9/9/2019RepRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; #235; Daniel Trafford
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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/21-Vella-Wilkinson_jpg.jpgNoApproved
NoYesApproved3705709/9/2019 9:18 AMSystem Account9/9/2019 9:18 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) recently secured and delivered a $6,000 legislative grant for the South County YMCA that was used to purchase a large tent to shelter summer campers from rain and excessive heat.

“When the YMCA contacted me about the need for a large tent to protect its summer campers from the elements, I knew we had to help.   The summer camp serves so many children throughout the summer months and they need to be protected from rain and excessive heat and it was a true pleasure to help out the children and the YMCA,” said Representative McEntee.

The South County YMCA summer camp serves children from the ages of five to 15 throughout the summer months.

Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), second from the right, delivers a $6,000 legislative grant to the South County YMCA that was used to purchase a tent for children at the summer camp.


9/6/2019RepRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; #226; Andrew Caruolo
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NoYesApproved3705699/6/2019 12:18 PMSystem Account9/6/2019 12:18 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello commended Rhode Island-based CVS Health for marking the fifth anniversary of its decision to stop selling tobacco products with an expansion of its efforts to combat tobacco addiction.

“CVS Health is a true leader in public health. Its decision to remove tobacco products from its shelves five years ago was brave and demonstrated the company’s genuine commitment to the community’s health. That decision has helped push smoking rates down, and CVS has been actively contributing to efforts to create the first tobacco-free generation. Its new efforts double down on the company’s commitment to combatting tobacco use and helping people lead healthier lives. CVS Health’s outstanding corporate citizenship makes me extremely proud that it calls Rhode Island home, and I feel fortunate that our citizens are among those who benefit from its continued efforts to help people quit tobacco,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Following its decision in 2014 to remove tobacco products from its stores, CVS launched a $50 million, five-year effort to help create the first tobacco-free generation. Within a year, consumers had purchased 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes, and households that had previously purchased cigarettes exclusively at CVS were 38 percent more likely to have stopped buying them at all.

The company, which is headquartered in Woonsocket, this year created new partnerships and committed $10 million to help combat vaping. The CVS Health Foundation, with partners including Discovery Education and CATCH Global Foundation, is creating an educational curriculum on the dangers of vaping that will be made available to every school district in the United States, with additional resources available to parents at no cost. The company is also planning to expand its tobacco-cessation efforts for Medicaid participants, whose smoking rate is more than double the rate of private insurance enrollees.
9/5/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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NoYesApproved3705689/5/2019 2:22 PMSystem Account9/5/2019 2:22 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Four education reform bills passed by the General Assembly have been ceremonially signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo today at Cranston High School West.

The first law (2019-S 0863B, 2019-H 5008B), introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, requires the Commissioner of Education to develop statewide academic standards and curriculum frameworks for the core subjects of mathematics, English language arts, and science and technology.

“This law ensures that our academic standards set forth the skills, competencies, and knowledge expected of each student. The curriculum will align with those standards, and the frameworks would provide strategies to help meet the diverse needs of our students, closing any gaps that exist,” said Senator Gallo.

This act also requires the commissioner to identify at least five examples of high-quality curriculum and materials for each of the core subjects, after which local education agencies would be required to select and implement one for each of the core subjects.

Once they select a high-quality curriculum and materials, the Department of Education will identify an assistance partner from within the department to provide any and all support regarding access to, implementation of, and professional development for the curriculum and materials.

 “The goal is to give parents a clear map of what their children will be learning, and have it be consistent statewide,” said Representative McNamara. “It’s tremendously important that we bring these three tiers — standards, curriculum and testing — into alignment.”

The second law (2019-S 0869A, 2019-H 6085Aaa), sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) and Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a fast-track program to certify new principals. Applicants to the program must have at least 10 years of experience as an “effective” or “highly effective” teacher, a recommendation from the superintendent where they have taught, a record of leadership and a master’s degree.

A third law (2019-S 0865A, 2019-H 6084A) provides for greater school-based management at the school level, expands the duties of principals and school improvement teams, and establishes a new chapter on education accountability which provides for evaluations, assessments, and education review reports on the performance of both school districts and individual schools.

 “This law increases the authority and power of those who know their schools best – the principals, teachers and community members who are fully aware of the their school’s needs and how to best meet these needs,” said Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), the House sponsor of the bill. “I have spoken with numerous school professionals in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, and they tell me such a change would make a significant difference in their ability to properly cultivate the educational environment in order to best serve our children.”

“This legislation will create a greater collaboration among state, district and school officials to develop and implement plans,” said Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the Senate sponsor of the bill. “This bill is really a culture change for our schools. It’s reform that will focus on the success of individuals by giving greater authority to those who are actually doing the educating at a school and district level.”

The fourth law (2019-H 5887B, 2019-S 1036) sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) and Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett) requires licensed elementary level teachers to be proficient in scientific reading instruction.

Scientific reading instruction is the teaching of how sounds relate to letters and words during reading instruction.  It is based upon research regarding how the brain works while learning spoken and written language with an emphasis on phonological awareness, alphabetic principle, orthographic awareness, and comprehension strategies.

The speakers were joined at the ceremony by Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and Cranston Superintendent of Schools Jeannine Nota-Masse.

9/4/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Rep. Gregg Amore; Rep. Jean Philippe Barros; Rep. William O'Brien; Sen. Hanna Gallo; Sen. Ryan Pearson; Sen. Harold Metts; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #41; #195; #222; #193; #88; #203; #91; #264; Daniel Trafford
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Four education reform bills passed by the General Assembly have been ceremonially signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo today at Cranston High School West.
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STATE HOUSE, Providence –  The Senate Finance Committee will host a series of public hearings starting later this month to review the proposed contract extension for IGT Global Solutions Corporation.

Earlier this year, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio introduced Senate Bill 1031 at the request of the Governor to extend IGT Global Solutions Corporation’s lottery contract with the State of Rhode Island.
 
The vetting process for Senate Bill 1031 will include at least five public hearings held at the State House. The first hearing will include an overview of state procurement processes and a review of the current lottery system provider contract. Subsequent hearings will include an analysis of the terms proposed in Senate Bill 1031 and alternative proposals; inquiry into the negotiation and development of proposed contract terms; analysis of economic impact studies on the proposal; and, an overview of best practices and the current landscape related to gaming industry technology provider services. The series will conclude with a hearing dedicated to receiving public testimony. The website www.SenateLotteryContractHearings.com has been created as a way for the public to provide the committee with additional input and make materials available to the public.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee will hold its first hearing on Senate Bill 1031. Witnesses invited to testify at the hearing will include representatives from the state’s Division of Purchases, Department of Administration, Department of Revenue, Division of Lottery, and IGT Global Solutions.

Subsequent hearings are scheduled for the following dates:
  • Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, at 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, at 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, at 5 p.m.

9/3/2019SenSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Sen. William Conley; #85; #202; Greg Pare
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The Senate Finance Committee will host a series of public hearings starting later this month to review the proposed contract extension for IGT Global Solutions Corporation. 


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STATE HOUSE — Concerned with efforts by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to take money away from bicycle and pedestrian projects, Senators William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) have penned a letter to the State Planning Council stating their opposition to the plan. The bipartisan letter is signed by 35 members of the Senate.

At issue is a proposal to cut $37 million appropriated to the Transportation Alternatives Program, which would improve trails, sidewalks, bridges and paths for bicycles and pedestrians. The State Planning Council is scheduled to meet regarding the proposal (Major Amendment No. 19) tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

“Rhode Island should be doing more to enhance our pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure for the sake of our economy, environment, public health and public safety,” reads the letter. “Rhode Island has been working hard to attract and retain businesses. Reducing investments in TAP funding will undermine these efforts. Businesses look to relocate to places which have a variety of transportation options, including safe walking and biking infrastructure. Companies know that their talent pool prefer walking, biking, and public transportation and will consider comprehensive transportation networks when they select office locations.”

The letter also pointed out the need to reduce carbon emissions and the projects’ importance to public safety.

“The pollution emitted by the transportation sector contributes to poor public health outcomes by increasing the rates of asthma, stroke, cancer, and heart disease,” reads the letter. “Infrastructure projects are especially important for public safety. Unfortunately, Rhode Island has suffered numerous high-profile pedestrian and cyclist deaths. This loss of life is tragic and unnecessary.”

The senators reject RIDOT’s argument that money needs to be diverted to other projects.

“Rhode Island road and bridge projects have received an infusion of an additional $358M since February 2019 and there should be no need to access funds intended for transportation alternatives. Cutting TAP funding is unnecessary and short-sighted if we truly want to have a robust and modern transportation system.”

The letter was signed by: Senator Conley, who is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Euer, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere, Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, and Senators Stephen R. Archambault, Samuel W. Bell, Sandra Cano, Frank A. Ciccone III, Cynthia A. Coyne, Elizabeth A. Crowley, Louis P. DiPalma, Walter S. Felag Jr., Hanna M. Gallo, Gayle L. Goldin, Valarie J. Lawson, Frank S. Lombardi, Frank Lombardo III, Erin Lynch Prata, Mark P. McKenney, Harold M. Metts, Joshua Miller, Melissa A. Murray, Donna M. Nesselbush, Thomas Paolino, Ryan W. Pearson, Roger A. Picard, Ana Quezada, Leonidas P. Raptakis, Adam J. Satchell, James A. Seveney, James C. Sheehan, V. Susan Sosnowski, and Bridget G. Valverde.

8/28/2019SenSen. William Conley; Sen. Dawn Euer; #202; #244; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE –Rep. Arthur J. Corvese and Rep. William W. O’Brien recently presented a $6,000 legislative grant to the North Providence Little League.

The two North Providence legislators delivered the check at the league’s cookout Aug. 16. The funds will be used to offset the cost of uniforms for children participating in the league, which serves kids from age 4 through 16. This year marked the first year of play for the new town-wide league, which resulted from the combination of the city’s former west and east leagues.

“Little League is a time-honored tradition that brings families together here in North Providence. We are proud to help support this wholesome activity for kids because it does so much to strengthen the sense of community in our town,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence).

Said Representative O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), “We are very happy to be able to contribute to ensuring that Little League remains an accessible and fun opportunity for kids in our community. Little League teaches young kids valuable lessons about the value of practice, sportsmanship and teamwork while also keeping them active and fostering social connections. We congratulate all the players who participated this year and are already looking forward to another successful season next year.”

IN PHOTO: Rep. Arthur J. Corvese, left, and Rep. William W. O’Brien, right, present a $6,000 grant to North Providence Little League President Sal Piccirillo.
                                  

8/28/2019RepRep. Arthur Corvese; Rep. William O'Brien; #11; #193; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton) is calling for the passage of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s (RIDOT) proposed Major Amendment #19 to the FFY 2018-2027 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).  The proposed amendment to STIP will be voted on this Thursday by the State Planning Council.

The amendment proposes shifting funding from planned bicycle and pedestrian improvements, named the Transportation Alternatives Program, to road and bridge improvement projects.

“Even after the state has implemented the RhodeWorks program to fix our bridges and roads, our state is consistently ranked as having the worst roads and bridges in the country, signaling to us that there is far more work to be done.  I am in full support of expanding and supporting further bicycle and pedestrian projects, but we have to prioritize the most important projects to ensure the well-being of our state.  Safe and dependable roads and bridges is critical not only to the financial health of our state, but also, important quality of life aspects for our residents.  By shifting these funds to our roads and bridges, RIDOT will be able to continue the crucial bridge and road repair projects without the state asking for any more money from the taxpayers.  It is for this reason that I am in full support of Major Amendment #19 and I hope that it is passed at tomorrow’s meeting,” said Representative Canario.

8/28/2019RepRep. Dennis Canario; #197; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi is urging the State Planning Council to reject a proposed amendment to the state’s 10-year transportation spending plans that would slash funding for bicycle and pedestrian traffic improvements.

The council is scheduled to vote on the change, known as Amendment #19, at its meeting Thursday morning.

“Rhode Islanders have been very vocal in their opposition to this shift in our plans for our transportation resources. Of the comments submitted during the public comment period for this amendment, over 200 were opposed to it, and fewer than a dozen were in favor of it. We absolutely should not be back-peddling on efforts to make our state more walkable and bike-friendly,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), who has long been a strong advocate for bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects.

The amendment would cut the Transportation Alternatives Program, which funds bike and pedestrian access projects, by $37 million under the plan, shifting dollars toward fixing roads and bridges. Department of Transportation officials have defended the move by pointing toward the state’s status as having the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the nation.

Representative Tanzi said she recognizes the importance of repairing the state’s crumbling bridges — pointing to the fact that she voted in favor of the administration’s RhodeWorks plan to implement those fixes, even knowing how unpopular the plan was. But the state, which recently received hundreds of millions in federal grant funding for transportation infrastructure improvements, can, in fact, address bicycle and pedestrian projects and roads and bridges at the same time, she said.

“Our State Planning Council is responsible for looking at the big picture, and they must recognize that focusing on only the immediate problems facing our state is how we got into the current mess. We must look at every dollar we spend and see how it can solve two or more problems at once. Investing in wider roads only compounds the issues we, as a coastal state, face with climate change. These investments must serve our state’s long term needs: a healthier environment, coastal resilience, a healthier populace, stronger communities and better infrastructure. Our residents deserve it, our employers demand it, and we should be providing it,” said Representative Tanzi.

“Our current statewide plan should promote opportunities for creating advantages, and we should not go back in time and shift our resources away from the effort to make alternative transportation a more viable option for all Rhode Islanders,” she said. “We must invest in public transit and transportation alternatives if we want to compete with larger cities to attract and maintain an educated and heathy workforce. Passing this amendment foolishly puts the blinders back on, and closes off a real opportunity to use our tax dollars more effectively. We must not allow this to happen.”
8/27/2019RepRep. Teresa Tanzi; #166; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Over the past few legislative sessions, Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) has been a constant advocate and protector of animals in Rhode Island.  He has sponsored and cosponsored several animal protection bills that have become law.

“Animals, whether domestic or wild, have no voice and sadly, more often than not, they are defenseless against cruel humans who wish to do them harm.  I am proud of my legislative accomplishments to help and protect animals in Rhode Island and the state has made great strides over the past few years to protect our pets and wildlife from the malicious abuse of these defenseless creatures.  We have moved into the top-five states in the country for animal protection and we are continuing this progress every legislative session.  Anyone who abuses a defenseless animal is a bully and I will continue to fight against animal abuse in all of its forms at the State House,” said Representative O’Brien.

This past legislative session, Representative O’Brien’s legislation (2019-H 5023) which expands Family Court jurisdiction to allow protective orders to provide for the safety and welfare of household pets in domestic abuse situations was signed into law by the governor. 

Last legislative session, Representative O’Brien sponsored legislation (2018-H 7986) that requires anyone entrusted with the care and control of an animal, such as a veterinarian or an animal shelter worker, to report any discovered instance of animal cruelty to the proper authorities.   The bill was signed into law by Governor Raimondo.

During the 2017 General Assembly session, he sponsored legislation (2017-H 6314Aaa) that speeds up the process of adoption for any animals that are abandoned or impounded.  The bill, which was signed into law by the governor, allows a pound or animal shelter to put an abandoned or impounded animal up for adoption after ten days if the animal has identifying tags or is microchipped.  If the animal does not have any identification, the pound or animal shelter would be allowed to put the animal up for adoption after five days.

In 2016, Representative O’Brien sponsored two animal protection bills that became law in Rhode Island.  The first piece of legislation (2016-H 7317) stiffens the penalties for animal abusers by increasing the punishment of animal abusers from two years to five years of possible imprisonment and from ten hours of community service to fifty hours of community service.  The second piece of legislation (2016-H 7831) sponsored by Representative O’Brien and passed by the General Assembly raises the level of care required for animals being offered for sale and in facilities holding stray animals. The legislation amends the state’s general laws on animal care by adding facilities such as shelters and other facilities other than pet stores that handle, house, and care for domestic animals.  The legislation also clarifies penalties for offending facilities such as being fined $100 for each mistreated animal, forfeiture of the animals, and revocation of licenses.

8/21/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE - Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Sen. Ana B. Quezada have announced that they will be reintroducing their bill in the next session to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid programs. 

“While we are disappointed that the doula bill did not pass this year, we are hopeful for the future and look forward to reintroducing the bill next year. Doulas are an incredibly important resource for pregnant women, particularly women of color, whose maternal mortality rate is significantly higher than that of white women” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence). “Ensuring that doula services are covered by insurance will save the lives of women of color, and will ensure that they will be around to watch their children grow up.”

Senator Quezada (Dist. 2, Providence) echoed these sentiments. “There is no question that this bill will save lives and be good for women of color in Rhode Island,” she said, “but it also makes strong economic sense. Women who use doulas often require fewer expensive medical interventions during childbirth, which will save them, the hospitals, and the insurance companies money and make the childbirth process much easier for all involved.”

Doulas are trained healthcare professionals who provide the mother with continuous physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth and the first few weeks after giving birth. During childbirth, they help make women comfortable by providing breathing techniques, massages and advice, and also help advocate for the woman’s needs that she may not be able to express on her own. Births assisted by doulas also have significantly lower rates of cesarean sections, with one study showing a 39 percent reduction. 

The bill (2019-H 5609, 2019-S 0678aa) aims to achieve healthier outcomes for women and babies during childbirth. In particular, the bill aims to help black women, who experience significantly higher rates of death or injury during childbirth than white women do. The bill passed the Senate and was held for further study in the House. 

Under the bill, services from a trained, qualified doula would be eligible for up to $1,500 in coverage per pregnancy through both private insurance and Medicaid, including the state medical assistance program. Additionally, the bill would set industry standards and create a statewide registry of doulas in order to help women connect with a professional and ensuring that the work of the doula is fairly compensated. 

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world at 23.8 per 100,000 live births in 2014. It is also one of two developed nations (the other being Serbia) that has seen an increase in the maternal mortality rate, which rose 26.6 percent between 2000 and 2014. The rate in Rhode Island was 11.2 per 100,000 live births from 2013 to 2017.

American maternal mortality rates show stark differences based on the mother’s race. For white women, the mortality rate is 12.4 for every 100,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate for black women is more than triple that at 40 per 100,000 live births. 

The two sponsors said that the use of a doula, whose primary focus is on the mother’s wellbeing and comfort, would better ensure that women of color have their needs met during childbirth. 

“Studies have shown that doulas greatly improve health outcomes for women and babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Their assistance can prevent complications and reduce the cesarean and preterm rates. Ultimately, they are a win-win because they make childbirth safer while saving health care dollars,” said Senator Quezada.

Said Representative Ranglin-Vassell, “All women, but particularly women of color, who are three to four times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related reasons than white women, should be encouraged to use a doula during pregnancy and childbirth.” 

8/20/2019RepSen. Ana B. Quezada; Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #228; #233; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Samuel W. Bell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) is calling for a performance review of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation management team after the recent announcement that Norwegian Air will be cutting service from the airport after only two years of operation.

“Norwegian Air leaving T.F. Green after only two years of operations raises further questions about the choices made by the Airport Corporation management team.  The Airport Corporation spent more than $2 million to advertise for Norwegian Air, and now those jobs are disappearing after only two years,” said Senator Bell.  “At the time, Hillary Clinton had taken the extraordinary step of calling for not letting this airline operate in our country because of their exceptionally poor labor practices.  I believe that Hillary Clinton was right, and we should have listened to her warnings about this unscrupulous corporation.”

“The Norwegian Airlines debacle follows the collapse of the Dominican Republic route from Sun Country Airlines before a single plane took off from T.F. Green.  Like Norwegian, Sun Country is a controversial airline, and these problems were predictable.  At the time the agreement with T.F. Green began, Sun Country was reeling from an international flight cancelation scandal where hundreds of passengers were stranded in Mexico with no way to return to Minnesota.   The extensive cutting of routes by more reputable airlines like Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines raises yet more questions about the Airport Corporation’s management performance.  Furthermore, financial problems have led to attempts to raise revenue through high fees on ride-sharing corporations like Uber and Lyft, resulting in disruptions to these services and significant inconveniences for many airport visitors.  These problems are serious.  I have significant doubts about the way the Airport Corporation management is operating T.F. Green, and I believe a management performance review is warranted,” continued Senator Bell.

Bell went on to praise the Raimondo administration’s approach to management performance.  “The Raimondo administration has consistently demonstrated a commitment to management performance at agencies, boards, and commissions.  For instance, the actions that this administration took at the Board of Elections, at the Governor’s direction, to appoint reformers and address management performance issues have been essential in reforming and professionalizing our elections management.  I believe that it is time for the Governor’s office to examine the performance of the Airport Corporation management and take the action steps that follow from that review,” said Senator Bell.

“I have neighbors who have lost their jobs, and airport visitors are continuously frustrated, whether by the disruption to ride-sharing services or by highly publicized routes being eliminated shortly after being introduced.  It is evident that T.F. Green is experiencing several problems.  I hope that a review of management performance will help lead to reforms and improved outcomes,” concluded Senator Bell.
8/20/2019SenSen. Samuel W. Bell; #259; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) is issuing the following statement regarding the incident between protesters and correctional officers last night outside of the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls.

“After reading the news reports and watching video from the scene, I believe that it is deplorable that this incident arose from a peaceful demonstration advocating for the rights and well-being of fellow human beings.  One of the great American rights and ideals is the ability to peacefully express one’s thoughts and feelings in a public setting.  This constitutional right was shattered last night and it is extremely disappointing and troubling,” said Senator Crowley.

