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15,266
  
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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NoApproved
NoYesApproved3705307/17/2019 9:43 AMSystem Account7/17/2019 9:43 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
15,265
  
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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NoApproved
NoYesApproved3705297/17/2019 9:35 AMSystem Account7/17/2019 9:35 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
15,264
  
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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NoApproved
NoYesApproved3705287/17/2019 9:31 AMSystem Account7/17/2019 9:31 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
15,263
  
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
24
NoApproved
NoYesApproved3705277/17/2019 9:20 AMSystem Account7/17/2019 9:21 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
15,262
  
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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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/28-Nardone_jpg.jpgNoApproved
NoYesApproved3705267/17/2019 9:11 AMSystem Account7/17/2019 9:11 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
15,261
  
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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NoApproved
NoYesApproved3705257/16/2019 11:50 AMSystem Account7/16/2019 11:51 AMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
15,260
  
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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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/11-diaz_jpg.jpgNoApproved
NoYesApproved3705247/12/2019 9:27 AMSystem Account7/12/2019 9:31 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
15,259
  
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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NoYesApproved3705237/10/2019 11:40 AMSystem Account7/10/2019 11:40 AMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
15,258
  
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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NoApproved
NoYesApproved3705227/9/2019 3:06 PMSystem Account7/9/2019 3:06 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,254
  
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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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/prescription_jpg.jpgYesApproved
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. 


YesYesApproved3705187/9/2019 11:12 AMSystem Account7/9/2019 2:51 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,207
  
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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http://www.rilegislature.gov///pressrelease/Pictures/_w/service-dog_jpg.jpgNoApproved
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 WhittyCompleted
15,257
  
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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http://www.rilegislature.gov//pressrelease/Pictures/_w/service-dog_jpg.jpgYesApproved
Legislation passed by the General Assembly to prevent the misrepresentation of pets as service animals has been signed into law.

YesYesApproved3705217/9/2019 2:46 PMSystem Account7/9/2019 2:47 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,256
  
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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NoYesApproved3705207/9/2019 2:38 PMSystem Account7/9/2019 2:38 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
15,255
  
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.


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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. TraffordCompleted
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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. TraffordCompleted
15,251
  
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 – 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.


YesYesApproved3705147/5/2019 1:29 PMSystem Account7/5/2019 1:30 PMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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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. TraffordCompleted
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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. TraffordCompleted
15,247
  
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 – 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.


YesYesApproved3705107/5/2019 10:24 AMSystem Account7/5/2019 10:25 AMNo presence informationMeredyth WhittyCompleted
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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.



YesYesApproved3704696/26/2019 6:12 PMSystem Account7/2/2019 2:10 PMNo presence informationAndrew CaruoloCompleted
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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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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. TraffordCompleted
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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 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.



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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.



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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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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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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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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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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.

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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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STATE HOUSE – Legislators today gave their final approval to legislation sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara to protect student loan borrowers and establish oversight of student loan servicers operating in Rhode Island. The bill, which is backed by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, now goes to the governor.

“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 legislation 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 ever 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. “Today, 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. 

6/28/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Dawn Euer; #41; #244; Meredyth R. Whitty
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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. 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 passed by the General Assembly 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.

“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.

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

6/28/2019RepSen. 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, passed the General Assembly tonight.

“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.

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

6/28/2019RepSen. Valarie J. Lawson; Rep. Joe R.  Serodio; #260; #256; Andrew Caruolo
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has passed 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 bill (2019-H 5028A, 2019-S 189A) would require 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 would be to the satisfaction of the state or municipality controlling the road. The legislation would also provide for a complaint procedure for defective or incomplete repairs by public utilities.

“The legislation would also provide 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.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office. 
6/28/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Michael McCaffrey; #41; #106; Daniel Trafford
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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.


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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation aimed at providing stronger oversight for hospitals being acquired by nonprofit entities.

The legislation, which is sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr and will now go to the governor, is 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 bill 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 bill 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. 

6/28/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Raymond Johnston, Jr.; #85; #174; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — Included in the state budget passed by the General Assembly is funding for the Rhode Island Livable Home Modification Grant Act that was introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Bristol, Tiverton, Warren).

The grant allows eligible homeowners and renters to retrofit their residence to nationally recognized accessibility standards and receive 50 percent of the total sum spent, up to $5,000, to retrofit their existing residence.

The budget appropriates $499,397 to fund the grant program, which grew out of legislation proposed by Representative McNamara and Senator Felag two years ago that would have created a tax credit for homes that were retrofitted.

“As Rhode Island’s population ages, it’s important for us to do what we can to ease the burden of those who have shouldered the burden all their lives,” said Representative McNamara. “When people with disabilities stay active and independent, they don’t utilize health care services to the degree that they would in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Modifying homes reduces falls and related hospital and rehabilitation expenses.”

The program is aimed at helping Rhode Island’s aging population stay safely in their homes longer rather than over burdening the state’s nursing homes, which costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year in Medicaid costs.  With the state’s aging population rising each year, there is a distinct need for housing that is safe and adapted to the needs of the elderly. 

“The elderly and disabled population in our state have specific needs within their homes that can unfortunately be extremely expensive for themselves and their caregivers.  This program will help alleviate the costs to keep our aging and disabled populations in their homes and communities while also saving the state’s taxpayers millions of dollars in nursing home Medicaid costs,” said Senator Felag.

One of the keys for an individual with a disability to remain in their community is the ability to get into and out of their own home and navigate safely within that home, with or without assistance. Renovating a residence by removing barriers allows the individual to stay safely and independently within their home, and out of long-term care facilities.

The Livable Home Modification Grant Application and Post-Retrofit Claim form can be found at www.gcd.ri.gov.
6/28/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Walter Felag; #41; #112; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE — Included in the state budget 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 Account6/28/2019 10:24 AMNo presence informationDaniel H. TraffordCompleted
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STATE HOUSE – The House voted 64-9 today to approve 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.

“This is definitely a pro-business, pro-consumer budget that reflects our commitment to operate within our state’s means. We are fully funding the essential programs our state provides to its citizens, particularly education, and keeping our commitments without instituting new taxes or plunging our state into unjustifiable debt. This budget is balanced and sound, and will help Rhode Island continue to move forward in the coming year,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

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), which now goes to the Senate, 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 House 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. The House did let one part of her sales tax expansion stand: digital downloads and streaming services like Netflix will be subject to the sales tax.

The House 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 House 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 House added House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi’s (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) proposal (2019-H 5576) 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.

The House 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 House 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 House 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.

The House included legislation (2019-S-803Aaa) sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and passed by the Senate last week 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 House 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. The House 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.

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

While the House 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 House 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) introduced by Speaker Mattiello.

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.

The House 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 House also 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 House also added Senate President Ruggerio’s proposed Opioid Stewardship Act (2019-S 0798 Sub A), 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.

The House 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 the House 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 House increased the licensing fees for these centers to $500,000 each. It rejected the governor’s new restrictions on homegrown medical marijuana.

The House 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.

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

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

The House 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.

The House 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.

The House also reduced from $10 million to $5 million in savings the state must identify in unspecified efficiencies over the course of the year. It 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 House 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.
6/22/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Rep. Marvin Abney; #120; #199; Larry Berman
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The House voted 64-9 to approve 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.
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today gave its final approval to legislation sponsored by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma to clarify and streamline Rhode Island’s financial regulatory structure for users of blockchain technology. The bill will now be sent to the governor.

