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Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Nine Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, February 24 – February 26


1A. S0134: Creates a crime of “unlawful interference with traffic” with reference to “any federal or state highway”, with a minimum prison sentence of one year for a first offense, 60 days of which cannot be suspended or deferred. (At present, the definition of disorderly conduct includes obstructing a “highway…to which the public or a substantial group 12 of the public has access”, punishable by imprisonment of up to 6 months, and a fine up to $500) (S Judiciary; Tue, Feb 24)

1B. H5417: Eliminates the up-to six month prison sentence for most instances of disorderly conduct — including for “obstruct[ing] a highway…to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access or any other place ordinarily used for the passage of persons, vehicles, or conveyances” — except in cases involving domestic violence. (H Judiciary; Wed, Feb 25)

2. S0314: Extends the state’s “facilities support” funding to all charter schools (currently, it is only available to “district sponsored charter public schools”). (S Finance; Tue, Feb 24)

3. S0305 / H5228: Writes into law in-state tuition at RI public colleges and universities for students who graduated from a Rhode Island high school that they spent three years at, including illegal aliens (but not non-immigrant aliens) who have applied for “lawful immigration status” or who promise to when a process is made available under a Federal amnesty law. (S Finance; Tue, Feb 24 &; H Finance, Thu Feb 26)

4. S0122: Tax credits for Rhode Island residents who are college graduates “in an amount equal to the payments made in a given tax year…toward undergraduate or graduate student loan debt, up to a maximum amount for single tax year of one thousand dollars for an associate’s degree holder, five thousand dollars for a bachelor’s degree holder, and six thousand dollars for a graduate degree holder”. (S Finance; Tue, Feb 24)

Coming up in Committee: Seventeen Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, February 10 – February 12


1. H5258/S0150: House and Senate Rules for 2015-2016 sessions, which will determine how business is conducted for the rest of the session. (H Rules; Tue Feb 10 & S Rules; Tue, Feb 10)

2. H5160: Requires that the town/city council and school committee of every municipality to be served by a proposed mayoral academy give explicit approval, before an academy can be opened. (H Health Education and Welfare; Wed, Feb 11)

3A. H5221: Limits electric rate increases to “two and one-half percent within any consecutive twenty-four month period”. (H Corporations; Tue, Feb 10)

3B. H5218 prohibits electric rates from being raised “in excess of five percent in any three year period without general assembly approval”. H5291 prohibits electric rates from being raised more than “five percent per year, unless the increase shall have been previously approved by affirmative action of the general assembly”. (H Corporations; Tue, Feb 10)

4. H5031: Proposed Constitutional Amendment (requiring voter ratification) extending the terms of State Representatives and Senators to four years, with a limit of “three full terms”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Feb 10)

5. H5124: “Any candidate for state or local office who has outstanding campaign finance reports or fines due the board of elections shall be ineligible to qualify for election to any state or local public office until all such reports are filed and/or all fines are paid. (H Judiciary; Tue, Feb 10)

Coming up in Committee, Wednesday, February 4: Penalties for Blocking a Highway


1. At present, the definition of disorderly conduct includes obstructing a “highway…to which the public or a substantial group 12 of the public has access”, punishable by imprisonment of up to 6 months, and a fine up to $500.

H5193 makes it a misdemeanor to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, alone or with others, [restrict] traffic flow of a freeway”, punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $500. H5192 creates a crime of “unlawful interference with traffic” with reference to “any federal or state highway”, with a minimum prison sentence of 1 year for a first offense, 60 days of which cannot be suspended or deferred. (H Judiciary; Wed, Feb 4)

Coming up in Committee, Tuesday, February 3: House Rules for 2015-2016


2. H5258: Rules for the 2015-2016 Rhode Island House of Representatives. (H Rules; Tue, Feb 3)

There are at least three major changes of note:

  • A change to rule 12(f) makes clear that a vote to hold a bill for further study sends the bill to the Phantom Zone, where rank-and-file legislators are powerless to recall it, and only the super-powers of House leadership can bring it back.
  • A change to rule 12(a) gives House leadership the power to deny a hearing to a bill, according to a subjective criteria that “the issues presented…are substantially similar to those matters already heard”.
  • A change to rule 12(e) gives committee chairs, with approval of the Speaker, the power to cancel a bill hearing “at any time…[if] the bill is not ready to be heard in the committee”.