“If the correctional officer in question felt threatened, he should have immediately called the Central Falls Police Department to escort him into the parking lot, rather than trying to ram his way through people in a large truck.  Correctional officers at Wyatt have no legal authority on the streets of Central Falls, so the use of pepper spray on protesters is also quite disturbing.  I am pleased that the Central Falls Police, the Attorney General’s office, and the Rhode Island State Police are investigating this needless and potentially dangerous incident so that accountability can be upheld,” concluded Senator Crowley.
8/16/2019SenSen. Elizabeth Crowley; #148; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien’s legislation (2013-H 6290) from the 2013 General Assembly session that called for dual enrollment programs at Rhode Island schools is proving to still be a success, such as the PTECH academy at North Providence High School, and he is encouraging all students and their families to consider participating in the program during the upcoming school year.

Representative O’Brien’s legislation enables students to enroll at a college or university as non-degree students and have the courses be recognized toward degree completion at both the college and high school level.  Representative O’Brien is a truancy officer in the Providence school system and has seen firsthand the opportunities his legislation has opened up for students.

“The dual education program is continuing to provide opportunities to our high school students and their families and I could not be happier that this law is being effectively used to benefit students at North Providence High School.  Our kids are learning the skills they will need to succeed in the future and their families are saving much needed dollars through this program and I am looking forward to seeing new programs be established from this important and helpful law,” said Representative O’Brien.

The legislation directed the Board of Education to establish a statewide dual enrollment policy, to be adopted by school districts and schools by June 30, 2015.  All school districts, charter schools, career and technical schools, approved private day or residential schools and collaborative schools will be subject to the requirements of the law.

The legislation also directed the Board of Education, in preparing the policy and regulations, to convene a workshop of representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Office of Higher Education, school superintendents, school committees, public higher education institutions, guidance counselors and teachers to consider and advise the board on all aspects of a dual enrollment program which will give high school graduates the ability to get an associate’s degree as they graduate high school at no cost, including the manner in which low-income students could access the program and possible contracted tuition costs at institutions of higher learning.

“This legislation gives our students the tools and opportunity to succeed in the future.  It saves thousands of dollars for working class families struggling to afford the price of higher education and it positions Rhode Island for the better with a stronger future workforce.  I am so pleased this program is working and I urge all students and families to take part in its success,” added Representative O’Brien.

8/15/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson’s (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) legislation (2019-S 0585) which requires road and bridge contractors for the Department of Transportation to furnish a bond equal to at least 50 percent of the contract price on contracts in excess of $150,000 was signed into law by Governor Gina M. Raimondo.

“With the massive investment the state is currently making to fix our roads and bridges, it became necessary to update the laws concerning the work done by contractors of RIDOT on these important public projects.  These changes to the law will not only ensure that these projects are being done correctly and safely, but also, it will allow for taxpayer funds to be used in the most cost-effective manner,” said Senator Lawson.

The legislation amends the statutory bonding requirements for public projects which have not been amended in 20 years.  The amendment will increase the pool of companies that can bid on state projects which could potentially increase competition and lower costs for taxpayers.

8/13/2019SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; #260; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio today delivered a joint letter to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo requesting additional information in advance of public hearings on the proposed 20-year contract extension for International Game Technologies (IGT).

“We are committed to properly vetting this legislation by way of public hearings to determine the appropriateness of forgoing the normal bid process for a contract of this length, scope and magnitude,” they wrote.

The Speaker and Senate President stated that “the General Assembly and the public need an opportunity to review the information and details prior to any legislative hearings being scheduled,” and requested documents be submitted to them by Aug. 30 “so that a well-informed public vetting process can get underway.”

Among some of the documents requested are: a proposed contract or the terms of the agreement in principle as negotiated between the Governor’s office and IGT; detailed information about the 1,000 jobs required in the current contract; underlying data used in a report on the economic impact of the 1,100 jobs and capital investments to be required with the contract extension, along with any consultant, legal or other reports relied upon during the Governor’s negotiations with IGT. 

8/13/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello and President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio today delivered a joint letter to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo requesting additional information in advance of public hearings on the proposed 20-year contract extension for International Game Technologies (IGT).
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STATE HOUSE – Providence Representatives Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Rebecca Kislak today condemned President Donald Trump’s latest effort to restrict immigration — not just for those who immigrate illegally but also those who follow the proper channels — as “immoral, racist and decidedly un-American.”

The Trump administration announced yesterday that it would proceed with implementing aggressive measures to restrict legal immigration: denying green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance.

“As one who benefited from the food stamp program and an immigrant myself, I am appalled by this administration’s policies that target people primarily from South and Central America and the Caribbean,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence). “This president has consistently shown that he is a racist. He needs to understand that food is a basic human right, and wanting to deny people the ability to eat is an evil, immoral and ungodly act of cowardice.”

Federal immigration law already requires those seeking legal status to demonstrate that they will not be a burden on the nation, but does not block applicants who have needed assistance as they are establishing their lives in this country.

The new restrictions will result in greater poverty, poorer health and more insecurity for immigrants who are a part of our society and who are following the rules, working and paying taxes, the two representatives said.

Representative Kislak, (D-Dist. 4, Providence), a former legal services attorney who now works in health policy, submitted comments opposed to the changes during the rulemaking process last year, saying the restrictions are already causing immigrant families in need to go without healthcare, food and housing that they need, causing lasting detriment to those families and the greater community.

“Already, I am hearing stories from constituents, healthcare providers and members of immigrant communities that fear is deterring immigrants from seeking healthcare. These rules would exacerbate real and imagined fear of immigration consequences for individuals simply taking care of themselves and their families,” wrote Representative Kislak in her comments, submitted to the federal government last year. She also pointed out that the rule would increase the number of uninsured people in Rhode Island, resulting in more acute problems being treated in emergency rooms as uncompensated care that increases health care costs for all.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell, a Providence school teacher who emigrated from Jamaica as an adult, said the struggle to establish a new life in this country is enormous. Denying legal status to law-abiding immigrants because they needed any assistance along the way is a ruse to keep out people of color from poor backgrounds who seek to become Americans, she said.

Rhode Island has long been a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world, and the two representatives encouraged all Rhode Islanders to take a stand against racism and federal policies aimed at harming the immigrant community.

“As Rhode Islanders, we will fight to protect our immigrant neighbors who work hard and pay taxes. We will fight to ensure that this kind of hatred and bigotry find no home in our state,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.

8/13/2019RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; Rep. Rebecca M. Kislak; #233; #246; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Anastasia P. Williams’ (D-Dist. 9, Providence) legislation (2019-H 5125B) that codifies in state law the privacy rights and reproductive freedoms guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in the case Roe v. Wade and its progeny was passed by the full General Assembly tonight and signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo.

“I commend the General Assembly for sending a clear message today that we as a state will not cower in the face of threats at the national level and that Rhode Island will stand strong in protecting women’s access to critical reproductive services.  Due to this bill, Rhode Island will remain resolute in ensuring a woman’s privacy in making her own health care decisions and we will not turn back the clock on decades of progress for female reproductive health equality,” said Representative Williams.

“It has been a long road to seeing this legislation passed and I am proud of the bill that was passed by the General Assembly tonight.  I thank Representative Williams, all of the cosponsors, and the advocates and supporters who worked tirelessly to ensure that a woman’s right to privacy and proper reproductive healthcare is safe and accessible in Rhode Island,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

Representative Williams’ bill, the Reproductive Privacy Act, is a strict codification in state law of the rights guaranteed by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases.  It expressly bans and prohibits all late-term abortions except when necessary for the life or health of the mother.  If the procedure is determined necessary by a physician, the physician is required to document the medical basis for the post-viability abortion in the patient’s medical record.  The bill also adds new language confirming the federal statute which bans partial birth abortion and affirms that partial birth abortion will remain banned in Rhode Island.

The bill’s cosponsors are Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), and Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick).

“We were all proud to cosponsor this legislation when Representative Williams introduced the bill and we are grateful for the General Assembly’s decision to pass this important piece of legislation that protects the freedom, privacy, and reproductive health of Rhode Island’s women,” said the House cosponsors of the legislation.

The legislation received the support of the Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, which is comprised of Planned Parenthood, the Women’s Fund, the ACLU, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and several other groups.

From the left: Sen. Gayle L. Goldin, Sen. Joshua Miller, Rep. Evan P. Shanley, Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, Governor Gina Raimondo, sponsor of the legislation Rep. Anastasia P. Williams, Rep. Edith H. Ajello, Rep. Jean Philippe Barros, and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski


6/19/2019RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Anastasia P. Williams’ (D-Dist. 9, Providence) legislation (2019-H 5125B) that codifies in state law the privacy rights and reproductive freedoms guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in the case Roe v. Wade and its progeny was passed by the full General Assembly tonight and signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo.



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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) legislation (2019-H 5434A) that would exclude chronic intractable pain from the definition of “acute pain management” for the purposes of prescribing opioid medication was passed by the House of Representatives.

“We want to make sure that our public policy in regard to addressing the opioid crisis does not have the unintended consequence of hurting patients who are trying to manage chronic pain.  These patients are not addicts, they are suffering with pain associated with cancer, palliative care, and in many cases, chronic intractable pain.  We need to let physicians determine how best to manage their patients’ pain,” said Representative Amore.

Chronic intractable pain is defined as pain that is excruciating, constant, incurable, and of such severity that it dominates virtually every conscious moment.  It also produces mental and physical debilitation and may produce a desire to commit suicide for the sole purpose of stopping the pain.

The bill calls for new guidelines for the treatment of chronic intractable pain be based upon the consideration of the individualized needs of patients suffering from chronic intractable pain.  The legislation acknowledges that every patient and their needs is different, especially those suffering from chronic pain.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

6/20/2019RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) legislation (2019-H 5434A) that would exclude chronic intractable pain from the definition of “acute pain management” for the purposes of prescribing opioid medication was passed by the House of Representatives.


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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2019-S 0194A) that creates a Senate special legislative commission to study and evaluate the state’s electric and natural gas distribution and transmission infrastructure to ensure its reliance and resiliency was passed by the Senate.

“As we saw with the debacle that affected Aquidneck Island only five months ago, there are some significant deficiencies within our electric and natural gas infrastructure in Rhode Island.  We cannot afford to have another similar situation, in the dead of winter, where our citizens are literally freezing in their own homes without any gas or electricity.  This commission will use facts and data to determine what we can do in order to avoid another massive energy and heat shutdown in Rhode Island,” said Senator DiPalma.

The commission will consist of 19 members including three members of the Senate; the Administrator of the RI Division of Public Utilities and Carriers; the Chief Resiliency Officer of the RI Infrastructure Bank; the RI Cybersecurity Officer; the Executive Director of the RI League of Cities and Towns; the President of National Grid RI; the General Manager of Providence Water; the Executive Director of the Narragansett Bay Commission; the President of Enbridge Gas; the President of the Block Island Power Company; the General Manager of the Pascoag utility District; the President of the RI AARP; the Director of the RI Department of Environmental Management; and four members of the public.

The commission shall report its findings and results to the Rhode Island Senate on or before March 1, 2020 and the commission shall expire on June 30, 2020.

6/20/2019SenSen. Louis DiPalma; #147; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2019-S 0194A) that creates a Senate special legislative commission to study and evaluate the state’s electric and natural gas distribution and transmission infrastructure to ensure its reliance and resiliency was passed by the Senate.



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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson’s (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) legislation (2019-S 0433A) that establishes the “Senior Savings Protection Act” was passed by the Senate tonight.

The act would require certain individuals to report the occurrence or suspected occurrence of financial exploitation of persons who are 60 years of age or older and persons who have a disability between the ages of 18 and 59 years old.

“With so many terrible stories of our seniors and most vulnerable citizens being victimized through financial scams over the phone and on the internet, as well as more direct financial manipulation from people they trust, I saw that this bill was necessary to protect our seniors and our disabled citizens.  These crimes that drain the bank accounts of our at-risk populations need to be stopped before they are able to do maximum damage and this bill will hopefully accomplish the task of stopping these ever-evolving schemes and scams from taking place,” said Senator Lawson.

According to the bill, if a qualified individual, a person associated with a broker-dealer who serves in a supervisory, compliance, or legal capacity, believes that financial exploitation is taking place, or being attempted, the individual must notify the Department of Business Regulation, the Division of Elderly Affairs, and law enforcement.  The individual may also alert immediate family members, legal guardians, conservators, or agents under a power of attorney of the person possibly being financially exploited.

The legislation also allows qualified individuals to hold financial transactions that they believe may be involved with financial exploitation.

The bill also calls for the Department of Business Regulation and the Division of Elderly Affairs to develop websites that include training resources to assist in the prevention and detection of financial exploitation against the elderly and the disabled.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
6/20/2019SenSen. Valarie J. Lawson; #260; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Valarie J. Lawson’s (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) legislation (2019-S 0433A) that establishes the “Senior Savings Protection Act” was passed by the Senate.



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STATE HOUSE – Legislation (2019-S 0201A / 2019-H 5798A) sponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa that caps the interest rates charged by the town of Coventry to ratepayers for the town’s sewer project was passed by the General Assembly today.

“Sadly, this bill was necessary in order to protect the sewer ratepayers of Coventry from the unjustifiable actions of the Coventry Sewer Authority.  This project should not be a money-making scheme for the town.  We must make sure this is fair to homeowners and that no undue burden is being placed on those who are affected by the sewer expansion project. It’s inexcusable that the homeowner be charged almost twice the percentage the town is being charged as a rate for the sewer construction project loan or bond,” said Senator Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

“This is already an exorbitant and unnecessary expense for so many in Coventry and the town should not be charging its residents any more than the actual cost of the project.  There are too many families, seniors, and those living on fixed incomes, who are facing true financial harm due to the mandate of this project.  This bill will protect the taxpayers from the large interest rates for a project they do not want in the first place,” said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

The act would enable the town of Coventry to charge ratepayers of the Coventry sewer project a monetary interest charge in excess of those interest charges actually paid by the town for the funds it has borrowed for sewage works purposes. The excess interest charges shall be a maximum of one-half of one percent and shall be used only for administrative purposes.

The Auditor General recently completed a report at the request of Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and other members of the Coventry delegation in the General Assembly regarding the troubled sewer project.

The report lays out a detailed analysis of the operations and implementation of the controversial sewer project and offers several recommendations to rectify concerns about the program, as well as, recommendations to ensure the project’s short-term and long-term financial viability and success.

In particular, the Auditor General points to the legislation sponsored by Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa which prohibits the town of Coventry from charging its sewage works’ users more than the interest the town has actually paid for its borrowed funds for sewage works’ purposes.

The report states, “The interest rate charged to homeowners has been higher at 6% than the Town’s actual borrowing costs which approximates 3% to 4%. Legislation has been introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly to limit the interest rate charged to homeowners on sewer assessments. Aligning the Town’s costs of borrowing with the interest charged on the assessments is both appropriate and necessary to lessen the cost of sewer assessments on homeowners and businesses.”

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

6/25/2019RepSen. Leonidas Raptakis; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #100; #121; Andrew Caruolo
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Legislation (2019-S 0201A / 2019-H 5798A) sponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa that caps the interest rates charged by the town of Coventry to ratepayers for the town’s sewer project was passed by the General Assembly.


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Panels would ensure warning signs aren’t missed
 
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo to increase school safety by creating threat assessment teams in schools to serve as the “boots on the ground” in identifying potentially threatening behavior by those in the school community.

Under the bill (2019-H 5538, 2019-S 0818) which will now go to the governor, school districts would also adopt policies for assessment and intervention, including procedures for referrals to community services or health care providers for evaluation.

The legislation is a recommendation of the School Safety Committee, a panel led by the State Police to develop statewide policy for school safety. Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) met with the State Police over the course of last summer to discuss legislative efforts that could help prevent violence in schools such as the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year.

“So many times after a tragedy, members of the school community say there were so many warning signs from the eventual perpetrator of the violence. Then people are puzzled about how those signs could possibly be missed, to such devastating effect,” said Speaker Mattiello. “Many times, it’s because of segmented administrative structures that don’t result in anyone in charge recognizing multiple warning signs from a single person. There have to be people at every school — people who are part of that school’s fabric, who know the students, the staff, the parents and the structures — whose job it is to collect that information and decide what to do with it. Everyone at that school needs to know who to tell if they see concerning behavior, so they can help keep schools safe, and connect troubled individuals to help so they don’t become the next perpetrator of violence at school.”

Under the bill, every district school committee would be required to adopt a written policy for the establishment of threat assessment teams, and for assessment and intervention with individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students. The policies, which must be consistent with a model policy the statewide School Safety Committee has recommended, shall include procedures for referrals to community services or health care providers for evaluation or treatment when appropriate.

Each district superintendent would establish, for each school, a threat assessment team with expertise in guidance, counseling, school administration, mental health and law enforcement. The team would be in charge of implementing the district safety policy. It would also provide guidance to students, faculty, and staff in recognizing threatening or aberrant behavior that may represent a threat to the community, school, or the individual, and ensure that everyone at the school knows who to tell if they recognize such behavior. If there is reason to believe someone in the school poses a threat of violence to others or himself or herself, the team would immediately pass information on for action: to the superintendent or other designated administrator, and to the school building administrator, who would be in charge of contacting parents or guardians in the case of a student. Members of the team would be prohibited from disclosing any information regarding any individual collected through the course of the team’s work, except for the purpose of addressing the threat.

The superintendent would also establish a district committee with similar expertise to oversee the school-level committees.

The bill is modeled after a Virginia law. Similar models have been adopted in Maryland, Florida and other states since the Parkland massacre.

“This effort will help prevent violence before it happens, and it will also serve as a means to connect people who are experiencing trouble with the help they need. Having dedicated groups within each school who know the students, the faculty, the staff and the parents will help identify concerns early as a means of both prevention and intervention. Their work can keep schools safe and allow the focus to stay on learning,” said Chairwoman Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).

The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Rep. Mario Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence), Rep. Joe Serodio (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) and Rep. Thomas Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick). The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) and Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).
6/26/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Hanna Gallo; #120; #88; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Panels would ensure warning signs aren’t missed
 
The General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo to increase school safety by creating threat assessment teams in schools to serve as the “boots on the ground” in identifying potentially threatening behavior by those in the school community.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee’s (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) legislation (2019-H 5171B) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was passed by the General Assembly.

More specifically, the legislation extends the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse claims to 35 years.  Currently, the statute of limitations is seven years in Rhode Island.

“It is unfortunate that this bill is needed in our society because it signals that not only are our children being sexually victimized, but even more sadly, many of these victims will never have their day in court to face their abusers and demand accountability for the vicious childhood assaults that have haunted their lives – often times for decades.  It is for this reason that we need to significantly extend the statute of limitations on civil actions relating to sexual abuse.” said Representative McEntee.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a scourge on our society, nationally and here in Rhode Island. Today, passage of this legislation significantly moves the needle forward for these brave victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Today, Rhode Island has opened the courthouse doors by significantly extending the statute of limitations. Access to justice is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence, and today we have provided that for countless survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Bravo,” said Senator Donna M. Nesselbush (Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence), sponsor of the companion legislation in the Senate.

The bill would extend the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse from seven years to 35 years. The legislation would also extend to 35 years the statute of limitations for entities, individuals or organizations which caused or contributed to childhood sexual abuse through negligent supervision, conduct, concealment or other factors that enabled the abuse to occur.  The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities are also included under this provision of the legislation.
The 35 year statute begins at the age of 18 for the victims.

The bill also includes a “seven year discovery rule” which enables victims of sex abuse to file suit against perpetrators and non-perpetrators up to seven years from the time a victim discovered or remembered abuse had taken place, such as through therapy as an adult.

Representative McEntee introduced this bill due to her own personal family connection to childhood sexual abuse.  Last session and this session, Representative McEntee has accompanied her older sister, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, to testify in favor of the legislation.  Representative McEntee has referred to the legislation as “Annie’s Bill” due to her sister’s advocacy for the bill. 

Dr. Webb recounted her own experiences being a young survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of the family parish priest.  Representative McEntee’s sister, now a psychologist specializing in counseling adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, detailed how often it takes years, if not decades, for victims of childhood sexual assault to not only come to terms with their abuse, but also to find the strength to come forward, to name their abuser, and seek justice for the crimes perpetrated against their innocence and youth.

Dr. Webb also explained that because of the complex and often long healing process in regards to these crimes, many abusers are not only never charged criminally, but they also are shielded by statutes of limitations from having to answer for their crimes in a civil manner.

“Victims of childhood sexual abuse deserve justice and by passing this legislation, these brave people who have the courage to confront their victimizers will have a chance at justice for the crimes committed against them as children,” concluded Representative McEntee and Senator Nesselbush.

6/26/2019SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Donna Nesselbush; #226; #179; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee’s (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) legislation (2019-H 5171B) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was psigned into law by Governor Gina M. Raimondo.



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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly has approved four bills to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.

The bills, which will now all be sent to the governor, were all sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), who led the Senate’s Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation this year. That panel is slated to release its final report Friday.

“Alzheimer’s disease profoundly reshapes families, often for years. Its effects slowly rob people of the abilities they have had their whole lives. Providing the care that their loved ones need can be an enormous challenge for families. We must ensure that we are carefully and effectively using every available resource we have to ensure that every person affected by Alzheimer’s has the support and care they need,” said Senator Coyne, whose father died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The Assembly approved legislation (2019-S 0223, 2019-H 5178) sponsored in the Senate by Senator Coyne and in the House by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) to establish a program within the Department of Health dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease, and create a 13-member advisory council that would provide policy recommendations, evaluate state-funded efforts for care and research and provide guidance to state officials on advancements in treatment, prevention and diagnosis. The bill is based on legislation signed into law last year in Massachusetts.