The legislation (2019-H 5847A), 2019-S 0753Aaa) will consolidate 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 legislation concerns only the functions of blockchain that that involve currency or virtual currency, since those are already licensed activities in Rhode Island.

This bill would consolidate Rhode Island’s current electronic money transmitter license and its sales of checks license, and add 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 is 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 is 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).

6/27/2019SenRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #187; #147; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill to protect small business hurt by Trump tax changes

STATE HOUSE – The budget passed by the General Assembly today incorporates legislation introduced earlier in the session by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi and Sen. Mark P. McKenney to help the many Rhode Island small business owners who will be hit by higher federal taxes under President Trump’s new tax laws.

The proposal will 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. The effort, which is based on a similar bill enacted in Connecticut in May, is carefully designed to be revenue-neutral for the state.

“This is a way to help Rhode Island small businesses at no cost to the state. Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and face enough challenges without being saddled with new tax burdens by President Trump’s tax plan. We’ve found a viable method to help their owners get credit for the taxes they already pay, so their businesses are not disrupted, forced to make cuts to their workforce or worse, to close,” said Leader Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “My goal here is to prevent the Trump tax plan from hurting small businesses, so they can thrive here in Rhode Island.”

Since 1913, federal taxpayers have been allowed to deduct the full amount of their state and local taxes from their federal taxable income under the SALT deduction. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, pushed by President Trump and passed by Congress in December 2017, now limits the SALT deduction to $10,000 for tax years 2018 through 2025. This could add up to a significant increase in tax liability for many taxpayers across the nation and in Rhode Island.

In Rhode Island, 33 percent of filers use that credit, and, on average, they claimed $12,434 in 2015, according to research by Pew Charitable Trusts. The organization lists Rhode Island as one of 19 states where the average SALT credit exceeds the new $10,000 cap.

The legislation allows pass-through entities, such as limited liability companies (LLCs), S corps, partnerships and sole proprietorships, to pay the federal tax on their own income, instead of passing it along to their partners to claim on their personal income tax returns, as is the usual practice. The bill also allows a credit the partners can take on their personal and corporate state income tax returns to ensure that the business’s income isn’t taxed twice. If passed, the changes would take effect for the 2019 tax year.

“This change is a way to provide tax relief to small businesses who have been unexpectedly asked to shoulder a greater burden and put at a disadvantage compared to larger businesses under the new tax laws. Small businesses are critical to our economy, and leveling the playing field for them in this manner is good for our state,” said Senator McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick).

Leader Shekarchi developed the bill (2019-H 5576, 2019-S 0564) with the help Grafton “Cap” Willey IV, a prominent Providence CPA, who approached Leader Shekarchi with an idea brought to him by a fellow member of his Rotary Club and fellow CPA, Randy Dittmar of Warwick.

“This bill will help small businesses, most of whom report their taxes as pass-through entities, by having the business entity pay the taxes on the business income and allowing a federal income tax deduction – which might have been limited if reported on the owner’s personal income tax returns,” said Willey. “Regular C-Corporations get this benefit, and this bill would put the pass-through entities on an equal footing with big businesses.”
6/27/2019SenRep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; Sen. Mark P. McKenney; #187; #265; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The state budget bill approved by the General Assembly today will shift more funding from the hotel tax toward the state’s regional tourism districts.

Rep. Lauren H. Carson of Newport, who introduced similar legislation (2019-H 5950) earlier this session, said she is pleased that the budget bill provides more equitable distribution of the funds to the districts whose work brings the tourists who rent the rooms.

“Our local tourism districts do outstanding work promoting Rhode Island and their region as a destination to tourists. They rely on the hotel tax to fund that work. But that funding has been dwindling because of the strange decision to cut them out when we started collecting the hotel tax from of third-party hosting platforms like AirBnB. As the use of those rental platforms has surged, the districts have lost revenue. Fixing this situation simplifies the formula and means local districts like Discover Newport will have the funding they need to promote our tourism industry to its fullest extent,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport).

Rhode Island began collecting the hotel tax from short-term rentals offered through third-party hosting platforms like AirBnB in 2016, but distributes the revenue they generate in a different manner than the revenue generated by traditional hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, sending most of the money to the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.

“The regional tourism districts are the boots on the ground in terms of promoting events and places that attract tourists to visit their areas and our state. They can’t do that work without proper funding. Whether visitors are staying in a hotel or in a room they booked through AirBnB or another site, their tax dollars are supposed to go, in part, to the agencies that do the work to get them there, including the regional districts,” said Representative Carson.
6/27/2019RepRep. Lauren H. Carson; #224; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has approved two bills intending to reform education in Rhode Island.

The first bill (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, would require the Commissioner of Education to align statewide academic standards with curriculum and the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System.

“This bill would ensure 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.

It would also require the Commissioner to develop curriculum frameworks, which are broad, research-based instructional strategies for educators to help students develop the skills, competencies, and knowledge called for by the statewide standards.

“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 bill (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), would require 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.

The measures now move to the governor’s office.

6/27/2019RepSen. Hanna Gallo; Rep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Harold Metts; Rep. Jean Philippe Barros; #88; #41; #91; #222; Daniel Trafford
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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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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) and Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick) that would help homeowners to build onto their houses to provide space for relatives.

The bill (2019-S 0691A, 2019-H 6219) would expand 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 bill 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 bill 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.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.

6/27/2019RepSen. Frank Lombardi; Rep. Evan P. Shanley; #205; #236; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Gregg Amore’s (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) legislation (2019-H 6084A) which increases building-level management of schools passed the House of Representatives.

“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 bill is an important piece of the reforms we are trying to enact so that our children have the best educational opportunities in our state.”

The legislation increases building-level management of our schools, increases on-the-ground support for underperforming schools, and provides for the same support at the district level, which has not existed before. Student assessments would include a range of elements, such as work samples, projects, and portfolios, in recognition of the variety of student learning styles.

6/27/2019RepRep. Gregg Amore; #195; Andrew Caruolo
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State House, Providence, RI – The E-911 Commission will have two new commissioners if the Senate passes the companion bill to the unanimously supported House bill. Sponsored by Republican Representative John W. Lyle, Jr., the minority leader of the House (or their designee) and the minority leader of the Senate (or their designee) will be added to this advisory board.  The E-911 advisory commission was created to provide insights and recommendations to the director of the emergency telephone system division. Properly funding E-911 operations has been a focus of House Republicans for some time.
 
“I would like to thank the Speaker for moving this legislation forward,” said Lyle. “Adding these representative voices to the E-911 discussions will hopefully help citizens receive the resources they need and deserve, especially in the unfortunate time of an emergency event.”
 
Co-sponsors of the bill include Republican House Representative George Nardone, Minority Leader Blake Filippi, Republican Deputy Whip Sherry Roberts and Democratic House Representative William O’Brien.

6/27/2019RepRep. John W.  Lyle, Jr.; #253; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE — Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis’ (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich, East Greenwich) legislation (2019-S 0028) that will protect minors left unattended in a motor vehicle passed the Senate.

The legislation repeals the requirement in the “cruelty to or neglect of child” statute that law enforcement issue only verbal warnings of the risks to persons leaving a child under the age of seven unattended in a motor vehicle if they respond to an incident. The removal of the warning requirement will allow law enforcement to charge an individual under the “cruelty to or neglect of child” statute for leaving a minor unaccompanied in a vehicle if necessary.