Coming Up in Committee: Twelve Sets of Bills to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, February 3 – February 5


3. H5077: Charges the RI Board of Education with establishing “state-wide goals that are school specific for increasing the number of graduates who 10 earn certificates and degrees at both two and four year post-secondary public institutions of higher education” and requires the Board to develop and make available data on “college access and completion data…that includes data on students’ educational experiences and outcomes from early childhood through higher education in Rhode Island public institutions of higher education and into the workforce”. The bill then lists four specific metrics related to post-secondary enrollment, and also includes a reporting requirement on “excess credits” defined as “credits which the student earned and which were not required for the degree or certificate”. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Feb 4)

4. H5074: Raises the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour starting in January 2016 (up from $9.00 per hour currently). (H Labor; Thu, Feb 5)

5. H5013: Requires that transportation be provided for students residing further than two miles away from their school. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Feb 4)

6. H5174: An extensive set of new laws regarding the relationship between health insurers and pharmacy providers.

House Corporations Bills for Tuesday, January 27 Still Worth Watching Even if Postponed


1A. H5099: Limits electric rate increases that can be approved by the public utilities commission to “no greater than five and 5 one-half percent (5.5%) or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index…unless the increase shall have been previously approved by affirmative action of the general assembly”. The issue of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of price controls aside, it is a very basic violation of the principle of separation of powers for the General Assembly to make itself into a standalone board-of-appeals for other state agencies. A basic check on the power of the legislature is that it is not allowed to ignore the requirement (with a few expressed exemptions like proposing constitutional amendments) that its actions be submitted to the governor for approval or veto.

1B. H5079: Phases-in a requirement that, by 2035, 40% of the electricity sold at retail by large electric distribution entities be obtained from “eligible renewable energy resources”. The bill states that delays in the implementation schedule due to inadequate supply may not be for more than 3 years. Is this either technically or economically feasible?

1C. H5131: Prohibits electric distribution companies from charging “an interconnecting renewable energy customer for any upgrades to its electric power system that can and should be funded through rates assessed pursuant to its electric infrastructure, safety and reliability provision and plan, including specifically any maintenance, repair or upgrade of any component of the electric power system that has been deferred for more than thirty years.”

1D. H5175: Requires all public utilities in Rhode Island to “maintain a customer service operation physically located within the state which is reasonably staffed to meet the expectations of the public”. (H Corporations; Tue, Jan 27 postponed)

Coming Up in Committee Eventually: Six Sets of Bills to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, January 27 – January 29, Weather Permitting


2. H5077: Charges the RI Board of Education with establishing “state-wide goals that are school specific for increasing the number of graduates who 10 earn certificates and degrees at both two and four year post-secondary public institutions of higher education” and requires the Board to develop and make available data on “college access and completion data…that includes data on students’ educational experiences and outcomes from early childhood through higher education in Rhode Island public institutions of higher education and into the workforce”. The bill then lists four specific metrics related to post-secondary enrollment, and also includes a reporting requirement on “excess credits” defined as “credits which the student earned and which were not required for the degree or certificate”. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Jan 28)

3. H5074: Raises the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour starting in January 2016 (up from $9.00 per hour currently). (H Labor; Wed, Jan 28)

Coming up in Committee: Five Bills to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, January 20 – January 22


1. H5054: Creates a Joint Committee of the Repealer within the legislature, composed of six members from both houses, to “compile suggestions for repeal of statutes, regulations, and executive orders received from citizens, businesses, and government agencies”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Jan 20)

2. H5051: “Neither the state of Rhode Island, nor its political subdivisions, shall engage in surveillance on any public ways of the state or its political subdivisions”. The bill then adds a list of six exceptions, the first of which is that the prohibition doesn’t apply where surveillance “is specifically authorized by statute”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Jan 20)