“This legislation will create a more cohesive approach to our state’s efforts to serve people with Alzheimer’s disease, which will ensure that our resources are used to their fullest effect. It will help Rhode Island make sure that our efforts are well coordinated and that we are doing everything we can to assist families touched by this devastating disease,” said Leader Shekarchi.

The bill requires the Department of Health to assess all state programs related to Alzheimer’s, and maintain and annually update the state’s plan for Alzheimer’s disease. It would also require the Department of Health to establish an Alzheimer’s disease assessment protocol specifically focused on recognizing the signs and symptoms of cognitive impairments, and appropriate resource information for effective medical screening, investigation and service planning. The bill would require caseworkers working with the Department of Elderly Affairs to be familiar with those protocols. Additionally, the bill would require a one-time, hour-long training on diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with cognitive impairments for all physicians and nurses licensed in the state.

Adoption of the bill would enable Rhode Island to qualify for federal funding that is available to help states with their efforts to support those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Also gaining final Assembly approval was legislation (2019-S 0302A, 2019-H 5141) sponsored by Senator Coyne and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) to allow the spouses or partners of patients residing in Alzheimer’s or dementia special care unit or program to live with them, even if they do not meet the requirements as patients themselves.

“A person who needs care for Alzheimer’s should not be separated from his or her spouse on top of it. Allowing couples to remain living together will help them maintain their relationship, their connection and their personal dignity,” said Representative McNamara, who is chairman of the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

Lawmakers also gave their final approval to legislation (2019-S 0603A, 2019-H 5573) sponsored by Senator Coyne and Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) expanding a law that requires people who have reasonable cause to believe a person over age 60 is being abused, neglected or mistreated to report it to the Division of Elderly Affairs, which will report the incident to law enforcement if appropriate and intervene.

Currently, health care providers and numerous types of workers who come into contact with elderly or disabled people in health care facilities are required to report suspected abuse or neglect within 24 hours.

The legislation adds a section of law requiring reporting of suspected abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect of people over age 60, regardless of whether they live in a health care facility. It also expands the list of those required to report suspected abuse to include physician assistants and probation officers and protects employees who report abuse from liability (unless they are found to be a perpetrator) or negative consequences at work for reporting abuse or neglect.

“No one should hesitate to report abuse of an elder or someone who is disabled. This bill will better protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Representative Bennett, who works as a psychiatric nurse.

On June 20, the Assembly passed a third bill sponsored by Senator Coyne and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) to require a nationwide criminal background check for anyone seeking guardianship or limited guardianship of another adult, even temporarily. Under the bill (2019-S 0845A, 2019-H 6114), anyone who is found to have been convicted or plead nolo contendere to charges for a variety of crimes, including violent crimes or crimes involving abuse or neglect of elders, would be disqualified. The bill is being recommended by the Senate’s Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation.

“While most guardians are selflessly dedicated to helping those in their care, guardianship creates significant opportunities to take advantage or abuse extremely vulnerable people. No person who has an abusive or violent past should be given that level of control over an elderly or disabled person and their affairs. This bill will protect senior citizens and disabled people,” said Representative Serpa.

There are an estimated 23,000 Rhode Islanders age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease — about 17.4 percent of that population, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, the rate of Alzheimer’s is expected to increase. In just six years, the number is expected to increase to 27,000. In the United States, nearly one in every three seniors who die has Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
6/27/2019RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Rep. David Bennett; Rep. Patricia Serpa; Rep. Joseph McNamara; #208; #187; #161; #121; #41; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The General Assembly has approved four bills to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.


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Deal includes $150m in new investment, increase in RI-based jobs

STATE HOUSE-  House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Gov. Gina M. Raimondo  today announced an agreement in principle with IGT for a continued partnership with the Rhode Island Lottery.

"IGT is one of Rhode Island’s most valued corporate partners, and I want them to continue to call Rhode Island home for decades to come,” said Speaker Mattiello. “This new agreement increases the company’s investment and guarantees great jobs stay in our state. I am committed to a full public vetting of this proposal and the House will hold hearings in the fall.”

Under the terms of the agreement, IGT will be responsible for a $25 million payment to the State, $150 million in capital investments over the next 20 years, and at least 1,100 permanent jobs in Rhode Island. IGT’s Rhode Island employees have an average annual salary of $100,000.

“I am grateful to Governor Raimondo for her work to keep IGT headquartered in Rhode Island,” said Senate President Ruggerio. “IGT is a major Rhode Island employer, with about 1,000 jobs averaging $100,000 in salary presently, and the number of Rhode Island jobs is anticipated to increase under this proposal. Since it is close to the end of the regular legislative session, I intend to introduce the legislation today so it is available for public inspection over the next few months, then return for a special session in the fall to thoroughly review and analyze the bill through the committee process before it is considered.” 

The General Assembly leaders will be introducing legislation this afternoon (2019-H 62662019-S 1031) to codify this agreement into state law. Hearings on the legislation will be held later this year.

“Rhode Island’s partnership with IGT over the past two decades has led to the creation of a thousand local jobs and hundreds of millions in economic activity,” said Governor Raimondo. “Today’s announcement ensures the company can continue to grow and thrive in our state while providing Rhode Islanders with some of the highest-quality games anywhere in the country. This innovative agreement keeps Rhode Island – and Rhode Island’s jobs – at the center of this modern and evolving industry.”
  
Additional provisions of the agreement include:
 
·     Anytime IGT plans to create at least 30 U.S.-based jobs or transfer as many employees, where not contractually obligated to another state, the company agrees to give Rhode Island the right of first offer to make a proposal for IGT to locate those jobs in Rhode Island.
·     IGT will maintain its corporate lottery office at 10 Memorial Boulevard in Downtown Providence.
·     IGT will install a new, state-of-the-art online lottery solution and will bring its iLottery products to Rhode Island.
·     IGT will regularly update its hardware and software to ensure Rhode Island Lottery consistently has state-of-the-art technology. Rhode Island Lottery will also have contractual rights to new technology developed by IGT in the future.
·     IGT will replace more than 900 VLTs with brand new machines at Twin River Lincoln (25% of IGT’s machines) by the end of 2020 and will be obligated to replace at least the lowest performing 6% of machines at Twin River Lincoln and Twin River Tiverton every year.
·     Instant ticket pricing will be locked in at its current rate through the life of the new contract.
6/27/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Legislative Press Bureau
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Deal includes $150m in new investment, increase in RI-based jobs

House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Gov. Gina M. Raimondo  announced an agreement in principle with IGT for a continued partnership with the Rhode Island Lottery. 
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Walter S. Felag’s (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) legislation (2019-S 0620) that would increase the amount of beer sold directly to customers by breweries was passed by the General Assembly tonight.

“Rhode Island’s craft brewery industry has been a true bright spot in Rhode Island’s resurgence from the Great Recession and this legislation will ensure that this promising and successful industry continues to grow within Rhode Island’s borders.  This bill will allow our breweries to better compete with those in our surrounding states and continue the growth we have witnessed in a very short amount of time,” said Senator Felag.

The legislation raises craft beer limits for sale so Rhode Island’s brewing industry continues to grow.  It allows breweries to sell a full case of 24 beers. If they produce 12-ounce cans or bottles, the brewery’s limit on the amount of beer sold remains the same. If the brewery produces 16-ounce cans or bottles, as many of the craft breweries do, the limit increases to a full case of 24 16-ounce bottles or cans.

The proposal seeks to allow additional growth in an industry that has recently gone from 14 to 30 craft breweries due to an earlier law addressing the same issue.

6/28/2019SenSen. Walter Felag; #112; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Walter S. Felag’s (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) legislation (2019-S 0620) that would increase the amount of beer sold directly to customers by breweries was passed by the General Assembly.


NoYesApprovedhttp://www.rilegislature.gov///pressrelease/SocialMediaPictures/_w/Felag-Social_png.jpg3704906/28/2019 7:12 PMSystem Account8/8/2019 3:48 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) that protects the rights of customers to pay for things in cash.

“More and more retailers are shifting to cashless transactions in other parts of the country for various reasons,” said Representative Ackerman. “From a consumer perspective, this could have a negative impact on working class customers, senior citizens and college students who don’t have credit cards.”

The law (2019-H 5116A, 2019-S 0889) makes it unlawful for any retail establishment offering goods or services for sale to discriminate against a prospective customer by requiring the use of credit for purchase of goods or services.

“This is a consumer protection bill,” said Senator Conley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. “Credit-card only policies are discriminatory to the old, the young and the poor. They can also be used to track spending history to build a profile and make identity theft easier. Those who wish to avoid all that by paying in cash should not be penalized.”

According to a survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, about 8 percent of households have no bank account and only 75 percent of American adults have credit cards.

“Given the age requirements for credit cards, a cashless policy creates a type of age discrimination that we should not be tolerating,” said Representative Ackerman. “Businesses still have an obligation to be accessible to everybody — not just those who have a credit card.”

The law does not apply to online purchases or sales made over the Internet.

7/1/2019SenRep. Mia Ackerman; Sen. William Conley; #191; #202; Daniel Trafford
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Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) that protects the rights of customers to pay for things in cash.

NoYesApproved3704997/1/2019 10:24 AMSystem Account8/8/2019 3:48 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski’s (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) legislation (2019-H 5817A) that defines any sexual contact by an individual with a position of authority over a person between the ages of 14 and under the age of 18 as third degree sexual assault passed the House of Representatives last week.

“This loophole in our criminal law needs to end and if a person in a position of authority exploits that role and begins a sexual relationship with a minor under their supervision, they need to be held accountable in the eyes of the law.  This bill sends a very clear message that this type of behavior is not allowed in our state,” said Representative Marszalkowski.

The legislation defines “position of authority” as any person who is acting in the place of a parent and charged with any of the parent’s rights, duties or responsibilities to a person under the age of 18, or a person who is charged with any duty or responsibility for the health, welfare, or supervision of a person under the age of 18.

If the accused has a supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the accused’s legal, professional, or occupational status, or if the accused is otherwise acting in a position of authority with respect to the victim, any sexual contact with a minor under their care would be considered third degree sexual assault.

Since the bill did not pass the Senate, Representative Marszalkowski plans to reintroduce the legislation at the start of the 2020 General Assembly session in January.

7/2/2019RepRep. Alex Marszalkowski; #239; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski’s (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) legislation (2019-H 5817A) that defines any sexual contact by an individual with a position of authority over a person between the ages of 14 and under the age of 18 as third degree sexual assault passed the House of Representatives.



NoYesApproved3705067/2/2019 11:00 AMSystem Account8/8/2019 3:47 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush’s (Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5171B / 2019-S 0315Aaa) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was signed into law by the governor yesterday. 

More specifically, the legislation extends the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse claims to 35 years.  Currently, the statute of limitations is seven years in Rhode Island.

“It is unfortunate that this bill is needed in our society because it signals that not only are our children being sexually victimized, but even more sadly, many of these victims will never have their day in court to face their abusers and demand accountability for the vicious childhood assaults that have haunted their lives – often times for decades.  It is for this reason that we need to significantly extend the statute of limitations on civil actions relating to sexual abuse.” said Representative McEntee.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a scourge on our society, nationally and here in Rhode Island. Today, passage of this legislation significantly moves the needle forward for these brave victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Today, Rhode Island has opened the courthouse doors by significantly extending the statute of limitations. Access to justice is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence, and today we have provided that for countless survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Bravo,” said Senator Nesselbush.

The bill would extend the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse from seven years to 35 years. The legislation would also extend to 35 years the statute of limitations for entities, individuals or organizations which caused or contributed to childhood sexual abuse through negligent supervision, conduct, concealment or other factors that enabled the abuse to occur.  The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities are also included under this provision of the legislation.
The 35 year statute begins at the age of 18 for the victims.

The bill also includes a “seven year discovery rule” which enables victims of sex abuse to file suit against perpetrators and non-perpetrators up to seven years from the time a victim discovered or remembered abuse had taken place, such as through therapy as an adult.

Representative McEntee introduced this bill due to her own personal family connection to childhood sexual abuse.  Last session and this session, Representative McEntee has accompanied her older sister, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, to testify in favor of the legislation.  Representative McEntee has referred to the legislation as “Annie’s Bill” due to her sister’s advocacy for the bill. 

Dr. Webb recounted her own experiences being a young survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of the family parish priest.  Representative McEntee’s sister, now a psychologist specializing in counseling adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, detailed how often it takes years, if not decades, for victims of childhood sexual assault to not only come to terms with their abuse, but also to find the strength to come forward, to name their abuser, and seek justice for the crimes perpetrated against their innocence and youth.

Dr. Webb also explained that because of the complex and often long healing process in regards to these crimes, many abusers are not only never charged criminally, but they also are shielded by statutes of limitations from having to answer for their crimes in a civil manner.

“Victims of childhood sexual abuse deserve justice and by passing this legislation, these brave people who have the courage to confront their victimizers will have a chance at justice for the crimes committed against them as children,” concluded Representative McEntee and Senator Nesselbush.

7/2/2019SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Donna Nesselbush; #226; #179; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush’s (Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5171B / 2019-S 0315Aaa) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was signed into law by the governor.



NoYesApproved3705077/2/2019 12:03 PMSystem Account8/8/2019 3:47 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Work began this week on a project to restore and update the House and Senate chambers in the State House.

The project is intended to restore the chambers as closely as possible to their original appearance at the beginning of the last century, while improving handicapped accessibility and technology, and complying with modern electrical, building and fire codes.

The $2.5 million project, which is to be finished by the beginning of the next legislative session on Jan. 7, 2020, is a collaborative effort between the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS), the Division of Capital Asset management and Maintenance (DCAMM), the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) and the State House Restoration Society (SHRS).

“The State House is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Rhode Island, and it was created to be a lasting monument to the achievements of our state. We are very proud to be honoring that concept with this careful, thoughtful renovation, which will bring it back to its original splendor, while incorporating the safety, technology and accessibility features that modern public buildings demand,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), who serves as chairman of JCLS. “We are very much looking forward to our return next year to chambers that better serve the public and our members and more closely resemble the magnificence of their original designs.”

Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), who serves as vice chairman of JCLS, “This project represents long-overdue updates and preservation that will make the chambers more functional while also vastly improving their beauty and historical accuracy. We are very grateful for the cooperation and hard work of our collaborating agencies, particularly the historical preservation groups. This is one of the most exciting and rewarding renovation projects we’ve embarked upon at the State House. When it was built, our State House was considered a masterpiece that served as the inspiration for many other states’ capitols. It’s our duty and also a pleasure to maintain its beauty and preserve its historical integrity so that every generation will be able to experience the same sense of awe and majesty that Rhode Islanders have enjoyed in our State House since 1904.”

The project includes replacing the chambers’ worn carpets and drapes, which were last replaced in 2002 and 1988, respectively. Legislators’ desks will be restored for the first time in decades, and their chairs will be replaced with functional, historically appropriate new models. The public galleries, skylights and rostrums will all be repaired, and the chambers will be painted with colors that are as close as possible to the original shades.

The State House Restoration Society worked with samples from the walls to determine the original colors. According to Sally Strachan, SHRS chairwoman, the walls in the House were a creamier shade than the gold they are today, and returning them to that color will make the handsome tapestries on the chamber’s north and south walls appear considerably more vivid. The 10 elaborate mural-like tapestries depicting a floral scene with open space beyond are original and are still well-preserved, she said, and her agency worked to ensure they will be adequately protected during the construction.

“Some of the original colors are a bit surprising, and very, very beautiful. As close as possible, returning the chambers to those original colors will make all the elements of the room look the way they were intended, and will preserve our State House’s rich history,” said Strachan, who added that the project’s planning has been a very successful collaboration between the entities involved.

“The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission has been working with JCLS, DCAMM and their teams as well as the State House Historical Society, to identify original color schemes for the House and Senate Chambers. The project scope has included a Finishes Analysis study, research into original design documents, and early photographs to ensure the completed restoration will reflect the architects’ original design intent,” added Virginia Hesse, RIHPHC principal historical architect.

Less visibly, the chambers’ antiquated electrical systems — which have had only piecemeal repairs and updates since the building opened in 1904 — will at last be fully updated, and the hearing loop system, which allows sound to be transmitted electronically to digital hearing aids, will be installed. (A hearing loop was installed in other rooms of the State House in 2016, but could not be installed in the chambers without removing the carpeting.) Improvements to the sound systems will also be performed.

JCLS will fund approximately $1.5 million of the projects’ costs from its budget. The remaining cost of just under $1 million will be paid by the Division of Capital Asset management and Maintenance, which is responsible for the building. All elements of the project were publicly bid and the contracts were awarded to three companies, all in Rhode Island: Vision 3 Architects and E.F. O’Donnell & Sons Co., Inc., both of Providence; and Drapery House of North Providence.

“We are pleased to be partners in this effort to restore and modernize the House and Senate chambers,” said Michael DiBiase, Director of Administration. “In collaboration with the General Assembly and historic preservation officials, we constructed a plan that retains the special and historical nature of these spaces while addressing long-overdue restoration needs. We look forward to seeing the end result, which we hope will continue to give Rhode Islanders immense pride in their state capitol.”  

Construction will be ongoing during an expected fall legislative session to address legislation pertaining to IGT’s state lottery contract, so legislative leaders are currently considering alternate sites for the House and the Senate to gather.

 

7/5/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Work began this week on a project to restore and update the House and Senate chambers in the State House.


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STATE HOUSE – The governor today signed into law the state budget bill approved by the General Assembly last week. The $9.97 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year largely avoids new taxes while strengthening education, continuing the car-tax phase-out and maintaining municipal aid, and closes a $200 million budget gap.

“I am pleased that this pro-business, pro-education budget has gone into law today. This budget adheres to the fundamental principles we have established by properly funding essential services, while respecting the limit on how much we can ask of our taxpayers. I am particularly proud that we are fully funding a commitment to phase out the car tax,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Said Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “I’m proud that this budget reflects many of the Senate’s most important priorities. Among those priorities are funding for pre-kindergarten programs, free RIPTA bus passes for low-income elderly and disabled, the opioid stewardship program, hospitals, and expansion of Rebuild RI to include historic projects. We also worked hard to ensure less reliance on scoops and one-time revenue sources.”

The bill (2019-H 5151Aaa) restores full funding for the third year of the phase-out of the automobile excise tax, a program instituted through legislation sponsored by Speaker Mattiello. In the budget she submitted to legislators earlier in the year, the governor had proposed slowing down the phase-out, which is set to be complete after FY 2023.

The Assembly did not include the governor’s proposal to institute a new fee on large businesses whose employees are enrolled in Medicaid programs, nor did it include her proposal to expand the sales tax to include lobbying services, design services and commercial building contracts for services like cleaning and landscaping. It also declined to increase the hotel tax and didn’t include a new excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Lawmakers did let one part of her sales tax expansion stand: digital downloads and streaming services like Netflix will be subject to the sales tax.

Legislators added the elimination of the “tampon tax” to the budget, agreeing to make feminine hygiene products exempt from sales tax, a proposal originally put forth in separate legislation (2019-H 53072019-S 0049) by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport). Of the 45 U.S. states that collect sales tax, 10, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, currently exempt feminine hygiene products. The Assembly also added urns to the list of funeral items that are tax exempt, as proposed in a separate bill (2019-H 51572019-S 0054) sponsored by Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence) and Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston). All tax changes take effect Oct. 1.

The Assembly also added proposal (2019-H 5576), 2019-S 0564) by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and Sen. Mark P. McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) to provide a work-around for owners of “pass-through” entities whose state and local taxes exceed the new $10,000 cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction on their federal tax returns, instituted under the changes to the federal tax codes passed by Congress in December 2017. The change will allow pass-through entities, such as limited liability companies (LLCs), S corps, partnerships and sole proprietorships, to pay the state tax on their business income, instead of passing it along to their partners to claim on their personal income tax returns. Based on legislation enacted in Connecticut, it is expected to be revenue-neutral for the state.

Legislators rejected the proposal to increase the cigarette tax by 25 cents per pack and 30 cents on cigars, based on the impacts on small businesses, particularly border-town convenience stores who also benefit from sales of other products to people who come in to buy tobacco products.

While the Assembly kept the governor’s proposed increases to campsite and other fees at state parks to fund park and beach maintenance, it rejected an increase in beach parking fees, instead opting to freeze beach parking at the current rate through the 2021 season.

The General Assembly left economic development programs largely the same as they were in the 2019 fiscal year, other than the Rebuild RI economic development program, which got authority to offer an additional $60 million in future credits and a six-month extension, but with some new limits.
Lawmakers also included the creation of the Rhode Island Small Business Development Fund, which would encourage the formation of private capital investment in small business by federally licensed investment companies. That initiative was introduced as a separate bill (2019-S 0055, 2019-H 5216) sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).

Legislators included legislation (2019-S-803Aaa) sponsored by Senate President Ruggerio to establish a process for creating Special Economic Development Districts on state-owned tracts of 20 or more contiguous acres at their inception that are not owned or controlled by the Department of Environmental Management. The measure was triggered by delays and impediments imposed upon the Hope Point Tower apartments proposal for the I-195 Redevelopment District. The special districts will be vested with authority to adopt development plans that include land use, location of buildings, street systems, dimension and height requirements, parking, landscaping, design review and population density. Additionally, the Assembly allowed up to $25 million in tax credits instead of $15 million for the apartment tower, and excluded it from the total spending cap in the Rebuild RI program.