“While child neglect and child endangerment are serious crimes,” said Senator Raptakis, “we had no law providing a penalty for children left unattended in cars and the law only authorizes law enforcement officials to provide a verbal warning. There is a serious danger of abduction and an even greater danger from excessive temperatures inside a car.  Animals are protected from being left unattended in a car with extreme temperatures. In fact, the penalty is a $1,000 fine. It’s time we give our children the same protection.  It’s time we protect our children.”

Senator Raptakis has been sponsoring similar legislation for the past five years.

The bill passed by the Senate also removes the word “habitual” from the statute.  By removing the word, parents or guardians who leave children alone in parked cars could be charged with treating a child with gross cruelty, as opposed to “gross and habitual cruelty.”

6/26/2019SenSen. Leonidas Raptakis; #100; Andrew Caruolo
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Measure intended as part of effort to curb opioid epidemic
 
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Justine A. Caldwell and Sen. Bridget G. Valverde to require signs at pharmacies warning customers about dangers associated with opioids. The bill (2019-H 5184, 2019-S 0291aa), which is set take effect Sept. 1, now goes to the governor’s desk.

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 sponsors said the legislation is part of a wider response to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis in Rhode Island.

“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). “Given the scale of the opioid epidemic, we should be using every available means to ensure that patients who are prescribed opioids are armed with the information they need to prevent dependence.”

The legislation would require the Department of Health to compile a list of the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs containing opioids or other Schedule II controlled substances, and distribute that list to the Board of Pharmacy, which would then distribute the list to every pharmacy in the state, along with warnings about “the overuse, misuse and mixing of those drugs with other drugs, specifically benzodiazepines, and/or alcohol including, but not limited to, dependence, addiction or death.” Each pharmacy would be required to post the sign near where prescriptions are filled.

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. A law passed by the General Assembly in 2018 allows patients to fill only a portion of their opioid prescription if they choose, to prevent overuse or overdoses. Under the law, they can come back for more of the prescription if they choose, until the prescription has been completely filled, until 31 days after it was first dispensed.

The bill is not expected to result in any significant cost to the state.

“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,” said Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett). “Our state should do every single thing we can to spread public awareness about how easy it is to become addicted to opioids. Signs at the pharmacy are a good opportunity to impress that message upon patients one more time, in a place where they can get answers to any questions they may have about their prescription. Every patient who leaves the pharmacy with an opioid prescription should also leave with a clear message about using them safely.”

The House bill’s cosponsors include House Judiciary Chairman Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown); Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman  Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston); Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston); and House Minority Whip Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry). The Senate bill’s cosponsors include Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) and Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence).

6/26/2019SenRep. Justine A. Caldwell; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #252; #264; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly has approved legislation sponsored by House Deputy Majority Whip Christopher R. Blazejewski and Sen. Sandra Cano to notify workers of their opportunity to organize a cooperative and make a bid to buy out their company in the event of a mass layoff or plant closing. The bill, which would take effect Sept. 1, has been transmitted to the governor.

Titled the “Local Ownership Opportunity Act,” the legislation is meant to encourage the preservation of Rhode Island businesses and jobs.

“During the devastating experience of losing a job because a company is closing or contracting, employees may not be thinking about the option of trying to buy out the company cooperatively. They may not even know that possibility exists. My bill is meant to make sure they are informed of their rights so they don’t miss the opportunity to preserve their jobs and their company,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence). “Ultimately, this notification could help people turn potential job loss into an opportunity to become a part-owner of their company, and keep Rhode Island businesses from shutting down.”

The bill (2019-H 5769aa, 2019-S 0253A) would apply only to companies that are subject to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which generally requires employers with 100 or more employees to give employees notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site.

The legislation would require that, whenever an employer is required to issue a WARN act notification, the state Department of Labor and Training (DLT) would provide the affected employees a written notice that they are legally allowed to furnish a bid to purchase the company, and also provide them information and resources concerning the formation of a workers’ cooperative. In 2017, the General Assembly enacted the statutory vehicle that enables the creation of workers’ cooperatives, which are employee-owned enterprise in which workers share profits and decision-making power.

The bill also directs the DLT to furnish the business owner with information about the formation of workers’ cooperatives. The legislation does not compel, nor prevent, any sale or conversion of any business.

“This bill is about informing employees of their rights and opportunities. Forming a workers’ cooperative is a way to keep a local company in business, while also turning workers into entrepreneurs, giving them a greater voice and a genuine stake in their company’s success. Encouraging workers to consider this option can only have positive effects for our state,” said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket).

The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), Rep. Mario F. Mendez (D-Dist. 13, Johnston, Providence) and Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls). The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).
6/26/2019SenRep. Christopher Blazejewski; Sen. Sandra Cano; #156; #245; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed 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) that would ensure the use of appropriate disability language in state job descriptions and regulations.

The bill (2019-H 5289, 2019-S 171A) would authorize and empower the personnel administrator to revise state job descriptions to incorporate the appropriate language. For instance, the term “mentally retarded” would be replaced with “intellectual and developmental disability.” The term “addict” would 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 bill would 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.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.

6/26/2019SenRep. Joseph McNamara; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #41; #147; Daniel Trafford
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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 — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Carlos E. Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) that would provide financial protections to Rhode Islanders who have gone unpaid as a result of government shutdowns.

The bill (2019-S 0065aa, 2019-H 5191Aaa) would enable 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.”
6/26/2019RepSen. William Conley; Rep. Carlos E. Tobon; #202; #221; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee and Sen. Bridget G. Valverde’s legislation (2019-H 6137 / 2019-S 0928) that includes the town of Narragansett under the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission for the purposes of historic structure property tax reduction passed the General Assembly tonight.

“This bill is a simple matter of fairness to the residents of Narragansett.  Narragansett is home to many beautiful and historic structures and homes that should have the ability to receive tax relief due to their historic nature.  Other portions of the state receive this benefit and I am pleased that my colleagues in the General Assembly agreed and passed this meaningful legislation that will protect the historic structures of Narragansett while also providing needed tax relief for our residents,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

“This change in law has been a priority for Narragansett residents for quite some time and I am pleased we were able to secure this much-needed tax change for the town.  I thank the rest of the General Assembly for understanding the need for this bill that will preserve Narragansett’s historic structures in a fair and equitable way,” said Senator Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

The Narragansett Town Council passed a resolution on June 3 in support of the legislation.  Narragansett adopted local historic district zoning regulations in 2009 and designated five areas of the town as Local Historic Districts.  The legislation amends a state law that prohibited Narragansett from implementing local tax credits for historic district properties.

The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission administers programs to help owners meet the costs of maintaining their historic properties. Programs include tax incentives, preservation easements, and low-interest loans. Also, preservation architects on the Commission staff help owners to plan their projects and make sure that the work meets preservation standards.

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

6/26/2019SenRep. Carol Hagan McEntee; Sen. Bridget G. Valverde; #226; #264; Andrew Caruolo
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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 originally scheduled for June 30, has been postponed until July 7 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 7 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.

6/26/2019RepRep. James McLaughlin; #173; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate Finance Committee will be considering the FY 2020 state budget (2019-H 5151Aaa) tomorrow, June 27 at 2 p.m. in Room 211 of the State House.

