Coming up in Committee: Seventeen Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, Today, May 27

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1. H5790: From the official description: “This act would provide parents of K-12 students in Rhode Island with an opportunity to enroll their child in an educational program of their choosing, either via open enrollment in a traditional public school in their own district or any other public school district, or by receiving a scholarship, with designated public monies to follow the student to a participating private school or private curriculum program selected by the parent”. Scholarships can be up to $6000 and are income adjusted. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

2A. H5795: Permanent moratorium on establishing or expanding charter schools in Rhode Island. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

2B. H5794: From the official description: “This act would remove a city or town’s financial obligation to contribute to their resident students who enroll in charter schools, William M. Davies, Jr. Career and Technical High School or the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center”. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

2C. H5834: Change in the formula for capital aid for charter public school building construction, in particular, capping aid at the same percentage of the municipality where the school is located, even if the average based on all sending communities would result in a higher amount. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

3. S0194: A minimum wage bill is scheduled to get a vote today. The bill officially in committee raises it to $10.10 per hour starting in 2016, though Jennifer Bogdan of the Projo is reporting a deal has been agreed to by leadership for $9.60 per hour. (S Labor; Wed, May 27)

4. H5083: Relief for municipalities from unfunded mandates, i.e. “If during any fiscal year the state reimbursement to cities and towns and school districts is insufficient to cover the costs of state mandates as reported by the department of revenue, the affected cities, towns and school districts may cease implementation of the state mandates at their discretion up to 50% of the value of the reimbursement shortfall, provided that: (1) Existing personnel contracts are honored in their entirety or renegotiated to the 1 satisfaction of both parties; and (2) Implementation of state mandates is restored upon the full restoration of state reimbursements”. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

5. H6106: Mandates that foundation state education aid “be distributed to the school districts as one entity, and not as appropriations to individual municipalities”. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)“As one entity”?  This is a clue that there’s some weird thought process going on the minds of our legislators here.  

6. H6151: Sets a referendum for dissolving the Bristol-Warren regional school district. Also, H6143 mandates that “the expenses for the education of students in the Bristol–Warren regional school district, shall be allocated using the same process used by the Rhode Island department of education in determining funding for regional districts, excluding Chariho”. (H Finance; Wed, May 27Rarely is conciseness and opaqueness combined in such perfect form as in the second bill.

7. H6123: Modifies the state education aid “funding formula” based on “a municipality’s ability to successfully meet its low and moderate income housing goals”. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

8A. H5086: “Graduates of accredited institutions of higher education who receive an associate’s degree, a bachelor of science or arts degree, or a master’s degree and who remain or become residents of and employed in Rhode Island, shall be eligible for a tax credit against their personal income tax, based upon the amount of their student loan balance, for a period of no longer than ten (10) years after their graduation from the accredited institution at which the eligible student loan(s) were accrued, and so long as the person remains a legal resident of and employed in Rhode Island”. The maximum amount of the tax-credit is one thousand dollars ($1,000) for an associate’s degree holder, five thousand dollars ($5,000) for a bachelor’s degree holder, and six thousand dollars ($6,000) for a graduate degree holder. (H Finance; Wed, May 27Question for egalitarians on all points of the political spectrum: Isn’t the big gap between an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in this bill a bit of snobbish elitism?

8B. H6089: An education-loan repayment aid program, to be administered by the RI Commerce Corporation, for college graduates who live and work in Rhode Island, “up to a maximum amount for each service period of one thousand dollars ($1,000) for an associate’s degree holder, four thousand dollars ($4,000) for a bachelor’s degree holder, and six thousand dollars ($6,000) for a graduate or post-graduate degree holder, but not to exceed the education loan repayment expenses” for up to 4 consecutive years. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

8C. H5226: Provides that the state of Rhode Island will cover some portion of student loan payments to the Federal government for two years following graduation, provided that student graduate from an RI institution, continues to reside in RI, and meets certain income eligibility requirements. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

9. S0276: Makes it an unlawful employment practice “to refuse to reasonably accommodate an employee’s or prospective employee’s condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition”. (S Labor; Wed, May 27)

10. H5816: For public school students attending Bradley hospital as a result of a disability that cannot be adequately addressed by their district of residence, the required tuition payments are to be made to the East Providence school district, instead of Bradley directly. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

11. H5204: Requires charter school teachers and administrators to participate in the state retirement system. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

12. S0721: Establishes criteria for making and deciding legal claims of job discrimination on the basis of sex. (S Labor; Wed, May 27)

13. S0722: Adds familial status, defined as “the state of being or becoming a provider of care or support to a family member” to workplace discrimination laws. (S Labor; Wed, May 27)

14. H5434: Changes the membership of “Rhode Island health and educational building corporation”, assigning the board “those powers and duties in regard to school housing aid formerly administered by the state department of elementary and secondary education”, charging them with (among other things) “encourag[ing] and foster[ing] the thoughtful establishment and maintenance of school facility space in and among the cities and towns of the state” and “develop[ing] and implement[ing] a formula for borrowing and issuing loans and grants” (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

15. S0817: The periodic bill to extend the building permit “tolling period” (“the suspension or temporary stopping of the running of the applicable permit or approval period”) that began in 2009, was supposed to end in 2011, is currently scheduled to expire in 2015, and this bill would extend to 2016. (S Housing and Municipal Government; Wed, May 27)

16. S0286: Lowers the $3,000 annual fee on distilleries producing less than fifty thousand gallons per year to $500, and exempts the first 50,000 gallons produced and distributed in RI by any distillery from taxation. (S Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs; Wed, May 27)

17. H6217: Requires school buses to have seat belts for all passenger seats, and requires that students wear them beginning in August 2015. (H Health, Education & Welfare; Wed, May 27)

Ranking Indeterminate: H5211: Eliminates a section of the law pertaining to “Non-Medicare-eligible state retiree” health-insurance, mostly providing for equal treatment between non-Medicare eligible and Medicare eligible retirees, an adding “Employees who retire prior to age sixty-five (65) shall, upon the attainment of Medicare eligibility, receive hospitalized care, surgical/medical services, rights and benefits which, when taken together with their federal Medicare program benefits (P.L. 8997), 42 U.S.C. 1305 et seq., shall be comparable to those provided for retirees prior to that age”. (H Finance; Wed, May 27)

Inobvious Priorities: H6137 >> Creation of an all-new board, “The Rhode Island Port Advisory Council”; H6210 >> “A restaurant with an outdoor dining area may allow a patron’s dog to accompany the patron in the outdoor dining area during the hours designated by the owner of the restaurant”; H5755 >> Gives a precise definition to the meaning of “mattress” in Rhode Island law.

Local Impact: Charlestown, Newport, North Providence, Westerly.



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