The budget fully funds the state’s education aid formula, increasing direct aid by $33.4 million over the current year’s amount. Legislators granted the governor’s request to add $2.3 million to bring support for English language learners to $5 million, and much of her request to expand pre-kindergarten classrooms, adding $2.9 million, which will add hundreds of seats to the 1,080 that were previously funded, with expansion targeted toward the neediest families. All told, $14.9 million in general revenues will go toward high-quality pre-K.

Legislators also added an additional $640,000 in funding for the Department of Education to help with education reforms.

While the Assembly did not concur with the governor’s proposal to expand the Rhode Island Promise program, it did fully fund the program as it stands, providing graduating high schoolers with two free years at the Community College of Rhode Island.

The General Assembly added to the budget the proposal to establish a 17-member board of directors for the University of Rhode Island, providing it a governance structure similar to those of other public universities. URI is currently under the auspices of the state Council on Postsecondary Education, which also oversees Rhode Island College and CCRI. The change was proposed in separate legislation (2019-H 6180, 2019-S 0942) introduced by Speaker Mattiello and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

Also included for URI were authorization for revenue bonds for construction, including $51.5 million for the renovation and expansion of Memorial Union and $26.9 million for a new combined health and counseling center.

Lawmakers declined to implement the proposed hospital rate freeze and further increased rates by 4.5 percent, partially offset by increased revenues from the hospital license fee. The Assembly kept the governor’s proposal for a 1-percent rate increase to nursing home facilities, which increases funding by $3.1 million. It added $9.5 million to provide a wage increase, starting Oct. 1, 2019, to direct support professionals who work with adults with developmental disabilities, raising the hourly rate to approximately $13.

The Assembly also added the Opioid Stewardship Act (2019-S 0798A2019-H 6189), sponsored by Senate President Ruggerio and Speaker Mattiello, which assesses a $5 million yearly fee to manufacturers and distributors of opioid products sold and distributed in Rhode Island, except for those used for hospice care, addiction, treatment, epidurals, and intra-company transfers, to fund opioid treatment, prevention and education programs.

Legislators restored cuts to municipal aid, rejecting the governor’s cuts to both the excise tax phase-out and the payment in lieu of taxes program (PILOT) that reimburses municipalities for some of the taxes they lose out on from untaxed nonprofits in their community. Those changes restored $21.5 million in municipal aid.

The budget does not include the governor’s proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, although legislators did include authorization for six more compassion centers, in addition to the three existing ones, to sell medical marijuana. As part of the expansion, the Assembly increased the licensing fees for these centers to $500,000 each. It rejected the governor’s new restrictions on homegrown medical marijuana.

Lawmakers also eliminated a sunset provision on a program that provides fare-free bus passes to low-income seniors and elderly Rhode Islanders, making the program permanent.

The General Assembly added $220,000 in funding for Emergency Medical Dispatch Training to E911 operators to properly determine the nature and priority of the call, dispatch response and give the caller instructions while they await emergency responders, and established a new restricted receipt account for the E911 surcharge on phone bills. To comply with federal requirements, the surcharges on phone bills will be split into two separate charges, one to support E911 operations and another for funding other public safety needs.

Lawmakers did not include funding for renovations to the “Super Max” prison facility. They did include $200,000 to help fund the Nonviolence Institute to fund street workers, nonviolence community training and other initiatives to prevent violence.

They also increased “complete count” funding related to the upcoming census, from $150,000 in the governor’s proposal to $500,000.

The Assembly added approval of up to $200 million in GARVEE bonds that will allow Rhode Island to take advantage of current low interest rates to fund the reconstruction of the viaduct that carries Route 95 north through downtown Providence. Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds are a common funding In May, the Senate approved separate legislation (2019-S 0633A) sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) to authorize the same bonds. House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) sponsored the bill (2019-H 5883) in the House.

The budget authorizes the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority to issue up to $50 million in revenue bonds to finance renovations and repairs to the bridges in its purview: Mount Hope, Jamestown Verrazzano, Newport Pell and the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Lawmakers did not concur with the governor’s plan to once again put off the reissuance of license plates, which is required by law. The budget requires that the state start replacing current license plates with a new design upon the renewal of registration, with a fee of $8 per vehicle, a $2 increase.

They reduced from $10 million to $5 million in savings the state must identify in unspecified efficiencies over the course of the year. The Assembly also added statutes requiring more transparent reporting of overspending by state agencies and expanded the auditor general’s authority. It also achieved savings by eliminating vacant positions throughout state government.

The General Assembly did not include a proposal to increase the minimum wage from $10.50 to $11.10 next year. The General Assembly has increased the minimum wage in six of the last seven years.
7/5/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Larry Berman
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The governor has signed into law the state budget bill approved by the General Assembly. The $9.97 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year largely avoids new taxes while strengthening education, continuing the car-tax phase-out and maintaining municipal aid, and closes a $200 million budget gap.


NoYesApproved3705147/5/2019 1:29 PMSystem Account8/8/2019 3:47 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Three measures passed by the General Assembly to help address the opioid epidemic have been signed into law this week.

The bills will limit first-time opioid prescriptions, place warning signs in pharmacies about the dangers of opioids and remove a potential barrier to possession of life-saving anti-opioid prescriptions. The bills are sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Rep. Justine A. Caldwell and Sen. Bridget G. Valverde.

“We are doing everything we can to address the opioid crisis from every direction, from better interventions for preventing addiction to requiring the pharmaceutical companies who have promoted these drugs to help pay for the problems they’ve caused. I’m proud that my colleagues in both chambers of the General Assembly have made this issue a priority. We all understand that this epidemic is in every one of our districts, affecting the lives of people we know. It’s personal for just about everyone here, and we’re going to keep working to put an end to this crisis,” said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

One of the measures (2019-H 5537A, 2019-S 0981), sponsored by Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and President Ruggerio, will restrict first-time prescriptions for adults to the maximum daily dosage established by the Department of Health. It will also restrict all prescriptions to children to 20 doses, with exceptions for certain conditions and medicines designed for substance abuse or opioid dependence treatment.

“Over the course of several years, lawmakers, policymakers, medical professionals and community leaders have been collaborating and working hard to curb the opioid epidemic that has destroyed or taken the lives of so many in Rhode Island and across the nation. We are continuing to identify every possible contributing factor and implement every solution we can find to address this very complex crisis. We are making headway — recent figures show Rhode Island is experiencing fewer overdose deaths — but we still have much work to do to put an end to this devastating epidemic,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Also signed was a bill (2019-H 5184aa, 2019-S 0291aa), sponsored by Representative Caldwell and Senator Valverde to require signs at pharmacies warning customers about dangers associated with opioids. The signs would be similar to warning signs about tobacco products required wherever they are sold, and are meant to ensure that customers are aware of the possible dangers connected with opioids when they fill prescriptions for them. The bill would also require pharmacists to inform patients about their option to partially fill their prescription, and the procedures for dispensing other partial fills until the prescription is fully dispensed. The bill takes effect Sept. 1 and is not expected to result in any significant costs for the state.

“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis. We want to give everyone the knowledge, the reminder, the chance — whether it’s someone who is chronically ill, in recovery, a parent —to use their medication only in the way as prescribed by their doctor.  While I would hope they’ve already had conversations about them with their prescribing doctors, warning signs will drive home just how serious these risks are, and prompt them to ask their pharmacist if they have any further questions,” said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

Said Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett), “A great many of the people who become addicted to opioids begin with a valid prescription after surgery or an accident. Every person who gets a prescription for them needs to be aware of what the risks are, take only what they need, and make sure they don’t let their prescription fall into anyone else’s hands.”

President Ruggerio and Representative Caldwell are also the sponsors of the third bill (2019-H 6184Aaa, 2019-S 0799Aaa), which is intended to prevent insurers from denying or limiting life insurance to people who fill a prescription for the anti-overdose drug naloxone. Naloxone, commonly called by its trade name Narcan, is available through an open prescription to anyone in Rhode Island and is carried by many people who do not use drugs but keep it to prevent another person’s death.

President Ruggerio and Speaker Mattiello were also the sponsors of legislation to create the Opioid Stewardship Fund (2019-S 0798A2019-H 6189), which will assess a fee on pharmaceutical companies that sell opioids to pay for addiction prevention and treatment programs. That program became part of the state budget bill (2019-H 5151Aaa), which was signed into law Friday.

7/9/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Justine A. Caldwell; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #120; #85; #252; #264; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Three measures passed by the General Assembly to help address the opioid epidemic have been signed into law. The bills will limit first-time opioid prescriptions, place warning signs in pharmacies about the dangers of opioids and remove a potential barrier to possession of life-saving anti-opioid prescriptions. 


NoYesApproved3705187/9/2019 11:12 AMSystem Account8/8/2019 3:47 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Legislation passed by the General Assembly to prevent the misrepresentation of pets as service animals has been signed into law.

The legislation (2019-S 0308A, 2019-H 5299aa), sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard and Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins, prevents owners from misrepresenting a pet as a service animal in order to gain access to rights or privileges reserved for disabled individuals with service animals.

“Service animals are highly trained at great expense, and they provide potentially life-saving assistance to the people they serve. The people they serve need their service animals by their side at all times, and that’s why exceptions exist for them that let them bring them into places where other animals aren’t allowed. People who aren’t disabled who are trying to get the same rights for themselves that are granted to disabled people are taking unfair advantage of these exceptions, and shouldn’t be undermining their purpose. They are also putting business owners like restaurant operators in an uncomfortable position, because they have a duty to follow health codes that don’t allow animals unless they are real service animals in order to keep their patrons safe and their facilities clean. This bill is meant as a deterrent to discourage people from abusing service animal laws,” said Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland).

The legislation defines service animals as dogs that have been or are being specifically trained to assist an individual with a disability, including guide dogs and hearing dogs. The bill makes it a civil infraction to misrepresent an animal as a service animal to gain a privilege reserved for them, and makes violations punishable by up to 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves disabled people.

“It is fundamentally unfair to people with actual disabilities for others to misrepresent the same conditions.  Misrepresenting a service animal defrauds actual service dog users, and businesses and agencies that work with people who employ service dogs.  This legislation protects these parties as well as providing an appropriate punishment for those who try to game the system with fake service animals,” said Representative Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester).

The bill, which the governor signed yesterday, also states that businesses may post a decal in a front window or door stating that service animals are welcome and that misrepresentation of a service animal is a violation of Rhode Island law.
7/9/2019RepSen. Roger Picard; Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins; #65; #254; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Legislation passed by the General Assembly to prevent the misrepresentation of pets as service animals has been signed into law.

NoYesApproved3705217/9/2019 2:46 PMSystem Account8/8/2019 3:47 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Walter S. Felag’s (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) legislation (2019-S 0620) that would increase the amount of beer sold directly to customers by breweries has been signed into law by the governor.

“Rhode Island’s craft brewery industry has been a true bright spot in Rhode Island’s resurgence from the Great Recession and this legislation will ensure that this promising and successful industry continues to grow within Rhode Island’s borders.  This bill will allow our breweries to better compete with those in our surrounding states and continue the growth we have witnessed in a very short amount of time,” said Senator Felag.

The legislation raises craft beer limits for sale so Rhode Island’s brewing industry continues to grow.  It allows breweries to sell a full case of 24 beers. If they produce 12-ounce cans or bottles, the brewery’s limit on the amount of beer sold remains the same. If the brewery produces 16-ounce cans or bottles, as many of the craft breweries do, the limit increases to a full case of 24 16-ounce bottles or cans.

The proposal seeks to allow additional growth in an industry that has recently gone from 14 to 30 craft breweries due to an earlier law addressing the same issue.

7/18/2019SenSen. Walter Felag; #112; Andrew Caruolo
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Sen. Walter S. Felag’s (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) legislation (2019-S 0620) that would increase the amount of beer sold directly to customers by breweries has been signed into law by the governor.



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STATE HOUSE – Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) participated in a grand opening ribbon cutting event for Rhode Island’s first and only adaptive gym within a traditional fitness facility today at the Park Avenue YMCA in Cranston.

The gym was established by the Gary Balletto Foundation in partnership with the Cranston YMCA. 
In 2013, after retiring from a 10-year career as a professional boxer, Gary “Tiger” Balletto was injured in his backyard while training for American Ninja Warrior. Paralyzed from the chest-down, he spent the next 18 months rehabilitating, and adapting to his new reality.  It is during this time that Gary realized there was a significant unmet need for gym facilities for people like him with spinal cord injuries.

“Gary has been a true inspiration for a long time to not only the people of Cranston, but the entire state as a whole.  His determination and always positive spirit demonstrates what is possible in the face of adversity and I could not be any prouder to call him a friend.  I have no doubt that this gym will serve its use well and that Gary will continue to be an inspiration for many more future years to come,” said Speaker Mattiello.

The adaptive gym is situated within the YMCA’s main exercise space, where dedicated, specially-trained staff are available to assist clients so they can safely and effectively use the equipment. This setup is intentional - it is rare for people with spinal cord injuries, and other types of paralysis, to have affordable access to gym equipment which they can use, and even more unusual to find it within an able-bodied gym. This allows people of all abilities to be surrounded by friends, family and peers, in a context where all can interact, assist, and enjoy working out together.

From the left: Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Christina Cho, girlfriend of Gary Balletto, Gary Balletto, and Steven G. O’Donnell, CEO of the Greater Providence YMCA

7/23/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; #120; Larry Berman
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Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) participated in a grand opening ribbon cutting event for Rhode Island’s first and only adaptive gym within a traditional fitness facility today at the Park Avenue YMCA in Cranston.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) and Sen. Sandra Cano’s (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) legislation (2019-H 6153Aaa / 2019-S 0673aa) that would authorize state and local incremental tax revenues generated in certain economic development districts in Pawtucket to be allocated to fund improvements has been signed into law by the governor.

“This is an incredibly important bill to Pawtucket and its residents. With the loss of the PawSox, it’s more crucial than ever to redevelop assets that are dormant in our city, particularly in the downtown area. This bill will give the economic development tools needed to revitalize our city without costing taxpayers a dime,” said Representative Tobon.

“Despite recent hardships, Pawtucket has a lot of momentum behind it. This legislation will support the city’s mission to redevelop and rejuvenate key districts while allowing the city to invest in much-needed redevelopment projects without raising taxes or fees on residents. I thank the General Assembly for passing this crucial bill,” said Senator Cano.

The legislation authorizes state and local incremental tax revenues, such as sales taxes, generated in the Arts District, the Growth Center District and the Ballpark District in Pawtucket to be used to finance improvements and redevelopment in the districts. 

7/10/2019SenRep. Carlos E. Tobon; Sen. Sandra Cano; #221; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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As a main thoroughfare in Northern RI connecting to the Capital City, lack of timely action is unacceptable
 
STATE HOUSE – Representative Brian C. Newberry is again leading the charge to get infrastructure improvements for Route 146 expedited with Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT). 

Recently, RIDOT announced that they intend to delay repaving of Route 146 between Route 295 and the 146A split originally scheduled for 2022 to 2024 due to “evaluation of pavement conditions and funding availability.”  This follows on the heels of a request made by twenty Northern Rhode Island legislators in March of 2018 that the repaving be moved up from 2022 to an earlier date.  Newberry calls this latest decision to do the opposite a “slap in the face” to every member of the Northern Rhode Island legislative delegation and every resident of Northern Rhode Island.  Attached please find a letter penned today demanding resurfacing and other improvements on this highway for the thousands of travelers who navigate this main artery daily. The letter was sent to Rhode Island government officials and administrators of RIDOT.

 

8/7/2019RepRep. Brian Newberry; #139; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE — The House Committee on Oversight is scheduled to meet Thursday to review recommendations in the June 2019 report of the Child Fatality Review Panel.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

In June, the committee heard a review of the findings by Rhode Island Child Advocate Jennifer Griffith that DCYF staff had ignored several dangers facing eight special needs children who had been placed in the home of Michele Rothgeb of Warwick. One girl, Zha-Nae, 9, died in her custody. She was found lying face down naked in a bathtub by a rescue crew.

The Office of Child Advocate is tasked with the review of all fatalities or near fatalities involving abuse or neglect of children involved or recently involved with the Department of Children, Youth and Families. The House Oversight Committee began reviewing these fatalities two years ago when the child advocate issued a report detailing the deaths of four children in DCYF custody.

The House Oversight Committee is chaired by Rep. Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick). 
8/6/2019RepRep. Patricia Serpa; #121; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705528/6/2019 10:53 AMSystem Account8/6/2019 10:53 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush’s (Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5171B / 2019-S 0315Aaa) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was ceremonially signed into law by the governor today in the State Room of the State House. 

More specifically, the legislation extends the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse claims to 35 years.  Currently, the statute of limitations is seven years in Rhode Island.

“It is unfortunate that this bill is needed in our society because it signals that not only are our children being sexually victimized, but even more sadly, many of these victims will never have their day in court to face their abusers and demand accountability for the vicious childhood assaults that have haunted their lives – often times for decades.  It is for this reason that we need to significantly extend the statute of limitations on civil actions relating to sexual abuse.” said Representative McEntee.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a scourge on our society, nationally and here in Rhode Island. Today, passage of this legislation significantly moves the needle forward for these brave victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Today, Rhode Island has opened the courthouse doors by significantly extending the statute of limitations. Access to justice is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence, and today we have provided that for countless survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Bravo,” said Senator Nesselbush.

The bill would extend the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse from seven years to 35 years. The legislation would also extend to 35 years the statute of limitations for entities, individuals or organizations which caused or contributed to childhood sexual abuse through negligent supervision, conduct, concealment or other factors that enabled the abuse to occur.  The State of Rhode Island and its municipalities are also included under this provision of the legislation.

The 35 year statute begins at the age of 18 for the victims.

The bill also includes a “seven year discovery rule” which enables victims of sex abuse to file suit against perpetrators and non-perpetrators up to seven years from the time a victim discovered or remembered abuse had taken place, such as through therapy as an adult.

Representative McEntee introduced this bill due to her own personal family connection to childhood sexual abuse.  Last session and this session, Representative McEntee has accompanied her older sister, Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, to testify in favor of the legislation.  Representative McEntee has referred to the legislation as “Annie’s Bill” due to her sister’s advocacy for the bill. 

Dr. Webb recounted her own experiences being a young survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of the family parish priest.  Representative McEntee’s sister, now a psychologist specializing in counseling adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, detailed how often it takes years, if not decades, for victims of childhood sexual assault to not only come to terms with their abuse, but also to find the strength to come forward, to name their abuser, and seek justice for the crimes perpetrated against their innocence and youth.

Dr. Webb also explained that because of the complex and often long healing process in regards to these crimes, many abusers are not only never charged criminally, but they also are shielded by statutes of limitations from having to answer for their crimes in a civil manner.

“Victims of childhood sexual abuse deserve justice and by passing this legislation, these brave people who have the courage to confront their victimizers will have a chance at justice for the crimes committed against them as children,” concluded Representative McEntee and Senator Nesselbush.

From the left: Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush, sponsor, Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Dr. Anne Hagan Webb, advocate and sister of Representative McEntee, and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, sponsor, at a ceremonial bill signing of the legislation held in the State Room of the State House.


8/5/2019SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Donna Nesselbush; #226; #179; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush’s (Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5171B / 2019-S 0315Aaa) that amends the state’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse was ceremonially signed into law by the governor today in the State Room of the State House. 



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Legislation frees practitioners from inapplicable, burdensome hairdressing license standards

STATE HOUSE – Natural hair braiders are now exempt from having to become licensed hairdressers and cosmeticians under a new law passed by the General Assembly and ceremonially signed into law by the governor today at Salon 361 in Providence.

The legislation (2019-H 5677A, 2019-S 0260A), sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams and Sen. Ana B. Quezada, is the result of a four-year effort to recognize natural hair braiding as a safe, natural, cultural practice, distinct from hairdressing and barbering, which requires licensing due to their use of chemicals and sharp instruments.

“For centuries, natural hair braiding has been a common practice for African and African American women and men. Hair braiding skills and techniques are passed down from generation to generation and do not require formal training. Forcing natural hair braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is a clear injustice. This bill rights a wrong and allows entrepreneurs — including a lot of women from low-income neighborhoods — to make a living,” said Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).  “Natural hair braiding is an art form, limited only by the braider’s creativity. The state does not require licenses to produce art, yet, that is in effect what was occurring with natural hair braiders. Finally lifting this senseless requirement is a triumph for our community, not only freeing braiders from onerous regulations but also bringing about a bit of sorely needed cultural sensitivity.”

The new law, which took effect immediately, defines natural hair braiding as “a service of twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair by hand or with mechanical devices.” The law allows braiders to use natural or synthetic hair extensions, decorative beads and other hair accessories; to perform minor trimming of natural hair or hair extensions incidental to twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking or braiding hair; and to use topical agents such as conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos in conjunction with hair braiding as well as clips, combs, crochet hooks, curlers, curling irons, hairpins, rollers, scissors, blunt-tipped needles, thread, and hair binders. They may also make wigs from natural hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers and hair extensions.

Under the new law, natural hair braiders may not apply dyes, reactive chemicals, or other preparations to alter the color of the hair or to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair; or use chemical hair joining agents such as synthetic tape, keratin bonds or fusion bonds.

Proponents for the legislation have argued that requiring natural hair braiders to meet the licensing requirements for hairdressers forces them to either pay thousands of dollars and undergo 1,200 hours of cosmetology training, or go into the “underground economy” to avoid being shut down.

“Passing this bill is vindication for braiders who have never claimed to be hairdressers and shouldn’t have been held to the same licensing standards. It also lets braiders practice their art much more freely, finally opening the door for a cottage industry to thrive in Rhode Island. In that way, it’s an economic development and jobs bill, too,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

Enactment of the law means Rhode Island joins 27 other states that do not require licensing of natural hair braiders, according to the Institute for Justice, which has advocated for the deregulation of natural hair braiders across the nation.