6/26/2019SenSen. William Conley; #202; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE – The Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation will meet Friday to issue its final report.

The meeting is scheduled Friday, June 28, at 10 a.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House.

The task force, led by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), has been studying the prevalence and impact of elder abuse and financial exploitation in Rhode Island and is to make recommendations on policies and legislation to effectively address the issue impacting seniors and other vulnerable adults.

Members of the task force include Senator Coyne; Senator Sandra Cano (D-Dist.8, Pawtucket); Lt. Gov. Daniel J. McKee; 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.
6/26/2019SenSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; #208; Greg Pare
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Model allows greater autonomy for disabled, elderly people who need support
 
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved 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 legislation, which now heads to the governor’s desk, 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 would be able to designate another person, or a team of people, as a supporter who would 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 would 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 is 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 legislation 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. The bill 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 is 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 is cosponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Rep. Daniel P. McKiernan (D-Dist. 7, Providence).
6/25/2019RepSen. Adam Satchell; Rep. Robert Craven; #201; #189; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE, Providence – Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush will host a news conference this afternoon to discuss developments regarding legislation to extend the statute of limitations in civil childhood sex abuse cases.
 
The news conference will be held at 3 p.m. today in the Senate Lounge, on the second floor of the State House.


6/26/2019SenSen. Donna Nesselbush; #179; Greg Pare
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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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STATE HOUSE – The House Finance Committee 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.

“This is definitely a pro-business, pro-consumer budget that reflects our commitment to operate within our state’s means. We are fully funding the essential programs our state provides to its citizens, particularly education, and keeping our commitments without instituting new taxes or plunging our state into unjustifiable debt. This budget is balanced and sound, and will help Rhode Island continue to move forward in the coming year,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston)

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 5151A), which is scheduled to be brought before the full House for a vote June 21, 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 2023.

The committee 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. The committee did let one part of her sales tax expansion stand: digital downloads and streaming services like Netflix will be subject to the sales tax under the version approved by the committee.

The committee 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 5307, 2019-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 committee also added urns to the list of funeral items that are tax exempt, as proposed in a separate bill (2019-H 5157, 2019-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 committee added House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi’s (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) proposal (2019-H 5576) 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 egislation enacted in Connecticut, it is expected to be revenue-neutral for the state.

The committee 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 committee 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.

The committee left economic development programs largely the same as they are in the current year, but set some new limits on the Rebuild RI economic development program.

The committee included legislation (2019-S-803Aaa) sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and passed by the Senate this week 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 bill was triggered by delays and impediments imposed upon the Hope Point Tower 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.

The bill fully funds the state’s education aid formula, increasing direct aid by $33.4 million over the current year’s amount. The committee ggranted 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.


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

While the committee 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 committee 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 Post-Secondary Education, which also oversees Rhode Island College and CCRI. The change was proposed in separate legislation (2019-H 6180) introduced by Speaker Mattiello.

The committee 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 committee also kept the Governor’s proposal for a 1-percent rate increase to nursing home facilities, which increases funding by $3.1 million. 

The committee also added Senate President Ruggerio’s proposed Opioid Stewardship Act (2019-S 0798) to establish a restricted receipt account for $5 million to fund opioid treatment, recovery, prevention and education services funded by an assessment to manufacturers and distributors on opioid products sold or distributed in Rhode Island, with exemptions for those used for hospice care, addiction treatment and epidurals.

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

The House 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.

The committee did not include funding for renovations to the “Super Max” prison facility.

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

The committee 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 though 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 committee 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.

The committee also reduced from $10 million to $5 million in savings the state must identify in unspecified efficiencies over the course of the year. It 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 committee 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.
6/14/2019RepRep. Marvin Abney; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #199; #120; Larry Berman
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The House Finance Committee 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.


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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly has approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Rep. Justine Caldwell to remove a barrier to accessing lifesaving anti-overdose medication. The bill will now head to the governor’s desk.

The bill (2019-S 0799Aaa, 2019-H 6184Aaa) addresses a situation experienced by some individuals who obtained naloxone in Rhode Island, then had trouble getting life insurance. Rhode Island has an open prescription for naloxone, meaning any person can obtain the medication at a pharmacy. Naloxone, which is also known by the trade name Narcan, rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.

“We as a state should be encouraging anyone who may come in contact with overdose victims to have Narcan accessible. That’s the reason we make it available to all,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “Individuals who work in health care, public safety, and other fields may want to have Narcan easily accessible in case there is a need for it, as might individuals who have a friend or family member struggling with an opioid addiction.”

The legislation provides that, if an individual were denied life insurance on the sole basis that he or she had filled a prescription for naloxone, the insurer shall reopen the application and underwriting process for consideration of coverage and the life insurance company shall be deemed to have provided coverage to the eligible person retroactive to the date of the initial application.

“Merely being in possession of naloxone doesn’t make any person an insurance risk. Our state’s open prescription is meant to encourage family, friends and anyone who thinks they might need it to save someone’s life to acquire this life-saving drug. Those individuals are preventing loss of life, and the last thing they deserve is to be penalized by insurers who probably owe them a debt of gratitude,” said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

More than 200 Rhode Islanders have died due to accidental drug overdose in each of the last six years, and more than 300 have died each of the last three years, according to data published by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
6/24/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Justine A. Caldwell; #85; #252; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – Rhode Island will stop taxing feminine hygiene products under the budget bill approved by the House today.

The budget bill includes the proposal submitted earlier this session as separate legislation (2019-H 5307, 2019-S 0049) by Rep. Edith H. Ajello and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma to exempt menstrual products from Rhode Island’s 7-percent sales tax.

“Exempting menstrual products is relief from both a financial burden and an injustice for women. This tax makes an expensive necessity even more unaffordable for many women, and it adds up over the course of a lifetime to a significant amount – for which there is no equivalent for men. It amounts to a tax on being a woman, and I’m so glad that Rhode Island is joining the growing ranks of states that recognize that they should not be imposing a tax on a woman every time she needs to buy menstrual products,” said Representative Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The proposal was added to the budget bill (2019-H 5151Aaa) last week when the House Finance Committee approved it. Under the bill, which next heads to the Senate, tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups, sanitary napkins, and other similar products used in connection with women’s menstrual cycles will all become exempt from sales tax, just as many other necessities are.

“Rhode Island should not be taxing feminine hygiene products as if buying them is some kind of luxury that indicates a person’s ability to pitch in a little more to support the state. They are a necessity, and one that is already fairly expensive for those of limited means. You can’t buy them with SNAP, and many women and girls can’t afford as many as they actually need. The state doesn’t need to add to their costs. For the same reason we exempt food and clothing — necessity — we should exempt menstrual products, and I’m very pleased that now our state will,” said Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton, Newport).

Both sponsors have filed the bill since 2016, and it has been supported by the Rhode Island Medical Society, Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Policy Institute.

Of the 45 U.S. states that collect sales tax, 10, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, currently exempt feminine hygiene products. Canada eliminated the “tampon tax” nationwide in 2015, and several other countries have as well.

Among the numerous other categories and items that have been declared exempt from state sales tax in Rhode Island are clothing items under $250, food, newspapers, coffins, boats and horse food.

