Coming up in Committee: Bill Sets 4 thru 35 to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, March 31 – April 2


4. H5631: Allows individuals who have property confiscated as part of a civil forfeiture proceeding to “seek a court determination as to whether the forfeiture is disproportionately excessive to the gravity of the offense giving rise to the forfeiture”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

5A. H5610: Mandates that the Department of Public Safety begin “to implement an electronic automobile and commercial vehicle liability insurance confirmation and compliance system” that includes “an automatic license plate recognition system to electronically capture license plate images in two seconds or less and noninvasively attempt verification of the insurance and when possible, the registration status of the vehicle”. (H Finance; Wed, Apr 1)

5B. H5606: Requires that applicants for operators and chauffeur licenses have a valid social security number. (H Finance; Wed, Apr 1) It will be interesting to see how many legislators end up taking the position that requiring social security numbers for operators and chauffeur’s licenses is unreasonable, while supporting an electronic system that is supposed to watch every automobile in the state.

6. H5495: Minimum-manning for social workers at public schools, one per 400 students. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Apr 1)

7. H5961: Unambiguously establishes that holding a seat on the Cumberland Fire District board is holding public office — and that “members shall hold no other public office”. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 1) I understand and agree with the spirit of this bill: it’s crazy that here in Rhode Island, we pretend that there’s ambiguity about whether Fire Districts are part of the government or not. However, 1) a bill like this shouldn’t be confined to one community  and 2) the authors of the bill need to carefully review the law in this area, to make sure there aren’t potential problems (legal and ethical) with burdening Cumberland Fire District Board members more than other local officials.

8. H5986: Prohibits condominium associations from making up rules that “shall prohibit any reasonable accommodation for religious practices, including the attachment of religiously mandated objects to the front door of a condominium unit”. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 1)

9. H5935: Requires 5% of campaign accounts to be randomly audited by the Board of Elections. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 1) I’d nominate this as one of the stronger reform proposals to be offered in the wake of former House Speaker Gordon Fox’s guilty plea to misuse of campaign funds.

10A. On Tuesday, March 31, the House Finance Committee will hear a bunch of one-time revenue generating tricks for the FY2016 budget:

  • Bud. Art. 10, sec. 5: transfers $6.4M to the Information Technology Investment Fund of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project from the Rhode Island Capital Plan Fund. According to the budget: “Now fully underway, the multi-phase Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) will result in a modern, fully integrated eligibility system covering multiple programs of public assistance and the state based Health Benefits Exchange, HealthSource RI”.
  • Bud. Art. 12: transfers to the state’s general fund $19M from the Tobacco Settlement Financing Trust.
  • Bud. Art. 13: adds restricted receipt accounts from Miscellaneous Donations/Grants from Non-Profits, State Loan Repayment Match, Defined Contribution – Administration – RR, RI Judiciary Technology Surcharge Account and Davies – National School Breakfast & Lunch Program to the list of accounts that have to transfer 10% of their content to the state’s general fund.
  • Bud. Art. 14: Prevents any surplus from FY2016 from being used to pay down pension liability.
  • Bud. Art. 21: Transfers the 25% of fees that were supposed to have been earmarked for the new “Rhode Island highway maintenance account” to the state’s general fund.

10B. On Wednesday, April 1, the House Finance Committee will hear some more one-time revenue generating tricks for the FY2016 budget:

  • Bud. Art. 1 (partial): Article 14 transfers $1.5M to the state controller from the RI Resource Recovery Corporation; article 16 transfers $2.8M to the state controller from the Narragansett Bay Commission; article 18 transfers $430K to the state controller from the Rhode Island Corporation.

11. Bud. Art. 17: Limits general Assembly budgetary authority over the Department of Children, Youth and Families to authorizing a total amount only, giving the director the power to spend his or her budget without regard to any specific allocations. (H Finance; Thu, Apr 2)

12. H5654: Changes a number of magistrate positions from being appointed by presiding or chief judges to being appointed by the governor; according to the official description, this will give the governor the power to appoint all judges and magistrates. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 1)

13. H5701: Prohibits “any retail establishment that includes a pharmacy” from selling most common tobacco products. (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 31) Some members of the Rhode Island General Assembly, who imagine themselves as the board of directors for all aspects of Rhode Island life, have decided they want to extend what’s happening in their CVS subsidiary to the entire state.