Governor Gina Raimondo ceremonially signed legislation today to exempt natural hair braiders from burdensome licensing requirements.  From left are Senators Dawn Euer and Ana Quezada, Senate sponsors; Rep. Anastasia Williams, House sponsor; Governor Raimondo; Jocelyn Docouto, advocate; and Natalie Jones, owner of Salon 361 in Providence where the ceremony was held.


8/2/2019SenRep. Anastasia Williams; Sen. Ana B. Quezada; #10; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Natural hair braiders are now exempt from having to become licensed hairdressers and cosmeticians under a new law passed by the General Assembly and ceremonially signed into law by the governor today at Salon 361 in Providence.



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STATE HOUSE – A new law cosponsored by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) will protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers operating in Rhode Island. The legislation, which was backed by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, took effect as soon as it was signed by the governor July 15, after passage by the General Assembly in June.

Representative Amore participated in the governor’s working group that formulated the legislation.
“Our students are facing a real and significant crisis in regard to the always escalating costs of student loans.  What is even more unacceptable though are the predatory practices employed by some student loan providers that target and in some cases financially cripple our students.  This law will protect our students from these bad actors within the student loan industry and help with the costs of student debt levels,” said Representative Amore.

The legislation (2019-H 5936A), sponsored by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and titled the Student Loan Bill of Rights, sets standards for student loan servicing, both prohibiting predatory behavior and providing best practices for protecting consumers’ rights. It requires that student loan servicers register with the state and allows state regulators to examine servicers’ business practices. Additionally, the new law allows the Attorney General and Department of Business Regulation to penalize servicers who violate borrower rights and to seek restitution on behalf of borrowers in Rhode Island.

Borrowers in Rhode Island report being double-charged or incorrectly marked as delinquent in payment, with loan servicers taking months or even years to correct mistakes. Additionally, many student loan borrowers eligible for the national Public Service Loan Forgiveness program have received incorrect and contradictory information from their loan servicers, leading to improper denials of loan forgiveness.

More than 133,000 Rhode Islanders, including 16,000 senior citizens, have a combined $4.5 billion in student loan debt. Over $470 million of Rhode Islanders’ student loan debt is delinquent.

7/30/2019RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) and Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) recently paid a visit to the Tiverton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5392, to present the post commander, Tony Lacerda, with a legislative grant of $5,000 to assist the post in replacing and updating an antiquated HVAC system. 

“We are grateful for everything that our representatives have done on our behalf,” said Commander Lacerda. “We are long overdue in updating our heat and ac system with something more energy efficient, something that meets ‘green-energy’ standards and reduces our electricity costs. The grant will definitely help us out with the overall cost of replacement.”
7/29/2019RepRep. John Edwards; Rep. Dennis Canario; #144; #197; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) and Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) are pleased to announce that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will be removing a barrier that has been erected on Nanaquaket Road in Tiverton that blocks access to an inlet of Narragansett Bay.

Representative Edwards and Representative Canario have previously called for RIDOT to remove the barriers that are preventing Rhode Islanders from accessing the public land along the water.

“Every Rhode Islander has a constitutional right to access the shoreline, and parking for these areas is rare if ever available. For the state to take away any of these spots was just unfathomable and unjust to the many residents looking to simply enjoy and experience why our state is called ‘The Ocean State’.  Thankfully, our calls have been answered and beginning soon, this beautiful piece of state coastline will once again be accessible to the citizens of our community,” said Representative Canario.

“The closing off of this long-time parking area enjoyed by my constituents in order to satisfy a single abutter was not only unfair but also shameful,” explained Representative Edwards. “I am pleased that RIDOT has finally listened to the community and will begin the process of removing the curbing and landscaping, hopefully to be completed by Labor Day of this year.”

The spot in question is a strip of land just to the west of Nanaquaket Bridge, which spans the waterway and borders the districts of Representatives Edwards and Canario. Complaints about the barrier began in January, resulting in Representatives Edwards and Canario urging RIDOT to rectify the situation.

7/25/2019RepRep. John Edwards; Rep. Dennis Canario; #144; #197; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio to expand the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act has been signed into law.

The bill (2019-H 5536A, 2019-S 0953), which passed the General Assembly in June and took effect immediately upon its signature by the governor July 15, adds law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act, which protects them from civil or criminal liability arising from helping a person they believe is overdosing.

Many police and EMTs in the state are equipped with kits for administering naloxone – the opioid-overdose antidote commonly known by its trade name, Narcan. In fact, a change made to the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act last year allows them to distribute naloxone kits to at-risk individuals or their families or friends so they are equipped in case of an overdose.

The new law is one of several the two legislative leaders successfully enacted this year and in recent years to help address the opioids crisis.

“Over the course of several years, lawmakers, policymakers, medical professionals and community leaders have been collaborating and working hard to curb the opioid epidemic that has destroyed or taken the lives of so many in Rhode Island and across the nation. We are continuing to identify every possible contributing factor and implement every solution we can find to address this very complex crisis. We are making headway — recent figures show Rhode Island is experiencing fewer overdose deaths — but we still have much work to do to put an end to this devastating epidemic,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “We are doing everything we can to address the opioid crisis from every direction, from better interventions for preventing addiction to requiring the pharmaceutical companies who have promoted these drugs to help pay for the problems they’ve caused. I’m proud that my colleagues in both chambers of the General Assembly have made this issue a priority. We all understand that this epidemic is in every one of our districts, affecting the lives of people we know. It’s personal for just about everyone here, and we’re going to keep working to put an end to this crisis.”

Speaker Mattiello and President Ruggerio also both sponsored the creation of the Opioid Stewardship Fund (2019-S 0798A2019-H 6189), which later became part of the 2020 state budget bill, to assess a fee on pharmaceutical companies that sell opioids to pay for addiction prevention and treatment programs; as well as a new law (2019-H 5537A, 2019-S 0981) to limit first-time prescriptions to prevent addiction.

Also enacted this year was legislation (2019-S 0799Aaa, 2019-H 6184Aaa) sponsored by President Ruggerio and Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) to prevent insurers from denying or limiting life insurance to people who fill a prescription for naloxone. Naloxone is available through an open prescription to anyone in Rhode Island and is carried by many people who do not use drugs but keep it to prevent another person’s death.

7/25/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Panels are to ensure warning signs aren’t missed
 
STATE HOUSE – A new law sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo will increase school safety by creating threat assessment teams in schools to serve as the “boots on the ground” in identifying potentially threatening behavior by those in the school community.

Under the legislation (2019-H 5538, 2019-S 0818), which was passed by the General Assembly in June and took effect immediately upon being signed by the governor July 15, school districts must also adopt policies for assessment and intervention, including procedures for referrals to community services or health care providers for evaluation.

The legislation was a recommendation of the School Safety Committee, a panel led by the State Police to develop statewide policy for school safety. Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) met with the State Police over the course of last summer to discuss legislative efforts that could help prevent violence in schools such as the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year.

“So many times after a tragedy, members of the school community say there were so many warning signs from the eventual perpetrator of the violence. Then people are puzzled about how those signs could possibly be missed, to such devastating effect,” said Speaker Mattiello. “Many times, it’s because of segmented administrative structures that don’t result in anyone in charge recognizing multiple warning signs from a single person. There have to be people at every school — people who are part of that school’s fabric, who know the students, the staff, the parents and the structures — whose job it is to collect that information and decide what to do with it. Everyone at that school needs to know who to tell if they see concerning behavior, so they can help keep schools safe, and connect troubled individuals to help so they don’t become the next perpetrator of violence at school.”

Under the new law, every district school committee is required to adopt a written policy for the establishment of threat assessment teams, and for assessment and intervention with individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students. The policies, which must be consistent with a model policy the statewide School Safety Committee has recommended, shall include procedures for referrals to community services or health care providers for evaluation or treatment when appropriate.

Each district superintendent must establish for each school a threat assessment team with expertise in guidance, counseling, school administration, mental health and law enforcement. The team will be in charge of implementing the district safety policy. It will also provide guidance to students, faculty, and staff in recognizing threatening or aberrant behavior that may represent a threat to the community, school, or the individual, and ensure that everyone at the school knows who to tell if they recognize such behavior. If there is reason to believe someone in the school poses a threat of violence to others or himself or herself, the team would immediately pass information on for action: to the superintendent or other designated administrator, and to the school building administrator, who would be in charge of contacting parents or guardians in the case of a student. Members of the team are prohibited from disclosing any information regarding any individual collected through the course of the team’s work, except for the purpose of addressing the threat.

The superintendent must also establish a district committee with similar expertise to oversee the school-level teams.

The bill is modeled after a Virginia law. Similar models have been adopted in Maryland, Florida and other states since the Parkland massacre.

“This effort will help prevent violence before it happens, and it will also serve as a means to connect people who are experiencing trouble with the help they need. Having dedicated groups within each school who know the students, the faculty, the staff and the parents will help identify concerns early as a means of both prevention and intervention. Their work can keep schools safe and allow the focus to stay on learning,” said Chairwoman Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).

The House bill was cosponsored by Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Rep. Mario Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence), Rep. Joe Serodio (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) and Rep. Thomas Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick). The Senate bill was cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) and Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).
7/25/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Hanna Gallo; #120; #88; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Panels are to ensure warning signs aren’t missed
 
A new law sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo will increase school safety by creating threat assessment teams in schools to serve as the “boots on the ground” in identifying potentially threatening behavior by those in the school community.


YesYesApproved3705457/25/2019 11:51 AMSystem Account7/25/2019 11:51 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – A new law sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma will clarify and streamline Rhode Island’s financial regulatory structure for users of blockchain technology. The bill, which was signed by the governor July 15 after passage by the General Assembly in June, takes effect Jan. 1.

The legislation (2019-H 5847A), 2019-S 0753Aaa) consolidates two licenses that are currently required for tech companies that assist consumers with financial blockchain transactions, and will better position Rhode Island’s businesses to use this emergent technology.

“Our message in Rhode Island for the last several years is that we welcome business development and growth. This bill is one element of the effort to make Rhode Island a place where businesses can thrive. By readying our regulatory systems for the technology of the future, we’re encouraging tech companies that may be developing blockchain technology to consider Rhode Island, while also making it easier for other companies, new and existing, to use it. This bill is about making it easier to do business in Rhode Island,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Blockchain is a database technology that can be used to store information in a secure and public or encrypted manner, creating a decentralized database of blocks of data that are shared by all users. Each block is attached to a chain of the blocks that came before it, creating an easily traceable and hard-to-alter history of the data. Although the design’s most high-profile use is to track the virtual currency Bitcoin, it has many applications, some financial, some not. Walmart has begun using it to track the supply chain of its produce, and Rhode Island-based CVS and Fidelity have been using it to ensure patient information security and to facilitate the financial transactions of the future.

“This is economic development legislation. By adopting it, we are making space for new kinds of companies and industries and helping to advance the companies that are already here. The more we can adapt our laws and regulations to emerging technologies like this, the more inviting we are to entrepreneurs and growing companies that will bring high-paying jobs in technology and other sectors. This legislation will help strengthen the economy and create jobs,” said Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton).

The new law concerns only the functions of blockchain that that involve currency or virtual currency, since those are already licensed activities in Rhode Island.

The law consolidates Rhode Island’s current electronic money transmitter license and its sales of checks license, and adds the authority for virtual currency to the new currency transmission license. The new license will allow licensees to conduct all the activities allowed under the two prior licenses, plus virtual currency activities. Currently, users of blockchain financial applications are required to have both licenses.

Much of the bill is based on model law used in other states, reducing the regulatory burden for companies that operate in several states.

The legislation was supported by the Department of Business Regulation (DBR).

“DBR is proud to support this key piece of legislation,” said DBR Director Liz Tanner. “The bill addresses needed clarifications that will enable the blockchain community to grow in Rhode Island.”

The legislation was cosponsored in the House by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick). Senate cosponsors include Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Cranston), Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket), Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick) and Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

7/25/2019SenRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #187; #147; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – A new law sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara will protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers operating in Rhode Island. The legislation, which was backed by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, took effect as soon as it was signed by the governor July 15, after passage by the General Assembly in June.

“By several measures, student loan debt has increased greatly in the last 10 years,” said Representative McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “It has surpassed the amount households owe on auto loans, home equity loans and credit cards. This legislation will help to address the crisis by establishing oversight of the student loan process and prohibiting predatory practices.”

Said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), “The heavy burden of student debt is challenging enough for the majority of college graduates. Incompetent, inefficient or even deceitful loan servicers should not be allowed to exacerbate their struggles. Student loan servicers must be held accountable to ensure that they are providing honest, reliable information and services to their borrowers.”

The legislation (2019-S 0737A, 2019-H 5936A), titled the Student Loan Bill of Rights, sets standards for student loan servicing, both prohibiting predatory behavior and providing best practices for protecting consumers’ rights. It requires that student loan servicers register with the state and allows state regulators to examine servicers’ business practices. Additionally, the new law allows the Attorney General and Department of Business Regulation to penalize servicers who violate borrower rights and to seek restitution on behalf of borrowers in Rhode Island.

Borrowers in Rhode Island report being double-charged or incorrectly marked as delinquent in payment, with loan servicers taking months or even years to correct mistakes. Additionally, many student loan borrowers eligible for the national Public Service Loan Forgiveness program have received incorrect and contradictory information from their loan servicers, leading to improper denials of loan forgiveness.

“There is a growing student debt crisis in the country and in Rhode Island. There are borrowers who do everything right and still fall victim to predatory and deceptive practices by the corporations that service their loans,” said Treasurer Magaziner. “The Rhode Island General Assembly passed our common-sense legislation that will hold servicers accountable and provide an important resource for Rhode Islanders who are paying off student loans.”

Said Attorney General Neronha, “If and when borrowers have issues with their loans or loan servicers, this legislation provides them with a place to go to address those issues. While our primary focus will be on helping Rhode Islanders get the information they need to solve their student loan problems, my office will be ready, on behalf of mistreated borrowers, to investigate and enforce violations of the student loan standards outlined in this bill.”

More than 133,000 Rhode Islanders, including 16,000 senior citizens, have a combined $4.5 billion in student loan debt. Over $470 million of Rhode Islanders’ student loan debt is delinquent.
7/25/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Dawn Euer; #41; #244; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – A new law sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski will make noncompetition agreements unenforceable against hourly and low-wage employees as well as children and college students.

The legislation (2019-S 0698A, 2019-H 6019A), signed into law July 15, is intended as a way to help employees find other employment when they leave a job.

Noncompetition agreements are meant to place limits on an employee’s activities such as working for a competitor, often for a period of months or years after they have left their job.

Such agreements have a chilling effect on employees’ ability to seek other work in their field.

“Hourly workers, low-wage employees and people who are just starting out should not be hindered from finding a new job when they leave or lose another. They need to keep working. A former employer should not have the right to place any restrictions on them that make it hard for them to land another job, especially in a field where they have experience. Noncompete agreements are one more roadblock that can contribute to keeping poor people poor, and they should not be allowed to be used in that way,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The legislation makes such agreements unenforceable against non-salaried employees, employees who make less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, children under 18 and both undergraduate and graduate students.

“There’s simply no justification for noncompete agreements for employees who are nowhere near the top of the corporate ladder. This legislation will help workers get back to work after job loss and protect them from being unfairly forced to sit on the sidelines without a paycheck when they are ready and willing to work,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
7/25/2019RepSen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. Christopher Blazejewski; #104; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law several pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.

The bills were all sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), who led the Senate’s Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation this year. In the House, the bills were sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, Rep. Joseph McNamara and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa.

“Alzheimer’s disease profoundly reshapes families, often for years. Its effects slowly rob people of the abilities they have had their whole lives. Providing the care that their loved ones need can be an enormous challenge for families. We must ensure that we are carefully and effectively using every available resource we have to ensure that every person affected by Alzheimer’s has the support and care they need,” said Senator Coyne, whose father died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The first bill (2019-S 0223, 2019-H 5178), sponsored in the House by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, establishes a program within the Department of Health dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease, and create a 13-member advisory council that would provide policy recommendations, evaluate state-funded efforts for care and research and provide guidance to state officials on advancements in treatment, prevention and diagnosis. The bill is based on legislation signed into law last year in Massachusetts.

The bill requires the Department of Health to assess all state programs related to Alzheimer’s, and maintain and annually update the state’s plan for Alzheimer’s disease. It also requires the Department of Health to establish an Alzheimer’s disease assessment protocol specifically focused on recognizing the signs and symptoms of cognitive impairments, and appropriate resource information for effective medical screening, investigation and service planning. The bill requires caseworkers working with the Department of Elderly Affairs to be familiar with those protocols. Additionally, it requires a one-time, hour-long training on diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with cognitive impairments for all physicians and nurses licensed in the state.

“This legislation will create a more cohesive approach to our state’s efforts to serve people with Alzheimer’s disease, which will ensure that our resources are used to their fullest effect. It will help Rhode Island make sure that our efforts are well coordinated and that we are doing everything we can to assist families touched by this devastating disease,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Adoption of the bill enables Rhode Island to qualify for federal funding that is available to help states with their efforts to support those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The second bill (2019-S 0302A, 2019-H 5141), sponsored in the House by Representative McNamara, now allows the spouses or partners of patients residing in Alzheimer’s or dementia special care unit or program to live with them, even if they do not meet the requirements as patients themselves.

“A person who needs care for Alzheimer’s should not be separated from his or her spouse on top of it. Allowing couples to remain living together will help them maintain their relationship, their connection and their personal dignity,” said Representative McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), who is chairman of the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

Additionally, the governor signed legislation sponsored in the House by Representative Serpa that now requires a nationwide criminal background check for anyone seeking guardianship or limited guardianship of another adult, even temporarily.

“While most guardians are selflessly dedicated to helping those in their care, guardianship creates significant opportunities to take advantage or abuse extremely vulnerable people. No person who has an abusive or violent past should be given that level of control over an elderly or disabled person and their affairs. This bill will protect senior citizens and disabled people,” said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

Under the bill (2019-S 0845A, 2019-H 6114), anyone who is found to have been convicted or plead nolo contendere to charges for a variety of crimes, including violent crimes or crimes involving abuse or neglect of elders, would be disqualified from serving as a guardian.
7/25/2019RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Rep. Joseph McNamara; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #208; #187; #41; #121; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The governor has signed into law several pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.


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STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed legislation passed by the General Assembly to provide stronger oversight for hospitals being acquired by nonprofit entities.

The legislation, which was sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr., was a response to the St. Joseph pension system crisis. The hospital system’s pension fund became insolvent when contributions to it ceased following the sale of Fatima Hospital and Roger Williams Hospital to Prospect Medical Holdings in 2014. The $85 million fund covered about 2,700 current and former employees of the two hospitals.

“This legislation will help prevent what happened with the St. Joseph’s Health Services pension plan from ever happening again in Rhode Island,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “Extended monitoring will provide the necessary increased oversight, while stiffer penalties will work to ensure those who don’t comply with the law are held accountable.”

The legislation (2019-S-500A , 2019-H 5695A) requires monitoring for hospital conversions involving non-profit acquirors, at the expense of the acquiror, and extends the monitoring following a conversion from 3 to 5 years.

The new law also doubles penalties for failure to comply with the terms of the conversion from $1 million to $2 million.

“The St. Joseph pension insolvency exposed the significant lack of oversight in this sort of conversion. Hospital conversions can have tremendous effects on communities, on patients and on thousands employees and retirees. There should be someone watching carefully to ensure that everything’s being done by the book, for everyone’s protection,” said Representative Johnston (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket).

The bill was introduced on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Neronha as a means to enhance the tools available to the Attorney General and Department of Health to monitor and enforce conditions imposed pursuant to a Hospital Conversion Act review.

“The passage of these amendments to the Hospital Conversion Act ensures that the Office of the Attorney General, as well as the Department of Health, have the legal and financial tools necessary to adequately monitor and enforce our conditions in future transactions,” said Attorney General Neronha.

The new law builds upon legislation passed earlier this session, sponsored by President Ruggerio and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), to bring further transparency by requiring defined pension plans with at least 200 members to comply with the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s (ERISA) annual reporting provisions.

Last year, a law also introduced by President Ruggerio and Leader Shekarchi helped members of the insolvent pension plan to reach settlements in their multiple class-action lawsuits by better positioning members to reach fair, equitable settlements with the multiple defendants of the lawsuits.
7/24/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Raymond Johnston, Jr.; #85; #174; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Legislation (2019-S 0201A / 2019-H 5798A) sponsored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa that caps the interest rates charged by the town of Coventry to ratepayers for the town’s sewer project has become law after its passage by the General Assembly.

“These bills have given relief to the sewer rate payers directly, and to the taxpayers indirectly, of the town of Coventry in the thousands of dollars by capping the interest rate to the same rate as borrowed from the town and only a small fraction for administrative costs,” said Senator Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

“This is already an exorbitant and unnecessary expense for so many in Coventry and the town should not be charging its residents any more than the actual cost of the project.  There are too many families, seniors, and those living on fixed incomes, who are facing true financial harm due to the mandate of this project.  This law will protect the taxpayers from the large interest rates for a project they do not want in the first place,” said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

“Due to the unwavering support of Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa over the last two years, these interest rate bills will save each ratepayer of Coventry impacted by this astronomically expensive sewer project thousands of dollars over the life of the 20-year sewer assessment loan.  The residents of Coventry are extremely fortunate to have Senator Raptakis’ and Representative Serpa’s support.  If it was not for their involvement, many residents would be slapped with a 20-year loan at 6% interest - which is approximately 3% more than the rate at which the Town had obtained the funds from the bank for the current projects - on top of having to pay the principal balance of approximately $20,000 or more for the sewer assessment, the thousands of dollars for the tie-in costs, as well as the costs to decommission the septic system or cesspool, and then once connected, the sewer user fees. This sewer project is not affordable and the lack of oversight related to the uncontrolled spending has negatively impacted our community’s credit rating.  Residents need to continue to monitor the actions of our Town Council and Town Administration as it relates to this project.  Just would like to sincerely thank Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and the Coventry delegation for stepping in to protect the taxpayers,” said James Leblanc, a local critic of the sewer program.