A box of 36 CVS brand tampons currently costs $6.29, on which the state would collect 44 cents sales tax. If a woman were to buy a box at that price every month for 40 years, she would pay about $211 in sales tax on them, a cost to which men are not subject, since there is no similar regular necessity for men on which they pay sales tax.
6/22/2019SenRep. Edith Ajello; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #21; #147; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – North Providence Representatives Arthur J. Corvese and William W. O’Brien are pleased to announce that the 2020 budget approved by the House of Representatives today includes an increase of more than $2 million in local aid to North Providence. More than half of the new funding comes from the House’s restoration of cuts proposed by the governor to local aid related to the car tax phase-out.

The House restored full funding of the third year of the phase-out of the automobile excise tax, which is collected by cities and towns. To enact the phase-out, the state is increasing local aid by the same amount each municipality loses as the excise tax decreases. Gov. Gina M. Raimondo had proposed slowing the phase-out and reducing local aid accordingly, but the House rejected the cut and restored the funding, increasing it as originally scheduled to implement next year’s reduction in the excise tax.

“We met with House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney on multiple occasions and expressed our great concern for the town of North Providence and the tax relief that our citizens need. We are grateful for the restoration of these funds and are pleased that our town has been made whole financially,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence).

Said Representative O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), who serves on the House Finance Committee, which holds months of hearings on the state budget, “In a tight budget year like this one, it’s not easy to squeeze in the rising costs of every program and make room for new ideas without raising taxes. I’m proud to say that this budget funds the programs we rely on, including local aid for North Providence, at an equitable level, without relying on Band-Aid solutions or increasing taxes. Preventing the loss of local aid means citizens will continue to benefit from the car tax phase-out, without any impact on our local town budget.”

Under the budget bill approved by the House today, North Providence will receive $5,583,930 in general aid from the state. That total is $1,073,435 more than the town would have received under the original proposal sent to lawmakers by the governor, and $2,018,041 more than it received this year from the state. Additionally, North Providence is receiving an additional $256 per pupil over the current year under the state education aid formula.

The bill (2019-H 5151Aaa) now heads the Senate.
6/22/2019RepRep. Arthur Corvese; Rep. William O'Brien; #11; #193; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The budget bill passed by the House of Representatives today includes the creation of a Board of Trustees for the University of Rhode Island.

The provision, initially proposed in separate legislation (2019-H 6180, 2019-S 0942) sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski, would move the state’s sole university out from under the auspices of the Council on Post-Secondary Education, which also oversees Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.

URI President David M. Dooley testified in support of that bill, saying URI needs its own board to ensure that decisions affecting it are made with an eye toward its mission and to provide greater agility in hiring and making other decisions.

The move was recommended by the New England Commission of Higher Education when it reaccredited the university last year, saying URI’s needs as a research institution and economic driver for the state are unique among the state’s public institutions of higher learning, and that the board has a potential conflict of interest with the university in its efforts to unify services at the state’s three public higher education institutions.

“URI is our state’s flagship university. We should give it the structures it needs to support its development. A dedicated board of trustees is typical among universities, and provides institutions with flexible, responsive governance. This is a move that would help URI grow and improve, and I’m proud to help bring it about,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), whose district includes URI’s Kingston campus, said, “URI is a world-class university, and needs to be positioned to be competitive with its peers. Greater self-governance means it can ensure that all decisions affecting it are made with its specific mission and purposes in mind, and will help ensure that those decisions are effective in moving the university forward.”

The legislation establishes a 17-member board of trustees with staggered terms. Initially, the members would be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. As the initial terms expire, nine members would continue to be appointed in that manner, and the other eight would be appointed by the board itself.

The budget bill (2019-H 5151Aaa) passed the House of Representatives today, and now goes to the Senate.
6/22/2019SenRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski; #120; #111; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The budget bill approved by the House today includes authorization 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 though 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.

Separate legislation (2019-S 0633A, 2019-H 5883) to authorize the bonds was introduced on behalf of the Department of Transportation earlier in the session by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and House Majority Whip John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth).

The 1,300-foot long bridge, built in 1964, brings the highway alongside Providence Place Mall over train tracks, the Woonasquatucket River and numerous streets, carrying an estimated 180,000 to 190,000 vehicles daily. Replacement of the southbound bridge was completed in 2017, but the northbound side remains structurally deficient and in need of widening and better traffic control.

The DOT’s plan would add lanes and better separate entering and exiting vehicles from other traffic to relieve congestion. The agency hopes to begin the construction in 2020, and expects it to last about five years.

Funding the project with GARVEE bonds would allow the state to lock in current low interest rates and take advantage of increased federal funding made available through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act enacted by Congress in 2015.

“The Providence viaduct is one of the busiest, most congested sections of highway in all of Rhode Island, and it’s a structure that is both outdated and structurally deficient. Replacing it sooner rather than allowing it to continue to deteriorate is good public safety policy, sound economic development and a way to save money due to the low interest rates that are currently available. Rhode Island needs to address our crumbling infrastructure to attract businesses and improve our quality of life, and this particular bridge stands out as one that plays a central role to the Providence commute. Its replacement will make a difference to many Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Goodwin.

Said Representative Edwards, “The Providence 95 viaduct has been identified as the most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridge in the entire state. Reconstructing it as soon as possible means nearly 200,000 trips are made safer every single day in our small state. GARVEE bonds help us move the process along, improving public safety sooner and reducing the number of trips Rhode Islanders take over and under this bridge in its remaining lifetime. The sooner we replace it, the safer Rhode Islanders will be.”

The budget bill (2019-H 5151Aaa) now heads the Senate.

6/22/2019RepSen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. John Edwards; #104; #144; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The budget bill passed by the House of Representatives today includes the Opioid Stewardship Act, a program to fund opioid treatment, recovery prevention and education services.

The program was introduced earlier in the session in separate legislation (2019-S 0798, 2019-H 6189) introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello.

The measure establishes a fund to combat the opioid overdose crisis, financed by an assessment on opioid products sold or distributed in Rhode Island, prorated by market share, up to a cap of $5 million. The funds would be placed in a restricted receipt account to be used only for projects directly related to supporting substance use prevention, rescue, treatment and recovery.

“Studies on the origins of the opioid crisis tell us a clear story: The crisis got its start because pharmaceutical companies aggressively marketed opioids, insisting they were completely safe for widespread use, and profited handsomely from their uptake,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “The Opioid Stewardship Act places the financial burden of addressing this crisis squarely where it belongs, upon the companies making many billions in profits.”

To ensure that any impact on consumers is limited, each company’s fee is based on its dollar-value market share from opioid sales in Rhode Island, not on the on the basis of how many doses each entity sources. The $5 million total assessment across all companies could be disbursed between as many as 400+ licensees, and is unlikely to impact any one company in a way that jeopardizes its potential to make profit from opioid sales in Rhode Island.

Opioids sold to hospice patients for palliative care purposes are exempt.

“The opioid epidemic has cost our state hundreds of lives in recent years. While we have been diligently working on every front to prevent addiction and overdoses, those efforts are very expensive. It’s appropriate to demand that those who have profited from these drugs help us to pay for the costs of preventing, treating and responding to addiction to them,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

It’s hard to determine the profits made by all opioid manufacturers but to get an idea, Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, had increased its earnings from a few billion in 2007 to $31 billion by 2016 and $35 billion by 2017. According to a 2017 article in The New Yorker, Purdue Pharma is “owned by one of America’s richest families, with a collective net worth of thirteen billion dollars.” That family, the Sacklers, paid themselves more than $4 billion from 2007 through last year, according to one of the ongoing lawsuits against them.

