Coming up in Committee: Thirteen Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, May 19 – May 21

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1. H5553/H5793: Repeals the sections of the law allowing “deferred deposit” loans to be made. (H Finance; Wed, May 20) According to the official description, this bill disallows pay-day lenders in Rhode Island.

2. S0574: Allows anyone who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced “to file a petition with the superior court requesting the forensic DNA testing of any evidence that is in the possession or control of the prosecution, law enforcement, laboratory, or court”; currently this law only applies to individuals who are imprisoned. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 19)

3. On Tuesday, May 19, the House Finance Committee will hear the department budget for the single largest major division in the state budget, $2.4B for the Executive Office Of Health and Human Services. (H Finance; Tue, May 19)

4. S0044: Provides a $13.97-per-hour subsidy (to be adjusted for inflation going forward) to “direct support professionals employed by private development disability organizations”. (S Finance; Tue, May 19) 1) It’s not clear from the bill whether this is an entirely new subsidy, or directly legislating something that’s annually done by the department of behavioral healthcare, developmental disabilities and hospitals. 2) As written, this seems to make state government partially responsible for paying the wages/salaries of every direct support professional employed by a private development disability organization in the state of Rhode Island; 3) Under some interpretations of current RI law, doesn’t this potentially become a “contract” that can never be changed?

5. Bud. Art. 14 sec.1: Blocks the legally mandated transfer of excess general revenue to the pension system, if the director of the office of management and budget determines there is a projected deficit for the current fiscal year. (S Finance; Tue, May 19)

6. In an amended version of budget articles 3 through 5, amongst other items, the proposed price controls on Medicaid spending have been bumped up from 95.0% to 97.5% of the rates in effect as of July 1, 2014, e.g. spending on “Medicaid fee-for-service outpatient rates” (H Finance; Tue, May 19) It’s also worth noting that amended budget articles coming by to the House Finance committee for a second pass, rather than being debuted to the public during the budget floor session is a mildly positive development, or at least would be if House Finance members were allowed to do more in public than rubber stamp what’s put before them.

7A. H5202: Allows “distressed communities” to declare certain areas within their borders to be “micro-zones” where  incentives for building rehabilitation and business operation are available from the state government. The building rehabilitation section of the law mentions a number of detailed conditions that the local government has to meet before a project is eligible for incentives, like an expedited permitting process and a minimum 10-year tax stabilization agreement, while the requirements for businesses are less specific. The incentives are mainly in the form of sales-tax exemptions and, in the case of a building owner, waiving of permit fees. (H Finance; Wed, May 20)

7B. H5885: Designates the entire state of Rhode Island to be an “enterprise zone” until “the state unemployment rate meets or falls below the national unemployment rate” (i.e. for a long time), which entitles certain qualified businesses anywhere in the state to tax-credits based on new jobs created.  (H Finance; Wed, May 20)

8. H5607: Mandatory licensing of auto-glass repair shops in RI, including a licensing fee of $300 per site. (H Corporations; Tue, May 19) Because how have we survived this long as a civilized society, without licensing of auto-glass repair shops. This bill is listed in the “for consideration section of the House finance committee agenda, which means at least in the House, it is likely to be passed.

9A. S0257: Creates a state contracting preference for “business enterprises whose highest paid executive receives compensation and/or salary equal to twenty-five (25) times or less than the median compensation and/or salary paid to its non-executive employees”. (S Finance; Tue, May 19) Down from 32x in the 2014 version of the bill.

9B. S0837: “All preferences in state purchasing contracts and state procurement shall be given equal weight” (with two exceptions, having a “place of business located in Rhode Island” and “minority business enterprise participation“). (S Finance; Tue, May 19)

10. H6178: Complete rewrite of regulations on lobbyists. The bill reduces the about of verbiage in the existing regulations, and also gives subpoena power to the secretary of state that isn’t there now, when investigating lobbying violations based on either her own initiative or on a filed complaint. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 19)

11. H6177: Declares that “hemp/CBD-rich hemp is an agricultural medical product which may be grown as a crop, produced, possessed, distributed, and commercially traded in Rhode Island pursuant to the provisions of this chapter” and creates regulations for its “sales, storage, manufacturing, and testing”. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, May 20)

12. H5480: Regulation of “geoengineering” in Rhode Island. (H Environment and Natural Resources; Tue, May 21)

-1. S0317: Requires the  state budget office to prepare a “citizens’ guide to the state budget…in a form and substance that is easily readable and understandable by the general public” 60 days AFTER the public release of the “Budget as Enacted” report. (S Government Oversight; Wed, May 20) The public needs information WHILE the budget is being debated and before it is voted on, not after the budget has been enacted and everything has already been decided. This is an utterly phony reform that seeks to reinforce rather than repair Rhode Island’s political culture of decision-making behind closed doors and informing the public only after the deals have been done.

Ranking Indeterminate: H6034: Addition of a substantial body of law regarding what happens when a “guardianship or protective proceeding” involves both Rhode Island and another jurisdiction, including a foreign country. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 19)

H5788: Changes to the rules regarding foreclosures in RI, including a repeal of the prohibition of persons already delinquent on their taxes from buying properties at tax-sales. (H Judiciary; Thu, May 21)



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