14. H5758: Commission to study “the current and/or necessary additional requirements/legislation/regulations for investigating the safety of construction of schools located on, over, or near the location of mine sites in the state, the general conditions and safety of mines located in this state…and the feasibility of denying a certificate of occupancy for school building construction 2 on the site of a former mine… (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Apr 1) …because we are supposed to believe that mines pose a risk to school buildings that they don’t pose to surface structures, in a way that isn’t already considered in the state building code.

15. H5096: “Any inmate incarcerated in any correctional facility in this state shall be required to work, provided he or she owes child support”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

16. H5869: Repeals a law, that would probably be declared unconstitutional if challenged, prohibiting campaign literature “designed or tending to injure or defeat any candidate for nomination or election to any public office, by criticizing the candidate’s personal character or political action, or designed or tending to aid, injure, or defeat any question submitted to the voters, unless there appears upon the circular, flier, or poster in a conspicuous place the name of the author and either the names of the chairperson and secretary, or of two officers, of the political or other organization issuing the poster, flier, or circular, or of some voter who is responsible for it, with the voter’s name and residence, and the street and numbers, if any”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

17. S0132: Establishes minimum amounts of time served, before a prisoner is eligible for parole; 50% of a non-life sentence for 1st or 2nd degree murder, 30 years for a life-sentence for 1st or 2nd degree murder, and 20 years for a life sentence for any crime other than 1st or 2nd degree murder. S0389 on the other hand, prohibits anyone under 18 years of age from being sentenced to life without parole. (S Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

18. H5605: Regulations for the use of prescription drug “step-therapy protocols” including a process for obtaining exemptions. A step-therapy protocol is defined in the bill as a “specific sequence in which prescription drugs for a specified medical condition and medically appropriate for a particular patient are to be prescribed and paid for by a health plan”. (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 31) One of the odder features of this bill is that it moves towards giving guidelines established by a private trade-association automatic status as government regulations, which may be a problematic short-circuiting of the administrative rulemaking process.

19. H5862: Allows attorney and expert witness fees to be awared to parents who are successful in special education lawsuits against state or local education agencies, or to the state and local education agencies, if the lawsuit is unsuccessful and deemed to be frivolous, improper, etc. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

20. H5936: Requires that an ignition-interlock be part of a first offense sentence for DUIs, and expressly prohibits any exception for traveling to and from work. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 1)

21. Under current RI law, a juvenile can be detained at the training school for any violation of a valid court order. H5653: changes the law so that a juvenile could only be detained at the training school for offenses “which would constitute a felony or misdemeanor if committed by an adult” or is in contempt of court. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

22. H5618: Allows a court to order child-support payments as part of a divorce proceeding while the child is between 18 and 21, if the child is living with the other parent and dependent on him or her for support, and until age 23, if the child is living with a parent and is pursuing an undergraduate degree. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31) Can you imagine any unintended consequences to this one? This bill also changes the law, so that a divorcee ordered to pay child support must prove the payments are inappropriate to have them changed.

23. S0673: Allows mutual aid agreements between campus and municipal police departments. (S Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31) The funny thing about this “mutual” aid legislation is that it goes into some detail about campus police coming under the command authority of a municipal department, but not the reverse situation, which doesn’t sound very mutual.

24. S0264: Defines four elements that must be satisfied in order to establish “criminal intent” with respect to laws that do not have their own specific criminal intent requirements. (S Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31) There are numerous exceptions to this proposed law, e.g. it would not apply to the sections of the criminal code labeled “Arson and Fires, Assaults, Bigamy and Adultery, Bribery, Burglary and Breaking and Entering, Children, Commercial Transactions, Crime Against Nature, Disorderly Conduct, Dueling and Fighting, Explosives and Fireworks, False Personation, Flags and Emblems, Food and Beverages, Forgery and Counterfeiting, Fraud and False Dealing, Gambling and Lotteries, Graves and Corpses, Hazing, Highways and Homicide” and that’s just the beginning of the list. An example of a section of the law that this would apply to is here. Whatever the goal of the bill, defining a general principle and then making everything an exception doesn’t seem like the best approach.