The act would enable the town of Coventry to charge ratepayers of the Coventry sewer project a monetary interest charge in excess of those interest charges actually paid by the town for the funds it has borrowed for sewage works purposes. The excess interest charges shall be a maximum of one-half of one percent and shall be used only for administrative purposes.

The Auditor General recently completed a report at the request of Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and other members of the Coventry delegation in the General Assembly regarding the troubled sewer project.

The report lays out a detailed analysis of the operations and implementation of the controversial sewer project and offers several recommendations to rectify concerns about the program, as well as, recommendations to ensure the project’s short-term and long-term financial viability and success.

In particular, the Auditor General points to the legislation sponsored by Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa which prohibits the town of Coventry from charging its sewage works’ users more than the interest the town has actually paid for its borrowed funds for sewage works’ purposes.

The report states, “The interest rate charged to homeowners has been higher at 6% than the Town’s actual borrowing costs which approximates 3% to 4%. Legislation has been introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly to limit the interest rate charged to homeowners on sewer assessments. Aligning the Town’s costs of borrowing with the interest charged on the assessments is both appropriate and necessary to lessen the cost of sewer assessments on homeowners and businesses.”

7/23/2019RepSen. Leonidas Raptakis; Rep. Patricia Serpa; #100; #121; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – For over 25 years, Rep Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) has gone back to her hometown in Bull Bay Jamaica to bring the gift of reading to children.

This year is no different, and because of the generosity of her family, friends, and fellow legislators, and through a partnership with her local church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, she was able to ship 10 jumbo barrels of books, school supplies, and new and slightly used clothing to children and families.

The camp runs from July 15-28. It is free and open to all children in the Bull Bay Area.

In addition to the books and school supplies, such as notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters, novels, markers, and composition books, that will be distributed free of cost to children who head back to school in September, Representative Ranglin-Vassell also helps by sponsoring the two week summer camp and enrichment program for children as young as three years old.

“I remember growing up in Eleven Miles, and not having much of anything.  I remember walking to school without shoes, but I had books. Books provided an escape route for me from the harsh realities of life, so I wanted to make sure that I’m paying it forward,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell.

Children in the local Bull Bay area were welcomed to attend the camp where a free hot and nutritious meal was provided daily and they can collect their free school supplies provided by Representative Ranglin-Vassell and the camp.

For more information, please contact Representative Ranglin-Vassell at 401-339-6598.

7/23/2019RepRep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell; #233; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), and Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) have written to the state’s new Education Commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green, asking for clarification on the department’s guidance stating that school departments may not charge students to participate in public school field trips. 

Currently, the school committee of Cumberland has warned students, parents, and teachers that all school field trips for the upcoming academic year may have to be canceled due to the Rhode Island Department of Education’s policy that was established in April of this year by the former commissioner, Dr. Ken Wagner.

“Canceling all field trips is a drastic move that will hurt our students and their educations, but, I also understand the confusion and the abundance of caution in canceling these field trips due to RIDE’s written guidance on the issue.  We are eager to work with Commissioner Infante-Green to find a solution that works for all stakeholders, but more importantly, a solution that allows our children to continue experiencing the educational value that so many school field trips provide,” said Senator Pearson.

“As a mother who has chaperoned numerous field trips for my children, I find this situation heartbreaking for the students who may not be able to take any field trips this year.  Field trips are highlights of so many children’s educations where they are exposed to different places, ideas, or lessons that are unavailable to experience in the classroom setting.  To take away this valuable educational practice would be a big mistake and it is our hope that we can work with the new education commissioner in order to find a solution that will allow our children to continue to experience and enjoy field trips at our schools,” said Representative Ackerman.

The legislators are open to all possible solutions to rectify this issue, including the possibility of introducing legislation once the upcoming General Assembly session begins in January.

7/23/2019SenSen. Ryan Pearson; Rep. Mia Ackerman; #203; #191; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and Rep. Robert B. Jacquard’s (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) legislation (2019-S 0962A / 2019-H 6164A) that establishes guidelines for the diversion program within the Superior Court has been signed into law by the governor.

The diversion program offers an alternative to traditional conviction, sentencing, and incarceration by providing eligible defendants with a framework of supervision and services instead of incarceration. The model has been shown to decrease rates of incarceration and recidivism.

“This is another step forward for criminal justice reform in Rhode Island,” explained Senator McCaffrey. “Substance abuse and mental illness are the underlying factors for many individuals who find themselves in the criminal justice system in Rhode Island. Instead of incarcerating these people, we’re now looking to divert them into a program that provides the necessary rehabilitative services and supervision.”

“As we as a society are realizing that addiction issues are public health problems more than criminal problems, it is imperative that we help those with addiction get healthy rather than incarcerating them at great cost to the taxpayers.  This program will not only save lives, but also, save the state much-needed dollars by foregoing incarceration in favor of more productive alternative addiction treatment programs,” said Representative Jacquard.

In 2017, Senator McCaffrey sponsored legislation creating the Superior Court diversion program as part of the Justice Reinvestment initiative. This year’s legislation outlined the specifics of the program, including who would be eligible for it and how it would be administered.

The Superior Court magistrate or justice would make the final determination as to whether a defendant is admitted into the program. Once accepted into the program, the defendant would sign a contract detailing the requirements, conditions and expectations of the court. Defendants who fail to abide by the program’s conditions and orders could be terminated from the program and have their cases placed on the Superior Court criminal calendar.
7/19/2019RepSen. Michael McCaffrey; Rep. Robert Jacquard; #106; #62; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) and Rep. Joe Serodio’s (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) legislation (2019-S 0433A / 2019-H 6091A) that establishes the “Senior Savings Protection Act” was signed into law by the governor.

The act would require certain individuals to report the occurrence or suspected occurrence of financial exploitation of persons who are 60 years of age or older and persons who have a disability between the ages of 18 and 59 years old.

“With so many terrible stories of our seniors and most vulnerable citizens being victimized through financial scams over the phone and on the internet, as well as more direct financial manipulation from people they trust, I saw that this bill was necessary to protect our seniors and our disabled citizens.  These crimes that drain the bank accounts of our at-risk populations need to be stopped before they are able to do maximum damage and this bill will hopefully accomplish the task of stopping these ever-evolving schemes and scams from taking place,” said Senator Lawson.

“Financial scams, especially those that target the elderly or disabled, are becoming increasingly more complex so it is important that we do everything in our power to protect the money and savings of our residents who are the most at-risk to be financially exploited.  This bill will create a good front-line defense against these heartless criminals who take advantage of our elderly and disabled populations,” said Representative Serodio.

According to the bill, if a qualified individual, a person associated with a broker-dealer who serves in a supervisory, compliance, or legal capacity, believes that financial exploitation is taking place, or being attempted, the individual must notify the Department of Business Regulation, the Division of Elderly Affairs, and law enforcement.  The individual may also alert immediate family members, legal guardians, conservators, or agents under a power of attorney of the person possibly being financially exploited.

The legislation also allows qualified individuals to hold financial transactions that they believe may be involved with financial exploitation.

The bill also calls for the Department of Business Regulation and the Division of Elderly Affairs to develop websites that include training resources to assist in the prevention and detection of financial exploitation against the elderly and the disabled.

7/18/2019RepSen. Valarie J. Lawson; Rep. Joe R.  Serodio; #260; #256; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) and Rep. Joe Serodio’s (D-Dist. 64, East Providence) legislation (2019-S 0409A / 2019-H 6086A) that requires private, in addition to public, schools to provide and maintain in each school facility opioid antagonists, such as Narcan, has been signed into law by the governor.

“No one can deny any longer that the opioid crisis is affecting every aspect of our society, even within our schools.  This bill will protect staff, visitors, and even students, if the worst should occur and someone begins overdosing in a school setting.  I wish this bill was not necessary, but unfortunately, it is and we needed to pass this bill to save lives,” said Senator Lawson.

“Opioid abuse and addiction can affect anyone, including school staff, parents, and even our students.  It is for this reason that we must have opioid antagonists on hand in our schools, so that if an overdose should occur, staff can administer the drug and prevent an overdose death.  In the face of the opioid epidemic, this bill is a necessity and hopefully, it will prevent tragedies from happening on our school grounds,” said Representative Serodio.

The bill also states that any school nurse-teacher or other school personnel who use an opioid antagonist will be protected from both civil and criminal liability.

7/18/2019RepSen. Valarie J. Lawson; Rep. Joe R.  Serodio; #260; #256; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed the Rhode Island Utility Fair Share Roadway Repair Act, which was introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick).

The law (2019-H 5028A, 2019-S 189A) requires public utilities to repave and repair roadways which have been altered or excavated by the public utility.

“Rhode Island roads have become a tapestry of potholes and patch jobs,” said Representative McNamara, who serves as chairman of the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee. “Too often, when a utility company tears up a road to do underground work, they repair the area with a shoddy patch job. These patchwork roads can have a profound effect on automobile maintenance and at times even be dangerous to drivers.”

Repaving and repair of the roadway will be to the satisfaction of the state or municipality controlling the road. The legislation also provides for a complaint procedure for defective or incomplete repairs by public utilities.

“The law also provides a system to make certain that utility companies are complying with the law,” said Senator McCaffrey. “If it’s determined that the job was not done — or was not done satisfactorily — then the public utility administrator would charge an amount for reparation or repaving of the road. We want to hold public utilities accountable when they start tearing up public roads.”
7/17/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Michael McCaffrey; #41; #106; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) and Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) that helps homeowners to build onto their houses to provide space for relatives.

The law (2019-S 0691A, 2019-H 6219) expands the definition of “family member” for purposes of zoning ordinances to include child, parent, spouse, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partner, sibling, care recipient, or member of the household. The law is part of the Senate’s “Building a More Vibrant Rhode Island” package of economic development legislation.

“The existing law allows permitting for family accessory dwelling units, such as in-law apartments, for family members who are elderly or disabled,” said Senator Lombardi. “That law has been very helpful for families that are providing care. This new law expands that, giving a way to stay close to families while addressing the state’s housing affordability issues.”

Under the legislation, the appearance of the home would remain that of a single-family residence with an internal means of egress between the home and the accessory family dwelling unit. If possible, no additional exterior entrances would be added. Where additional entrance is required, placement would generally be in the rear or side of the structure.

“Expanding the definition of ‘family member’ really allows us to accommodate other conditions beyond disabilities — particularly financial conditions,” said Representative Shanley. “More families today prefer to have the option of ‘aging in place’ rather than move to an apartment or public housing. This gives them the opportunity to do that.”
7/17/2019RepSen. Frank Lombardi; Rep. Evan P. Shanley; #205; #236; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) that extends the air quality monitoring program at T.F. Green Airport.

The law (2019-H 5672A, 2019-S 0906) extends the required air quality monitoring program at the airport for two years to July 31, 2021. The act also provides the sunset provision for the air quality monitoring program would be dependent upon the airport corporation undertaking certain specific actions regarding the collection and reporting of air quality data from monitors set up around the airport.

“This law was first passed in order to monitor the air quality around T.F. Green Airport,” said Representative McNamara, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “Two years ago we changed the location of air monitoring sites. In addition to the quarterly reports, this new law requires the Airport Corporation to compile at least 20 months of 9 complete air quality monitoring data from these monitors and submit that data to the Department of Health.”

The law calls for long-term air monitoring at four sites located near T.F. Green Airport to determine the impact of air pollutants, which may be harmful to public health on the densely populated, primarily residential area of the city of Warwick that surrounds the airport.

“The original playing fields were moved by the Airport Corporation to make room for the new runway extension,” said Senator McCaffrey. “Since jet engines can have a particularly adverse effect on young children, it was imperative that we test the quality of the air at the park that runs adjacent to the runway. The citizens of Warwick have a right to know how air quality is being affected by jet engines taking off and landing at T.F. Green Airport.”

The Airport Corporation began monitoring for pollutants in early 2008 using procedures and specifications outlined in a work plan developed in consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health.

The law also requires the corporation, the Department of Health, and the city of Warwick to publish technical reports and scientific publications that resulted from this health study on their respective websites no later than July 31, 2019, and to maintain them for at least five years.
7/17/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Michael McCaffrey; #41; #106; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — An school accountability measure introduced by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), and passed by the General Assembly, has been signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The law (2019-S 0865A, 2019-H 6084A) provides for greater school-based management at the school level, expands the duties of principals and school improvement teams, and establishes a new chapter on education accountability which provides for evaluations, assessments, and education review reports on the performance of both school districts and individual schools.

 “This law increases the authority and power of those who know their schools best – the principals, teachers and community members who are fully aware of the their school’s needs and how to best meet these needs,” said Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), the House sponsor of the bill. “I have spoken with numerous school professionals in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, and they tell me such a change would make a significant difference in their ability to properly cultivate the educational environment in order to best serve our children.”

“This legislation will create a greater collaboration among state, district and school officials to develop and implement plans,” said Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the Senate sponsor of the bill. “This bill is really a culture change for our schools. It’s reform that will focus on the success of individuals by giving greater authority to those who are actually doing the educating at a school and district level.”
7/17/2019SenRep. Gregg Amore; Sen. Ryan Pearson; #195; #203; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705277/17/2019 9:20 AMSystem Account7/17/2019 9:21 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law an act requiring the Rhode Island Secretary of State to collect and publish the executive orders of the governor on the Secretary of State’s website.  For easy reference, they are to be arranged by topic and also published in numerical or chronological order. This legislation was sponsored by Rhode Island House Republican Representative George Nardone, and co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi, Senior Deputy Minority Leader Justin Price, Deputy Minority Leader Robert Quattrocchi, and Representative John Lyle, Jr.
 
“Good government begins with transparency for the taxpayers,” said Nardone.  Today we shine more light on the workings of the executive branch of our state government by providing online access to orders executed by the Governor for various policies and initiatives.  This online registry is important, as executive orders are not vetted like legislation scrutinized in the General Assembly and they can have great impact on government services and programs. While executive orders do not have the same staying power as laws, it is important for taxpayers to have access to these documents to better understand where government resources are being focused and spent.”
 
“I want to thank Governor Raimondo for signing this bill into law.”

7/17/2019RepRep. George A. Nardone; #251; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket), and Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) will be hosting a celebration commemorating 209 years of Colombian independence this week.

On Thursday, July 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the State Room of the State House, the legislators and the Colombian American Cultural Society, Inc. will host the Colombian Independence Celebration Ceremony. 

“This is truly a joyous celebration that highlights and applauds the numerous contributions Colombian people have made in our culture and our lives.  We encourage everyone to come to the State House to learn more about the history of Colombia and to connect with fellow Colombian-Americans in Rhode Island,” said Senator Cano, Representative Tobon, and Representative Alzate.

The celebration will be honoring three individuals for their dedication and service to the Colombian-American community in Rhode Island.  Bernardo Chamorro will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, Sebastian Zuleta will be receiving the Civic Engagement Leadership Award, and Carlos Guzman, who is also serving as the keynote speaker of the event, will also be honored at the celebration.

The event will celebrate the rich culture and history of Colombia and the impact Colombian-Americans have had in Rhode Island.  The celebration is free and open to the public.  Refreshments will also be served.

7/16/2019RepSen. Sandra Cano; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; Rep. Karen Alzate; #245; #221; #255; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — Expressing gratitude to her lawmaking colleagues, Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) is lauding the legislation passed by the General Assembly this session, including an increase in funding for pre-kindergarten and English language learning.

“It is gratifying to see that my legislative colleagues agreed to focus on education reform this session, especially as it pertains to pre-K,” said Representative Diaz, a longtime advocate for early childhood learning. “Last year, we were able to overhaul the Rhode Island Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income working families pay for child care. This year, we were able to extend pre-kindergarten access to more Rhode Islanders.”

The budget increased aid to education by $33.4 million, added $2.9 million to increase pre-kindergarten seats and increased funding for English language learning by $2.3 million.

“I am very proud of that legislation, and I look forward to building upon it until high-quality pre-kindergarten learning is accessible to every Rhode Islander,” said Representative Diaz. “As we discover more about the impact of early learning, the importance of its place in public policy cannot be overstated.”

Representative Diaz, who serves on the House Finance Committee, was also instrumental in preserving the phase-out of the automobile excise tax, which has entered its third year and is set to be completed in 2023. Legislators restored cuts to municipal aid, rejecting the governor’s cuts to both the excise tax phase-out and the payment in lieu of taxes program (PILOT) that reimburses municipalities for some of the taxes they lose out on from untaxed nonprofits in their community. Those changes restored $21.5 million in municipal aid.

“I am gratified and relieves that these cuts that the governor made in her proposal were restored in the budget that we finalized on the House Finance Committee,” said Representative Diaz. “This restoration is a blessing to the city of Providence and its residents.”

She also worked to restore a program that provides fare-free bus passes to low-income seniors and elderly Rhode Islanders, making the program permanent.

She also introduced a law (2019-H 6254) that allows a person to make arrangements for the payment of motor vehicle fines or costs, and permit a person to request an ability-to-pay hearing before a license is suspended for failure to pay such fines or costs.

“Too often, motor vehicle fines are overly burdensome on the poor. This law stops the practice of financially punishing people whose financial situation can’t accommodate those fines, or arbitrarily taking away the driver’s licenses of those who need to get to jobs to make money to pay those fines in the first place,” explained Representative Diaz. “We will continue to work hard to even the playing field for all Rhode Islanders. It makes for a better society, a better workforce, a more educated citizenry and a healthier economy.”

Representative Diaz also sponsored a law (2019-H 5419) that provides conditions to lawfully permit a state employee to be employed as an interpreter for the hard of hearing outside of the normal working hours, to increase effective communication in state agencies.
7/12/2019RepRep. Grace Diaz; #46; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705247/12/2019 9:27 AMSystem Account7/12/2019 9:31 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law legislation sponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston) expanding a law that requires people who have reasonable cause to believe an elderly person is being abused, neglected or mistreated to report it to the Division of Elderly Affairs, which will report the incident to law enforcement if appropriate and intervene.

Previously, health care providers and numerous types of workers who come into contact with elderly or disabled people in health care facilities were required to report suspected abuse or neglect within 24 hours.

The legislation (2019-S 0603A, 2019-H 5573), which takes effect immediately, adds a section of law requiring reporting of suspected abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect of people over age 60, regardless of whether they live in a health care facility. It also expands the list of those required to report suspected abuse to include physician assistants and probation officers and protects employees who report abuse from liability (unless they are found to be a perpetrator) or negative consequences at work for reporting abuse or neglect.

The bill was backed by the Senate’s Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation, which was led by Senator Coyne. That panel, which recently issued its final report, began working in December to study the prevalence and impact of elder abuse and financial exploitation in Rhode Island.
7/9/2019RepSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; Rep. David Bennett; #208; #161; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation to prevent the misrepresentation of pets as service animals. The bill now goes to the governor.

The legislation (2019-S 0308A, 2019-H 5299aa), sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard and Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins, prevents owners from misrepresenting a pet as a service animal in order to gain access to rights or privileges reserved for disabled individuals with service animals.

“Service animals are highly trained at great expense, and they provide potentially life-saving assistance to the people they serve. The people they serve need their service animals by their side at all times, and that’s why exceptions exist for them that let them bring them into places where other animals aren’t allowed. People who aren’t disabled who are trying to get the same rights for themselves that are granted to disabled people are taking unfair advantage of these exceptions, and shouldn’t be undermining their purpose. They are also putting business owners like restaurant operators in an uncomfortable position, because they have a duty to follow health codes that don’t allow animals unless they are real service animals in order to keep their patrons safe and their facilities clean. This bill is meant as a deterrent to discourage people from abusing service animal laws,” said Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland).

The legislation defines service animals as dogs that have been or are being specifically trained to assist an individual with a disability, including guide dogs and hearing dogs. The bill makes it a civil infraction to misrepresent an animal as a service animal to gain a privilege reserved for them, and makes violations punishable by up to 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves disabled people.

“It is fundamentally unfair to people with actual disabilities for others to misrepresent the same conditions.  Misrepresenting a service animal defrauds actual service dog users, and businesses and agencies that work with people who employ service dogs.  This legislation protects these parties as well as providing an appropriate punishment for those who try to game the system with fake service animals,” said Representative Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester).

The bill also states that businesses may post a decal in a front window or door stating that service animals are welcome and that misrepresentation of a service animal is a violation of Rhode Island law.
6/26/2019RepSen. Roger Picard; Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins; #65; #254; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The General Assembly has approved legislation to prevent the misrepresentation of pets as service animals. The bill now goes to the governor.



NoYesApproved3704716/26/2019 7:42 PMSystem Account7/9/2019 2:48 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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Legislation frees practitioners from inapplicable, burdensome hairdressing license standards
 
STATE HOUSE – Natural hair braiders are now exempt from having to become licensed hairdressers and cosmeticians under a new law passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor this week.

The legislation (2019-H 5677A, 2019-S 0260A), sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams and Sen. Ana B. Quezada, is the result of a four-year effort to recognize natural hair braiding as a safe, natural, cultural practice, distinct from hairdressing and barbering, which requires licensing due to their use of chemicals and sharp instruments.