The budget bill (2019-H 5151Aaa) now goes to the Senate.

6/22/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Nicholas Mattiello; #85; #120; Greg Pare
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STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has approved 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 legislation (2019-H 5874, 2019-S 0781A) would reduce the number of infractions for a person to be considered a “toll violator” from 20 to 10. The act would also reduce 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.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.

6/22/2019SenRep. John Edwards; Sen. Louis DiPalma; #144; #147; Daniel Trafford
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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives will continue its consideration of the FY 2020 state budget (2019-H 5151A) tomorrow Saturday, June 22 at approximately 10 a.m. in the House chamber.

6/21/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Rep. Marvin Abney; #120; #199; Larry Berman
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The House of Representatives will continue its consideration of the FY 2020 state budget (2019-H 5151A) Saturday, June 22 at approximately 10 a.m. in the House chamber.
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate has approved four bills sponsored Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.

The Senate has approved Senator Coyne’s bill (2019-S 0223) 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.

“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 (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), whose father died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate June 4, would require 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. The bill 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. House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5178) in the House.

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.

Today, the Senate approved three more of her bills related to Alzheimer’s care or elder abuse.

The Senate approved legislation (2019-S 0302A) she is sponsoring 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. Allowing couples to live together would help maintain patients’ relationships, connections and personal dignity. Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5141) in the House.

It also passed legislation (2019-S 0603A) 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. Similar legislation (2019-H 5573) is sponsored in the House by Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston).

Passage of the bill comes just in time for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is Saturday, June 15. Designated by the United Nations, the commemoration is intended to raise awareness about the millions of older adults worldwide who experience elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

Additionally, the Senate today passed a third bill sponsored by Senator Coyne 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), 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, which is chaired by Senator Coyne. Similar legislation (2019-H 6114) is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

All four bills passed by the Senate are now bound for the House.

“There must be no tolerance for abuse or neglect of elderly people, and no vulnerable elderly person should be left in the care of a person who has a criminal past that includes violence or abuse,” said Senator Coyne. “These bills aim to ensure that elderly people are in safe hands and are helped immediately if they are being victimized.”

Senator Coyne is also sponsoring a resolution (2019-S 0310) in support of the adoption and implementation of a new five-year update to the state plan for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The state’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council, led by Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee, developed the updates over the course of a year, announcing its completion in February. The plan includes more than 30 recommendations, including the allocation of one director-level position within the Department of Health to coordinate the implementation of actions in the plan, efforts to promote Alzheimer’s and dementia research in Rhode Island and the inclusion of brain health in existing publicly-funded health promotion and chronic disease management activities. Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5569) in the House.

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.
6/13/2019SenSen. Cynthia A. Coyne; #208; Meredyth R. Whitty
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The Senate has approved four bills sponsored Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne to better support Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and to protect against elder abuse.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. William W. O’Brien’s (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5887A) that would require certain licensed public school teachers to be proficient in scientific and structured literacy reading instruction passed the House of Representatives tonight.  The bill also requires all other licensed teachers to have a cursory knowledge of scientific and structured literacy reading instruction.

The legislation passed unanimously with a 68-0 vote.

Scientific and structured literacy 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.

Currently, many teachers and teaching students are unaware of the research and teaching methods behind scientific and structured literacy reading instruction and the goal of the legislation is to rectify this gap in educational instruction. 

“Too many of our children, especially those with dyslexia, cannot read at their grade level and are being left behind in the educational process.  This gap in literacy teaching is because outdated methods of teaching literacy are still being taught to our teachers and this bill requires our teachers to learn and to instruct their students with the clinically-tested and scientifically-proven ‘scientific and structured literacy reading instruction’ model,” said Representative O’Brien.

The legislation establishes several benchmarks for when current and future teachers should be prepared to teach literacy with the scientific and structured literacy reading instruction model.  The legislation also lays out penalties for schools and teachers who are not proficient with the literacy teaching method within the defined time period.

“The fact that the Rhode Island Department of Education has no one on staff that is a trained and qualified dyslexia expert is extremely troubling.  The department has been letting down 20 percent of our student population for years by ignoring the problems and issues within our dyslexic student population and it is shameful.  I hope that this bill can fix these problems and finally give all of our students the education that they deserve,” said Representative O’Brien.

The bill also instructs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop website resources to assist school districts in developing programs to ensure all teachers and administrators have professional awareness of best practices on recognition of dyslexia and related disorders and evidence-based interventions and accommodations for students with dyslexia and related disorders.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

6/13/2019RepRep. William O'Brien; #193; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. William W. O’Brien’s (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) legislation (2019-H 5887A) that would require certain licensed public school teachers to be proficient in scientific and structured literacy reading instruction passed the House of Representatives tonight.  The bill also requires all other licensed teachers to have a cursory knowledge of scientific and structured literacy reading instruction.


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STATE HOUSE – Rep. Karen Alzate’s (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) resolution (2019-H 5553A) that would create a 13 member special legislative commission to study and make recommendations for encouraging more persons of color to enter education fields passed the House of Representatives tonight.

“Study after study have proved the beneficial aspects of having a diverse teacher workforce, especially in regards to closing achievement gaps for students of color.  A more diverse teacher workforce that represents our state’s demographics also benefits students of all racial backgrounds.  Yet, our teachers are not representative of the communities our students come from and we have to rectify this imbalance for the sake of our kids.  This commission will be an important first step to attaining a diverse teacher pool that our students, especially our students of color, deserve,” said Representative Alzate.

The recommendations of the commission should include:
  • Develop an approach to inform students of color in the state on the importance and benefits of entering the field of education.
  • Identify relevant research and successful practices to enhance minority teacher recruitment and retention throughout the state.
  • Identify and establish public, private, and philanthropic partnerships to increase minority (meaning individuals whose race is other than white, or whose ethnicity is Hispanic or Latino as that term is used by the U.S. Census Bureau) teacher recruitment, including, but not limited to teacher preparation programs.
  • Advise and support local and regional boards of education to prioritize minority teacher recruitment and develop innovative strategies to attract and retain minority teachers within their districts.
  • Review the requirements that prevent persons of color from choosing this profession and remaining in it, including, but not limited to, teacher preparation programs, certification requirements, and lack of diversity in union leadership.
  • Identify a process or method to prepare, support, and encourage school leadership to increase retention of teachers of color.
The commission will consist of three members of the House of Representatives; the President of the RI Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers; the President of the RI Chapter of the National Education Association; the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education; three members of student focused organizations, such as Providence Student Union or Young Voices; three members of community based organizations, such as the RI Coalition for Educators of Color or Teach for America; and one member of the Educational Studies faculty at Rhode Island College.

The commission shall report its findings and recommendations to the House of Representatives no later than April 17, 2020 and the commission will expire on June 17, 2020.

6/11/2019RepRep. Karen Alzate; #255; Andrew Caruolo
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Rep. Karen Alzate’s (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) legislation (2019-H 5553A) that would create a 13 member special legislative commission to study and make recommendations for encouraging more persons of color to enter education fields passed the House of Representatives.



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Providence, RI – Today House Republicans submitted oversight provisions in response to new investigatory powers provided to the Auditor General in the FY20 budget.
 