25. Raft of criminal expungement-of-records bills. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 1):

  • H5033: allows persons to immediately file for expungement of deferred sentences upon their completion.
  • H5818: provides for expungement of up to six misdemeanors, provide no felonies have occurred.
  • H5919: allows persons convicted of “not more than five misdemeanors” to have their records expunged, subject to certain time limits.
  • H5867: defines a first-offender for purposes of expungement as a person a person who has been convicted of one felony or not more than two misdemeanor offenses (instead of just one).
  • H5873: makes some process changes related to expungement.

26. H5754: Prohibits medical health insurance premium rates from varying based on gender (excluding policies for “Hospital confinement indemnity”, “Disability income”, “Accident only”, “Long-term care”, “Medicare supplement”, “Limited benefit health”, “Specified diseased indemnity”, “Sickness of bodily injury or death by accident or both”, “Other limited benefit policies.  (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 31) But why is applying a similar law to automobile insurance rates never proposed?

27. H5487: What looks a like a reasonable regulatory framework for Uber-like passenger services. (In saying reasonable, I’m not endorsing additional regulations, but suggesting that this bill doesn’t look like it’s goal to prevent Uber-like passenger services from being to operate). Also, H5707 prohibits the division of public utilities from establishing a mandatory minimum charge for public motor vehicle transportation services. H5786: exempts vehicle operated by “licensed home nursing care providers or nursing facilities” as it slowly dawns on our legislators that trying to regulate everyone’s transportation on a trip-by-trip is basis could start to make lots of normal activity illegal. (H Finance; Wed, Apr 1)

28. H5756/H5596: Mandates that patients be able to obtain copies of their electronic-format health records, with some basic rules for how much they should be charged. (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 31)

29. H5864: Requires contractors to undergo an FBI background check in order to obtain a license. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

30. H5453 gives the state exclusive jurisdiction over regulating aerial drones. H5454 requires law-enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before using an aerial drone. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

31. H5710: Makes the Department of Business Regulation responsible for licensing establishments that permit the use of marijuana on their premises. (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 31)

32. Bud. Art. 11, sec 13/14: Phases out the 2% medical-imagining surcharge. (S Finance; Wed, Apr 1)

33. H5801: Requires all cities and towns to write up a “snow removal priority plan”. (H Municipal Government; Thu, Apr 2)

34. H5100: Provides an exception to the ban on “latch-open device” gasoline pumps, for “stage II vapor recovery nozzles that will only operate when the bellows assembly is compressed into the automobile fill pipe and will automatically shut off if the nozzle is removed from the fill pipe”. (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 31)

35. H5261: Bill to reverse a Board of Elections regulation and allow bake sales at polling places on election day. (H Finance; Wed, Apr 1)

Ranking Indterminate: A bill that came in with last week’s raft of anti-Uber bills is likely getting a vote this week. On its surface, it doesn’t seem all that anti-Uber; H5812: lifts a prohibition in the law that prevents “public motor vehicles” from being operated from anyone but their owners or employees of their owners, unless a business arrangement is approved by the division of public utilities. (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 31)

S0585: Defines a crime of “residential mortgage fraud”. (S Judiciary; Tue, Mar 31)

H5578: New regulations regarding distance-learning college programs and the authority of the Board of Education to regulate them. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Apr 1)

H5669: Prohibits the use of “toxic” ammunition for hunting, especially lead ammunition (the bill claims there are safer but fully-reasonable alternatives). (H Environment and Natural Resources; Thu, Apr 2)

Inobvious Priorities: S0714 >> All liquids for use in an electronic nicotine-delivery system must be sold in child-resistant packaging; H5847 >> More detail than you could ever want on assigning boat moorings; H5755 >> Clarifies the definition of mattresses

Local Impact: Barrington, Charlestown, Providence, Richmond, Smithfield 2 3 4, Warren.


  • Mike678

    25. Raft of criminal expungement-of-records bills. (H Judiciary; Wed, Apr 1):
    H5033: allows persons to immediately file for expungement of deferred sentences upon their completion.
    H5818: provides for expungement of up to six misdemeanors, provide no felonies have occurred.
    H5919: allows persons convicted of “not more than five misdemeanors” to have their records expunged, subject to certain time limits.
    H5867: defines a first-offender for purposes of expungement as a person a person who has been convicted of one felony or not more than two misdemeanor offenses (instead of just one).
    H5873: makes some process changes related to expungement.

    Why, I wonder, the race to expunge? More of the “no responsibility/accountability” meme in our currently devolving culture?