“For centuries, natural hair braiding has been a common practice for African and African American women and men. Hair braiding skills and techniques are passed down from generation to generation and do not require formal training. Forcing natural hair braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is a clear injustice. This bill rights a wrong and allows entrepreneurs — including a lot of women from low-income neighborhoods — to make a living,” said Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).  “Natural hair braiding is an art form, limited only by the braider’s creativity. The state does not require licenses to produce art, yet, that is in effect what is occurring now with natural hair braiders. Finally lifting this senseless requirement is a triumph for our community, not only freeing braiders from onerous regulations but also bringing about a bit of sorely needed cultural sensitivity.”

The new law, which took effect immediately, defines natural hair braiding as “a service of twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair by hand or with mechanical devices.” The law allows braiders to use natural or synthetic hair extensions, decorative beads and other hair accessories; to perform minor trimming of natural hair or hair extensions incidental to twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking or braiding hair; and to use topical agents such as conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos in conjunction with hair braiding as well as clips, combs, crochet hooks, curlers, curling irons, hairpins, rollers, scissors, blunt-tipped needles, thread, and hair binders. They may also make wigs from natural hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers and hair extensions.

Under the new law, natural hair braiders may not apply dyes, reactive chemicals, or other preparations to alter the color of the hair or to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair; or use chemical hair joining agents such as synthetic tape, keratin bonds or fusion bonds.

Proponents for the legislation have argued that requiring natural hair braiders to meet the licensing requirements for hairdressers forces them to either pay thousands of dollars and undergo 1,200 hours of cosmetology training, or go into the “underground economy” to avoid being shut down.

“Passing this bill is vindication for braiders who have never claimed to be hairdressers and shouldn’t have been held to the same licensing standards. It also lets braiders practice their art much more freely, finally opening the door for a cottage industry to thrive in Rhode Island. In that way, it’s an economic development and jobs bill, too,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

Enactment of the law means Rhode Island joins 27 other states that do not require licensing of natural hair braiders, according to the Institute for Justice, which has advocated for the deregulation of natural hair braiders across the nation.
7/9/2019SenRep. Anastasia Williams; Sen. Ana B. Quezada; #10; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Model allows greater autonomy for disabled, elderly people who need support
 
STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law legislation sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell and Rep. Robert E. Craven to establish a formal process recognizing “supported decision making,” a structure of support for disabled or aging individuals.

The new law establishes a system of personal support that is less restrictive than guardianship to help individuals maintain independence while receiving assistance in making and communicating important life decisions. It is aimed at providing an alternative with more self-determination for individuals who are aging or who have developmental or intellectual disabilities.

“Regardless of disabilities, all people deserve dignity and the right to make as many of their own decisions about their lives as possible. While guardianship may be the right fit for some people, supported decision making is much less restrictive and maintains individuals’ autonomy while ensuring they have the help they need. This is an opportunity for more fulfilling, independent lives for many Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).

Under the bill (2019-S 0031A, 2019-H 5909), individuals in Rhode Island will be able to designate another person, or a team of people, as a supporter who will help them gather and weigh information, options, responsibilities and consequences of their life decisions about their personal affairs, support services, medical or psychological treatment, education and more. The supporter will also help the individual communicate the person’s wishes to those who need to know.

“Supported decision making is an empowering option that recognizes that individuals, including those with disabilities, deserve to have control over their own lives. When someone can’t live completely independently, the first approach, if at all possible, should be to give them the help they need to make their own decisions, rather than just appointing someone else to make those decisions for them,” said Representative Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The legislation was supported by the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities and AARP Rhode Island. Eight other states and Washington, D.C. have enacted legislation to legally recognize some form of supported decision making.

The new law creates a legal form that establishes the agreement between individuals and their supporters, and designates the types of decisions with which the supporter is authorized to help. It establishes that decisions made with support under such an agreement are legally valid, and allows supporters to assist with the accessing of an individual’s confidential health and educational records.

It also requires that any other person who is aware that an individual is being abused, neglected or exploited by their supporter is obligated to report that abuse to the proper authorities.

The Senate bill was cosponsored by Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence), Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket). The House bill was cosponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence).
7/9/2019RepSen. Adam Satchell; Rep. Robert Craven; #201; #189; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bills sponsored by Speaker, Senate President part of continuing effort to address overdose crisis

STATE HOUSE – Lawmakers today approved two bills sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio to help curb the opioid overdose epidemic.

The bills, which now go to the governor, place limits on first-time opioid prescriptions and expand the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act to include law enforcement and emergency medical personnel.

The bills are among several that the two legislative leaders have sponsored this year and in previous years taking aim at the opioid overdoes crisis. They also both sponsored the creation of the Opioid Stewardship Fund (2019-S 0798A2019-H 6189), which later became part of the 2020 budget bill, to assess a fee on pharmaceutical companies that sell opioids to pay for addiction prevention and treatment programs.

“Over the course of several years, lawmakers, policymakers, medical professionals and community leaders have been collaborating and working hard to curb the opioid epidemic that has destroyed or taken the lives of so many in Rhode Island and across the nation. We are continuing to identify every possible contributing factor and implement every solution we can find to address this very complex crisis. We are making headway — recent figures show Rhode Island is experiencing fewer overdose deaths — but we still have much work to do to put an end to this devastating epidemic,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), “We are doing everything we can to address the opioid crisis from every direction, from better interventions for preventing addiction to requiring the pharmaceutical companies who have promoted these drugs to help pay for the problems they’ve caused. I’m proud that my colleagues in both chambers of the General Assembly have made this issue a priority. We all understand that this epidemic is in every one of our districts, affecting the lives of people we know. It’s personal for just about everyone here, and we’re going to keep working to put an end to this crisis.”

One of the measures (2019-H 5537A, 2019-S 0981) passed today would restrict first-time prescriptions for adults to the maximum daily dosage established by the Department of Health. It would also restrict all prescriptions to children to 20 doses, with exceptions for certain conditions and medicines designed for substance abuse or opioid dependence treatment.

The other (2019-H 5536), 2019-S 0953) would add law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act, which protects them from civil or criminal liability arising from helping a person they believe is overdosing.

Many police and EMTs in the state are equipped with kits for administering naloxone – the opioid-overdose antidote commonly known by its trade name, Narcan. In fact, a change made to the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act last year allows them to distribute naloxone kits to at-risk individuals or their families or friends so they are equipped in case of an overdose.

President Ruggerio also sponsored another opioid bill (2019-S 0799Aaa) this session to prevent insurers from denying life insurance to people who fill a prescription for naloxone, which is available to anyone in Rhode Island and is carried by many people who do not use drugs but keep it to prevent another person’s death. The Assembly gave its final approval to that bill Monday. Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) sponsored the House companion bill (2019-H 6184Aaa).


6/27/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. Dominick Ruggerio; #120; #85; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bills sponsored by Speaker, Senate President part of continuing effort to address overdose crisis

STATE HOUSE – Lawmakers today approved two bills sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio to help curb the opioid overdose epidemic.


NoYesApproved3704816/27/2019 6:43 PMSystem Account7/9/2019 11:16 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) to redefine

“toll violators” and “toll evaders.”

The law (2019-H 5874, 2019-S 0781A) reduces the number of infractions for a person to be considered a “toll violator” from 20 to 10. The act also reduces the number of infractions for a person to be considered a “toll evader” from one 100 to 20.

“When drivers rack up that many toll violations, it becomes unfair to everyone else who diligently pays the tolls every time they go over a tolled bridge,” said Representative Edwards. “It unfairly shifts the financial burden of maintaining those bridges to other users. And we owe it to taxpayers to see that those projects are funded in a fair and equitable manner.”

Toll violators are reported to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles. The violators cannot renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations until any unpaid toll amounts, administrative fees, and fines are paid to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

Toll evaders may receive a traffic violation summons to the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, which may suspend the toll evader’s driver’s license for up to six months and assess a fine of up to $500, or both.

“When you have electronic tolling, such as E-Z Pass, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have toll violators,” said Senator DiPalma. “For those few who don’t take the bridge tolls seriously, this legislation will give us a way to get their attention, and let them know that they’re going to be expected to pay the same as everyone else.”
7/9/2019SenRep. John Edwards; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #144; #147; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705177/9/2019 10:04 AMSystem Account7/9/2019 10:04 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Two education reform bills passed by the General Assembly have been signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The first law (2019-S 0863B, 2019-H 5008B), introduced by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, requires the Commissioner of Education to develop statewide academic standards and curriculum frameworks for the core subjects of mathematics, English language arts, and science and technology.

“This law ensures that our academic standards set forth the skills, competencies, and knowledge expected of each student. The curriculum will align with those standards, and the frameworks would provide strategies to help meet the diverse needs of our students, closing any gaps that exist,” said Senator Gallo.

This act also requires the commissioner to identify at least five examples of high-quality curriculum and materials for each of the core subjects, after which local education agencies would be required to select and implement one for each of the core subjects.

Once they select a high-quality curriculum and materials, the Department of Elementary will identify an assistance partner from within the department to provide any and all support regarding access to, implementation of, and professional development for the curriculum and materials.

 “The goal is to give parents a clear map of what their children will be learning, and have it be consistent statewide,” said Representative McNamara. “It’s tremendously important that we bring these three tiers — standards, curriculum and testing — into alignment.”

The second law (2019-S 0869A, 2019-H 6085Aaa), sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) and Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a fast-track program to certify new principals. Applicants to the program must have at least 10 years of experience as an “effective” or “highly effective” teacher, a recommendation from the superintendent where they have taught, a record of leadership and a master’s degree.
7/9/2019RepSen. Hanna Gallo; Rep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Harold Metts; Rep. Jean Philippe Barros; #88; #41; #91; #222; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705167/9/2019 10:03 AMSystem Account7/9/2019 10:04 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski making noncompetition agreements unenforceable against hourly and low-wage employees as well as children and college students.

The legislation (2019-S 0698A, 2019-H 6019A) is intended as a way to help employees find other employment when they leave a job.

Noncompetition agreements are meant to place limits on an employee’s activities such as working for a competitor, often for a period of months or years after they have left their job.

Such agreements have a chilling effect on employees’ ability to seek other work in their field.

“Hourly workers, low-wage employees and people who are just starting out should not be hindered from finding a new job when they leave or lose another. They need to keep working. A former employer should not have the right to place any restrictions on them that make it hard for them to land another job, especially in a field where they have experience. Noncompete agreements are one more roadblock that can contribute to keeping poor people poor, and they should not be allowed to be used in that way,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The legislation makes such agreements unenforceable against non-salaried employees, employees who make less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, children under 18 and both undergraduate and graduate students.

“There’s simply no justification for noncompete agreements for employees who are nowhere near the top of the corporate ladder. This legislation will help workers get back to work after job loss and protect them from being unfairly forced to sit on the sidelines without a paycheck when they are ready and willing to work,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
7/8/2019RepSen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. Christopher Blazejewski; #104; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – With a 30-8 vote in the Senate today, the General Assembly has approved a $9.97 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year that largely avoids new taxes while strengthening education, continuing the car-tax phase-out and maintaining municipal aid, while also closing a $200 million budget gap. The bill will now be sent to the governor.

“The Senate Finance Committee conducted 44 budget hearings along with many discussions with our Senate colleagues to understand the priorities and concerns of Rhode Island’s citizens. I’m pleased that we were able to support and expand education at every level from early childhood to college, and that we are continuing to foster economic development, especially for small businesses. This is a responsible budget that invests our resources based on our state’s needs and goals,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley Jr.

Said House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), “As with any legislative session, the state budget is perhaps the most important bill that comes before the General Assembly because it affects every single resident of Rhode Island. The House Finance Committee has spent countless hours vetting and hearing testimony on the governor’s budget proposal. We have faced numerous hard decisions when formulating this budget, and I am proud of the work that has been accomplished. I believe that this budget will serve the people of Rhode Island fairly while also keeping our economy stable and strong for the future to come.”

The bill (2019-H 5151Aaa) restores full funding for the third year of the phase-out of the automobile excise tax, a program instituted through legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. In the budget she submitted to legislators earlier in the year, the governor had proposed slowing down the phase-out, which is set to be complete after FY 2023.

The Assembly did not include the governor’s proposal to institute a new fee on large businesses whose employees are enrolled in Medicaid programs, nor did it include her proposal to expand the sales tax to include lobbying services, design services and commercial building contracts for services like cleaning and landscaping. It also declined to increase the hotel tax and didn’t include a new excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Lawmakers did let one part of her sales tax expansion stand: digital downloads and streaming services like Netflix will be subject to the sales tax.

Legislators added the elimination of the “tampon tax” to the budget, agreeing to make feminine hygiene products exempt from sales tax, a proposal originally put forth in separate legislation (2019-H 53072019-S 0049) by Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport). Of the 45 U.S. states that collect sales tax, 10, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, currently exempt feminine hygiene products. The Assembly also added urns to the list of funeral items that are tax exempt, as proposed in a separate bill (2019-H 51572019-S 0054) sponsored by Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence) and Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston). All tax changes would take effect Oct. 1.

The Assembly also added a proposal (2019-H 5576, 2019-S 0564) by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and Sen. Mark P. McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) to provide a work-around for owners of “pass-through” entities whose state and local taxes exceed the new $10,000 cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction on their federal tax returns, instituted under the changes to the federal tax codes passed by Congress in December 2017. The change will allow pass-through entities, such as limited liability companies (LLCs), S corps, partnerships and sole proprietorships, to pay the state tax on their business income, instead of passing it along to their partners to claim on their personal income tax returns. Based on legislation enacted in Connecticut, it is expected to be revenue-neutral for the state.

Legislators rejected the proposal to increase the cigarette tax by 25 cents per pack and 30 cents on cigars, based on the impacts on small businesses, particularly border-town convenience stores who also benefit from sales of other products to people who come in to buy tobacco products.

While the Assembly kept the governor’s proposed increases to campsite and other fees at state parks to fund park and beach maintenance, it rejected an increase in beach parking fees, instead opting to freeze beach parking at the current rate through the 2021 season.

The General Assembly left economic development programs largely the same as they are in the current year, other than the Rebuild RI economic development program, which got authority to offer an additional $60 million in future credits and a six-month extension, but with some new limits. Lawmakers also included the creation of the Rhode Island Small Business Development Fund, which would encourage the formation of private capital investment in small business by federally licensed investment companies. That initiative was introduced as a separate bill (2019-S 0055, 2019-H 5216) sponsored by Chairman Conley and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).

Legislators included legislation (2019-S-803Aaa) sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) to establish a process for creating Special Economic Development Districts on state-owned tracts of 20 or more contiguous acres at their inception that are not owned or controlled by the Department of Environmental Management. The measure was triggered by delays and impediments imposed upon the Hope Point Tower apartments proposal for the I-195 Redevelopment District. The special districts would be vested with authority to adopt development plans that include land use, location of buildings, street systems, dimension and height requirements, parking, landscaping, design review and population density. Additionally, the Assembly allowed up to $25 million in tax credits instead of $15 million for the apartment tower, and excluded it from the total spending cap in the Rebuild RI program.

The budget fully funds the state’s education aid formula, increasing direct aid by $33.4 million over the current year’s amount. Legislators granted the governor’s request to add $2.3 million to bring support for English language learners to $5 million, and much of her request to expand pre-kindergarten classrooms, adding $2.9 million, which will add hundreds of seats to the 1,080 that are currently funded, with expansion targeted toward the neediest families. All told, $14.9 million in general revenues will go toward high-quality pre-K.

Legislators also added an additional $640,000 in funding for the Department of Education to help with education reforms.

While the Assembly did not concur with the governor’s proposal to expand the Rhode Island Promise program, it did fully fund the program as it stands, providing graduating high schoolers with two free years at the Community College of Rhode Island.

The General Assembly added to the budget the proposal to establish a 17-member board of directors for the University of Rhode Island, providing it a governance structure similar to those of other public universities. URI is currently under the auspices of the state Council on Postsecondary Education, which also oversees Rhode Island College and CCRI. The change was proposed in separate legislation (2019-H 6180, 2019-S 0942) introduced by Speaker Mattiello and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

Also included for URI were authorization for revenue bonds for construction, including $51.5 million for the renovation and expansion of Memorial Union and $26.9 million for a new combined health and counseling center.

Lawmakers declined to implement the proposed hospital rate freeze and further increased rates by 4.5 percent, partially offset by increased revenues from the hospital license fee. The Assembly kept the governor’s proposal for a 1-percent rate increase to nursing home facilities, which increases funding by $3.1 million. It added $9.5 million to provide a wage increase, starting Oct. 1, 2019, to direct support professionals who work with adults with developmental disabilities, raising the hourly rate to approximately $13.

The budget establishes a Reinsurance Program, to provide stability in the individual insurance market. It imposes a Shared Responsibility Payment penalty for individuals who do not have health insurance
coverage, with certain exemptions.

The Assembly also added the Opioid Stewardship Act (2019-S 0798A2019-H 6189), sponsored by Senate President Ruggerio and Speaker Mattiello, which assesses a $5 million yearly fee to manufacturers and distributors of opioid products sold and distributed in Rhode Island, except for those used for hospice care, addiction, treatment, epidurals, and intra-company transfers, to fund opioid treatment, prevention and education programs.

Legislators restored cuts to municipal aid, rejecting the governor’s cuts to both the excise tax phase-out and the payment in lieu of taxes program (PILOT) that reimburses municipalities for some of the taxes they lose out on from untaxed nonprofits in their community. Those changes restored $21.5 million in municipal aid.

The budget does not include the governor’s proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, although legislators did include authorization for six more compassion centers, in addition to the three existing ones, to sell medical marijuana. As part of the expansion, the Assembly increased the licensing fees for these centers to $500,000 each. It rejected the governor’s new restrictions on homegrown medical marijuana.

Lawmakers also eliminated a sunset provision on a program that provides fare-free bus passes to low-income seniors and elderly Rhode Islanders, making the program permanent.

The General Assembly added $220,000 in funding for Emergency Medical Dispatch Training to E911 operators to properly determine the nature and priority of the call, dispatch response and give the caller instructions while they await emergency responders, and established a new restricted receipt account for the E911 surcharge on phone bills. To comply with federal requirements, the surcharges on phone bills will be split into two separate charges, one to support E911 operations and another for funding other public safety needs.

Lawmakers did not include funding for renovations to the “Super Max” prison facility. They did include $200,000 to help fund the Nonviolence Institute to fund street workers, nonviolence community training and other initiatives to prevent violence.

They also increased “complete count” funding related to the upcoming census, from $150,000 in the governor’s proposal to $500,000.

The Assembly also added approval of up to $200 million in GARVEE bonds that will allow Rhode Island to take advantage of current low interest rates to fund the reconstruction of the viaduct that carries Route 95 north through downtown Providence. Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds are a common funding mechanism that allows the state to begin highway projects in anticipation of receipt of federal funds. Last month, the Senate approved separate legislation (2019-S 0633A) sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) to authorize the same bonds. House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) sponsored the bill (2019-H 5883) in the House.

The budget authorizes the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority to issue up to $50 million in revenue bonds to finance renovations and repairs to the bridges in its purview: Mount Hope, Jamestown Verrazzano, Newport Pell and the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Lawmakers did not concur with the governor’s plan to once again put off the reissuance of license plates, which is required by law. The budget would start replacing current license plates with a new design upon the renewal of registration, with a fee of $8 per vehicle, a $2 increase.

They also reduced from $10 million to $5 million in savings the state must identify in unspecified efficiencies over the course of the year. The Assembly also added statutes requiring more transparent reporting of overspending by state agencies and expanded the auditor general’s authority. It also achieved savings by eliminating vacant positions throughout state government.

The General Assembly did not include a proposal to increase the minimum wage from $10.50 to $11.10 next year. The General Assembly has increased the minimum wage in six of the last seven years.
6/27/2019RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Marvin Abney; #202; #199; Meredyth R. Whitty
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With a 30-8 vote in the Senate, the General Assembly has approved a $9.97 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year that largely avoids new taxes while strengthening education, continuing the car-tax phase-out and maintaining municipal aid, while also closing a $200 million budget gap. The bill will now be sent to the governor.
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STATE HOUSE — Because of the forecast of inclement weather, the Legislative Leap, a fundraising event where state legislators and their guests will jump out of an airplane to raise money for the Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund, which was scheduled for July 7, has been postponed until July 21 at 9 a.m.

Rep. James N. McLaughlin (D-Dist. 57, Cumberland, Central Falls) coordinated the third annual charitable event to raise money for veterans’ relief.

Checks made payable to Rhode Island Military Family Relief Fund may be sent to 645 New London Ave., Cranston, RI 02920.

To honor all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, each jumper is encouraged to wear a T-shirt representing one of the five armed service branches including the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.  

Members of the Army National Guard and Reserves, friends and family will be on hand to cheer the legislators as they descend from the sky. The public is invited to attend to witness the jump, which will take place on Sunday, July 21 at 9 a.m. at Skydive Newport, 211 Airport Access Road, Middletown. 

For more information, contact Representative McLaughlin at (401) 741-1834, Rep. Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly) at (401) 596-1434 or Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) at (401) 528-1733.

7/5/2019RepRep. James McLaughlin; #173; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705137/5/2019 11:41 AMSystem Account7/5/2019 11:42 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) and Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) have called upon the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to remove a barrier that has been erected on Nanaquaket Road in Tiverton that blocks access to an inlet of Narragansett Bay.