The amendment adds language that directs the Auditor General to seek approval from the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS) prior to commencing any investigation, inspection or review; that a majority of the five member committee must approve the investigation; and that the Auditor General’s request must include the nature of the investigation and the individual or department affected. To protect confidentiality, the committee may review in executive session.
 
“This is a ‘good government’ amendment. In adding this language to the new investigative duties of the Auditor General, we are providing oversight, checks and balances to prevent investigative abuses down the line.” said Representative Brian C. Newberry. “Sometimes the investigation becomes the punishment, so we want to ensure that any investigation is opened only for a good and proper purpose. Having the JCLS monitor investigatory activities provides an important protection for all involved.”
 
The JCLS oversees legislative state departments and is responsible for the overall financial and administrative functions of the Rhode Island General Assembly.  The Speaker of the House serves as Chair. Members of the committee include the House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader, Senate President, who serves as Vice Chair, and the Senate Minority Leader.

6/21/2019RepRep. Brian Newberry; #139; Sue Stenhouse
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Providence, RI – After reading the Rhode Island Child Advocate’s scathing report detailing missteps by the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families -- alleging the department’s responsibility in the death of a 9-year-old special needs child in their care; and after hearing heart wrenching testimony by community advocates during last week’s House Oversight Committee Hearing, the House Republican Caucus is submitting the following amendments to the FY20 budget.
 
“Some of the most vulnerable children in our society are being left behind,” said House Minority Leader Blake Filippi. “We have taken on the role of keeping them safe and in many respects, have failed in this duty. If government can’t fix DCYF, it has little business doing much else.”
 
Personnel- During the House Oversight Committee hearing on June 13, 2019, House Minority Leader Blake Filippi asked RI Child Advocate Jennifer Griffith if she had any recommendations for the FY20 budget in regard to DCYF staffing. Griffith’s response was to minimally add 19 frontline case workers and licensing workers, and 6 child protective investigators.  National child care standards recommend that the maximum caseload for each worker is 14 cases, however DCYF workers have been assigned a staggering 18 -20 cases, according to Griffith.
 
The House Republican Caucus will submit a budget amendment totaling $2.9 million to add 25 full time equivalent (FTE) employees to the DCYF personnel appropriation to address the shortage of workers licensing and evaluating children in foster care, those being supported in adoption proceedings, and children eligible for kinship placements. These monies would be moved from appropriations to film tax credits, RI Promise and JCLS.
 
When researching national standards into proper DCYF staffing ratios, House Republican Caucus members uncovered additional red flags in the processes at DCYF.
 
"What's more, the national average for cases is 14 per case worker. Federally, 'cases' are measured as one child in the care of the agency. Rhode Island actually measures it as one 'family,' which can ultimately translate to a half-dozen or more children in the same case. We need to address this in DCYF immediately," said Minority Whip Michael Chippendale.
 
Accreditation-  A budget amendment to move $83,588.30 from the film tax credit appropriation  to a DCYF restricted receipts account will fund the actions necessary to initiate RI General Law mandated Public Agency Accreditation (42-72 5.3) for DCYF with the Council on Accreditation (COA). The DCYF accreditation mandate was unanimously approved by the General Assembly in 2010 after much scrutiny of DCYF’s failing performance in meeting professional standards, yet no monies were ever allocated to this important review of DCYF policies and procedures.
 
COA is recognized by states and national organizations as an accrediting body with the capability and capacity to significantly contribute to the improvement of public social services and behavioral health systems and services.  The quality of COA accreditation is recognized internationally and is referenced as a process that enhances organizational learning, reflects best practices in the field, improves an organization’s reputation with external community stakeholders and enhances organizational capacity. The mission of COA is to “improve service delivery outcomes ---the safety, care and well-being of the clients at the agencies COA accredits is paramount.”
 
Accreditation is a partnership between the government agency and COA where evaluations and leveraging best practice research assists in ensuring that the proper resources, structure and capacity are in place to achieve mission goals, deliver quality services, and certifies that the community is changed for the better. Accreditation also provides a framework for ensuring that staff are supported, experienced and trained appropriately.  The accreditation process takes 5 years to complete for a total cost of $246,765.00.  The fee is paid over three years.
 
“Never, ever should it take a child’s injury, or in this case, a special needs child’s death to prompt best practice standards that should have been initiated years ago. Today, we submit that there is no excuse that can justify no action on these amendments when it comes to addressing the challenges at DCYF. Nothing in this budget is more important than the welfare of our children,” said Representative Sherry Roberts. “We offer these amendments on behalf of the children of Rhode Island.”

6/21/2019RepRep. Blake Anthony Filippi; Rep. Michael Chippendale; Rep. Sherry Roberts; #218; #169; #216; Sue Stenhouse
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STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) legislation (2019-S 0702A) that precludes the disability of a parent from serving as a basis for denial or restriction in matters involving a child's welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship and adoption was passed by the Senate tonight.

“Individuals with disabilities continue to face unfair, preconceived, and unnecessary societal biases, as well as antiquated attitudes regarding their ability to successfully parent their own children.  This leads to new parents with disabilities being unnecessarily referred to social workers and governmental staff for evaluations of their parenting abilities to provide proper care and environments for their children, based solely upon erroneous assumptions about the parent’s disability.  This is unfair, unjust, and may also have serious effects on children who may be denied the opportunity to live in a loving home with parents or caretakers who also have disabilities.  Our society is strongest with strong family environments so we should not eliminate loving homes for our kids simply because a parent has a disability,” said Senator DiPalma.

The purpose of the legislation is to protect the best interests of children who have parents with disabilities by establishing procedural safeguards that require adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This would include education of hospital, child protective services and judicial staff in the equal protection rights of parents with disabilities in the context of child welfare, foster care, family law, and adoption.

The legislation states that a parent’s disability cannot serve as the basis of referral to a hospital social worker or the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.  The parent’s disability cannot serve as the basis for the denial or restriction of visitation and custody either if the child’s best interests are taken into account.

Also, when a parent’s disability is alleged to have a detrimental impact on a child, the party raising the allegation bears the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence that the behaviors are, or will likely, endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the child.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration where Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) is the sponsor of the companion legislation (2019-H 5562).

6/13/2019SenSen. 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 0702A) that precludes the disability of a parent from serving as a basis for denial or restriction in matters involving a child's welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship and adoption was passed by the Senate.


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STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives will consider the FY 2020 state budget (2019-H 5151A) on Friday, June 21 at approximately 2 p.m. in the House chamber.

On Tuesday, June 18 at 3 p.m. in the House Lounge, Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) and House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) will provide a budget briefing before Friday’s vote. 

The briefing is open to all House members and the media.

6/17/2019RepRep. Nicholas Mattiello; Rep. Marvin Abney; #120; #199; Larry Berman
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The House of Representatives will consider the FY 2020 state budget (2019-H 5151A) on Friday, June 21 at approximately 2 p.m. in the House chamber.


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STATE HOUSE — Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) that extends veterans’ benefits to gay or transgender members of the armed forces who failed to receive honorable discharges.

The law (2019-H 5443A, 2019-S 0837) provides a petition process to have a discharge from service recorded as honorable for members of the armed services separated from the service with a general or other than honorable discharge due solely to their sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

“While the military will now upgrade some of those undesirable discharges to ‘honorable’ status as long as there were no instances of misconduct, digging up decades-old records can be difficult and time-consuming — and it often takes years,” explained Representative Vella-Wilkinson, who serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Some of our LGBT vets who served during World War II, Korean or Vietnam wars choose to deny their service rather than answer prying questions.  We don't have the authority to reinstate federal benefits but Rhode Island can certainly take a bold, compassionate step to ensure state and local benefits are afforded to all our deserving patriots.”