“This is just shameful that RIDOT closed off a long-time parking area enjoyed by dozens of my constituents in order to satisfy a single abutter” explained Representative Edwards. “Curbing and ornamental landscaping were installed last fall, by both RIDOT & the abutter and I’ve been getting numerous complaints from constituents who used to access the water from that point. To date, RIDOT has not acted to correct the problem”

The spot in question is a strip of land just to the west of Nanaquaket Bridge, which spans the waterway and borders the districts of Representatives Edwards and Canario. Complaints about the barrier began in January, and the Department of Transportation has yet to resolve the problem, despite receiving a Notice of Violation from the Coastal Resources Management Council.

“Every Rhode Islander has a constitutional right to access the shoreline, and parking for these areas is rare if ever available. For the state to take away any of these spots is just unfathomable,” lamented Representative Canario.
7/5/2019RepRep. John Edwards; Rep. Dennis Canario; #144; #197; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705127/5/2019 11:20 AMSystem Account7/5/2019 11:23 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Elder abuse and exploitation is prevalent, growing and vastly underreported, according to a Senate panel that has been studying the issue, and the state needs better education and monitoring efforts to prevent it.

The Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation, led by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne, has been working since December to study the prevalence and impact of elder abuse and financial exploitation in Rhode Island. Its final report, issued June 28, makes recommendations on policies and legislation to effectively address the issue impacting seniors and other vulnerable adults.

“The prevalence and projected growth of elder abuse and exploitation is deeply troubling, particularly in light of our findings that its full extent can’t be known because it is so rarely reported or investigated,” said Chairwoman Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence). “As the baby boomers become seniors and our elderly population grows, it’s critical that we do everything we can to protect older Rhode Islanders from this abuse. We are confident we can make significant improvements to prevent elder abuse and exploitation, and I’m grateful for the commitment of my colleagues in the Senate to this issue.”


The task force issued five findings, each with recommendations:

  • Elder abuse and financial exploitation is prevalent and on the rise.
The Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs reported 1,377 confirmed cases of elder abuse in 2017, which is 444 cases more than only five years prior. As the nation’s population of people age 65 and over is expected to double by 2060, the problem is expected to continue growing. Among the recommendations is that the state collaborate with existing community organizations and support outreach and education efforts that specifically focus on seniors and those who interact with them.
  • Elder abuse is underreported.
Only 1 in 23 cases of elder abuse is reported to adult protective services. The task force recommends strengthening outreach and education efforts for the public, health care workers and others who interact with seniors, and working to dispel stigmas so seniors will be better enabled to report abuse.
  • Seniors are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation, and the problem is growing.
Health-related factors, life savings and technology that allows money to be transferred electronically are all contributing factors. The task force recommends better education. It suggests legislation similar to a Connecticut law that requires training for agencies that employ individuals to care for seniors. Another recommendation is to consider a law like one in Delaware to allow financial institutions to place holds on accounts when they identify suspicious transactions.
  • Rhode Island’s guardianship program needs closer monitoring
The committee recommends collecting municipal probate data to assess the guardianship program, as well as seeking federal grants to support education, monitoring and resources for guardians. It also recommended nationwide criminal background checks for guardians. Legislation enacting that requirement (2019-S 0845A), sponsored by Chairwoman Coyne, was approved by the General Assembly June 20.
  • Cohesive, collaborative education and resources are needed
The task force recommends supporting the Saint Elizabeth Haven for Elder Justice and its enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life grant program, and strengthening services available through the POINT, the resource service at the Division of Elderly Affairs.

The task force also backed another bill (2019-S 0603A) sponsored by Chairwoman Coyne and passed by the General Assembly Thursday to expand a law requiring reporting of suspected abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect of anyone over age 60.

Members of the task force include Senator Coyne; Senator Sandra Cano (D-Dist.8, Pawtucket); State Long Term Care Ombudsman Kathleen Heren; Special Assistant Attorney General Molly Kapstein Cote; Mary Ladd, chief of program development at the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs; AARP- Rhode Island Associate State Director John DiTomasso; State Police Detective Kyle Shibley; Warwick attorney Mark Heffner; and Saint Elizabeth Haven for Elder Justice Director Jeanne Gattegno.

7/1/2019SenSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; #208; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi to require pension plans managed by religious organizations in Rhode Island to send regular updates on the financial health of the pensions to their plan participants.

“All Rhode Island workers and retirees deserve to know the truth about the health of their pension plan,” said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “Too many hard-working caregivers and health professionals, who spent their careers serving their communities, have been hurt by a lack of transparency. We must ensure that this never happens again.”

The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) requires most private pension plans to send members a letter each year outlining the health of their plan. Pension plans administered by religious organizations claim exemption from both ERISA and GASB reporting standards. Members of these plans often have no ability to access information regarding the financial health of their pensions. Until they are required to provide this information, there remains a risk that other church-run pension plans could conceal vital financial information from plan members. 

“This is common-sense legislation that provides members of church-run retirement plans the same level of transparency afforded to members of private pension plans, to help them know how their pension funds are doing,” said Majority Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “Disclosure will help ensure that members’ retirement savings is not imperiled by mismanagement and that those in charge cannot easily obscure negligence or misconduct. People making investments should be entitled to know how their funds are doing, and this bill provides them that information regularly.”

The bill (2019-S 0431Aaa, 2019-H 5287Aaa) requires that any nongovernmental pension plans that are not covered by ERISA and have 200 or more members must comply with ERISA’s reporting requirement.

The $85 million St. Joseph pension plan, which covers about 2,700 current and former employees of Our Lady of Fatima and Roger Williams hospitals, was left insolvent when contributions to it ceased following the sale of Fatima and Roger Williams to Prospect Medical Holdings in 2014. A pending lawsuit filed on behalf of plan participants alleges that hospital operators conspired to conceal from regulators and fund participants that they were vastly underfunding the pension fund for years.

The two legislative leaders submitted the bill in cooperation with General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.

7/2/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #85; #187; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3705097/2/2019 1:05 PMSystem Account7/2/2019 2:05 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) that would extend the air quality monitoring program at T.F. Green Airport.

The bill (2019-H 5672A, 2019-S 0906) would extend the required air quality monitoring program at the airport for two years to July 31, 2021. The act would also provide the sunset provision for the air quality monitoring program would be dependent upon the airport corporation undertaking certain specific actions regarding the collection and reporting of air quality data from monitors set up around the airport.

“This law was first passed in order to monitor the air quality around T.F. Green Airport,” said Representative McNamara, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “Two years ago we changed the location of air monitoring sites. In addition to the quarterly reports, the bill will require the Airport Corporation to compile at least 20 months of 9 complete air quality monitoring data from these monitors and submit that data to the Department of Health.”

The law calls for long-term air monitoring at four sites located near T.F. Green Airport to determine the impact of air pollutants, which may be harmful to public health on the densely populated, primarily residential area of the city of Warwick that surrounds the airport.

“The original playing fields were moved by the Airport Corporation to make room for the new runway extension,” said Senator McCaffrey. “Since jet engines can have a particularly adverse effect on young children, it was imperative that we test the quality of the air at the park that runs adjacent to the runway. The citizens of Warwick have a right to know how air quality is being affected by jet engines taking off and landing at T.F. Green Airport.”

The Airport Corporation began monitoring for pollutants in early 2008 using procedures and specifications outlined in a work plan developed in consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health.

This bill also requires the corporation, the Department of Health, and the city of Warwick to publish technical reports and scientific publications that resulted from this health study on their respective websites no later than July 31, 2019, and to maintain them for at least five years.

The measure now heads to the governor’s office.

7/2/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Michael McCaffrey; #41; #106; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705037/2/2019 9:35 AMSystem Account7/2/2019 1:10 PMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law legislation approved by the General Assembly to allow domestic violence protective orders to protect pets.

The legislation (2019-S 0225, 2019-H 5023), introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. William W. O’Brien, expands Family Court jurisdiction to allow protective orders to provide for the safety and welfare of household pets in domestic abuse situations.

“There is a strong correlation between domestic abuse and animal abuse,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “If someone is violent toward humans they are likely to be violent toward animals. This legislation will ensure pets are protected under the law from domestic abusers, just as humans are.”

Said Representative O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), “Often in cases of domestic violence, pets can be severely harmed by the abuser as well. Many states in the country already have laws that include pets in domestic violence protection orders. An innocent animal should not be allowed to be left with dangerous and violent abusers and I thank my colleagues for passing this bill that will protect our dear pets during domestic abuse situations.”

Both President Ruggerio and Representative O’Brien are longtime advocates for animal welfare. Last year, President Ruggerio sponsored a law requiring educational institutions that use dogs or cats for medical research to make those animals available for adoption when they are no longer useful for research. Representative O’Brien has previously sponsored an animal protection law that requires anyone entrusted with the care and control of an animal, such as a veterinarian or an animal shelter worker, to report any discovered instance of animal cruelty to the proper authorities.
7/2/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. William O'Brien; #85; #193; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3705087/2/2019 12:36 PMSystem Account7/2/2019 12:36 PMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The governor has signed into law legislation approved by the General Assembly to allow domestic violence protective orders to protect more children in families.

The bill (2019-S 0321A, 2019-H 5489A), sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski, will allow domestic violence protective orders sought in Family Court to include any children of the plaintiff who aren’t related to the defendant.

Currently, such protective orders cover only the common children of the plaintiff and the defendant. In order to also protect children who are not related to the defendant by blood or marriage, the plaintiff has to get a separate order in District or Superior Court.

“Protective orders are needed swiftly. Victims and potential victims need protection right away, and shouldn’t have to go to two separate courts to get orders to protect their children. All the kids in a family deserve protection, and this bill recognizes that reality,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The legislation was sought by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“This change gives Family Court the jurisdiction it needs to do its job of protecting children from abuse and violence. It recognizes that families come in many shapes, and that when it comes to protecting kids from violence, there shouldn’t be any question that all the kids in the family are included,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
7/2/2019RepSen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. Christopher Blazejewski; #104; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3705057/2/2019 10:27 AMSystem Account7/2/2019 10:28 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – With the governor’s signature, a new law passed by the General Assembly has expanded the Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act on hospital discharge planning to better help patients with drug and mental health emergencies with recovery.

Sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller and House Majority Whip John G. Edwards, the legislation (2019-S 0139A, 2019-H 5383) allows hospitals to contact the patient’s emergency contact and a certified peer recovery specialist in certain situations, amending Rhode Island law to make it consistent with new federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) guidance.

The change will improve support for those hospitalized for drug overdoses and mental health emergencies by increasing the likelihood that their families or others wishing to assist them with treatment are aware of their hospitalization.

“Engaging patients’ personal support networks is critical to helping them recover and to ending the cycle of relapse and re-hospitalization. The federal government has recognized that patients with addiction or mental health issues may be unwilling or unable to consent to contact with their emergency contact or recovery coach. Amending state law to allow hospitals to make those calls will help provide better treatment and connect patients to support when they are discharged,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

The bill amends the Alexander C. Perry and Brandon Goldner Act, which was sponsored by Chairman Miller in 2016 to help ensure that patients treated at hospitals, clinics and urgent-care facilities for substance-use or mental health disorders receive the appropriate care, intervention by recovery coaches and follow-up care they need to address their addiction.  It required comprehensive discharge planning for patients treated for substance use disorders and mental health issues and required insurers to cover medication-assisted addiction treatment including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. The bill is named for two individuals who died of overdoses during its development, and whose circumstances shaped it.

“This bill is yet another way to help us combat the opioid crisis by ensuring that patients have the critical support they need during the transition from the hospital to recovery,” said Representative Edwards, who was selected as a 2019 Opioid Policy Fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “By amending this successful law, Rhode Island will be more in tune with federal statute and allow hospitals to contact the people who are best suited to help them when they are discharged.”

7/2/2019RepSen. Joshua Miller; Rep. John Edwards; #118; #144; Meredyth R. Whitty
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NoYesApproved3705047/2/2019 10:17 AMSystem Account7/2/2019 10:18 AMNo presence informationMeredyth Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) to ensure the use of appropriate disability language in state job descriptions and regulations has been signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The law (2019-H 5289, 2019-S 171A) authorizes and empowers the personnel administrator to revise state job descriptions to incorporate the appropriate language. For instance, the term “mentally retarded” will be replaced with “intellectual and developmental disability.” The term “addict” will be replaced with “person with a substance use disorder.”

“We should always put the person before the disability. Many of the state’s job descriptions still reference the former Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals along with using a lot of no-longer-appropriate language,” said Representative McNamara, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare.

The law will likewise authorize the Office of Regulatory Reform to update the same language in state regulations.

“It’s important to take this action legislatively,” said Senator DiPalma, “We were told that it would take the personnel director about 50 public hearings to fix these job descriptions. This will get rid of the old and offensive language once and for all.”
7/1/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #41; #147; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705017/1/2019 10:34 AMSystem Account7/1/2019 10:35 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) that provides financial protections to Rhode Islanders who have gone unpaid as a result of government shutdowns.

The law (2019-S 0065aa, 2019-H 5191Aaa) enables city and town councils to grant relief from penalties on the payment of taxes on real estate and personal property during periods where federal or state government cease governmental operations, in whole or in part, for employees of the state or federal government.

“Fortunately, there are many people in our communities who want to help government employees who lose their income because of government shutdowns,” said Senator Conley, who serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “This bill would allow cities and towns around the state to do just that, in whatever way works best for them, whether that’s a grace period, waiving penalties or something else. Our communities have reached out to us asking what they can do, and this will give them the flexibility to help in the way that they determine suits their needs.”

Representative Tobon said, “Government shutdowns are an unfortunate reality, as we witnessed earlier this year when the federal government shut down for an unprecedented 35 days. Air traffic controllers, Coast Guard workers, FBI agents, National Park staffers all had to work without pay or be furloughed. That’s a long time to go without any kind of income. I’m glad we can give our communities the option of helping out their taxpayers if it happens again.”
7/1/2019RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; #202; #221; Daniel Trafford
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NoYesApproved3705007/1/2019 10:29 AMSystem Account7/1/2019 10:29 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero and Sen. James A. Seveney to encourage Rhode Island businesses to adopt stronger environmental standards on sustainability. The bill now goes to the governor.

The legislation would create a voluntary, flexible program that would allow businesses to earn a sustainability designation by creating their own set of benchmarks for operating sustainably, and publicly reporting annually on their efforts to adhere to them.

The sponsors said the bill will encourage more sustainable business practices while also helping businesses communicate with the public about their efforts.

“Sustainability and social responsibility aren’t just buzzwords. They’re now business practices that provide long-term growth, profit, environmental and societal benefits. Sustainability for a business can range from replacing inefficient lighting, sealing air leaks, recycling, replacing water mains for efficiency, and using safer less toxic cleaning products. This bill provides an avenue for 21st century businesses to attract young employees, new customers, and investors by developing sustainable standards and metrics. It’s voluntary, but a real opportunity for a business to become a meaningful brand leader,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).  

Under the Transparency and Sustainability Standards for Rhode Island Businesses Act (2019-H 5145A, 2019-S 0395A), a Rhode Island company may adopt a set of sustainability standards and a set of measures for assessing their effort to adhere to them. The Secretary of State would issue a certificate of adoption of transparency and sustainability standards to those companies that do so, and post their standards and annual reports online.

The program would be totally voluntary, and would allow each company to determine what its own efforts will entail, since best practices will vary from industry to industry. But since the bill would require participating businesses to publicly post their plans online, as well as their reports on their efforts to adhere to them, anyone interested in finding out how the company is improving its sustainability would easily be able to learn.

“Many customers want to do business with companies that are making an effort to be more environmentally conscious. This is an opportunity for many businesses that have been working hard on sustainability to showcase those efforts, and transparently tell their customers and prospective employees just what they are doing to reduce their environmental impact,” said Senator Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton).

The legislation was developed over a year and a half with help from the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and environmental advocates. Delaware’s legislators approved a similar initiative last year.

“The Rhode Island Manufacturers Association is a strong advocate for the concept of sustainability,” said David M. Chenevert, executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association. “As an industry, manufacturers want to let our customers, employees and investors know that we are concerned about climate change and environmental issues. Rhode Island Manufacturers support the Sustainability and Transparency Standard for Rhode Island Business Act. We all play a role in sustainability and we want to make Rhode Island a better place to live and this is a step in the right direction.”  

Said Kevin O’Neill, chairman of Rhode Island Business Climate Leaders, “This is a great opportunity for a Rhode Island business — whether large, small, manufacturer or service provider — to show their commitment to sustainability. The public standards that the business sets and how they plan to follow them invites a favorable comparison in the industry.”

O’Neill is the owner of The Conference Exchange, a Cumberland-based software company with over 50 employees, and he vowed to participate when the law is enacted.

The legislation is cosponsored in the House by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown). Senate cosponsors include Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton), Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).
6/28/2019SenRep. Deborah Ruggiero; Sen. James A. Seveney; #145; #229; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly passed an education reform measure introduced by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) that would provide for greater school accountability.

The bill (2019-S 0865A, 2019-H 6084A) would provide for greater school-based management at the school level, would expand the duties of principals and school improvement teams, and would also establish a new chapter on education accountability which would provide for evaluations, assessments, and education review reports on the performance of both school districts and individual schools.

 “This bill will increase the authority and power of those who know their schools best – the principals, teachers and community members who are fully aware of the their school’s needs and how to best meet these needs,” said Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), the House sponsor of the bill. “I have spoken with numerous school professionals, in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, and they tell me such a change would make a significant difference in their ability to properly cultivate the educational environment in order to best serve our children.”

“This legislation will create a greater collaboration among state, district and school officials to develop and implement plans,” said Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the Senate sponsor of the bill. “This bill is really a culture change for our schools. It’s reform that will focus on the success of individuals by giving greater authority to those who are actually doing the educating at a school and district level.”

The measure now heads to the governor’s office.

6/28/2019SenRep. Gregg Amore; Sen. Ryan Pearson; #195; #203; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) and Sen. Sandra Cano’s (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) legislation (2019-H 6153Aaa / 2019-S 0673aa) that would authorize state and local incremental tax revenues generated in certain economic development districts in Pawtucket to be allocated to fund improvements passed the General Assembly tonight.

“This is an incredibly important bill to Pawtucket and its residents. With the loss of the PawSox, it’s more crucial than ever to redevelop assets that are dormant in our city, particularly in the downtown area. This bill will give the economic development tools needed to revitalize our city without costing taxpayers a dime,” said Representative Tobon.

“Despite recent hardships, Pawtucket has a lot of momentum behind it. This legislation will support the city’s mission to redevelop and rejuvenate key districts while allowing the city to invest in much-needed redevelopment projects without raising taxes or fees on residents. I thank the General Assembly for passing this crucial bill,” said Senator Cano.

The legislation authorizes state and local incremental tax revenues, such as sales taxes, generated in the Arts District, the Growth Center District and the Ballpark District in Pawtucket to be used to finance improvements and redevelopment in the districts. 

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

6/28/2019SenRep. Carlos E. Tobon; Sen. Sandra Cano; #221; #245; Andrew Caruolo
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Legislation frees practitioners from inapplicable, burdensome hairdressing license standards
 
STATE HOUSE – Legislators today voted to exempt natural hair braiders from the state’s requirement for hairdressers and cosmeticians to be licensed with the state. The bill will now be sent to the governor.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams and Sen. Ana B. Quezada, is the result of a four-year effort to recognize natural hair braiding as a safe, natural, cultural practice, distinct from hairdressing and barbering, which requires licensing due to their use of chemicals and sharp instruments.

“For centuries, natural hair braiding has been a common practice for African and African American women and men. Hair braiding skills and techniques are passed down from generation to generation and do not require formal training. Forcing natural hair braiders to meet the same licensing requirements as cosmetologists is a clear injustice. This bill rights a wrong and allows entrepreneurs — including a lot of women from low-income neighborhoods — to make a living,” said Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).  “Natural hair braiding is an art form, limited only by the braider’s creativity. The state does not require licenses to produce art, yet, that is in effect what is occurring now with natural hair braiders. Finally lifting this senseless requirement is a triumph for our community, not only freeing braiders from onerous regulations but also bringing about a bit of sorely needed cultural sensitivity.”

The bill (2019-H 5677A, 2019-S 0260A) defines natural hair braiding as “a service of twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair by hand or with mechanical devices.” The bill allows braiders to use natural or synthetic hair extensions, decorative beads and other hair accessories; to perform minor trimming of natural hair or hair extensions incidental to twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking or braiding hair; and to use topical agents such as conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos in conjunction with hair braiding as well as clips, combs, crochet hooks, curlers, curling irons, hairpins, rollers, scissors, blunt-tipped needles, thread, and hair binders. They may also make wigs from natural hair, natural fibers, synthetic fibers and hair extensions.

Under the bill, natural hair braiders may not apply dyes, reactive chemicals, or other preparations to alter the color of the hair or to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair; or use chemical hair joining agents such as synthetic tape, keratin bonds or fusion bonds.

Proponents for the bill have argued that requiring natural hair braiders to meet the licensing requirements for hairdressers forces them to either pay thousands of dollars and undergo 1,200 hours of cosmetology training, or go into the “underground economy” to avoid being shut down.

“Passing this bill is vindication for braiders who have never claimed to be hairdressers and shouldn’t have been held to the same licensing standards. It also lets braiders practice their art much more freely, finally opening the door for a cottage industry to thrive in Rhode Island. In that way, it’s an economic development and jobs bill, too,” said Senator Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

Enactment of the law would mean Rhode Island would join 27 other states that do not require licensing of natural hair braiders, according to the Institute for Justice, which has advocated for the deregulation of natural hair braiders across the nation.
6/28/2019SenRep. Anastasia Williams; Sen. Ana B. Quezada; #10; #228; Meredyth R. Whitty
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