By some estimates, as many as 100,000 service members were discharged for being gay between World War II and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Many of these were given undesirable discharges, barring them from veterans’ benefits. Under the provisions of the legislation, the director of the Office of Veterans’ Affairs would provide a form certifying that the member’s discharge is to be treated as honorable.

“While the armed forces have fortunately stopped discharging members under the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, the current federal administration has renewed its attacks on our transgender service members. Far too many veterans have been discharged, shamed and left without the benefits they earned because of decades of a dehumanizing policy that said they couldn’t serve. They deserved gratitude and honor, and we should be doing everything we can to ensure that these wrongs are righted and that they get the respect they deserve,” said Senator Euer.

6/19/2019SenRep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson; Sen. Dawn Euer; #235; #244; Daniel Trafford
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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 – The Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer to require real estate disclosures of home energy costs.

The legislation is aimed at giving buyers an accurate estimate of the true costs of operating a home they are considering purchasing, and to help them consider the costs and savings associated with making improvements to make the building more energy efficient.

“Utility costs can be the second-highest bill homeowners face, behind only their mortgage. They should have information about how much they will be before they commit to the purchase. With that information, they can plan their budget and come to a better understanding about whether the home needs improvements to increase its energy efficiency. Energy consumption should be a consideration involved in purchasing a home, and this disclosure will give buyers the information they need to weigh that factor,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).

The legislation (2019-S 0479), approved July 11, would add an annual building energy cost estimate produced by an approved energy rater to the list of disclosures that sellers must provide to buyers. The bill also requires that the Office of Energy Resources create and maintain a list of approved energy raters who provide reliable annual utility cost estimates.

The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) is sponsoring companion legislation (2019-H 5774). The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Sen. Bridget G. Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown).
6/21/2019SenSen. Dawn Euer; #244; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. Stephen R. Ucci to allow contractors and builders to have inspections performed by third-party inspectors if a municipal building official does not perform required inspections swiftly.

The bill (2019-S-0687A, 2019-H 5989A), which now goes to the governor, is meant to ensure developers can get their projects inspected in a timely manner.

The legislation enables contractors or builders to hire a third-party inspector or use a state inspector if a municipal building official fails to perform required inspections within 48 hours. The municipality would be required to reimburse the state in the event a state inspector is used.

“In construction, time is money. Delays make projects more costly and may discourage development altogether,” said President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “Inspections can be required at multiple points during a building project, and delays in these inspections cost contractors in terms of lost productivity, personnel, and more. This legislation ensures that developers can proceed on locally-approved projects without needless delays.”

The bill is part of the Senate’s “Building A More Vibrant Rhode Island” package of economic development legislation.

“Making sure developers and builders aren’t left in limbo for days or weeks waiting for a municipal inspector will make our state a better place to do business. It will also help municipalities, which sometimes don’t have the staffing levels to respond as quickly as they’d like, so they too can more quickly feel the benefits of new construction,” said Representative Ucci (D-Dist. 42, Johnston, Cranston). “Making it possible to get an inspection swiftly is a way to make it easier to do business here in Rhode Island and in all our cities and towns.”
6/20/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. Stephen Ucci; #85; #47; Meredyth R. Whitty
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Bill is response to the St. Joseph pension insolvency
 
STATE HOUSE – With passage in the House today, the General Assembly has approved 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 bill now goes to the governor.

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.

6/20/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi; #85; #187; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – With approval in the House today, the General Assembly 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. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.

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.”
6/20/2019RepSen. Joshua Miller; Rep. John Edwards; #118; #144; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation to allow domestic violence protective orders to protect pets. The bill will now head to the governor’s desk.

The legislation (2019-S 0225, 2019-H 5023), introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. William W. O’Brien, would expand 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.
6/20/2019RepSen. Dominick Ruggerio; Rep. William O'Brien; #85; #193; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – With a final vote in the House today, the General Assembly has approved legislation to allow domestic violence protective orders to protect more children in families. The bill will now head to the governor’s desk.

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).
6/20/2019RepSen. Maryellen Goodwin; Rep. Christopher Blazejewski; #104; #156; Meredyth R. Whitty
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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 – 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 — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket) that would protect 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 legislation (2019-H 5116A, 2019-S 0889) would make 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 legislation would not apply to online purchases or sales made over the Internet. The measure now moves to the governor’s office.
6/20/2019SenRep. Mia Ackerman; Sen. William Conley; #191; #202; Daniel Trafford
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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 – Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) today issued the following statement regarding the Reproductive Privacy Act (2019-H 5125B), which passed the General Assembly and was signed into law today:

“My advocacy for reproductive rights is grounded in my own experience as woman, as an adoptive parent and as a religious minority. Judaism recognizes that denying a woman full access to the complete spectrum of reproductive health care, including contraception and abortions, deprives women of their constitutional right to religious freedom. The Reproductive Privacy Act is not only about a constitutional right to privacy, it is also the right to practice my religion without interference from the government.

“This bill also acknowledges that women have the moral agency to make their own decisions, including when and whether to become a parent. While this bill maintains the current status quo on access to abortion, the passage of this legislation is about far more than the law it will create. It is about showing that Rhode Island finally recognizes a pregnant person’s right to make her own health care decisions. 

“The Reproductive Privacy Act is 46 years in the making. I’d like to thank the generations who advocated before me, including the women who proceeded me in office that led this fight for decades. I’d like to thank the 16 cosponsors of the Senate bill who spent the past six months talking with doctors, lawyers, religious leaders, their constituents and our colleagues. I’d like to thank Representative Williams for her patience and Representative Ajello for her friendship. 

“I am grateful to Senator Lynch Prata for her unwavering commitment to seeing this moment come to fruition and her ongoing partnership. I am thankful for the Senate President whose leadership made today’s vote possible. I’d like to thank the thousands of Rhode Islanders who spoke out in support of this bill – women and men, from young teenagers who fearlessly led protests, to women decades older than me who did not think they’d be fighting this battle once again in 2019. Tonight’s historic vote is a clear message: Your voices have been heard.”

Senator Goldin is the sponsor of the Senate companion bill (2019-S 0152A) to the Reproductive Privacy Act. Her bill was defeated in a tight committee vote before amendments resulted in the version of the bill that passed today.
 

6/19/2019SenSen. Gayle Goldin; #200; Meredyth R. Whitty
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STATE HOUSE – The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the Reproductive Privacy Act, which codifies the protections in Roe v. Wade and related court decisions in Rhode Island law.

The vote is scheduled during the Senate’s regular session, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19, at 4 p.m. in the Senate chamber on the second floor of the State House.

Due to space limitations, all media members are asked to email Senate Communications Director Greg Paré at gpare@rilegislature.gov by Wednesday at 10 a.m. if you plan to attend.

The bill (2019-H 5125B), which is sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), must return to the House for approval of amendments made in the Senate before it can be sent to the governor.

6/18/2019RepRep. Anastasia Williams; #10; Greg Pare
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The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the Reproductive Privacy Act, which codifies the protections in Roe v. Wade and related court decisions in Rhode Island law.



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